Have you been p..p…p…picked up by penguin?

Google’s latest update, called Penguin, has been the talk of the internet marketing world this week, causing ruffled feathers and met with a generally – ahem – frosty reception. Aside from paving the way for a seemingly unending number of penguin-related parodies, puns and Photoshopped pictures, for many website owners, the update was much more than an annoyance. Penguin resulted in huge drops in rankings, and therefore traffic and business, for many sites, some of which became hidden far down the results pages overnight.

While Google’s various Panda updates (first rolled out in 2011 – we’re now on Panda 3.5) targeted low-quality websites, Penguin was created to reduce the relevance of spam in Google’s algorithms.

Google’s Matt Cutts has said that Penguin isn’t targeting legitimate SEO but webspam; SEO techniques which add little of value for humans. Here at KPI, we are constantly stressing the importance of good quality SEO (good quality, on page content, for example), and Penguin has made this more important than ever. Webspam includes techniques employed by disreputable SEO agencies, such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, purposeful duplicate content, and cloaking, redirects and doorway pages designed to trick Google’s robot crawlers.

Of course, you may not know which methods your current SEO agency are using, and you may have been unexpectedly hit by Penguin (or be likely to be hit by a future update). It is important to choose a trustworthy SEO agency which are open about their ethical techniques.

As Penguin was an automatic algorithm update, it appears that many site owners believe they have been unfairly penalised. They claim that Penguin has not only damaged spammy websites, but some unlucky innocent ones. Google is now apparently willing to knock out a few legitimate sites if it means removing a host of spammy ones. In addition to this, some are arguing that search results have even been made less relevant by the update.

While many are trying to predict the next Google update (are the animals linked with the letter P? Their black and white colouring? Their endangered status?), some are left with more to worry about.

How do I know if my site’s been pecked by Penguin?

To understand which steps to take to achieve traffic recovery, you need to find out what, if anything, is affecting your site’s ranking. Many have been bamboo-zled by the close proximity of Panda (Panda 3.5 was rolled out on April 19th) to the Penguin update (April 24th).  If you have suffered an unnatural drop in rankings, it is important to check your traffic data.

If traffic to your site was starting to significantly decrease before April 24th, chances are it’s Panda not Penguin which has affected your ranking. If you notice a sharp decrease in traffic after around the 24th, that cute little penguin is your culprit. Of course, many sites will be completely unaffected (traffic fluctuations are natural), and other websites will benefit from Penguin as competitors are penalised. It can be complex however, as unnatural link warnings were sent to Google Webmaster accounts about spammy link building in January and February, even before Penguin was launched.

Naturally, SEO forums are filled with those who have been badly affected by Penguin. But it is important to remember that those whose traffic has stayed the same or increased simply have nothing to shout about. Only 3% of search queries have been affected by Penguin.

How can I get my site get back on its (happy) feet?

If you have been affected, ask your SEO agency what they’ve done to get your site penalised. Ask them to, or get other SEOs to remove damaging links and ensure your site adheres to Google’s guidelines. Google has a reconsideration process which KPI can guide you through once your website meets these guidelines. However, if your site has been hit by Penguin rather than Panda, some believe that the reconsideration request won’t do much, because Penguin is automatic and Google may not make manual exceptions. There is, however, a Google form which can be used to air your grievances to the search engine. This should be done constructively, rather than accusatorily, and KPI can help you through each of these processes effectively.

What does Penguin mean to SEO?

Penguin has simply made it more difficult for poor SEO practices to be relevant.

Even those that haven’t been affected this time should take a dive into quality SEO now, to avoid being hit by a future penguin update. Webmasters should now focus on creating high quality links to avoid being associated with webspam, staying firmly away from disreputable agencies. In addition to quality being more important than ever, KPI are predicting the world of SEO is changing as a whole. We predict that Penguin, the emperor of Google updates, has meant SEOs may need to adopt more traditional PR techniques as Google becomes better at spotting methods of manipulating PageRank.

So, if you don’t want to be affected by Panda, Penguin or future animals in the Google zoo (Puffin? Pelican? Pzebra?) remember to build your site not only for search engines, but for human users too. It’s as clear as black and white.

If you’re still confused about penguins and pandas, if you want help switching to ethical SEO, or want to know how to deal with being penalised, contact KPI and we’d be happy to help. 

About Kadie Dobson

Kadie is a member of the web marketing team at KPI. She is a Journalism graduate of John Moores University. Email: kadie.dobson@kpib.co.uk Google+
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