In the Penguin aftermath, hundreds of website owners across the globe are busy gathering their wits in dealing with the most recent Google algorithm update. A little over a month since its launch, Google Penguin leaves a lot of people asking about its idiosyncrasies. What is it exactly? How does it affect a website’s SERP ranking? Did it hit my site and what do I need to do?
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How Google Penguin is different from Panda
The search engine giant has been introducing update after update, in order to provide higher quality results for the end users. I, as well as a lot of people out there, believe in making the Internet a better place for the users.
In line with its goals, Google introduced Panda 3.5 on April 19 of this year. However, just when webmasters thought Panda was on a roll, Google launched Penguin on April 24. One of the most common questions I have encountered is the main difference between the two.
Although the two were launched within a few days of each other, Panda and Penguin each targeted a different set of violations. Google Panda targeted sites providing “thin content”—those that are of low quality (e.g. keyword-stuffed articles, no value for readers). Since it’s a site-wide penalty, Google was able penalize an entire website with enough number of pages containing thin content. Also, Penguin aimed to stop sites with a republished content to outrank the original.
Google Penguin, on the other hand, was directed to penalize websites with spam (e.g. over-optimized content and links). Moreover, since this is an algorithmic change, reconsideration requests may not be effective, as Google is not focusing on manually penalizing each site. There is, however, a new feedback form for Penguin that I listed below.
How Would You Know If Penguin Affected Your Site?
Since its mass roll out, I hear a lot of webmasters complaining about losing the rankings of their sites. How did the Penguin affect your site? Did it affect you, to begin with? Here are a few ways to check:
Check the visitor count.
Was it Panda or Penguin that made you lose your SERP rankings? This is important, since you wouldn’t want to make adjustments for the wrong algorithm.
Since you’re a site owner, I take it that you are religiously checking the amount of traffic you’re generating. Take note of any unusual rise or drop in your search-related traffic from Google after April 24. If your traffic increased, then you benefitted from Penguin; if it decreased, then Penguin probably hit you.
Search for key terms.
Another thing you can do is run a few searches for key terms and brand terms that generally bring the traffic to your website. You can also delve into the traffic levels of your site based on the keyword level. If there’s a significant drop in any of them, then you have a fairly good idea how Google penalized your site.
See Google’s email.
Google sent out some 700,000 notifications regarding the spam activity of some websites. This may include a lot of factors, such as unnatural links pointing to your site. Check to see if you received one, and act accordingly (i.e. address the quality of links).
Some Issues Regarding the Sites Affected by the Penguin
After browsing through a lot of sources pointing out the effects of Penguin, I listed down some of the common issues that sprouted since its implementation:
Effect on search queries
Although I came across a lot of outcry about the effects of Penguin, recent updates showed that it only affected 3.1 percent of English queries. This is a reasonably less number compared to the 12% affected by the Panda update. However, expect the figures to rise, as Google rolls out more updates.
Getting wrongly targeted by Google
As pointed out earlier, there really isn’t anything much that you can do if Google penalized your website due to the Penguin update.
Factors leading to Penguin change
Search engine optimization (SEO) professionals, of course, are among the most affected by every Google update. They believe that some of the factors that led to the change in SERP rankings include:
- Overuse of exact match domains
- Unnatural inbound links
- Keyword stuffing
- Blog spam, low-quality articles
- Excessive link building
- For a more comprehensive discussion on these factors, you can refer to this article.
SEO tactics: Recovering from Penguin, preparing for the future
For SEO professionals out there, what practices can you apply to recover from the Penguin changes? After assessing the impact of Penguin on your website, it’s time that you act on it:
Provide high-quality content.
I often hear the mantra, content is king. This holds true, even for the Penguin update targeting web spam. The main goal is for websites to stop posting useless content for the end users. A regular update of high-quality content is called for, with the right amount of keywords, variations in anchor links, and natural backlinks. Throw in a few social media buttons, and you’re on your way to improving the health of your website.
Deal with both on-site and off-site over-optimization.
Before it was referred to as the Penguin update, the recent algorithm change was initially known as the Over Optimization Penalty or the Webspam Algorithm Update.
Ensure the quality of the website for future updates.
If you have been hit by the Penguin, I know it would take time and effort to deal with the optimization tactics you’ve applied before. The important thing is to not resort to practices that are clearly in violation of Google’s guidelines. A few things you can look at are: ensuring that your site can be accessible on most browsers and mobile devices, cleaning your URLs, and updating your sitemaps.
Panicking after every Google update will not do you any good. It is inevitable for search engines to continue updating their algorithm, as it is part of their goal to provide relevant results for their visitors. Act now, so you can effectively cushion the effects of the Penguin update.
Do let us know if your site got affected by Penguin algo change and what all you are doing to cope up with ever changing search engine algo?