The release of Google’s Penguin update on the 20th of October spelled good news and bad news for businesses that rely heavily on their SEO rankings, which granted has become a deeply competitive jostle for the tops spots. Depending on how closely you’ve been paying attention to its ever changing algorithms, if you’re a content marketer and are confused as to how internet penguins can ever be bad news, then you need to read on.
Google’s penguin is not the cute waddling variety. It is a specially designed algorithm that can make or break your SEO rankings, and send your site sliding from page one, right to the bottom of its search results if you haven’t stuck to the rules, and there is little you can do about it.
In line with Google’s emphatic insistence that people’s search results are as thorough as possible to protect themselves and the user, in 2012 Google launched the Penguin algorithm to filter out the websites that were “cheating” their SEO results. This levelled the playing fields for those who were offering ‘Google gold’ in web content namely fresh, relevant and contextual.
Why my site?
Those affected by the Penguin update most likely offered content that was copied, thinly contextual and/or linked to other sites with high ranking key-words, otherwise known as ‘link farming’, or stuffed with key-words, amongst a list of other transgressions, for the sole purpose of skipping rungs on the SEO ladder. Any of these sites are considered ‘spammy’, and without fear or favour would have been dumped way at the bottom of a pile of search results, and to make sure the lesson there was properly learnt, would also have been penalised with a fine. There were two updates to the first Penguin roll-out in the same year and no transgressors were spared.
- 1% of search results were affected by the first Penguin roll-out. The number seems small, but not if you consider the amount of searches happening daily.
- A year later another version was rolled out which affected a further 2.3% of searches.
Will I get it back?
The good news regarding the most recent update, is that for those affected by the last Penguin roll-out, who have since cleaned and freshened up their content, the hard work could possibly be rewarded and their ranking restored to an acceptably visible spot. The emphasis here is on ‘possibly’. The rules are strict and the guidelines watertight, so if you’re not adhering to any of them, you will once again be penalised, which could actually mean your site might just as well fall of a cliff.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, whose site is deemed good enough for a positive SEO re-evaluation, it could take a few weeks to see updated rankings, so don’t panic if they don’t seem to have improved just yet. Actually, it seems that this update is more of a refresh, which should affect less searches than the last two, but Google is still clamping down severely on what is commonly referred to as black-hat techniques.
And the bad news?
Well there is no definite date as to when the updates occur, so if you haven’t been paying attention to the Google’s increasingly stricter rules and guidelines, the penalties placed on you and your site, regardless of how hard you work to fix it, could potentially cripple your business between now and the next update.
How do I know what Penguin looks for?
Google really want users to enjoy their internet experiences; they’re not policing the internet by penalising the use of SEO they just want to make sure that everyone comes to the party. So all content marketers have to do is follow the rules and take careful note of what Google Penguin disapproves of, for example:
- Link selling. Paid posts are great for revenue, but not if the technique is useless linkage. The best way to fix this is replace or update the link, especially if you have sold the paid post with SEO optimised link back. You can also update with better quality links which should thin out the paid link.
- Guest blogging is a huge red flag for Google. Mostly they offer anchor text-based backlinks and link to a completely unrelated domain. To fix this, remove them. Offer a more natural post with relevant links.
- Keyword stuffing is an old technique that people used to gain better SEO rankings. This is now one of the worst crimes against SEO. Firstly over optimization is like blood to a shark as far as Google’s algorithm is concerned. Secondly, your website will read like an infomercial, which is annoying and is not likely to get people to stay on your site for long.
The best advice you could get to ensure you get a spot on the SEO podium, is to stay informed. Don’t get complacent about the quality of your content, and most importantly, like everything in life, you’ll most likely get long term rewards for always playing by the rules.