Google has announced that there has been a new Panda update in the last week and that their new Penguin update launched on the 24th April.
As Stephen mentioned the other day these new updates these updates are aimed at negative SEO. However as these are now live and there have been some pretty big changes to some search results with some people seeing new sites on page one of the Google results.
So what are some of the changes and how can you make sure that your website is performing well against these changes.
Panda was primarily aimed at content farms, low quality sites and sites which offered no real value to the users which ended up targeted article sites, scraping sites and affiliate websites quite a lot. Over the course of the last year there were a number of updates to the Panda generally about once every 6 weeks or so. Generally these updates were all about “Quality”. Another Panda update, version 3.5, was launched on the 19th April.
One of the terms which was bandied about with the Panda update was “thought leadership” making it more important to have a good quality content strategy in place on your site, so that you could provide useful pages, whitepapers and help guides which visitors will see as a resource on your website.
There have also been some other updates over the last year such as the “page layout” update in January 2012 which looked at sites which were using too many adverts making content on these pages too hard to read or even find on a page. This means that sites which were using AdSense found that they have to be more careful about how much of their page real estate was taken up with these adverts. Again this is really about “quality” as Google wants the websites it is presenting to people to contain worthwhile information which is easy to read and not polluted by too many adverts.
Webmasters need to make sure that as much of their content is visible above the scroll point on the page as possible and not have this content pushed down before this point by adverts or banners.
What is Google Penguin?
Penguin is the Google name for the webspam or over optimisation update which has been being talked about on the internet over the course of the last few weeks.
What does this mean for your website though? Well Google have said that this update is not aimed at some hard to pin down measure of what is “over optimisation” a phrase which itself doesn’t make that much sense. To make something optimal is to make it just right, so how can you make it “more just right” or “too much just right”. Thankfully this hard to understand concept is not what Google really meant, but instead they are looking to target techniques which are breaking the Google Webmaster Guidelines where Google have offered some advice to businesses on about best practices and although this doesn’t tell us what’s in the algorithm these tips do tell us some of the things Google frowns upon such as the things mentioned below .
Make sure that you are not engaged in spinning content, keyword stuffing or hidden text and/or cloaking. It’s also important to avoid large lists of links such as large footers or pages with hundreds of links on them – as Google have said that sites such as telephone number listing sites are being hit by these changes.
So, what happens if you’ve been hit by Penguin? Well the first thing to do is review your site and make sure that you aren’t breaking any of the guidelines within Google’s guidelines and that you are presenting users with a good level of content which is easy to read and not stuffed with keywords or created just to try and get a ranking in the search engines.
Look at your title tags and content and internal links to make sure that it doesn’t look like you’ve been trying to shoe horn keywords into places where they don’t naturally flow or that you’ve not hidden links or keywords somehow (such as the infamous tactic from the 90s of having white text on a white background).
If you’re currently using link networks, automated link building software or have been buying links, then now is the time to stop doing this and try and clean up your links – you may already have received a warning about “unnatural links” as I mentioned in my blog about your back link profile earlier this month.
One thing we have seen following the go live of penguin is that there are still some sites which either have no content or have spammy techniques such as hidden text which are ranking well in the results. So it wouldn’t surprise me if we seen a Penguin version 2 shortly.