On April 24th 2012, Google released a new search engine algorithm update called “Penguin.” Google engineer Matt Cutts published a blog post saying the purpose of Penguin is to reduce “webspam” and punish those using black hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing or link schemes. Cutts writes that ultimately they “want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.” It’s been over a week and many people are asking, “Is Penguin doing what Google wanted it to do?”
It appears that Penguin has hurt the search rankings of many more sites than just those that can be considered webspam. Although Google announced that this algorithm change would only affect about 3% of search results, the outcry from marketers, business owners, and many others who watch search traffic indicates that the change had a major impact on the ranking of many more sites than that. Many sites that have back links using keyword anchor text have been hit, including those of major brand names. Some people have gone so far as to suggest this was a strategy on Google’s behalf to encourage paid search ads. While we do not support that conspiracy theory, we do see that—for whatever reason—some non-webspam sites have taken hits.
How do I know if my site was hit?
Take a look at your analytics and see if there has been a noticeable decrease in organic search traffic recently. If so, what day did the decrease begin? If a decrease started exactly on or shortly after April 24th, it was most likely due to Google Penguin. If the decrease in traffic started prior to that date, it was not because of Penguin. It could’ve been due to a change in the Google Panda algorithm update that occurred on April 19th, 2012. Identifying what caused the change can help you figure out how to recover from the lower search engine rankings.
If my site was affected, what can I do about it?
If your site is ranking lower because of the Panda update, your best bet is to focus on putting out fresh, high-quality content. This should help with your search engine status no matter what. If you were hit by Penguin, however, low-quality content was probably not the reason for it.
If your site is ranking lower because of the Penguin update, make sure you are not engaging in anything that can remotely appear to be a black hat SEO technique. The offenses most punished by Penguin appear to be keyword stuffing and low-quality back links using keyword anchor text. Look over your posts and pages and delete keywords if you think a page is “over-optimized.” If you’ve been paying for links, stop.
Aside from that, there is not much more to do at this time. Google has been surprisingly quiet over the past week while site owners have been in an uproar. Perhaps sites that have unfairly taken hits right now will move back up after the next update. If you do not engage in black hat techniques, but your site has still taken a hit, there isn’t much you can do other than focus on creating good content, share it through social media and other non-search sources, and hold tight until Google comments on this or makes yet another update.