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Google is constantly refining its algorithm making up to 600 changes a year. Most of these alterations don’t have a hugely noticeable impact on search results, but once in a while a beast of an update is released. The most recent aggressive release is the update dubbed ‘Penguin’. On April 24th, Google unleashed this new update in an effort to stop black hat (dodgy) SEO and reduce spam laden websites from leading in search results. Black Hat SEO is when the SEO consultant uses ‘questionable’ tactics, such as article spinners (software that spews out hundreds of articles), keyword stuffing and other dubious techniques.
The Penguin functions much like its Panda friend, reviewing websites for the quality of their content and links. If it sees that your site is stuffed with keywords, has unnatural links, contains duplicate or copied content, or is tainted with any other black hat SEO schemes it quickly banishes it to the far corners of the Google kingdom i.e. you take a major drop in the rankings. Thus far the Penguin has affected about 3.1% of English search queries and is on the prowl for more websites violating Google’s quality guidelines.
Make sure that you are on the same page as Google when it comes to considering what is ‘spammy’, so you don’t take an unexpected hit from the Penguin. Check out the guidelines below to better understand how to optimise your site while still cohering with Google’s laws.
Quality Links – Google views each link pointing back to your website as a vote, which gives your site authority and causes it to rise in search rankings. But be cautious as to what sites are linking back to you, how quickly the links are acquired, and what is the anchor text (words you can click on) used in the link. The most successful link building is brought through quality well written content linked from highly regarded websites, blogs and directories. If you suddenly have a large increase in links connected to your site or anchor text imbalance it is likely that your site will be noted for fraudulent behaviour.
Authentic Content - When it comes to Google having duplicate content is trouble and in this case double the trouble is not double the fun. Make sure that your site has at the very least 60% original content on every page (better to be 100%). When reviewing your content it is important that it has been written with the consumer in mind and is not saturated with keywords (known as keyword stuffing). Think of it this way, if it contains relevant content that reads well with the consumer it will most likely pass Google’s content and keyword inspection.
If your site has been penalised by either the Penguin or Panda 3.5 update (released April 19th) for being ‘over-optimised’ and you have either made the necessary changes to get back in Google’s good graces or feel you were unrightfully punished you can submit a detailed request form from your Webmasters account to Google to be reviewed by a member from the search quality team at Google.
Fortunately for Pure SEO the latest 2 algorithm updates have had a hugely positive impact on our client’s rankings. Interestingly, one of New Zealand’s (previously) best ranking SEO companies have taken a huge hit from the updates – the reason for this is they used all their clients websites to link to each other (a questionable practice that stopped working in the US & UK years ago).
The moral of the story… create high quality, fresh, linkable content regularly and you will be fine. Try and seriously game the system for short term gains and you will not.