Google has over 200 parameters that go into deciding where a page should rank for any given keyword. In spite of having such advanced ranking factors, spammers and black hat SEOs have always tried to work around the algorithms and flood the search results with low value pages. Google Penguin, released in April 2012, is a code name of another algorithm by Google. Google Penguin is meant to identify and decrease the ranks of websites that violate the search engine’s guidelines through black hat SEO.
Websites that have keyword stuffing, cloaking, bad linking practices, duplicate or near duplicate content aimed at fooling the search engines, etc., are the sites that are most affected by Google Penguin. Unlike the Google Panda updates, Google Penguin does not focus on the quality of a website and the user experience. It is an algorithm that tries to identify and downgrade violations of its guidelines.
Google Penguin and SEO
The best SEO consultants and agencies have always recommended playing by the rules. SEO is not about fooling Google to rank in search results, but to present your website its value proposition as creatively and effectively as possible, in conformance with search engine guidelines.
On the other hand, many SEOs have abused the system — either deliberately or out of sheer ignorance — at the cost of their clients. They have purchased and/or sold links; created so-called “SEO content” that doesn’t provide any value except stringing a series of keywords together into a “me too” article; spun content to create thousands of pages of content that say the same thing with minor changes in word usage. As a result, these SEOs and websites have been flooding the search engine indexes with poor quality pages and sites that, for the most part, did not deserve to rank in search results in the first place.
Many times, a client trusts the SEO agency or consultant who are either less than ethical in their practices or just not knowledgeable enough. At other times, pressure from the client to gain ranks at any cost forces many SEO agencies and consultants to bend the rules — if not break them. Google Penguin is aimed at correcting the skewing of search results through black hat SEO practices.
Should you do anything different to be Google Penguin friendly?
The answer to this depends on what you have been doing till now. If your focus has been on your customers and visitors, if you have tried to give them the best possible experience on your site, if you have created meaningful content that addresses the needs of your visitors, if you haven’t purchased or sold links or participated in any unnatural linking practices, then you should not be adversely affected by Google Penguin. If anything, you might have gained from Google Penguin, if your competitors practicing black hat SEO were penalized.
On the other hand, if you — or your SEO agency — have been practicing black hat SEO, violating Google’s guidelines and trying to cheat the system for gaining ranks and traffic, then it’s time you revisited your marketing and SEO practices and conform to search engine guidelines. A few things to watch include:
Invest in Content:
Content spinning or creating extremely similar pages with a few words changed used to be considered a type of “SEO content”. Another type of so called SEO content used to be keyword-stuffed articles that have little or no real value for readers. This content would be aimed at search engines alone. These practices were never sustainable practices for SEO. It is important to invest in high quality content that adds value, has a unique view point or thought leadership. If you invest in content that engages with the audience, and if your visitors love your content, they will share it and promote it, building natural links and creating positive social signals for your site. it will also improve time on site, reduce bounce rate and all that can only help your site’s SEO.
When you create content, it’s best not to worry about search engines, but to think of your audiences. Don’t stuff your content with keywords. Keywords should be included in the content meaningfully in a way that will make for good reading without undue concern over how the content will rank in search engines.
Link Building Practices:
If your site is of a high quality, links will grow organically over time. Concerted link building is not a bad practice. However, do not buy links indiscriminately. Have a healthy link building mix where you get high quality organic links from high quality relevant sites. Having organic links pointing to your site is important. A sudden increase in links or questionable linking practices, link exchange, buying of links are all practices that violate search engine guidelines and can attract penalization through Google Penguin.
The simplest thing to do before taking any SEO decision is to ask yourself, “does this seem like a good marketing practice or does it seem like a cheesy and underhanded trick?” If it seems like the former to you, then chances are, it won’t hurt you. Focus on your audience and you will usually be right in the decisions you take. Also work with an ethical SEO who understands SEO best practices and practices ethical SEO.
Online Marketing Services from Flying Cow Design
We have been working with clients for many years now and have helped them grow their online presence through ethical SEO practices. The fact that none of our clients have been penalized by search engines is testament to our SEO practices. When you need to improve your online presence, talk to us about our online marketing services.
CEO, Flying Cow Design
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in San Francisco Bay Area