Penguins, Pandas and your website – should you be worried?

We’ve been inundated with emails and calls from clients asking us about the impact of the latest Penguin update from Google, and as with all these things it’s the not knowing that seems to be the biggest issue.

In case you hadn’t noticed the latest update of Google’s algorithm hit the UK on or about the 24th of April and the impact rolled out in a wave over a couple of days as the data centres caught up with the changes. Google told everyone that they were going after ‘spammy’ sites, but there seems to be confusion over what this means.

The official list of changes that Google made in this update, and there were 52 of them in total, can be found here http://insidesearch.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/search-quality-highlights-53-changes.html (note that Google originally called the list as 53 changes but then realised that they’d double counted one of them – we’re all human!)

To save you trawling through them all we’ve distilled the key changes, the ones that seem to have hit the most websites, down to the following list.

  • Improvements to how search terms are scored in ranking – in Google’s own words “One of the most fundamental signals used in search is whether and how your search terms appear on the pages you’re searching.” Too many websites have managed to rank for a long time without these fundamental on page issues being fixed. It’s now even more critical as the importance of this signal seems to have been raised.
  • Smoother ranking changes for fresh results – we’re forever preaching to people that you need fresh content on your site – now Google is actually telling you that “We try to promote content that appears to be fresh.”
  • No freshness boost for low quality content – following on from the point above, you can’t just post anything and expect it to be ranked – it needs to be good quality content
  • Keyword stuffing classifier improvement – hidden near the bottom of the list this critical update identifies when a site is simply using keyword stuffing to gain its rankings. This one has hit a lot of sites, some of them didn’t even realise that they were doing it and in one case they were following advice given by a previous SEO company.
  • More authoritative results – we tell all our clients that they should aim to be the authority site in their sector. Many people dismiss this as being ‘over the top’ or just too much work to be worthwhile, but it’s clear that in Google’s eyes the authority sites will be promoted most heavily. In this way one of the sites we administer is currently number one in the UK and number 3 in the US, outgunning all of the bigger players simply because it is an authority site. Virtually no backlinks and in some respects poorly optimised pages but great original content means this site regularly sits above the big players in the field.

Of all the examples we’ve seen so far the sites which have been hit hardest appear to be those who have long relied on keyword stuffing to get their rankings, and those which use clever optimisation of keywords to get their rankings but the on page experience is sadly lacking.

The summary appears to be that Google has become a lot smarter a lot quicker and many of the ‘old tricks’ that have previously worked to get sites to rank are now being classed as bad practice. The key to getting your site to rank always has been to build a site to which people would naturally want to come to find answers to their queries and make sure that the on page and on site user experience is a good one with lots of good fresh original content. Lots of site owners have dismissed this as being too much hard work and have tried to find ways around it as it would take too long and cost too much to do it properly. They are now finding out that there are no short cuts and the only way to do it well is to do it right the first time.

If your site has been hit and you need to find a solution then why not give us a call on 0800 285 1424 and let us help your business regain your rankings.

Posted in SEO