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The Google Penguin Update: Penalizing Webspam

Scott Thomas - Monday, May 21, 2012



Nearly a month ago, on April 24, Google announced that they were updating their results with a new algorithm specifically targeting webspam. Typically, when it’s a large algorithmic change, the update is given a name, and this one has been dubbed Penguin. In particular, the Penguin update targets and penalizes sites that are violating their quality guidelines. While Google won’t divulge the particular factors that may cause a site to be penalized, there are some clear trends:

  • Some sites targeted by Penguin received warnings through Google Webmaster Tools.
  • This update penalizes sites that appear to be engaged in link spam. In short, purchasing or exchanging links for the purposes of ranking better/higher in the search engine results. In the past, Google was discounting the value of the links and penalized the sites that sold links.
  • If a site has a high percentage of links that use a small number of anchor text links that focus on a commercial product or service, such as 'Alaska cruise', then it’s likely the site will be hit by the Penguin penalty.
  • If a site drops out of the top ten results when one searches for the brand name, then it’s likely the site has been penalized.

If you have a site that has survived the Penguin update and other recent algorithm changes, such as the likely discounting of links from low-quality free directories, you are not out of the woods just yet. Link schemes of any type and unnatural 'over-optimization' are in the cross hairs of the Google webspam team. If you have participated in link building schemes, it's your site's best interest to actively remove these obviously unnatural links.

As white hat SEO practitioners, we support Google’s efforts to penalize and/or remove sites that participate in link building schemes. In the long run, high quality, genuine content will produce more satisfied website visitors than chasing the latest way to game the search algorithms.

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