The Recent Penguin Update and the Impact on Search Engine Optimization

The Internet has become one of the most useful marketing tools ever created and companies and individuals have taken advantage of the opportunity for true worldwide exposure can give. In the last few years, search engine optimization, or SEO, has burst on the scene with excellent results. SEO aims at improving the visibility of websites in a search engine. The easier the company is to search for, the more hits that website will receive and, potentially, the more product or service it can sell.

Search engine optimization considers how different search engines work, what terms are used more often than others, and which engines themselves are preferred (such as Google) over competitors. A website can be optimized by editing content, HTML, or linking the site with similar ones in an attempt to increase cross-site traffic and revenue. These tactics are included in the direct coding and design of the website, essentially allowing the latent tools and code to do the work passively.

SEO has become essential to almost every successful website – but has also become an area of professional specialization. The more effective SEO methods are always changing and, with the release of Penguin – an algorithmic change designed to cut down on the amount of spam in search engine results – many tactics once employed by search engine optimizers have come under fire and are considered prohibited be Google.

Google accounts for a great deal of the daily Internet searches and the question therefore arises why Google would limit companies’ ability to promote their websites. The answer here is twofold. As early as 1997, it was recognized that webmasters were attempting to increase the number of hits their sites would receive by manipulating their rankings when a search was performed . Some tactics they would use included using hidden text or pumping their sites full of keywords that would make any individual search more likely to get a hit. Early sites attempted to change the way in which the searches were performed to eliminate this, but it has nonetheless been an ongoing problem.

Simply put, money was and still is at stake here. There is a great profit potential in using certain SEO techniques and thus, a competitive relationship may occur between the search provider and the company itself. Now, companies that use tools deemed “unethical” have the potential be banned from being displayed in search results. The need arises, to see how modern changes in SEO regulations affect current websites and, more importantly, what strategies must be changed to ensure a steady influx of web traffic and ultimately revenue – and keep in Google’s good books!

The Impact of the Google Penguin Update

Like many other search providers, Google has reached out to the SEO industry by providing guidelines and open information on data traffic and website hits. Should a website violate the SEO terms of usage, the site risks getting banned. This was the case in 2005 with the company Traffic Power; Google’s Matt Cutts later confirmed was banned for such techniques . Another notable example of a major corporation having allegedly utilized such techniques is BMW Germany in 2006. They later apologized and corrected the problem. So, if all of this has happened before, why has the implementation of Google’s newest algorithm update, Penguin, caused so much interest?

For one thing, allowing unscrupulous use of SEO manipulation can hurt many small and medium size businesses. Link building is one of the most important factors Google considers when looking at the searchable value of a company. Knowing this, websites can exploit SEO strategies to cripple their competitors. That, in turn, hurts the image of Google itself. These are two principle reasons why Penguin has taken the main stage.

Essentially, Penguin is the next generation of the program known as Panda. What makes the difference, all tech talk aside, is how it looks for aggressive web spam tactics. Through newer algorithms, Penguin is better at finding the sites that use prohibited SEO techniques such as the placement of hidden text or buying links, over optimization through highly targeted anchor texts . These “black hat” tricks are not allowed.
With many businesses having their revenue generated with the use of search engines, the obvious question arises: how does one adapt to Penguin’s new regulations while still maintaining web traffic?

How to Make Penguin Work to Your Advantage

With some simple steps, the rules that Penguin has now put in place can be adhered to and benefited from. First, accept the change! Take a look at the new regulations and be well aware of what is allowed and what is not on Google’s webmaster support forums. It is important to remember that with Penguin now in place, many of the low quality links have been removed and therefore the average search experience for the individual user has been greatly streamlined. If your website plays by the rules, your site will outrank many other, lower quality websites if they haven’t already been removed altogether. No longer is it a free for all, but instead relevance is placed above all else, potentially helping, rather than harming your business. The barbarians are no longer at the gates and you already have some powerful tools to keep it that way.

Redesign or remove pages with “thin” or little original content. If similar content is spread over a number of webpages, there are multiple versions of your URL in Google’s index. This is one way your content, even if legitimate, can appear as spamming. Eliminate those pages that may have become redundant and for those you wish to keep, use redirects to solve any duplicate information.

Tidy up your page. A clean page is one that will keep you underneath the Penguin radar. After all, isn’t the point of a webpage to increase visitors’ time spent browsing and clickthrough rates? Take a look at the graphical layout, examine the actual wording, and provide easy-to-see links to any related blog posts or articles you may have elsewhere.

Keep it unique. According to the new rules, not only does your website need to provide relevant and high-level content, but this content must be unique to the specific area of interest. Look into different keyword possibilities that other competitors may not be using. This can give the distinctive aspect which Penguin requires and also place you high on search results. Remember, the more unique keywords you use, the more you can be assured that those who are browsing your site are interested in what you have to offer.

Take a look at sites that link back to you. Don’t forget, just because your site has adhered to Penguin’s new policies does not necessarily mean that other sites which may contain links to yours have. Take a look at your site traffic over the last couple of months and see if there is a notable drop in hits. If there is and you are unaware that your site was targeted by Penguin, then most likely the others were. The point here is to reevaluate your choices of other partner sites. They are supposed to be working for you, not against you!

Keep it less like a billboard and more like a website. Take a look at how many ads your site currently has running and make sure the number is not over the top. The rule here is that your ads should occupy no more than 50% of the space shared with your relevant information. In effect, the space ideally should be more like 30%. This can help keep Penguin at bay and also, more importantly, give your users a more pleasurable experience. A site with a multitude of ads appears cheap and too gimmicky, for lack of a better word. A quality site with fewer ads will bring quality customers.

SEO providers make all the difference. Penguin is helping to weed out much of the fluff. However, it is also good to remember to be more cautious when looking for an SEO provider. Choose one reputable and with experience, as Google has tried to regulate many of those who previously would flood searches with useless or irrelevant terms or links. More so now than before, an effective SEO is the absolute key to driving in new business through search visibility. If you choose the right provider, you can take advantage what is now a much cleaner search platform. Still, there are also other strategies you may or may not be aware of to help cope with these changes.

Look for other options if you choose. Although Google is the best-known search engine, it is not the only one out there. Dozens of others exist and can greatly increase web traffic, especially if used in conjunction. Sites like ask.com and Yahoo have been around for more than a decade and still provide results. Others such as DuckDuckGo have recently gained more attention as clutter-free alternatives. Visibility is directly related to sales, and while Google may remain number one in the eyes of many, these other engines can still be invaluable tools.

Not only do we live in the age of digital sales, during the last decade the platform of social networking has taken the Internet by storm. Just look at the recent hype of Facebook’s entry on the stock market to see how important such sites can be. Most businesses now have separate pages solely dedicated to social networking sites. It was once thought that these sites were mainly being used by the younger generation, however, it is increasingly evident that almost everyone has become involved in one way or another. From the “Arab Spring” of last year to politicians using blogs to help their campaigns, these options must not be overlooked as a very powerful way to promote your web visibility and exchange valuable information.

If we combine the social network sites with the more recent influx of blogging, we can begin to see a pattern emerge. In fact, there is an increasing trend for bloggers themselves to take advantage of the more “personal” appeal that such websites can give; they can be a great way to address individual clients or contacts and enhance the networking skills you already have in place.

The bottom line here is simple. While some webmasters cringe at the idea of further regulations on search engine optimization, in the long run (and short run, in fact), this streamlining can enhance the exposure of a website as long as the SEO is done in both ethical and legitimate fashions. With Penguin and the heightened transparency that it will give Google’s search platform, there will be a newer confidence with the websites that are listed, as the individual can click with much more certainty on a link and not have to be as concerned with where, exactly, he or she is going to wind up! If the new rules that Penguin has put in place are combined with other up-and-coming social and blogging alternatives, there are no limits as to how far a company can grow in both visibility and profit.

Author Bio: HostPapa is a green web hosting company and cloud services provider servicing over 100,000 customers around the world. Since launching in 2006, HostPapa has offered reliable, budget-friendly, easy-to-use web solutions for small to medium-sized businesses.

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