Google is continually updating the algorithm it uses for determining website rankings and most of them pass by with little or no notice. However this year Google has caused something of a stir with two of its most notorious updates to date. The Penguin and Panda updates for Google were introduced within a couple of days of each other and had a huge impact on the rankings of many websites. It has been estimated that the updates caused around 3% of websites to lose their search engine rankings completely with a further 20% significantly affected.
Now depending on your point of view the latest updates are either an attempt by Google to cut down on spam and over optimisation of websites or a blatant attempt by them to make more money for itself. With spam making up around 60% of all the content on the web Google was bound to take action sooner or later. Others see the update as a way for Google to make even more money from PPC as some forms of SEO are rendered virtually worthless overnight.
Penguins and Pandas
The Penguin update was introduced on April 24th and the Panda update a few days earlier followed by another “refresh” on the 27th. Each update was focused on a specific subject that affects the way rankings for websites are determined. Panda had as its main focus low quality and duplicate content while the Penguin update targeted webspam and unnatural inbound links that were deemed to manipulate rankings. Following the Penguin update many webmasters received warnings about unnatural links and were told to remove them ASAP. Many sites saw their rankings disappear overnight before they even received the warning.
The Penguin update severely penalised many websites that were deemed by Google to have too many unnatural links. These generally took the form of:
- Paid text links
- Comment spam
- Low quality article marketing sites/Blog networks
- Links from “Bad Neighbourhood” sites
- Guest posts
Analysis of the links from sites that have been penalised showed that one common factor was the anchor text used to create the links. The same few keywords being used thousands of times and a lack of natural links served as a red flag to Google and saw many sites lose rankings.
Life in the Post Penguin World
The first step if your website has been affected by Penguin is to do a thorough link analysis of all inbound links. Remove any low quality and spammy links that are pointing to your site as soon as you can. If you have paid links of any kind making them NoFollow instead of DoFollow is a must. Different methods of link building that fall within Google guidelines are a must and there are still plenty of them about.