In an earlier blog post entitled “In layman’s terms: Search engine optimisation, marketing and Google Panda” I briefly outlined traditional search engine optimisation techniques and how the Google Panda update had modified the way in which websites are indexed and ranked by Google. Ultimately the Panda update was a much needed clean-up of the websites in Google’s index; a digital spring clean to rid Google of duplicate sites, websites with similar affiliate content, spam websites and sites built simply to make money through click through advertising revenue. This was done in several different ways, but mainly by analysing content and website metrics.
The Panda update cleaned out many spam sites, but it also had a huge impact on website traffic and rankings for a considerable number of genuinely popular websites (some being removed from the index altogether, others plunging down the results pages to positions that seldom see the light of the sun; a fate often referred to by webmasters as “Death by Panda”). Despite this upheaval of the Google index, many spam sites and websites featuring duplicate content seemed to get away without penalty (or even appeared to perform better). Cue “Death by Penguin”.
Google Penguin is essentially a follow up to Panda, engineered to root out any spam sites and dodgy websites that feature poor or duplicate content, particularly those that stuff their website pages and inbound link text with far too many keywords. Amongst other things, Penguin looks out for low quality inbound links that are laden with keywords, and as a result sites with suspicious link building activity have been hit and seen a reduction in traffic as a result of lower ranking (and this is not to be confused with manual link warnings that appear in Google Webmaster tools, as these warnings have more to do with buying links and link networks). With Panda and Penguin on the loose there is nowhere to hide, and comments and tweets from Google have indicated that there will be a lot more “jarring” updates to come which will continue to stir up website rankings and traffic in a bid to ensure only the crème de la crème of sites are ranked highly by the engine.
You may be thinking that if your website features genuine content, no spam, no duplicate copy, no affiliate links, a high text to advert ratio and your content and links aren’t stuffed with every keyword imaginable, then Google Panda and Penguin have nothing to do you with. Unfortunately this is not the case. Although the updates were designed to clean out the web and ensure that only good quality websites feature high up the rankings, the net result of the changes mean that the bar has been set much higher for ALL websites. You may have a nicely designed and well optimised website that features several pages of original content, but if you want your website to perform well in Google then the chances are you need to enhance it by integrating with social media, developing and evolving more unique content, improving functionality and interest, then making certain that all these things improve visitor metrics and keep people on your site, as well as returning to it time and time again.