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May 01, 2012

What You Need to Know About Google’s Penguin Update

Not sure what to think of Google’s Penguin update? Whether your website was hit or not, here’s what you need to know about Google’s newest algorithm change.

What is Penguin?

Penguin is Google’s latest update to its search-ranking algorithm. Released in full on April 24, 2012, the changes are meant to level the SEO playing field once and for all. Penguin decreases rankings for websites that violate Google’s existing quality guidelines, which include spammy techniques such as keyword stuffing, article spinning and cloaking.

Am I affected?

If your website has great content backed by white-hat SEO techniques, you’re fine. In fact, if you’re playing by the rules you might even see a boost in rankings.

Google does report some spamming offenses through Google Webmaster Central, but it doesn’t tell you if Penguin directly affected your website. So if you’re unsure, it’s wise to do some investigating.

The Penguin update launched on April 24th, so if you see a major drop in search-related traffic immediately after that date, you’ve probably been hit. If your traffic dropped earlier, on April 19th, and never recovered, you’ve probably been hit by Panda, not Penguin. Panda was designed to penalize low-quality content, not spam.

To put the Penguin update into context, the initial Panda change affected 12% of search queries, while Penguin only affected 3.1%.

Are those link warnings related to Penguin?

In mid-March, Google cracked down on blog networks that existed solely to generate links. Later in the month, Google sent notifications from Google Webmaster Tools warning users about violations related to “artificial or unnatural links.”

So if you saw your traffic drop at these times, it’s not because of Penguin. Either you are no longer benefiting from the now de-indexed link networks, or Google has attached a penalty to your site.

How do I recover?

Get rid of the spam. Check Google Webmaster Central for violation warnings even if you’ve never verified your account, and fix anything that Google has flagged as questionable. If Google hasn’t flagged your website—and you’re 100% sure Penguin has hit you—correct whatever appears to be spam-like.

Is Penguin bad for business?

Penguin is still in its early days, so it’s easy to come away with a skewed view. The only people speaking up are those who have been harmed by the update; Google searchers haven’t complained that it’s suddenly gotten worse, and those benefitting from the update have no reason to make a fuss.

Of those who were hit, most probably deserved to be hit. And of those who were rewarded, most probably deserved to be rewarded. If you’re a real business that provides real services and conducts web activities in a real way, you should be just fine.

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