March 2012 marked yet another major update in Google’s algorithm. You may be aware that Google updates its algorithm daily with minor tweaks, but every now and then (more or less yearly) it deploys some heavy weapons against those SEOs that exploit the ranking criteria of the most popular search engine on the net (to date). As a result search rankings heavily fluctuate for a few days until they settle to a new, more or less stable, ranking order. You may gain or you may lose in the process. If you employed some gray or even black-hat maneuvering you can almost certainly rest assured you are going to be in the bashed club. Google Penguin is the name of the latest major update.
This time around the sites that got hit supposedly were those with a suspicious linking pattern. To give a practical example, if you are pushing for the keyword “Tuscany villas” your pattern will look something like this: a bunch of spam links pointing to some spam article, which in turn points to legit article, ultimately pointing to the money site, all links showing the same anchor text “Tuscany villas”. In theory, the more layers you add, the less detectable your spam scheme is. However, Google Penguin was able to crack down a lot of sites using this link pattern. Rumors around the web buzz of figures nearing 3% for English language sites being hit, while some say the real target at Mountain View headquarters was Polish and Russian languages. These are just rumors, we may never know for sure.
How may this affect your SEO work?
Many during the years have shifted from in-house SEO to outsourcing the service as it was ultimately cheaper. Things may change after Penguin. Google made things increasingly complicated and ranking well is almost an ivy league game. Google continues to market its “content is king” motto, which you may or may not believe in. It is certain that if you are selling widgets online it is hard to differentiate yourself in Google’s eyes from millions other widget sites. Unless you are in a super niche market, your chances to constantly create content that hits the bulls eye and is loved by users are very slim. On the other side, despite Penguin, Google still loves inbound links. Sure overtime it has become more picky about them, but if content is king, links are queen.
Over time out-of-house SEO professionals have increased their power and capacity to deliver thanks to their own private site networks from where they would link to client’s sites, allowing powerful link juice to make their sites skyrocket in SERPS. They also employ many other ways, but this is by far the most reliable. The problem is that with Google targeting link patterns (and you may rest assured Penguin is just the beginning), these networks will be mapped out and their power decreased.
What should you do?
As a result it is difficult to exclusively rely on SEO outsourcing. You will never know where the sky is gonna fall. Diversifying your search engine optimization and marketing is increasingly becoming a necessity. SEO agencies are not fail proof. I bet many remember the BMW site being banned after their SEM agency had employed black-hat practices. Although we were far from Penguin, Google did not have a problem banning a big-shot site.
My personal experience on this has brought me to increase in-house investments to promote websites through perfectly legit, albeit slow-yield, ways. Just one or two more employees can make a great difference if you know what you are doing. The best way is to give out great information on yourself and have people talk about it. Write articles, share opinions with social media, get in touch with real people. This system works great for high-competition keys like “Tuscany hotels”, or less competitive ones such as “Tuscany villa rentals“. It undoubtedly is a lot of work, but you will profit from having a solid base no update from Google – Penguin, Panda or the likes – will ever wipe away leaving you stranded.