Spring is the time when a young SEO technician’s fancy lightly turns to Google algorithm updates. With their lucrative AdWords search advertising business generating billions every year, competitors like Bing and Yahoo would love to grab a bigger piece of the action. To prevent that from happening, Google is constantly releasing new ranking algorithms to ensure that the integrity of their results remain as topnotch as possible. This May we witnessed the release of Penguin, the latest algorithm update aimed at keeping results relevant and stifling the efforts of spammers everywhere.
Say Hello to the Penguin
Since April 24, 2012, webmasters have had to contend with Penguin and its attack on substandard links. While blog spammers and mischievous link-tweakers are the primary target, even legitimate sites have seen a dip in traffic. Last year’s Panda update went after farmed-out, low-quality pages. Penguin fine-tunes the Google ranking approach a bit, with some unexpected consequences for SEO that need to be taken into consideration. Essentially, Penguin discourages link exchange schemes, and other dishonest link building techniques like crappy directories and content farms.
New Updates & Significant Changes
One of the major objectives of Penguin is to punish link schemes that undermine the validity of the ranking system. Google’s methodology for assigning importance to a website based on “link juice” revolves around the connections between websites. Too many primary keywords in the anchor text of an inbound link to a site or too many links with similar or identical text will hurt you in the long run. Furthermore, links from article directories like Ezine Articles are potentially assigned less relevance, although this has yet to be proved and will depend largely on whether the article in question uses horribly spun content. Links originating from the comments section of low-quality websites are also penalized.
Freshness is another major concern thanks to the new algorithm modifications. Google rewards sites with relatively current content. Nowadays, search engines users are looking for the most up-to-date content they can find. That means that occasionally updating your “evergreen” content from time to time is key. Finally, the emphasis on social media is still bubbling under the surface – as yet no real long term correlation between rankings and shares or Tweets has been found, but there’s definitely evidence that in the short term new content gets a real push if it does well Socially.
More Than Just Blogspam Filtering
Google is also about fun, and sports fans in particular will find that Google can quickly return all manner of information on upcoming games and events using just a few basic search terms. The new Unified Soccer feature makes finding results for any team a breeze. For those in the US, NBA search is equally flexible and intuitive, delivering loads of data to the top of the SERPs using query phrases as succinct as “nba finals”. Thanks to Google’s increasing reliance on the Knowledge Graph, organic results seem to be improving (although this is a slow process!).
Whereas Panda focused on penalizing content farms and low-quality content, Penguin refines the approach and decreases the viability of over-optimization techniques and low-quality links. With an algorithm update as complicated as Penguin, you’ll want to spend some time reading the fine print and researching how it affects your web properties. Google’s own blog post announcement is the best place to start. As always, Google Webmaster Tools is a terrific resource if you need immediate, actionable tips on how to protect your sites from the infamous “Google Slap” regardless of whether it’s from Panda or Penguin or any other animal based algorithm.