"Drop in Rankings? Blame Google’s New Search Algorithm Updates"

Andrew Birkitt

Lead Technical Engineer
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Panda and Penguin might be the Culprits

Have your search engine result page rankings dropped recently? It might be because of recent updates to search engine enforcers, Google Panda and Penguin. Unleashed in 2011 and 2012 respectively as a way to ensure site quality, Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates downgrade websites suspected of manipulating their rankings or having poor quality content. Speaking at SMX West about how to drive traffic and avoid search engine penalties, Google’s Matt Cutts broke the news of the new updates to Google Panda and Penguin algorithms, which began on March 15.

What is new about these updates are that the changes to search rankings will happen gradually. In an audio clip posted on Search Engine Land, Cutts said that future Panda updates are likely to be rolled out continuously as opposed to happen on a large scale such as they have in the past. Instead of having websites experience a sudden drop in rankings after updates, webmasters will have to monitor their rankings after the coming days of the updates to see any changes.

Basics of Google Penguin and PanPanda and Penguinda

In order to make sure Internet users were receiving high quality content and links in the top rankings when they used its search engine, Google put a system in place that would enforce search quality while having more websites provide helpful and authoritative content. This system would include algorithm updates Google Panda and Penguin but don’t let their names fool you. They aren’t the cute or cuddly sort.

Soon after they were released into their version of the wild known as the Internet, Google Penguin and Panda sent many webmasters into a panic over having their websites penalized for being suspected of manipulating the system to increase their page rankings. Panda focuses on websites’ quality of content while Penguin focuses on spam.

How algorithm updates penalize websites

When Google Panda or Penguin suspect a website of being considered low quality, through analyzing various site components including content, links, or even comments, it is in danger of being punished. There are various ways that you can be punished by Google from a simple drop in your rankings to full blown manual penalty, the latter being more serious. Manual penalties that are punishing websites for seemingly manipulating the system will almost certainly see Google sending a warning to webmasters through its Webmaster Tools Account that they suspect their websites of wrongdoing.

These suspicious activities can include embedding “unnatural links” that are not relevant or of value to a particular website’s users. Webmasters should look out for drops in the page rankings of the sites they oversee after this period of rolling out the Google Panda and Penguin updates, although not changed as regularly as they used to be Google have been quite severe in this area as in the recent case with Interflora where many of the news sites had their page ranks dropped to zero. In these worst case scenarios, webmasters can even see their site disappear from the Google search results.

Avoid a drop in rankings through best practices

Since it was designed to maintain the high quality of sites and searches in Google’s search engine, recover from these updates and avoid being downgraded by following Google’s guidelines and the best practices for search engine optimization. Here are ways to increase and maintain the quality of your site, including Google’s relevant recommendations after the Panda update:

1. Eliminate duplicate or redundant pages on the same website.

2. Write original or unique content that interests readers.

3. Review, fact check, and edit content for errors in spelling, grammar, and more.

4. Change the design or layout to focus on the main site rather than ads.

5. Increase the trustworthiness and quality of content by having experts write the content.

6. Remove unnatural or spammy links from your site.

7. Update content to have higher quality and word counts if content is thin.

After fixing problems related to the content quality and trustworthiness of sites, webmasters who have had a manual penalty also have the option to resubmit their site to Google for reconsideration of the penalty. If it was an algorithm penalty then continue to do acceptable SEO work and practices and after cleaning up and updating their website, webmasters will likely see improvements to their rankings after being downgraded. There are of course no guidelines for how long this can take and for many it can be a waiting game while you continue to fresh work.


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