After a huge amount of anticipation in the industry, Google’s Penguin update is now running as a part of the core algorithm that Google uses. There was a huge change in the industry when the update originally arrived, and there were a lot of questions being asked in relation to the impact that this might have on small businesses that rely on internet marketing as their key tool for business. Thanks to the fact that this is likely to have a huge impact on many businesses who operate online, it is important to think about exactly what has changed, and how you can ensure that your website is not hit by this – as this is something that could have a major negative impact on your search engine rankings in the long term. This blog will take you through some of that key information, and help you to understand everything that you need to know about the update, and how you will be able to recover from it if your website is hit by the penalty.
What is the Google Penguin update?
If you are unsure about exactly what Penguin is and how it might have an effect on your business, then this is a good place to start, as it could make a huge difference when it comes to the way that your site needs to be set up and designed. To put it simply, Penguin is a change to the way that Google deal with search results when a user enters a search term into the browser, which means that if your tactic had previously been spamming keywords and inserting as many of them as you possibly can as a way to move up the rankings, you can now be punished for this, and might actually find that your ratings are affected in a negative way rather than in a positive one. Therefore, if this is the technique that you used in the past as a way to gain traffic, it is something that you need to think about carefully.
Is the update fully live?
Yes, the Penguin update is now fully live, and has been rolled out on all of Google’s search engines in different languages across the world. It is now part of the key algorithm that decides exactly where your website is placed when it comes to the search results on the Google website.
What has changed?
In the past, all of the sites that were affected by this change would have been refreshed at the same time, and unfortunately this meant that those websites that were affected by Penguin wouldn’t have been able to recover until they had been refreshed at the same time as every single other website. Thanks to the fact that they can only be refreshed when an update occurs, this is something that could be incredibly problematic indeed – however there are now real-time updates, which means that as soon as you make changes to your website and its content, your rankings will be updated accordingly in relation to the changes that you have made. This is great if you are hoping to be able to see the effect that your changes have had as soon as you possibly can. In addition to this, Google takes each website as a page by page case, and rather than it having an impact on the whole website when a page is identified as spam, now only that page will be affected. This is good, as it means that you will not be penalised if there are issues with just a few of your pages.
Can I tell if my website has been affected?
One of the most tempting things to do is to do a search for some key terms that your website would previously have shown up under, find that it is no longer there, and assume that it has been hit negatively by the changes. However, on the whole, you should find that this is not always the case. A good way to tell is to take the time to examine your traffic around the time that Penguin was rolled out – September 23rd – and see if there are any huge differences in the traffic that you gained around this time. If you have noticed that there was indeed a drop in traffic, then the fact that it coincided with the rollout of Penguin would suggest that the change has something to do with it. If, on the other hand, you are able to see that your traffic has increased, then you may be one of the lucky websites who have actually benefited from the changes that have been made.
How can I improve my ranking if I have been affected?
If you know that you have been affected by this change, then it is more than likely thanks to the fact that some part of your website uses spam tactics as a way to gain traffic. If this is the case, and you know that this is a tactic that you have employed in the past, then the first thing that you need to do is to take a look at your content and see if there is anything that you might be able to change. Sometimes, you will find that you receive messages from Google relating to your ranking penalty, and if this is the case then you will be clearly told exactly what it is that you need to change in order to improve your ranking for the better.
Is there a chance that this could be a mistake?
As with anything that is dealt with on a computer rather than individually by a human, there is always a chance that something might have gone wrong, and that your website should never have been penalised in the first place. If you feel as though your ranking drop is unfair, then you have the option of filling in the Penguin Feedback Form, explaining what your problem is, and letting them know that you don’t feel as though you have been treated fairly. There is also the option to post on Google’s Webmaster Forum if you have any feedback.
It can help to be able to provide examples of searches in which your website would have featured in the past, and explain why you feel as though your site should still be listed there. You may feel that there are other websites that are still there that use similar strategies, and it can be good to include examples of these, to ask Google to specify what the differences are between your two websites, and help you to think of what you could do in order to improve your ranking in the future.
If you are hoping to encourage them to change their minds about your ranking, then it is important to be able to show them as much information as you possibly can with regards to exactly why you feel as though the ranking drop is a mistake. They will be more than aware of the fact that mistakes do happen, and as such they are likely to be willing to listen to the case that you make for yourself if you feel that there is a genuine reason that your website has been treated unfairly. Taking the time to make your explanation clear is more than worth it, as you could find that this enables you to get your previous ranking back, and then start to enjoy a higher amount of traffic to your website again.
What does this mean for small businesses?
Many people have speculated in recent times that there is a chance that the Penguin update was put into place as a way to make sure that people spent money on AdWords, rather than just relying on the traffic that came to the website via search engines. Although a lot of this is speculation, there are worries about what this might mean for small businesses or sole traders – who simply don’t have the funds to spare to be able to pay for this kind of advertising. However, there is still plenty of evidence to suggest that there is good reason to believe that SEO is still a useful tool, and that it can have great effects on your search results in the long term.
Action to take as an eCommerce store owner
If you are worried about your website, and about how all of the changes in search engine algorithms could affect it in the long term, then by far the best thing to do is to take a look at your content, and make sure that you are using subtle SEO techniques rather than relying on keyword stuffing. Doing this will help you a lot in the future, and by making sure that your content flows naturally without forcing other words and phrases in, you are protecting yourself against changes that could occur in the future – which is certainly an investment that it is important to make into your business.