Post-Google Penguin Update
As most of you probably know now, Google did officially announce a significant update. They are calling it a “webspam” update (Matt Cutts has stated that his use of the term overoptimization wasn’t an accurate characterization of the update). It is being called the “Penguin Update”.
Here is Google’s post on this algo update:
Here’s what we’ve learned:
- The Penguin Update launched on April 24.
- There was also a Panda update that rolled out on April 19.
Google isn’t perfect
We’re seeing lots of complaints from webmasters saying they are being outranked by lower quality sites. Google can only use mathematical calculations based on specific factors to rank the quality of sites, so they often rank sites differently than an actual human would. In other words, what Google’s algorithms call a quality site doesn’t always match up with what a real user would call a quality site. The best we can do is try to figure out what specific factors Google is using in their calculations and make adjustments accordingly.
What factors does Penguin deal with?
The official description of the update is that it is to combat “webspam”. That’s a term that Google uses to describe nearly anything they don’t like, so there are a lot of specific factors that could be included under the umbrella of “webspam”.
So far, we’ve seen a couple useful analyses that provide some theories on what factors this update is looking at. I know SEOmoz plans to do an analysis, so hopefully we’ll get more detailed info over the next week or so.
Other user feedback and an analysis (albeit with a presumably small sample size) indicate that Penguin update appears to be primarily focused at low quality links. Some specific factors that have been highlighted:
- Over-optimization of anchor text. In otherwords, a backlink portfolio that is too focused on keyword anchor texts, vs natural anchor texts like brand name, website name, etc. No surprise here.
- Paid text links using exact match anchor text. Again, no surprise.
- Comment links with exact match text. If this turns out to be true, this may mean Google has decided that blog comments and forum comment/signature links are OK, but not if they are done for SEO (i.e. use keyword anchor text).
- Guest posts on questionable sites. Again, not surprising. Guest posts on quality sites continue to do very though.
- Article marketing sites. No surprise here at all.
- Links from dangerous sites, i.e. hacked or malicious sites.
We only consider the above information theories at this point, until we see more correlative analysis done that reaches a consensus on the factors involved. For each plausible theory we’ve seen, we’ve seen first or second hand data that contradicts it. Of course, the update was probably a very complex one that looks at a lot of factors, so there probably isn’t a simple answer.
We would not recommend going and deleting any links at this point, though. It’s difficult to tell if a link was devalued, and it’s likely that a devalued link is not hurting your site – it’s just no longer helping it.
If your website was negatively affected, it’s probably time to improve your website and/or your link building tactics. A good place to start for many sites is quality guest posting. If you would like further suggestions, please drop us a line.
We had already anticipated many of the above items and have previously (over the past year) made changes in our link services to address them. Over the past year, we’ve transitioned strongly towards higher quality link building strategies such as guest blogging (and we’ve just introduced infographic link building).
We’re continuing to monitor the situation to glean additional information and make any link strategy changes that may be needed.