What is the Google Penguin or Panda Updates?

Just after the release of the initial Google Penguin update by Google on April 24, 2012 there has been much confusion and a dark cloud in SEO world. A number of websites, which did not play by the rules Google Webmasters Guidelines, were hardest hit since the main objective of the Penguin update was to get rid of “web spam’ from all the results you get when you search using Google search engine.

If you are new to Penguin, Wikipedia has defined Google Penguin as “a code name for a Google algorithm update that was first announced on April 24, 2012. The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using black-hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, cloaking,

[5] participating in link schemes, deliberate creation of duplicate content, and others”.

Another important definition, which you need to understand, is web spam since most of the updates on Google algorithms are target web spam. According to Web Spam Taxonomy, Stanford, web spam is “any deliberate human action that is meant to trigger an unjustifiably favorable relevance or importance for some web page, considering the page’s true value.” To sum everything up, any attempt to boost your search engine position, which is not ethical and does not add value to the page you are trying to boost its rank on the Google search engine is seen as unfair. This often violets Google’s Webmasters Guidelines, which are created in the spirit of fair search engine ranking, good user experience and quality content that help users.

Effects of Google Penguin Update

Going to the actual effects of Google Penguin Updates, Google estimates that around 3.1% of English search queries were affected, while other languages such as Chinese, Arabic, and Germen were affected more. The Penguin 1.1 was intended to affect less than 0.1% of searches in English. Compared to the previous algorithm update, Google Panda, which was released in February 2011 and it was aimed at lowering ranks for sites that gave users a poor experience (sites, which had thin content such as Mahalo.com, were hard hit by Panda), Penguin was much on reducing web spam. The update did not target small or large sites but rather those that did not follow good SEO practices.

A close study of the some sites, which were hardest heat by Google Penguin, reveals the following things about this algorithm update:

  • Sites, which had backlinks that were from spammy or low quality sites, for instance: links in the footer, link from directories, links from link farms ( site that exchange links) and links from low quality blog network were affected.
  • Sites with backlinks from other websites that were not related were affected
  • Many anchored links that pointed to a certain website with exact keyword or key phrase repeated severally had a loss of their rank.
  • The general effect of the Google Penguin update was to get rid of any optimization tactics whose objective is to increase visibility without increase the quality of a webpage as this makes such a page to incline towards being a web spam.

How to Go about SEO Post Penguin Update

With the Penguin updates, some sites, which were affected, might not know what to do to regain their rank. It is still early to know what direction to take. However if you carefully study on the features of the sites what were hardest hit by Penguin update, you should be able guess some of the strategies you should take to salvage the loss. If you are newbie or your site was not affected, it is also time to start playing by the rules of Google so that you are not affected in the next Google update. Who knows what it is going to be like? Here are some helpful proposals for people who have niche sites as well as general websites that can help them avoid being affected by subsequent Google algorithms updates:

1. Play by the Rules – Quality Content and Website

If you want to avoid subsequent effects of Google algorithm updates, you should focus on having quality content and do not over optimized it. Let the page sound natural and have the objective of passing helpful information to your readers, not to generate revenue or for search engine. Why do you have a niche or general website? Is it only for revenue or traffic or there is something you want to share? If you want to get revenue, you are likely to go for wrong methods to get a high page rank. In addition to that, you need to watch your profile and ensure it does not suggest you do malicious activities like link trading to increase your rank, your site should have the correct link ratios, should be relevant topically and so on. In short, ensure your site does not break any of the Google Webmasters Guidelines, which include black-Hat SEO practices such as cloaking, keyword stuffing, etc.

2. Other Traffic Sources

The second way of ensuring you are not affected so much by any future Google algorithms updates is diversifying your traffic sources. Instead of relying on organic traffic from Google, ensure you do the following:

  • Get traffic from other sources, especially Social Media Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, MySpace and so on.
  • Leverage on Traffic from YouTube, the leading video sharing website owned by Google
  • Submit your website to other search engines such as Bing.com and Ask.com

3. Get More Content

If you have been having very few views, you can get more traffic by creating more high quality content. Content is king, many SEO gurus concur with this fact and you should invest in both quality and quantity.

What about the websites that were affected?

If you were affected by the Penguin update, do not give up as you could still reverse the damages that it causes of your traffic and site rank. Here are the most important things I would recommend you do:

  • Check You Links – if you have many links from unrelated sites, especially directories, remove those links and remain with those, which are related to your niche or page. Related links should account for at least 20% of the total links you have.
  • Anchored Keywords – If most of your links are anchored on keywords, try to reduce them since you should not always use keywords while linking to your website. Ensure 20% of your inbound links are not anchored with your main keywords.
  • Leave Sponsored Links Schemes – If you were using a link farm, ensure you drop all the links from that link farm and instead get contextual links to your website.
  • Be Patient – If you have made the above changes, you should then wait for a few days to see if your rank comes back to normal. Google Penguin works periodically and it might take some time before revisiting your website.

What Do Others Say About Google Penguin Update?

Different people have different opinion of the effects of the Penguin Update. Bloggers like John Leger; in one of his Blog Post, entitled Ranking in Google after Penguin dismisses the purpose of Penguin to remove web spam. Here is what the this blogger says: “My purpose in showing you all of this isn’t to point out how much the Penguin update failed to achieve any quality improvements in Google’s search results (though it clearly did fail in that regard, and badly)”

Spencer Haws of NichePursuits concludes, “Penguin was primarily targeting sites that were using too much keyword anchor text or were linking for less than relevant sources.  At least these were 2 of the bigger parts of the update”

Finally, Chris Rampel echoed his ideas on opinions where he believe that inasmuch as Penguin update was targeting web spam, what has been hit (web spam) is quickly being replaced by more web spam. Here is what he says, “In fact, something we’re seeing again and again is that scraper blogs are outranking the source sites, more than ever. This is insane. More troubling is that many salt-of-the-earth publishers (like AskTheBuilder.com, DaniWeb, and countless others) were severely affected by Penguin. Sites that are in some cases over a decade old, comprised of thousands of pages of quality, unique content, and plenty of social/brand signals”

Importance of Google Traffic and Why You Should Rank in Google

If you read recent posts, especially the ones that are trying to teach people how to avoid effects that have been caused by Google Penguin and Panda updates, they will suggest that you try to diversify your traffic sources and go away from Google Traffic. This seems a brilliant idea but not a good advice. It is like trying to open a small apparel shop in one corner of New York and trying to compete with Walmart, yet Walmart are more than willing to have your apparels in their stores. Here are facts you should know that make Google Traffic to be very important to you even after the Penguin and Panda updates:

  • Google controls most of the global traffic – Google traffic accounts for around 92% of the global traffic and around 66% of the traffic in America. It is closest rival, Bing.com, even after merging with Yahoo controls around 4% of the global search traffic.
  • According to ComScore, it is estimated that Google had core searches (searches thought to be from human being and not bots) that were around 12 billions out of 17.5 billion searches.
  • 4 years after its launch, Google Chrome is already the leading browser. It is also worthwhile mentioning that the Android OS is becoming very popular.
  • Mobile browsing is exploding so make sure your website has a mobile friendly design such as the responsive format now becoming popular.  This is not just smart phones, but also includes tablets.

The above statistics shows that if you intend to avoid Google search engine, you are targeting the remaining 8% of global traffic. Facebook, Amazon, or Apple might be having the potential to edge Google but that is real in the eyes of Techs and Bloggers. Business people are not willing to takes such risks that could cut their profits and the trend might remain for sometime. Therefore, you need to play by the rules of Google because you need their traffic.

Here are some of the primary benefits of Google traffic

  • Highly Target Traffic and Source of Revenue– with their effective contextual ads through AdSense program, Google traffic enables visitors to your site to purchase goods or services from some of the advertisers at prices that are reasonable compared to any other advertisement medium. This generated revenue to publishers. In fact, this is the reason for the struggle to manipulate Google search results and high number of over optimized niche sites. Even for those who do not use AdSense, having a funny viral video and using social media networks to promote it is unlikely to bring you sales compared to creating content that will give you 100000 visitors every month. Even if you get 1% of the traffic buying from you, you will still have made more sales at cheap costs of creating the content.
  • Google gives passive traffic – Other sources of traffic are important but they do not last for a long period. Google organic traffic is passive meaning that it will continue bringing visitors to your website and will give a better Return on Investment (ROI). Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and forum posts might bring traffic but some of this traffic will be short-lived.  With Google you will have 24/7 traffic.
  • Sale Value – Whereas you can use paid traffic to get people to your website, the truth of the matter is that organic traffic is considered so much when valuing a website and the value will reduce if you have to pay for traffic. There is a concern on organic traffic other than the other sources of traffic such as social media networks, forum posts and incoming links.
  • Google Search Traffic is cheaper to produce – with a little investment you can create a page of content which will have more people viewing it compared to making a video, podcast, e-book or get to a bookmarking campaign. This simply means that you get traffic at extremely low prices if you get Google traffic.

Google Traffic vs. Other Traffic Sources

Tempers are high among people who have been affected by Google Penguin and Panda updates and it feels unfair to be affected. Yes, there could be a few people, who had quality content and they have been affected but most of them are those who are involved in web spam. Furthermore, getting other sources of traffic or traffic diversification is not bad since it will increase the current traffic you are receiving form Google and in case of another algorithm update, you will be less affected.

So are you going to be afraid of being affected by the next Google algorithms update? Google algorithms update should not scare you since the overall number of searches globally did not fall. It is only that your site was perhaps hit. However, you can take it as an advantage and try to diversity your traffic. It is an opportunity since you are likely to increase your traffic at the end of the day.

Here are the alternative traffic sources you could consider:

1. Bing, Yahoo and Other Search engine Traffic

While doing search engine optimization, try to understand the guidelines for the other search engines such as Yahoo, Bing and others. They bring around 8% of global search, which could have a big impact on your business.

2. YouTube Traffic

YouTube is the largest video sharing website owned by Google, which has over 60 million visitors every month. You can tap from YouTube by creating interesting video with links to your website. Here you need to ensure you have unique videos that are very informative and eye catching to be able to tap from this traffic source. YouTube has not been fully exploited by merchants and affiliate marketers and is one place you are going to get cheap source of traffic. Your videos will even be shown on Google search results.

3. Social Network Traffic

By leveraging on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, you will be getting more traffic to your website. Unlike SEO traffic, these social media do not require much technical knowledge, you simply need to know how to promote your products, services or websites on these platform and you have free traffic.  The social media networks have features, which make it easy to recommend something to your follows (for the case of Twitter) or fans (for the case of Facebook).  If you take advantage of big social media networks such as Facebook whose subscription level has gone beyond a billion people, you should be able to create relationships with your fans or followers and ensure you have something great to share with them always.

4. Social Bookmaking Traffic

Social bookmarking sites are becoming one source of traffic that many people are using. You will need to share your link, title of post and in some social bookmarking sites a small description. By getting followers and following others, you will be able to bring substantial traffic from these sites. Some of the sites you need to consider include Digg.com, StumbleUpon, Redgage, Reddit and many others. Sharing your content social bookmarking site is also going to help improve your page rank.

5. Paid for Traffic

If you have the money to spend and traffic to your website is so important, you should then consider paid for traffic. There are many paid for traffic programs, which can help increase the number of visitors you, come to you website. Most of the major Search Engines like Yahoo, Google and Bing have paid for ads, which could help you, get traffic. Some of them are pay per click while others are pay per impression

There are other sources of traffic, which you should engage in, and they include the following:

  • Bing Search
  • Yahoo Search
  • Yahoo answers
  • Forum Posts
  • Guests Posts
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Business Directories
  • Social Media

Final Thoughts

Quality Content is king and you work to fill out and polish your website.  Use SEO plug-ins and tools to find clear errors with your layouts or common missing items like meta descriptions.  Increasing the number of quality backlinks you have will also keep and increase your traffic.

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