Google’s Penguin Update has had the web world up in arms since April 24th as tons of sites lost their precious spots in search rankings. Although the update aims to tackle spammy websites that use illegitimate tactics to rank high, many seemingly innocent sites were also affected by the update in a big way. A visit to Google’s Webmaster Forum gives insight to a large sample of alleged honest webmasters who claim to be wrongly affected by these updates.
On the surface, Penguin seems like a wonderful attempt to combat the crooks of the web. Unlike other updates, its sole purpose isn’t to necessarily improve search results. Instead, Google focuses on rewarding websites that follow its quality guidelines. As a refresher, I’ve pasted some of those guidelines below:
- Avoid hidden text or hidden links
- Don’t use cloaking, sneaky redirects or doorway pages
- Don’t send automated queries to Google
- Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords
- Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content
- Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
Google suggests webmasters ask themselves questions like “Does this help my users?” or “Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” before they proceed an action that may trick a search engine.
Of the guidelines, Penguin is giving most attention to links and a page’s link schemes. Google attempts to define what links are related/unrelated and devalues sites with too many unrelated links. This has already affected sites that use directory type links, link exchanges, sponsored links, articles published on other blogs, and social media links. Personally, I find it hard to believe Google will be a perfect judge of determining which links are related to a site.
Plenty of websites have been affected by both Penguin and even its predecessor Panda, but a site should be able to get back into shape so long as it follows Google’s quality guidelines and sticks to the old rule of creating quality content. For sites that truly feel they’ve been wronged, Google has provided a form for unfairly affect sites. We hope to see an update with that in the future. Until then, I think Google is on to something with this, but they haven’t gotten it quite right yet.