Are You Feeling the Chill after Penguin?

Andrew Birkitt

Lead Technical Engineer
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Once again we have seen the web alive with all the buzz about the latest algorithm updates with most of the noise surrounding the so called ‘penguin update’ which is Google’s cute attempt at giving their ‘Webspam Update’ a cuddly name like Panda with Matt Cutts even tweeting an image of a cuddly panda and penguin hanging out together.

As with everything that Google does they weren’t very specific about exactly what ‘penguin’ does although they did make it a bit clearer than anything they have released about what ‘panda’ was going to do, an update which many are still struggling to come to terms with.

Google did make it clear when they made the announcement that ‘penguin’ would be targeting websites that were violating their guidelines on quality. Launched on April 24th the penguin update was designed to be a change in the search results that would target websites that have been spamming Google with such ‘black hat’ techniques as ‘cloaking’ and ‘keyword stuffing’ that violate Google’s guidelines and punish those sites by dropping them from the SERPS.

To quote at their launch of this update Google said:

In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.

We have listed below the specific guidelines from Google themselves on exactly what not to do:

1. Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
2. Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
3. Don’t send automated queries to Google.
4. Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.
5. Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
6. Don’t create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.
7. Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
8. If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.

Some of these items are fairly self explanatory such as the hidden text or hidden links which has been frowned upon for quite some time now, but others need a little more explaining.

Cloaking: is a method employed by unscrupulous people to specifically deceive, we have always maintained that a website and its pages should be made for users and not for search engines, cloaking makes use of techniques that present different content to search engines than that which you display to the user.

Doorway Pages: are pages that have been specifically made for the search engines and are typically sets of pages that are of poor quality that have been optimised for specific keywords or phrases, so that they will rank well for a particular phrase. The user never or rarely sees these pages as they are generally redirected onto a different page or funnelled into a different destination. Users that do see these types of pages generally find them to be very frustrating so they don’t benefit your site at all anyway.

Do you have anything to worry about? If you look at your search related traffic following the launch date and have seen a major drop within a day or two before then you have probably been hit by the update, if it’s gone the other way then you have probably benefited from it and if nothing has changed you are currently doing nothing wrong. If you are using a reputable agency, it should be one of the latter two.

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