People who are active in the SEO/online marketing industry wont have been able to avoid Google’s recent algorithm update; Penguin. It has shaken up the industry more than any other recent update and the consequences for some sites have been devastating. It is by far the most aggressive update ever rolled out by Google and is a sure sign of things to come. It was almost as though some sites dropped off page one, into search engine Siberia, overnight. This update has literally changed peoples lives overnight. Sales, traffic and visibility have been massively slashed in many cases. The extremities Google’s action are illustrated by the fact that the update has gained coverage in many leading, non-tech, publications such as the Wall Street Journal.
The main feature of the algorithm update is aimed at link spam. The issue is that in Google’s eyes any link that is not naturally created is an example of link spam. Link spam has been a problem for Google for years and bad SEO providers have been using black hat linking techniques, such as reciprocal linking and link farms, since the very start of SEO. It is fair to say that such an update has been a long time coming and is much needed.
As with any update, what once helped sites to rank highly no longer works. The difference however is that Google isn’t just devaluing certain metrics, they are actively seeking out and punishing perpetrators of what they have highlighted as spammy, manipulative techniques. These punishments include intended positional drops. For example a site that uses manipulative techniques to achieve a page one ranking for the keyword ‘sportswear’ may have been sent back 50 places from position 3 to position 53. It goes without saying that the impact of this on peoples businesses is epic. Some businesses have reported drastic declines in traffic as high as 90%. Less traffic = less sales or leads. 90% less traffic = 90% less sales or leads.
In a vast majority of cases I whole heartedly agree that people trying to manipulate search engines in an overly spammy fashion should be punished. However there are some examples that show how unfair Google’s action can be. The Wall Street Journal sights one example where a website that offers information on ice hockey players has been severely penalised. The owner states that he has never paid for a link of stuffed a keyword in the entire history of the site. He thinks that the links to his site that caused the punishment were naturally created in forums and other sites across the web, totally out of his control. This begs the question; why should he be punished for something that is completely out of his hands?
I’ll leave that one to Google to answer. All I can say is that I hope they find a way of making sure they don’t penalise the wrong people at the same time as penalising the right people. As with any Google update I’m confident that the end result will be better quality search results.