On April 24th 2012 Matt Cutts, the head of the webspam team at Google announced that there will be another algorithm change to the Google search engine.
This latest update has been named “Penguin” and the main objective of the change is to specifically target webspam.
To quote Matt’s words:
“The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.”
If your site’s search engine traffic went down significantly since that date then your site is most likely being penalized by Google for not following the quality guideline.
A lot of you may remember that the last time a high profile and significant algorithm change occurred was around February 2011 and that was given the moniker of “Panda”. Back then the Panda algorithm tweaks were aimed at penalizing sites with poor quality content – especially content associated with content farms like article directories.
Although the Penguin update is believed to chiefly be aimed at webspam, a lot of the general rules of thumb regarding what makes a quality website in the eyes of Google still apply.
The main thing which all website owners and creators should keep in mind is that Google is always tweaking their search algorithms because, as a global multi-billion dollar a year business, it’s in their interests to provide accurate and quality search results to their users.
Matt Cutt’s even says that Google wants to provide search results which will enhance the experience of the user.
How will the Penguin update affect your sites?
For starters if you have created and maintained a solid site with original and quality content which has been organically rising up the rankings, then you won’t have much to worry about.
By “organically” we mean that you have been steadily creating quality content which has been indexed by Google and over time it has naturally risen in the search rankings.
However, if you have tried to take shortcuts and employed what are known as “black hat” techniques to try and fool Google into ranking your site above the higher quality competitors, then you will probably see some significant drops in your rankings and traffic in the coming months.
Examples of “black hat” techniques which may have worked in the past but will, over time, cause more harm than good to your site are things like:
- Unnatural and excessive back-linking
You might have noticed by simply checking your spam folder in your WordPress administration panel to see how much garbage your Akismet plugin filters out of your comment area.
All of these spam comments are from people (or automated robots) which leave comments with links going back to their site in the hope that they will be able to build a significant number of back-links. A lot of the time the comments are totally irrelevant and out of context to the topic at hand which makes them very unnatural.Another technique spammers employ is to try and leave comments with links going back to their sites in forums. There is also a variation of this method whereby the spammers create forum profiles and place links in their profile without ever leaving a comment.Whereas previously the technique of building huge numbers of back-links may have been effective in increasing search rankings, this type of tactic is now being targeted more readily by Google and it may be something they are addressing in the Penguin update too.
- Poorly written articles which don’t make sense because of bad grammar
In the effort to write as many articles as possible in the shortest amount of time, some people use what are known as article spinners. That is, they will often try to recycle existing articles which they’ve found on the net, by using a spinner to reword the article so that Google doesn’t detect any duplicate content.
The end result of sites which are primarily built using such a technique is that they are grammatically illegible and quite useless as far as being informative goes.Google is constantly introducing intelligence into their search engines and crawlers to spot things like this and penalise sites with such qualities by demoting them in the search rankings.
- Keyword stuffing
“Keyword stuffing” refers to the unnaturally high frequency of keywords which are placed on a page. The reason why people do this is that they hope to get a better ranking for their chosen keywords by exhibiting a large number of those keywords on their pages.
Quite often, when you read a page of a typical spammy website you will find that the content actually doesn’t make any sense because the post was written specifically to contain as many instances of a keyword as possible without any regard to the quality of the content itself.
The above are just some of the “black hat” techniques which spammers and wanna-be Internet millionaires employ in order to short circuit the work needed to succeed online.
However, with algorithm tweaks such as Panda and Penguin and future updates, these techniques will soon be as toxic as kryptonite was for superman in terms of the success of your website.
What to Do if Your Site Got Penalized?
If your site got penalized by the penguin update then you should try the following:
- Carefully read Google’s quality guidelines
- Make the necessary changes to your site
- Log into your Google Webmaster tools account and submit a request for reconsideration