24th April 2012 has been marked as the day SEO changed forever.
On this day, Google rolled out the initial version of its Penguin update in an attempt to rampage against so called “web spam”.
Google primarily wanted to target pages that appeared high up in their SERPs that were building excessive backlinks in an “unnatural” manner.
Obviously, Google is heavily dependent on the algorithm to do this and cannot manually review each site to see if it complies with the new set of SEO rules it set out.
Unlike the Panda update, before it which mainly targeted poor on-site content issues – the Penguin update was targeting low quality off-site backlinks and other anchor link and content “over-optimization” signals.
Essentially Google has sent out a message to the community to follow the strict guidelines while building links, or face a penalty irrespective of the quality of content a site may have.
This will undoubtedly result in a whole surge of what is called negative SEO (more on that later).
Google has laid out a new set of rules.
It seems that getting people to follow these rules is more important than the search results Google produces.
They will punish all sites who they feel are trying to game the search results via Penguin related penalties – even at the cost of sacrificing the efficiency and quality of their search engine.
The update is not 100% focused on improving the quality of search results – but is targeted primarily towards sites that have managed to game them with high levels of unnatural links.
What this means is that, if your backlink profile has more unnatural or toxic links more than a certain tolerance and threshold level – your site can get an Algorithmic Penguin Penalty or a Manual Penguin Penalty (the two are different and we will discuss this later).
Google has become ruthless now and it does not mind sacrificing the quality of its search results if it can successfully pass down its “message” as to what constitutes good and acceptable SEO.
Many search results, across niches, are showing unrelated listings on the top. As high quality content sites are being displaced and penalized for their off-page “over optimization” penalty – as a result poorer and oftentimes irrelevant sites are ranking on top. This is one of the downsides of the algorithm (the other big one is that it has destroyed innocent sites and the livelihood of people behind them).
Note: If you’re clever in your SEO you can leverage this algorithm update to do some negative SEO on brand search results that are hurting your reputation with bad reviews. This is a fantastic tactic for your online reputation management strategy.
Google’s webspam team, has no option now but to manually examine each popular niche and remove top ranking sites that are involved in webspam activity or suspicious link building methods.
Lower ranking sites have gained ranks not because they have only done safe link building activity… its because they did not engage in as much “unnatural” web spam activity as the sites above them did – which, as a result, been removed from the top spots.