What Google Penguin Is About
It is important for webmasters, site owners, and even the search engine optimization experts to know what the latest Google Penguin is all about. This is crucial in the page ranking of the site in Google.
While many people know that Google regularly changes and updates its ranking algorithms, the latest so-called Penguin update came with a shock that left most site owners and webmasters somewhat confused and perplexed on how the top search engine distinguishes black hat SEO from white or grey hat SEO.
So what the latest Google Penguin is about? In plain and simple terms, this is the April 24, 2012 Google update, which is dubbed as an improved version of 2011’s Panda. The main objective of Penguin update is to get rid of sites that are called “over-optimized” including websites that are optimized for better page ranking using webspam techniques.
There are now plenty of sites who have taken the short-cut in grabbing one of the top spots of the front page result for their target keywords. It is these sites that Google is targeting, and not those that provide good value to its visitors.
Impact of Google Penguin Update
The Penguin update has rocked the online industry leaving a lot of sites, even those who claimed to have done nothing black-hat to optimize their sites, de-indexed for good; thereby greatly affecting the businesses of many online entrepreneurs and marketers. To-date, some bloggers and webmasters are still reeling from the impact, accumulating losses and leaving others cash-strap due to tremendous reduction of income.
According to Google insiders, the Penguin update is said to affect about 3% of the sites, but it seems the percentage is significantly higher than that. Many high ranking websites, some even with authority, have lost its ranking significantly that their monthly page views have tremendously gone down.
Why This Google Update
The recent update by Google was said to be in line with its endless fight against webspam. So, what are spam sites? According to Google blog, “webspams” as the search engine terms it are sites that are trying to improve their page ranking using methods like the following:
- Link schemes
- Intentional content duplication
- Keyword stuffing
According to Google chief engineer Matt Cutts, “Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.”
While there is nothing new about Google’s fight against webspams, the Penguin update according to some SEO experts have gone way beyond their expectations because it has affected a lot of sites doing purely white hat techniques. Many argued the basis of Google’s penalizing sites that are according to Matt Cutts doing “over-optimization.”
This only caused confusion among webmasters and SEO experts regarding the extent of white hat optimization they can do since some were now labelled by Google as webspam. Cutts said the “over-optimization” statement was misconstrued by some SEO experts. He clarified his statement afterwards, saying “I think ‘over-optimization’ wasn’t the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO, and we tried to make that fact more clear in the blog post.”
Main Highlights of the Recent Google Penguin Update
The latest changes in Google ranking algorithms were based on several components. There were actually many ranking algorithm modifications, about 52 in all, and some of the most important highlights are listed as follows as taken from Google’s blog:
- More domain diversity
- Improvements to local navigational searches
- No freshness boost for low-quality content
- More local sites from organizations
- More text from the beginning of the page in snippets
- Categorize paginated documents
- Anchors bug fix
- Country identification for webpages
- Smoother ranking changes for fresh results
- Better query interpretation
- More informative and concise titles
- More efficient alternative title generation
- Fewer auto-complete predictions that lead to poor quality results
- Keyword stuffing classifier improvement
- More authorative results
- Improvements to how search terms are scored in ranking
- News universal results serving improvements
- UI improvement for breaking news topics
- Fewer international bad spell corrections
- More global spelling corrections in different languages
- Improved safe search model
- 15% increase in base index size
- New index tier
- Better ranking of expanded sitelinks
- Sitelinks data refresh
While there are still many other changes under the 2012 Google Penguin update, the above parameters are mostly relevant to search engine optimization. Website owners, SEO experts, and webmasters should better understand each modification in order to have enhanced analysis on the modified ranking algorithm of Google.
One of the most important parameters in the above list is the’ more domain diversity.’ This simply means that if the site has numerous backlinks from quite diverse sources, it shall be given higher ranking score. In other words, do not rely getting good quality back links from one source only, say links from Ezine; rather, it is best to diversify the link sources by getting back links from other good PR sites as well.
Another similarly important aspect of the change is the ‘country diversification for webpage.’ Google seems to give due importance to location. This means, if a site is indicative of a certain country because of the language used, it will not be ranked in general search terms but in local search in order to provide users more relevant results from their search engine navigation.
One particular parameter noteworthy of giving due attention is the ‘no freshness boost for low-quality content.’ This is somewhat similar to the Panda update in 2011 but an improved version. Google has added a classifier that identifies not only fresh contents but the quality of the content as well. So regardless if the content is newly published but if it is labelled as poor in quality, then that post or page will not be given better ranking.
Also an essential modification is the ‘breaking news topics UI improvement.’ Breaking news is given special attention, alongside a thumbnail of image. Thus, if you are planning to publish some breaking news in your site, make sure to add images to back your report for added ranking score.
If you will only try to look deeper into the above changes in Google Penguin update, you should be able to understand better that Google is simply trying to give more value to the users by ensuring that the results that they shall get will really lead them to the information that they are looking for.
Some sites may be greatly affected by the Penguin update, but Google insists that the affected sites only account by about 3%. No one knows if this percentage pertains to sites that were de-indexed. But if you actually include those high-ranking websites that have lost their high ranking, the numbers of affected sites could be colossal.
As a result of the recent changes, many site owners were disappointed while some SEO experts are discouraged. Many experts have just seen all their SEO efforts done for many months or even years just wasted in an instant when the changes took effect. A lot of websites, used to be high PR sites, have closed down due to the changes. The discouragement still lingers on to-date that some are thinking if SEO is finally dead; or, is it?
Is SEO Dead with Google Penguin Update?
The Penguin update was meant to penalize sites that are being optimized for better page ranking without giving value to their visitors. Search engine optimization is still encouraged, but only within the boundaries of white hat methods. Google further stressed to shift the focus more on creating good quality websites that offer excellent user experience instead of doing more aggressive search engine optimization campaign to the extent of manipulating their sites’ ranking in Google.
Google further encourages to view the Penguin update in a positive light; rewarding high quality sites while penalizing those who are doing webspam techniques. Website doing effective white hat optimization are well-loved by Google crawlers and rightfully rewarded by improving their page ranks; those that do otherwise shall be met with stiff penalties.
Moving On from Google Penguin Update
What the latest Google Penguin is about changes in ranking algorithms that are but normal in order to adapt to the fast changing online world. The only people that should worry about the Google Penguin update are those who are involved in taking the short-cut in getting their sites to the front page of Google via webspam methods. But if you are doing things right, and continue to give more emphasis in providing fresh and highly-informative contents to your readers instead of optimizing your post for Google, then the impact of the latest Google Penguin is nothing to worry about.