Living with Google Penguin — Part 1

How the google penguin update has affected webmastersWhat is Google’s latest update and how to use it to win those rankings?

With a lot of people talk­ing about the Google Pen­guin update and how it’s uprooted web­sites from top pos­i­tions in the index, the whole atmo­sphere of search engine optim­isa­tion and search mar­ket­ing begins to get a bit dreary. So I’d like you to leave your wor­ries for a moment — I’ve found no-one can think prop­erly in the wrong frame of mind, get ready for some “real” rev­el­a­tions and come with me on a ride. Let’s under­stand the Pen­guin update and use it to bene­fit both our vis­it­ors as well as ourselves.

Google Pen­guin: What You Need To Know

I’ll dis­cuss points relat­ing to the tech­nical side of the update and the over­all big pic­ture. I’ll give you the big pic­ture first so that you know where big G’s headed. It’ll help you bet­ter under­stand the impact of the update.

Big Pic­ture 1 — Ser­vice Oriented

Firstly, Grandmother’s and eggs: Google is a cus­tomer ori­ented ser­vice. And like any other good busi­ness that keeps its cus­tom­ers on top of its pri­or­ity list, Google makes their best effort to bene­fit the searcher.

Unhappy search­ers means no quer­ies. No quer­ies means no res­ults. And no res­ults means no rev­enue for them. Every update they make is a step towards enhan­cing their searcher’s experience.

Big Pic­ture 2 — Give Read­ers What They Want

big picture of seo in 2012No mat­ter how many updates are made, what your vis­it­ors get from your site is always in your hands. So as long as your object­ive is to give the site user exactly what he/she wants in a way the aver­age surfer is com­fort­able with, your rank­ings will sta­bil­ise over time.

Of course you may slide up or down a bit with com­pet­i­tion and the fluc­tu­at­ing nature of a dynamic index, but people ‘will’ find your site if you have:

  • Unique qual­ity content
  • Genu­ine anchor text for incom­ing links and
  • Site design that is user-friendly and aims to bene­fit your visitor.

I’m say­ing this for a reason…

There are many people out there who tend to get wor­ried when they see a slight drop in their rank­ings just after an update. Then they make changes which really mess up the ori­ginal motive of the site. So while earlier they could have tested their way through and come back up by cater­ing to the vis­itor, now they’re in a real prob­lem because their focus shifts from the vis­itor to the search engine.

And believe it or not, the engin­eers power­ing a search engine like Google are slowly and stead­ily recog­niz­ing these shifts. To per­sons main­tain­ing such an import­ant index, it is a clear sign of manip­u­la­tion. Hence, a small revi­sion that may just have refined the crawl­ing ends up turn­ing into a mag­ni­fied hammer.

Your best bet is to always bear in mind the big pic­ture as I explained. It’ll keep your wor­ries at bay and help you remain focused on your traffic’s needs. You’ll optim­ise bet­ter e.g. for the reader not the engine.

Any­way, speak­ing of optimising…

What is Google Penguin?

The Google Pen­guin update was issued on or around the 24th of April this year., And unlike the pre­vi­ous Google ‘Panda’ and ‘Fresh’ updates that were heav­ily inclined towards find­ing fresh con­tent, pen­al­ising over optim­isa­tion and forced link­ing, the Pen­guin update has an extra sharp edge to its knife.

Along with the usual rewards for good con­tent that have become a cus­tom, the Pen­guin is out­right “ruth­less against spam­ming meth­ods” — namely Link Types and Anchor Text Diversity.

What kind of spam?

Here’s a few types:

  • Stuff­ing keywords
  • Link cloak­ing
  • Pur­chased links in the form of affil­i­ate links
  • Ban­ners that are never nofollow’ed
  • Expan­ded link loops — aka link wheels / link pyramids
  • Advert­ising focused sites — yes even Adesnse sites
  • Blog net­work links
  • Black­hat tool imple­men­ted links (like those from SENuke-X)
  • .…and loads more.

Basic­ally, any­thing and everything that goes against Google’s Qual­ity Guidelines. And if you’re look­ing for answers relat­ing to fol­low / nofol­low — here’s Matt Cutts:

Link and Con­tent Relevancy

Another factor of search that Google Pen­guin tar­gets is “Link Relevancy”.

This means that con­tent provided in huge amounts but off the topic of the site or tar­get keywords, yet still rank­ing well, would be heav­ily penalised.

After spam­mers, these sites are the most hit. This is an attempt to block res­ults lead­ing to sites that are for­cing their way into an unre­lated mar­ket just for the sake of expos­ure or ad revenue.

But on the flip side, it is extremely dif­fi­cult to judge rel­ev­ancy. There have been a num­ber of busi­ness own­ers, who were hit just because they were try­ing to branch into a new product or were test­ing the waters at this time. Their expos­ure has been cut short due to misinterpretations.

search engine landAlso, some web­sites that are not rel­ev­ant to the desired res­ults con­tinue to pop-up. A com­par­ison based case study is on Search Engine Land.

Now, if you search for your keywords and see a slight drop in your rank­ings, DON’T not panic. As I men­tioned, do not go about chan­ging your entire site struc­ture. You’re most likely suf­fer­ing from a con­tent qual­ity prob­lem, which is easier to fix.

If there’s no change, then you’re prob­ably unaffected.

How­ever, if your site has dropped down by a num­ber of pages or has gone out of the index, it means you’re badly hit. Since the update tar­gets spam, it means you or someone asso­ci­ated to the con­tent or back­links you have, got flagged as an inap­pro­pri­ate optim­isa­tion effort.

It could also imply that the con­tent of your web­site isn’t gen­er­at­ing enough sig­nals to be mapped to the top res­ults. This is a prob­lem that a lot of new web­site own­ers are facing, when com­pet­ing with older sites in their niche that have years of blog posts or inform­a­tion stored in their archives.

This con­tent prob­lem can be tough to solve, but it is still pos­sible to over­come. It’s the spam part that’s hard to track down and solve.

Con­tent Creation

First, let’s tackle the con­tent issue. Here’s four effect­ive tips for you:

google penguin# 1 : Diver­sify Your Content

There will always be people in almost every niche who already have great web­sites with more con­tent than you may ever make! There’s no point in try­ing to com­pete just on the basis of tex­tual con­tent and site inter­ac­tion on blogs.

It’s time to step up the gas and use more than one form of media. Put that RSS feed to use and release pod­casts and videos over video shar­ing sites. In essence, put out con­tent that can be spread, talked about, shared and serves as a search signal. Then, link it back to your web­site as a genu­ine and valu­able rel­ev­ant link with appro­pri­ate anchor text.

# 2 : Use Google’s Help

The world of social media is out there to help you. But use it wisely. Don’t waste your time pro­mot­ing events or affil­i­ate part­ners until you’re well estab­lished online. People are least likely to come to you because they won’t see those in their feed so quickly.

Instead, start feed­ing your con­tent to your busi­ness page on Google Plus. It gets value and is 10 times more likely to bring vis­it­ors than a start-up con­tent sub­scrip­tion! If you need proof on the power of Google+ check this

# 3 : Exer­cise Your Authority

visualising rel=authorMake sure you imple­ment rel=“author” for every post or con­tent piece you cre­ate. It’ll keep your con­tent safe and estab­lish you as a cred­ible source of inform­a­tion, whose stuff gets indexed quickly.

Check an earlier post for more info relat­ing to rel=author and rich snip­pets - it details how to imple­ment rich snip­pets prop­erly, as well as the pro­ced­ure for set­ting up rel=“author”.

Once you have your site linked to a Google account, it auto­mat­ic­ally becomes a place that exists in the dic­tion­ary of Google’s web-crawlers. They visit it reg­u­larly as long as your con­tent is good enough. No heavy pro­mo­tion needed.

google panda algorithm update 3.6# 4 : Keep The Panda Happy Too

Due to the com­mo­tion, many people have not real­ised that Google also released an import­ant update to the Google Panda algorithm around April 19th and Google Panda 3.6 came out on the 27th April

The good thing is — if you steer clear of the prob­lems cited by this one, you also stand a good chance of rid­ding your­self from the “unnoticed efforts syn­drome”. Your con­tent will have a bet­ter shot at get­ting indexed, even if you’re new to the field.

So in a nut­shell, avoid these:

  • Heavy design templates
  • Excess­ive use of press portals
  • Aggreg­at­ing inform­a­tion from open databases


Now that we have the con­tent prob­lem atten­ded to, we can focus on the 2 most import­ant points regard­ing Google Pen­guin. These are:

  1. Avoid­ing being hit by the Google Pen­guin update
  2. Recov­er­ing if you’ve already been hit

And I’ll dis­cuss these in the next post tomorrow…


SEO, social con­tent and sig­nals advoc­ate, closet geek (not fully fledge), writer, speaker, & blogger.

Founder of NOD3x ( — Social Net­work Ana­lysis, know­ledge graph ana­lysis application

Lee can be con­tac­ted by email: here

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