Webspam Update Named Penguin

We’ve previously discussed the last Google update which has variously gone under the name of the “Over-Optimisation” update, the “Web Spam” update, and now finally, the “Penguin” update, Google’s own official name for it.

I think that we can also safely say that not even the infamous Panda update and its variations have occasioned as much discussion and debate in the SEO industry as this latest one.

The Penguin Update

Launched at the end of April, the Penguin update targeted what Google defined as Web Spam, and was intended to reduce the rankings of sites that carried out “spam-like” optimisation strategies, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, and link exchanges that violated Google’s guidelines for optimisation.

Originally billed (erroneously) as a penalty for too much optimisation, the Penguin update has sent SEO’s scrambling, and SERPs reeling, as people noted changes in their rankings for optimised keywords and pages.

Google (and Matt Cutts) quickly back-pedalled the “SEO Penalty” part of the update, assuring site owners and SEO’s that it would be spam that they were targeting, but there has been some subsequent questioning of how it actually works.

The point of the update, they later said, was to increase the chances of quality sites without SEO ranking, and reduce the chances of poor quality sites from ranking, even if they had good SEO.

Experiencing A Search Hit?

According to Search Engine Land, the best way to tell if you actually got hit is to compare your search traffic from before and after the update. A big drop means you probably got hit, and you need to do some work to get rid of as much of what Google considers web spam as possible.

If there wasn’t much change in your traffic, then you probably haven’t been affected, and don’t need to worry about it.

Google Mistakes & Warnings

There have been a couple of problems with recent changes to the algorithm, notably the incorrect classification of domains as parked. However, that mistake in particular has been rectified, and certainly shouldn’t be causing any more problems right now.

Google has also taken the unprecedented step of warning site owners that their site appears to have “artificial or unnatural” links pointing to it, as part of their move against link networks designed to artificially inflate rankings. However, a warning didn’t necessarily mean a penalty.

Although some sites may have been penalised, many more simply stopped benefiting from those links, leading to a traffic drop.

Carry On As Usual

As usual, our point of view is to keep focusing on providing useful, informative and relevant content to visitors. If you do that, combined with some judicious and “acceptable” link building, you should be fine.

Google is fond of saying that it is quality that counts more than anything, so if you maintain a good quality site and conduct SEO within the guidelines, you shouldn’t suffer unduly no matter what Google changes next.