If Panda was the new “law of the land,” Penguin is law enforcement. Google’s new algorithm update signals the beginning of the end for spammers, but it also spells trouble for honest webmasters. What Penguin does is try to better enforce the Panda filter by filtering over-optimized websites from its search results. That’s right, penalties aren’t just for blackhat sites anymore.
Webmaster’s Note: This is a guest post by Peter Nevis
What’s puzzling is that better enforcement of the Panda update might mean that legitimate sites get hurt in the crossfire. That’s OK, according to Google. It “levels the playing field” so that users presumably get a better experience when searching for whatever it is they’re searching for. One of the problems that webmasters have always faced is whether to write for search engines or write for users. In the past, even “White hat” sites had to struggle with this, because it was clear that Google was rewarding low-quality, spammy, websites by giving them prominence in the search results.
No More SEO
Now, those white knights of the Internet can go back to focusing on content. Matt Cutts has been pretty clear on this one, stating that:
“And so that’s the sort of thing where we try to make the web site, uh Google Bot smarter, we try to make our relevance more adaptive so that people don’t do SEO, we handle that”
Yes, Cutts is basically saying that Google doesn’t want people to do SEO. That’s going to be a hard rule to break for most people. They’re so used to trying to figure out what Google wants. Now, they’re being asked to trust Google to do its thing and let the rankings fall where they may. This focus on creating quality content means that Google clearly wants you to write for web visitors, not for the search engines.
You basically have to ask yourself some key questions:
- Would you trust the information in the article you just wrote if you were a stranger reading it for the first time?
- Are you an enthusiast or expert writing about this topic?
- Is your article similar to other articles on your site or does it contain overlapping or outright duplicate content?
- Does your article contain a lot of spelling errors?
- Are you honestly providing substantial value to your readers?
- Are you being objective?
- If you waived your hand at Google, and put a bulls-eye on your site, would Google congratulate you or would they ban your site from the Internet? In other words, would you be ashamed of making your content public to a real human being that judges whether a site sinks or swims in a search engine?
The side-effect of the new Penguin update is that it might have inadvertently increased the effectiveness of something called “negative SEO.” This is a strategy whereby a competitor tries to harm your site through link building or other blackhat SEO strategies. The competitor makes you look like you’re the bad guy, and your site gets caught in the algorithm and your rank suffers.
Penguin looks for a few things to determine what to do with sites. First, it looks at the exact match anchor text in poor quality articles. Second, it looks at the ratio of bad links coming from unmoderated blogs. Finally, it looks at the ratio of a vacant blog. In other words, a blog with no real activity on it compared to the inbound links. If a competitor buys an SEO service with the intent of serving up poor-quality articles and spammy-looking links that point to your site, he could theoretically trip the new Penguin filter and have your site devalued. In fact, a few tests have already been done to show that this method actually works better than before the update.
What can you do about it? Unfortunately, not much. The best you can do is to continue to create quality content and report any suspicious link activity you see to Google. Let it be known that you’re engaged in any nefarious link building activity. It may or may not help, but until Google comes up with a patch for this, it’s the best you can do for your organic ranking.
If you’re willing to venture outside the world of organic ranking, you can try to increase your click-through traffic by doing guest blog posts, focusing more on your social media presence, and buying ads on Google’s advertising network to boost traffic.