You may have heard of Google’s latest update to their search ranking services.
You may not have.
For those unfamiliar, it is branded as ‘The Penguin Update’.
Chances are, if you own a web site, are heavily involved in SEO or use Google’s search engine on a regular basis (who doesn’t, right?) then the Penguin update is worth knowing about.
The principle objective of this update is to make Google’s search results more natural and geared towards web sites that produce top quality content.
In essence, Google want to filter out web sites that are focused purely on increasing their search rank rather than providing a legitimate service or source of information for the consumer.
The head of webspam at Google, Matt Cutts, claims that the web giant wants to create a “level playing field” that diminishes the emphasis on over-optimisation.
This over-optimisation was the result of an increasing number of web sites that had learnt to manipulate Google’s search rankings to their advantage.
Three particular techniques that web sites used were commonly referred to as keyword stuffing, spun content and unnatural linking – all three of these areas have been targeted by the Penguin update.
In case you aren’t accustomed to these terms, let us give you a bit more detail.
Keyword stuffing is a process where a web site will target a particular word or phrase and repeat it constantly in either the meta tags or the on-page content.
Spun content – typically generated by some form of software – is a technique used by web masters to replicate a piece of content numerous times by only changing the order of certain words and sentences.
Because Google’s previous search parameters weren’t as sophisticated as the new Penguin update, spun content was an effective way of deceiving Google into thinking you were producing several pieces of unique content.
The third and final mischievous tactic to be ironed out by Google is unnatural linking which involves web sites selling links to other sites that have a greater page rank in order to increase their own.
As previously mentioned, Google are making these changes in order to create a higher-quality service for consumers and, for that, we surely can’t complain.
However, what about web masters? Have their sites been implicated by the Penguin update?
A survey from Search Engine Roundtable seems to suggest they have been – negatively.
Over 65 per cent of those polled claimed to have recorded a decrease in the amount of traffic from Google. Just 13 per cent said they saw a rise in visitors from the search engine.
What do these results mean? Either the Penguin update is affecting genuine rule-abiding web masters or there are a lot of unhappy over-optimisers out there!
The real impact of the Penguin update is only likely to be discovered over a considerable time period and the definitive verdict will only be determined by Google’s most important asset –their consumers.