You’ve likely been hearing a lot about Google’s latest algorithm change, the Penguin Update. As an attempt to further advance the search engine’s efficiency, the Penguin Update primarily affects those websites that have been treading shady waters, such as keyword stuffing, mass link exchanging, cloaking, and just about any activity that is intended to trick the search engines into thinking that a site deserves to rank higher than it actually does. Unfortunately there are plenty of SEOs out there who still work this way. Maybe they are too lazy to organize a strategic content plan (as in, creating content that people will actually want to read). Maybe they’re just unflinchingly rigid in their old ways and refuse to adapt. Regardless of their intentions or reasoning, they can be very persuasive, promising higher rankings at low costs. You may want to pay attention to this post if one of these “experts” has whispered sweet nothings into your ear and swayed you to climb aboard the Black Hat Express. Brace yourself: The Penguin Update is going to hurt a little.
What will happen?
Short term strategies will yield short term success. If you knowingly moved forward with the aforementioned SEO tricks, or even if you signed checks for someone to do it for you, your site is going to take a blow. Signals such as repeated copy, link-saturated footers, or hidden keywords will alert Google of your website’s inadequacy, or as Google puts it, “a negative user experience.” Keep in mind that Google isn’t an inclusive list of every website. It’s an index of pages that are believed to contain relevance to certain queries. If you prove to Google that your site is a piece of crap-ola, you’re going to be bumped back, whether 10 positions, 10 pages, or simply wiped from the index entirely.
Our best advice: avoid it.
If it’s been a while since you’ve had a look under the hood, you should really consider getting a new site audit. Last week we listed a few simple steps that you can perform to find out how well your website is performing in the search engines. Google, of course, doesn’t reveal which specific signals are the cause for sites’ visibility demise a but by understanding Google’s interpretation of spam, which they are always trying to remove from their indexes, you can understand which Penguin-specific triggers to clean up. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Keyword stuffing – overusing keywords in the titles, URLs, and anchor text
- Duplicate content – identical blocks of copy on various pages of your site. Here’s a good article on how to fix this.
- Hidden text – making the copy the same color as the background so it is only visible by search engines.
- Cloaking – essentially, this is disguising links or copy so that they appear to Google differently than they do to users.
If you’re not much of a DIY-er, you should consider investing in a blown-out audit and SEO consultation. The black hat tricks that worked several years ago don’t work as well as they once did – and for all you know, your past SEO or website developer relied heavily on those tactics. Instead of working for you, black hat SEO can cause radical harm, to which Derek referred in his post from a while back which explained the differences between Manual and Algorithmic penalties. Anyone burned by the Penguin Update has officially suffered an Algorithmic Penalty, and unfortunately the situation is not likely to be resolved with a reconsideration letter to Google. Rather, the search engine is making is very clear that it wants sites to clean up their acts. If that includes you, we suggest you hop to it! Start with a new audit that is up-to-date on current algorithm trends and signals.