The march of the penguin – how the latest Google update has affected the world of search marketing

by on May 17, 2012

Google Penguin UpdateGoogle released their latest update to their search engine algorithm a few weeks back on April 24th. Did you notice any changes to your search rankings?

This update, dubbed “Penguin,”  has generated a lot of buzz. And not just amongst SEO professionals and internet pros. Really, any business that has a website (and who doesn’t these days), needs to know what’s going on.

A slap to black hat

Google has definitely been accelerating the rate at which they produce algorithm updates of late. This is all in their quest to bring searchers the best results possible. So with this latest update, they are really cracking down on any websites that employ what are known as black hat SEO tactics.

What are these? Essentially, activities that are scummy and just plain don’t offer any value to searchers. Tactics that are strictly about getting a website up higher in the rankings. Essentially anyone trying to trick Google into giving them the nod.

Such tactics include comment spam on blogs, going way overboard on keywords and links in copy (we’ve all seen sites with content like this where it seems that every other word is a link and a keyword – ugh!), publishing poor quality articles, amongst other questionable activities.

See Google’s quality guidelines  for more insight into what they like, and what they don’t. You can also see the official Google announcement about Penguin here.

Do this and you’ll be fine

It’s hard enough for SEO professionals to keep on top of the changes. What’s a busy small business owner to do?

Just be useful.

That’s all it comes down to. Any tactic that does not provide any value to a visitor (you know, an actual human) should not be used. Does what you’re doing feel natural, or does it feel awkward? Use your heart and some plain and simple common sense to guide you on this one.

Focus on killer content – Google values good quality content above all else. So keep your website copy and your blog posts focused on value. Create content that your target market can benefit from or that helps them out. Write for people, not search bots.

Be reasonable with keywords – Keyword stuffing happens when the content becomes about getting in as many keyword strings as possible and not about providing copy that is easy to read and delivers value. Of course you still can (and should) use keywords in your content, just don’t go overboard.

Mix things up – When using keywords and creating text links, don’t just use the same variation over and over again. Being overaggressive at targeting a specific word or phrase can get you in trouble (not to mention the fact that your content will read poorly – remember humans like flow and interesting copy). This holds true for onsite as well as offsite efforts.

Don’t copy and paste – Duplicate content is a no-no. While copying and pasting content from one page to another might seem like a good way to save some time and perhaps some money (hey, why should I hire a copywriter for this page when I can just copy what I wrote for this article), having the exact same content on different pages will discredit it in the eyes of Google. Be original each and every time.

Link juice – Keep the links coming into your site valuable. Of course directory listings and other links pointing to your site that would help someone that is genuinely interested in your product or service are fine. Hundreds of incoming links from poor quality sites aren’t going to help you much. And all those emails you get about buying or exchanging links from really weird random domains that have nothing to do with your industry? Steer clear. Would a visitor on find value in a link to your site? Remember, value.

Did you get hit?

While the Penguin update is about cracking down on unethical SEO practices, there has been a general uproar from business owners, bloggers and webmasters who have been caught by the update, even though they’re playing it straight. Try as Google might, their updates always do suffer from glitches and the occasional sucker punch to the wrong guy. Things should settle down as the update gets tweaked and improved.

If you feel that your website or blog was unfairly targeted, you can submit a complaint to Google here. And depending on the seriousness of your situation, you may need to bring in an SEO pro to assess your situation and ensure that everything is as it should be.

But all in all, the update is a good thing. It should hopefully help clean up the internet (and maybe even reduce the amount of comment spam we get, wouldn’t that be nice ;))

Have you noticed a change in your search rankings? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

Comments, likes and tweets are always appreciated! Did I mention that I LOVE your feedback?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Hippel May 18, 2012 at 2:14 am

Penguin has actually helped my search engine rankings but I know that’s not the case for many.
You offer really sound advice in this post Martina but there was just something that I thought I could add.
Although it’s bad to stuff your page with the same keyword, mixing in plenty of related keywords will help re-inforce the main keyword. Not only that, it may also see your page score for some of those related keywords too.
Steve Hippel recently posted..SEO Is Important No Matter How Much Traffic You Have


Martina May 23, 2012 at 11:44 am

Great bonus tip Steve! Thanks alot 🙂


Lori Griffiths June 1, 2012 at 8:06 pm

This is a great article. Small business owners often think that there are ‘tricks’ to getting the sites higher up in Google search organic results. I think we can thank the unscrupulous SEO marketers for that. Websites have to be interesting and engaging or you’ll never have any success. A thousand visitors that hit your site for the wrong reason will result in less sales than 100 that came because you sell what they are looking to buy. It’s hard to get that point across to desperate site owners.


Martina June 4, 2012 at 10:30 am

Very well put Lori! You’re right that many biz owners still hope for a quick fix. SEO success all comes down to commitment and a long-term outlook focused on quality. Thanks for your comment 🙂


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