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Google Penguin (Webspam) Update UK

Published on May 4, 2012
Tags: SEO

Say what you will about Google, but they know how to come up with quirky names for their algorithm updates. Previously, we have discussed the Panda update and the Venice update. Today we turn our attention to the latest update to gain significant attention from web designers and SEO specialists – the Google Penguin update (this was originally known as the webspam update).

While it isn’t yet entirely clear what the update will do, it seems certain to say that it is targeted at quality – or rather, weeding out sites that are in violation of Google’s quality guidelines in order to help sites that utilise good SEO techniques get better page rankings. The Google post outlining the upcoming Penguin algorithm change offers a couple of examples of the kind of pages that might be affected by the change.

That post also offers a useful explanation of what Google perceives to be the difference between good and bad SEO. The terms it uses for this are “white hat” SEO and “black hat webspam”. In brief, white hat SEO is defined as SEO that helps to improve a user’s experience of a website. It is to do with good content as well as good marketing techniques in order to build the profile of a site, according to Google.

By contrast, black hat webspam is defined as SEO techniques that don’t actually benefit users. For example, sites that include keyword links that aren’t actually relevant to the content in question, or keyword stuffing on a site that has got generally poor-quality content.

Google also helpfully offers some information to give us an idea of the number of searches that are likely to be affected by the Penguin update. It isn’t expected to have as significant an impact as the previous Panda update that helped to promote good quality sites, but it should still make a difference. It’s thought that just over 3% of English searches will be impacted.

So, even though most sites should be perfectly fine following the Google Penguin update and could even receive a boost as poor quality sites are weeded out, it still makes sense to review your web content to ensure it falls within the quality guidelines. There are a few different areas you can look at to make sure your site is properly promoted with white hat SEO.

For example, ensuring you don’t have duplicate content on your site is an issue we’ve looked at before as a result of previous Google updates, but if you still have any content that could be considered as duplicate, it could be worth reviewing this. In theory, duplicate content doesn’t automatically get you a search penalty unless it can be proved that you were trying to manipulate the search rankings, but generally speaking, it isn’t worth taking the chance.

Keyword stuffing is another issue that Google mentions in its blogpost on the update, so this something else you might want to look at to ensure your site falls within the quality guidelines. This isn’t just about ensuring your visible content utilises keywords properly; any hidden text on your website also matters and could lead to you being penalised in the search rankings if you have engaged in any keyword stuffing. If your site has been loaded with keywords for the express purpose of doing well in the search rankings even though the user experience isn’t as good as it could be, now is a very good time to review that practice.

Google also mentions links in its Penguin algorithm post. In its guidelines, it warns against linking to webspammers or what it refers to as ‘bad neighbourhoods’, so this is something to watch out for on your site. The examples given in the post linked above include that of an article ostensibly about getting fit but with keyword links for payday loans. This might seem like an obvious no-no, but it’s clearly something to be careful about as this sort of technique can be much more subtle.

Overall, the message from Google clearly seems to be that good content will be prioritised and that those websites utilising white hat SEO should not be pushed out or penalised by sites attempting to manipulate the search rankings. While most sites should have nothing to fear from the Penguin update, it’s still a timely reminder that it’s worth reviewing our content from time to time to ensure it is still as high quality and beneficial to our users as we initially intended it to be.

By Chelsey Evans

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