You’ve heard us talk about Penguin 2.0 for a while now. Google’s commitment to providing relevant and high quality search results has led them to target content they classify as spam, particularly those conceived from “black hat” or “spamdexing” techniques, which the company fears will hinder their users’ search results. These crackdowns have been extremely successful in improving search quality, but have also affected many unsuspecting websites.
According to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, Penguin 2.0 affects approximately 2.3% of English search queries, less than a quarter of the previous Panda update’s reach.
The update focuses on targeting over-optimized sites, particularly through backlinks and keywords. Continuing with the trend of Penguin 1, greater emphasis is placed on quality of backlinks over quantity. Websites with exaggerated keyword use are also seeing a decline in their rankings.
For some sites, the effect of Penguin 2.0 was immediate and drastic. Searchmetrics.com performed an analysis of the sites that lost the greatest amount of search engine visibility, and unsurprisingly, the majority of the websites were worthy targets.
Among the victims are two illegal movie-streaming sites with a reputation for spamming users with popups. As these sites engage in illegal and spamming activity on their own sites, many of their backlinks are likely from untrusted and unsafe websites. These sites contribute to the web spam that Google is looking to eradicate, with Penguin 2.0 claiming 30% of their search visibility almost instantly.
Other websites hit particularly hard were niche gaming sites and obscure businesses, including a website that claims to connect users to psychic readers for a fee. Sites like these face significant competition, as building these sites requires little time and resources. Knowing this, it makes sense that they would embrace weak SEO techniques for a quick rankings gain and a quick buck. Unfortunately for them, Penguin 2.0 caught on and set them back significantly.
Also among the victims, however, is the Salvation Army and several legitimate business websites such as REEDS Jewelers and Dish Network. While it is unfortunate that well known organizations such as these face fallout, it is likely no mistake. The fallout for these well-known and legitimate businesses just serve to show that SEO is a complex task that requires up to date expertise.
So how can you keep your website out of the crosshairs of the war on spam? Cutts provides us with a general rule: “As long as you’re working hard for users, we’re working hard to try to show your high quality content to users as well.”
Sounds simple enough, but is there anything in particular that website owners should keep in mind? Cutts admits there is, acknowledging that paid advertorials will no longer affect page rank, and that buying or spamming poor quality backlinks can have a negative impact as well. Google also values new content, which means that website maintenance is more important than ever for your search rankings.
Marcus Tober at Searchmetrics.com best sums up the mistake that Penguin 2.0 will feed off most: “some small business sites were hit because they haven’t taken SEO serious enough.”
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