One With the Strength of a Host
The Panda and Penguin updates of 2011 were the most potent signs yet of Google’s determination to downgrade sites which appear to display ‘unnatural’ links, irrelevant keywords and ‘thin’ content.
Updates tend to be sent out at least two hundred times per year (about every six weeks) and are aimed at evaluating sites for natural links in an effort to try and maintain content relevancy and a close match between search query and results returned.
While Panda aimed at eliminating ‘low quality’ content or using databases to aggregate information, and Penguin targeted deliberately constructed spam sites, it would be true to say that a number of genuine SME and mid-size site owners were taken by surprise. Not least, because it was believed that they were conducting ethical optimisation practices.
Larger organisations appear to be less affected and many high profile brands, such as Spotify and Men’s Health, actually gained in ranking visibility by up to a 30 per cent. It may also be concluded that those sites without a strong social profile can now lose as much as 20 per cent of their organic traffic.
A Penguin update in April 2012 saw the first of the ‘penalty’ updates aimed at sites displaying over-optimised pages, keyword stuffing and excessive links. Targets included sponsored links and links from directories, exchange pages, low quality blog sites.
Sites that seemed to be almost solely dependent on specific and easy spam link practices were hit harder by Panda and Penguin and many genuine sites but not all, who were unwittingly penalised, did recover.
Those sites who use link building as simply a strategic monetising function for obtaining short to medium term traffic results will likely lose out more consistently to the scrutiny of Panda / Penguin updates than those organisations who understand that long term ethical linking achieves long term performance goals.
Google is no longer the only route for users to find the object of their search in today’s multi-channel and social networking environments.
Organisations who observe natural linking guidelines with less keyword stuffing and greater emphasis on fresh, relevant content will be most likely to escape the attentions of Panda and Penguin by building a stronger and compelling social profile in high quality and high ranking spaces.
Thomas Bagshaw owns search marketing agency The Search Marketing Shop, he has over 9 years’ experience in providing SEO, Adwords Management and Social Media marketing to businesses across the globe, coupled with a range of qualifications in marketing and advertising.