If you have found this post, then you are probably one of the man, many webmasters, SEOs, or other perplexed business leader that has recently discovered that Google’s latest beautifully disguised and designed algorithm change Penguin 2.0 was released on 22nd May, taking many by surprise and instantly causing a drop in search engine rankings and traffic.
This, unfortunately is something that we are now accustomed to seeing from Google. It is now no longer plausible to chase the algorithm or to try and gain an advantage via external measures. Google wants us to concentrate on creating quality sites, and it is determined to get its way…
There have been a few recent algorithm updates from Google, namely Penguin and Panda. Panda concentrated on discouraging website with poor quality on-site content whilst Penguin supposedly seeks to put an end to poor quality off-site content.
So what’s wrong with having poor quality off-site content?
Good question! You may think that content which isn’t necessarily attached to your site has little to do with your own business. Wrong!
Google has not only tweaked its algorithms over the last couple of years, it’s also tweaked its webmaster guidelines. What was once thought to be ‘white hat’ techniques years ago has suddenly been ousted as ‘black hat’ to modern SEO requirements. In fact Google has acknowledged that the term SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) should now perhaps take on a new meaning… Searcher Experience Optimisation.
This all of a sudden means that there are hundreds of thousands of businesses out there that have in the past used some of the most popular Search Engine Optimisers in the industry to create off-site content and more importantly to ‘build links’ and who now have hundreds, thousands or maybe millions of links to their perfectly functional sites that may no longer be passing any value at all and may even be counting negatively to the site’s overall search engine presence.
Oh look Mr Rooney, someone’s moved the goalposts!
That’s right, it might even look to some like Wayne Rooney’s recent form could be put down to a Google algorithm change, perhaps Penguin has got to him too?
In all honesty, Penguine 2.0 IS something a lot of businesses should be worried about and not just the small time crooks trying to manipulate google rankings. Although this update has been officially labelled as Penguin 2.0 there have in fact been 4 Penguin updates over the course of the last months. From my experience a lot of websites escaped and even gained from the previous 3 updates yet have been hit relatively hard by the 4th iteration.
So what stops my competitors from pointing negative SEO at my site?
Google is insistent that a competitor should not find it easy to be able to spam another site with malicious links, which gives me hope that Penguin should actually be fairly straight forward to recover from, albeit with some effort.
Why should that give me hope? Well, looking critically, this statement must mean that Google is no longer going to pass value easily from new links from unknown sites or those with little ranking themselves, authority and longevity is seemingly going to be a factor from now on. So even if someone was to create a million links from low ranking, spammy directories, Google wont be passing much relevance to them anyway. Google has also stated that if you are actively creating external links, then you should be adding a ‘no-follow’ attribute to them. Google WANTS you to no-follow!
This actually suggests that contrary to popular belief, that sites may not actually be permanently penalised by Google, yet they may just be caught up in an algorithm change that has simply devalued any false positives from poor links that may have been built in the relatively recent, distant past. :-$
That’s not to say that some of the big offenders have not been penalised in some other way. I would imagine that sites with millions of awkwardly built links over thousands of poor quality sites for multiple keywords have been hit heavily for a majority of their precious keywords.
So what? Do I have to give up and start again?
In most circumstances, probably not.
The fact that many escaped and even profited from the initial roll-outs leads me to believe that the previous Penguin and possibly Panda updates just serves as a warning to Webmasters everywhere…anything that didn’t seem 100% correct 5 years ago, may now inevitably be catching up to you now, or in the near future.
A lot of real, genuine value companies at some stage in the last 5 years have engaged in some kind of SEO practice, that may now retrospectively look black-hat in the eyes of the search engines. But I really cant believe that Google should all of a sudden demote websites that have previously performed white-hat SEO prior to their ‘expansion’ of the webmaster guidelines.
Look’ we’ve been hit…what do I have to do?
The first thing to do is not to panic.
If you have been practising good business techniques yet may have strayed ober the border in the past then you should be able recover with some real ‘Searcher Experience Optimisation’ along with a little spring cleaning.
It’s now time to get on top of your past, present and future…. research those old links and clean them up. If they are genuinely ‘bad links’ then they wont be passing any value to you any more anyway, so get rid! Slightly more obscure, yet suspicious links should be treated with slightly more caution, but dont be afraid… its time to remove the garbage and concentrate on building great content and really working for the attention that you deserve! There are easily accessible and free tools out there to help identify toxic links, and google webmaster tools is probably the best indication of your current position. Google even provides a ‘Link Disavow Tool’ for the links that you really cant remove manually. (Please use with caution and see Google advice for further details)
There really is only 2 steps for the future…..
- Clean Up that link profile
- Build for the future
If you have recently been and/or still are creating spammy, poor value links of nil quality, then recovery may be a lot more difficult.
So what’s the future of my Website?
I think this all only points on one direction….that less and less focus is going to be on links passing page-rank to other sites. Google is confident now, more than ever that it can distinguish a website of real value by its content rather than from external signals. That’s not to say that the biggest and most respected sites wont be able to pass pagerank at all in some way, just that those who want genuine, high quality links are going to have to work harder to create great sites that such high profile sites will want to link to them in the first place.
I think we need to challenge each other to create better websites that our customers will truly love to use! What do you think?