How The New Google “Penguin” Algorithm Update Affects Your Business
opinion of Penguins tends to conjure up images of cute, waddling birds. But now, in any case in the SEO world, they’ll lose part of their innocent image with the new Google algorithm update aimed at webspam being referred to as the “Penguin Update”. This is expected to impact about 3% of search queries. If you’re engaging in black hat techniques – be warned – yet again (remember the “Panda Update” anyone?). Google is coming after you, continuing its relentless pursuit of offering only high quality, relevant results for its users. Here are the details you need to know to ensure your website stays on Google’s good side.
Matt Cutts, Head of Webspam at Google, had alluded to this update when he described “over-optimized” websites being punished. This received criticism from the SEO world as it unclear the lines between white hat SEO and webspam. Fortunately he clarified this by explaining, “The idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit, so all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, ‘over-optimization’ or overly doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a incredible site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little more level.”
If you’ve been in a frenzy over thoughts of your website being punished by Google either by manual changes or automatic internet marketing software, you can calm down. Cutts has confirmed the over-optimization warning was aimed towards webspam, not SEO in general.
The Penguin Update
In his latest blog post suitably titled “Another step to reward high-quality sites”, Cutts explains:
“White hat” search engine optimizers often get better the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster, which is good for both users and search engines”.
The opposite of “white hat” SEO is something called “black hat webspam” (we say “webspam” to distinguish it from email spam). In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users. We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings.
In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. 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. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics”.
What are the implications for SEO?
The Penguin Update specifically targets keyword stuffing, linking schemes and cloaking.
- Keyword stuffing places monotonous targeted keywords in low visibility areas of a website in hopes of being associated with the term by a search engine.
- Linking schemes use organized rings of link spammers that spread unrelated links throughout the internet.
- Cloaking is the most advanced of these methods, whereby a webmaster shows the search engines a fake version of their website specifically designed to game the algorithm.
Most of the black hat techniques have been around for a while. But now Google have improved measures for targeting and punishing websites using these tactics. If you’re engaging in any of these black hat techniques, heed Google’s warning.
Cutts specifically mentions, “In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.
What are the quality guidelines?
What are the guidelines you need to ensure you’re complying with? Here they are below:
1. Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
2. Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
3. Don’t send automated queries to Google.
4. Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.
5. Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
6. Don’t create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.
7. Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
8. If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.
While most of these are straight forward, a few of these guidelines suffer from Google’s well known ‘let’s be as vague as possible so webmasters don’t game our algorithm’ syndrome. What constitutes “substantially duplicate content” for example? Well you can head over to Google’s help center for more information on the Google search quality guidelines.
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