We are about a fortnight on from Google’s latest spam fighting update, so now is a great time to see how the dust is settling in terms of which websites experienced a drop in their search engine rankings. Even more importantly, we can find out how you can avoid similar penalties.
On 22nd May, Penguin 2.0 went live, representing Google’s biggest attempt yet to counter spammy or ‘black hat’ SEO link building tactics. Penguin was originally implemented in April last year and subsequent updates were released in May and October, although these were just minor tweaks compared to the impact of this latest version (hence it being referred to as 2.0, rather than 4, by Google’s own web spam team).
What is Google trying to achieve with Penguin?
Before we can analyse the effect of the latest update, it’s important to remind ourselves exactly what the point of all this is. Google’s goal is pretty simple really: they want to make their search engine as user friendly as possible. This means whenever a search term is entered, they want the top sites that appear to be those that are most relevant, informative, interesting and easy to use.
In other words, Google want to reward the best websites with the highest ranking positions. However, prior to the penguin update it was possible for a site to use spammy SEO tactics to climb search engine rankings without necessarily being particularly user friendly, original or interesting. As appearing on page one of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is critical for practically every self respecting company, it’s vital to understand the impact of Penguin and focus on making positive changes to your website. Avoid strategies where you build huge numbers of low quality links like the plague.
Google’s chief web spam engineer, Matt Cutts, explains in this video how working hard to make sure your website offers users a worthwhile experience, is the best way to encourage Google to improve the visibility of your site. This means updating with fresh and relevant content that your users will want to engage with.
What is Penguin 2.0 targeting?
Google promised this update would go deeper in tackling dodgy link building strategies and it appears that it has done. The initial Penguin update focused primarily upon exposing questionable back link schemes.. However, whereas the previous version focused mainly upon your homepage link profile, the latest version takes into account deeper pages in your site. This could mean that companies that were lucky enough to scrape by with iffy link profiles in the past could now be experiencing a drop in organic search traffic. Other types of link schemes that appear to be inviting the wrath of Penguin include spam blog comments, links from low quality directory sites and private and public link networks.
What to do if you think your site has been hit?
If you’ve noticed a recent lull in the number of visitors to your company’s website, you should find out if Penguin may have caused you to slip down Google’s search rankings. Drop-offs like this can occur overnight, but sorting out a toxic backlink profile can take months. You need to manually remove as many of the offending links as possible by asking websites to take them down, and use the Google’s disavow tool to deal with the rest. Health warning: please consult an expert before undertaking any link removal or disavow work. You’ll find more details about this in a post we did a few months back.
If you think you’ve been hit by Penguin or would like advice on safe SEO tactics, give our expert team a call. We’ll be happy to work with you on a campaign to get your business climbing the search engine rankings.