If you are a pro, this might be so last month, but if you are still figuring out the SEO puzzle you'll want to pay particular attention. It's likely you've already heard of the recent Penguin 3.0 update to Google's search algorithm (which was first introduced in October but is being rolled out in stages). What you might not know, however, is what changed and whether you should be worried for your website rankings.
Is Google's newest Penguin update going to put your website plans on thin ice?
As always, the first step towards finding the right answer is understanding just what Penguin 3.0 was all about. This update refined the updates made in the past, through Penguin 1.0 and Penguin 2.0, which penalized websites with poor link profiles.
Google is targeting these websites aggressively because questionable linking has been a problem for some time. Not that long ago, it was surprisingly common for people to buy or spam backlinks, sometimes by the thousands, in the hopes of increasing their search engine positioning. It got to the point where there were millions of websites that no one would ever visit because they existed solely for generating backlinks to other sites, or offering blog comments and forums containing hardly more than endless link spam.
Obviously, these websites had no value and the links they provided didn't indicate any real authority. So Google has been aggressively targeting not just the link farm websites, but also the companies that were benefiting from them in an effort to present more authentic and authoritative search results.
Penguin 3.0 carries those penalties a little further.
It also restores the search credibility of some websites that have gone the extra mile in clearing out old spammy links. Meaning, the good get rewarded while the wicked are punished further.
Because Penguin 3.0 may not have been completely implemented yet, it's too early to be certain which websites will be affected the most and which ones won't be if the changes aren't already noticeable. That said, there are already a few takeaways and lessons to be learned:
1. This Penguin update is a relatively small one.
This may be a case where Penguin 3.0 turns out to be a "major update" in name only. Affecting an estimated 1% of all English-language searches, it's certainly significant, but it isn't likely to have the earth-shaking impact that the original Penguin and Panda algorithm changes did.
2. Website owners should be watching their performance closely.
This is good advice at all times, but it's especially important if you aren't sure whether you have any unsavoury links pointing to your website... or if you have enough of them to be punished for it.
You should never completely turn over your online marketing to someone else.
Each time Google starts weeding out the garbage from search engine listings, we hear from a few business owners or marketers who are genuinely surprised that they are affected. This usually happens because they've hired a search engine optimization "consultant" in the past without keeping close tabs on their work. It's always a good idea to get good online marketing advice, but writing a check and forgetting about your website is never a good long-term strategy because it leaves you vulnerable to someone else's bad decisions.
3. The right approach to SEO may take time, but is also keeps you out of trouble.
Although Google algorithm updates are often treated as bad news in web circles, the reality is there are a lot of companies who are very happy with Google's recent progress. They're the ones who did the right things all along and resisted the urge to pursue unethical tactics for short-term results. Do the right thing and you never have to worry about getting caught under Google's glare when they update search rankings.
This probably won't be the last word on Google's Penguin 3.0 update, either on our blog or elsewhere. As always, however, it's a good reminder of what can happen when you try to take shortcuts for the sake of rankings when you should be thinking more about creating content that your prospects will love.
When you try to trick Google, they eventually find out and make you start all over again. But when you do things organically by creating quality content, updates like these are great because your less ethical competitors get punished while your website gets more visibility than ever before.
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