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Penguin Update

What you knead to know about the Penguin Update.

On April 24th 2012 Google released a new algorithm update for their flagship search product called Penguin. Updates can vary, but month to month there can be upwards of 50 changes to the Google search engine.

What made the Penguin update unique, was the number of websites it affected. At first glace over 3% of ALL sites were affected. Websites that had been ranked in top spot, or near enough to it, were no longer anywhere to be found. 

Matt Cutts, a Google Guru and expert in Google’s Search Quality group, explained in an interview in the days leading up to the change, that a slew of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) changes were on the cards.

What happening?

Post April 24th these new changes caught everyone by surprise. Many webmasters went into meltdown mode, when their web traffic all but dried up.

Theories were being posted on forums and blogs the Internet over, but nothing concrete was being released.

Anyone who knows about Google’s Page Rank Algorithm, knows that Google don’t expressly state what changes they make with any given update. This is an attempt to curb black-hat SEO (bad industry practice) and is something that we commend them for.  What it means however is a lot of testing to get to the bottom of the problem. 

It has since emerged that the Penguin update affected both forms of SEO. In short a website is ranked by two symbiotic SEO practices, on-page SEO and off-page SEO.  Google was trying to remove spammy sites from its results and it caught out many genuine sites.

In the case of on-page SEO, the update had a huge impact on the placement of keywords in the meta-data of a website. When Google first started ranking pages, keywords were the fuel for a strong site. This update has showed once and for all that keywords are dead and that sites with improper use of meta-data will be penalised. 

This has big implications for websites in both New Zealand and Australia where there is a pervading view in the online industry and the wider community that keywords are good. As such plenty of websites are jammed full of them.

Off-page SEO on the other hand was affected by adjusting inbound links that were deemed spammy. This is a problem for companies that have employed underhanded tactics to raise the profile of their site.

Sites using link farms to grow there index reach found that many of the attributed links had been removed. A post from back in 2006 by non-other than Matt Cutts signaled what type of spam Google doesn’t like.  True to form Google again penalized ‘insider trading’ of links. 

Unfortunately many websites that are actually quite good, so even sites that are filled with unique content and built with modern techniques, still got caught in the changes.

What to do?

So what then is the solution if you have been affected by the Penguin update? Well first thing you need to do, is look at your Analytics and Webmaster history. In there will be some hints about how sharp a decline you suffered, if you suffered at all.

From there a complete on-page SEO clean up is required. You may knead to employ some negative SEO practices to scrub clean your site, after that it’s a matter of re-indexing your site and ensuring the meta-data of all future pages is keep to industry standards.

Though depending on how the rest of your site fares, you may have to spend some money on getting your site updates to industry best standard.

Google has not said if they will release an update that removes some of the penalties, though it’s highly likely that an update will occur at the end of May. Perhaps some modifications will be made, but perhaps not. 

We will wait and see.

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Knead are currently running a winter special for a full SEO & Website update, with over a third of the price being cut off, making it a mere $800.  

This article was re-posted here.