In late April, Google rolled out its Penguin search algorithm, targeting websites engaging in webspam tactics. The initial update largely impacted sites that practiced in keyword stuffing and shallow link schemes.
An algorithm related to an overly-optimized penalty had been rumored for some time before the release of Penguin. Brafton first reported mention of the algorithm in March 2012 when Matt Cutts, distinguished engineer at Google, said that overly SEO’d websites were likely to be the company’s next target. At this time, the Google Panda algorithm was still the focus of most marketers looking to maintain a strong presence in search. The rollout of Google Penguin was a reminder for companies to shift their focus to content as part of a well-rounded user experience and as a means of naturally cultivating inbound links.
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Among the theorized practices that Google has targeted with Penguin are:
- keyword stuffing
- over-use of the same keywords for internal site links
- paid linking schemes
- link building from irrelevant (as opposed to niche) sites
- development of shallow inbound links rooted in the same keyword
These practices are used by countless websites to manipulate PageRank and give the appearance of high-quality content. However, they are simply exploiting SEO best practices to improve their search ranking without providing users a quality experience.
Penguin and Google’s battle against over optimization
The value of SEO grows as more consumers turn to search engines. Brafton has reported in the past that 90 percent of consumers start their research for purchase decisions on search engines.
As such, many websites turned to less than ethical practices to leverage search’s growth. The rollout of Google Panda in February 2011 was among the first steps Google took to bring quality content and websites to users. The next step was Penguin, which will help Google punish sites that got around Panda by generating content with excessive keyword use and linking schemes that fooled search crawlers.
Moreover, the algorithm targets sites using paid links. Inorganic linking often comes from sites of a low-quality.
Penguin-proofing a website
Like other search updates, the easiest way to avoid penalty with Penguin is to focus on creating quality content that includes organic keyword use and merits inbound links. Using social media to further distribute website pages and resources among relevant audiences will also build more visibility for a brand. It’s also advised that sites request spammy inbound links be removed from external websites.
Any practices that Google views as attempting to trick its crawler or exploit algorithms will be be penalized. As the company continues to improve Penguin, any sites that actively look to take advantage of these shifts will be penalized in the future.
Marketers looking to learn more about Penguin should check out these resources:
- Brafton’s blog on the primary differences between the Penguin and Panda
- Google’s blog announcing Penguin, urging marketers to use quality content
- Search Engine Journal’s blog detailing the positive effects of penguin for SEO
- Search Engine Watch Q&A with Matt Cutts on Penguin