Google Panda spawns Penguin

Google Panda sporns PenguinIn 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.

How can my website be leaking juice?

Pure website juice, with bits (never from concentrate)When discussing website optimisation I often mention juice, and if the other party hasn’t run off thinking that I’m insane because I’ve also used terms such as Panda and Penguin in the same breath, I go on to explain that it’s the influence that can pass from one web page to another by way of a hypertext link.

What’s juice doing in my website? Well, every website has a Page Rank (PR) named after Larry Page, co-founder of Google. The PR is assigned to a website based on multiple factors such as the code used to build the site, the content within the site itself, the number, range and quality of other sources linking to the site, as well as things like visitor metrics (how long people stay on the site). These are all worked out by a mathematical computer program referred to as an algorithm.

Lets imagine a brochure site with a Page Rank of 3. On a typical brochure website you may have ten internal links (to things like “services”, “prices”, “about us”, “terms of use”, “disclaimer” and the like) and you may have a few external links to websites such as Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. By linking to all these pages without the correct code in place you are passing juice; basically telling search engines that your website (with it’s Page Rank of 3) values all of the web pages and sites that it links to equally; but is that true? Do you want your “terms of use” page (which will hardly ever be looked at and is highly unlikely to bring in site visitors) to be considered as important as your “services” page (which summarises all the great work you do and is a key lead generator)? Do you want a search engine to think that you deem your link to Twitter (which allows people to leave your website) as important as the link to your own “about us” page (which defines who you are and can help persuade a site visitor to call you to request your services)?

Answer: No. If you’ve managed to get your Page Rank up to 3 you must have put quite a bit of work into your content, optimisation, website marketing, and as a result developed a decent online presence. By allowing all links to pass juice you’re also allowing your PR3 authority to be passed on to everything your site links to, and in turn, you are undermining the great work you’ve put into your website.

Juice etiquette by Del MonteHow do I stem the flow?
As some of your internal pages are far more important to you than others, and also because you want to retain as much authority over your content and links as possible, it is best to plug the holes and stop passing juice. By adding ‘rel=”nofollow”‘ to the less important links and all external links, you are advising search engines what you consider to be important (your “services” and “about us” pages) and those pages that are useful but to which you don’t want to pass any authority (such as “terms of use” or a link to “Twitter”). By doing this you make your internal and external links far more efficient, retain authority, and stop your website from from dripping away all that hard earned influence.

Ultimately deciding when to pass, or not to pass juice, is just a small part of the ever evolving science that is search engine optimisation and marketing, but it’s another little thing that can help your site along the way.