So there’s been a lot of talk in the industry recently about the recent Panda Update and Google’s new Algorithm change, Penguin. And having seen that this has been live since the 24th April now is a good time to review where you sit in the rankings and if there has been any impact to your rankings following this change.
Having a look at your core keywords have you noticed any changes to your rankings? Are these changes large or small? Following the go live of both Panda 3.5 and Penguin there seem to be a large number of sites which have seen a couple of place changes for their keywords, both increases of a couple of places and drops of the same. However, some sites, although only a small amount, have seen some large drops in their rankings with many of their core keywords.
So what are the sorts of things which we are noticing that the Penguin update is frowning upon and what things are we finding are working? As we know Panda is about quality but Penguin is more about stamping out of manipulative over optimization of sites.
As mentioned previously there are some things which are clearly against the Google Website Guidelines and these seem to be some of the things which Penguin is cracking down on. This is great as it means Google themselves are using the guidelines as a measure (and so these mean something for webmasters), but I do wonder why they’ve not done this before as these guidelines have been around for ages!
Here is a sample of the things which we’ve noticed that might be causing issues for your site if you’ve been hit by Penguin.
An example of hidden text is having white text on a white background. This sounds really old school but we’ve seen sites with this on recently. This is frowned upon because it means you are showing things to Google to get them to rank you which your visitors can’t see. Remember; your website is for your visitors and not for Google as your visitors are the one’s who spend money.
Cloaking or Sneaky Redirects
This happens when you have content in your code which is not presented to a browser. This can be done by IP serving content specifically to Google.
This is where you’ve used your keywords too many times on a page. Content should read naturally and not have the feeling that keywords have been shoe-horned into the page to artificially manufacturer relevancy or even links. They way to review this is to make sure that content reads well out loud and doesn’t sound artificial.
The other thing to do is to consider if a link in your content is actually a link that someone would follow. If you just link your keyword and main service pages changes are people won’t follow it. However, linking to a related blog which you mention in your content or to your contact form (“if you want more information about this Contact us now”) is a good idea as these links are things people are likely to use. Keyword stuffing can also be seen as having a large footer at the bottom of pages as these can also be seen as false methods of promoting your content.
Now is also a good time to review your on page optimization. Keyword Spam is also something which can be seen in over manipulated Title Tags (with the same keyword in multiple times). Your meta descriptions can also have this over use of keywords so review these too. Remember your meta descriptions are seen by potential customers in the SERPs and so making sure that these are well written and compelling is important. Some time ago Google also announced that they are no longer using the Keywords Meta tag to define what pages are about and now that Penguin is live this could also be seen as something which stuffs keywords onto a page to influence the rankings. Look at your keywords tag and consider what message this is sending, this could be perceived as a list of keywords and what’s more a list of very similar keywords… Personally I’d be removing these from your site now.
Spun content is also an issue as it is something which can be seen as low quality and is something which Panda picked up on. However, with Penguin now live, this is also something which could be considered spam. Make sure that all of your content is useful for visitors and delivers something unique to their experience, rather than having multiple pages which are very similar and are designed to make a keyword rank and create links to another page or series of pages.
This becomes an issues if your back link profile contains links from link schemes, blog networks or site wide links from other sites. Paying more attention to your back links is important as Google have also been emailing people about “unnatural” links as Stu mentioned in his blog last week.
Keep an eye on your back link profile and check Google Webmaster Tools to make sure that you have not received a message from them about these links.
Now, there has been a lot of talk about sites which should have been hit by Penguin and weren’t, including one site which Matt Cutts used as an example of web spam which doesn’t appear to have been penalized. There are also sites out there who aren’t doing things wrong but have been hit and found their rankings have gone.
So, if you feel that your site has been penalized unfairly or if you have corrected the issues you think were a problem then Google has a form to provide feedback with which can be found here. One note on this though is that the Penguin update is an algorithm change so it’s an automated process rather than something which has been manually reviewed so be aware that you might not see the results from this that you would like.
My key tip post the launch of Google’s Penguin update is to make sure that you are reviewing how you are presenting information on your website including the optimization and to make sure you aren’t link building using any techniques which Google frowns upon.
I’m quite sure that like Panda, the Penguin update is going to be a regularly applied set of rules that Google will refine and update on regular intervals so watch this space for the next Penguin update.
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