So everyone knows about Google Penguin update by now and apparently not many webmasters, SEOs, and website owners are too happy with it. And there is reason for it too. If one were to say that Google messed up with this update, it would not be totally wrong, as we would see later in the post what Google was trying to achieve and if it has been able to do so.
Apparently one of the major highlights of the Penguin update is to filter out spam from Google’s search results. Now they are so adamant in following this guideline that they are also willing to sacrifice search quality in terms of relevancy in search results. What does this mean? This means that suppose your site is most relevant for a search term, but Google considers your site spammy, then your site will be listed lower, and other sites even if less relevant will be shown higher in search results. So the first and the most important thing to remember here that Google Penguin update is not to make the search results better, it is solely intended to filter out spam. In other words it can be said that Google is penalizing sites to enforce its guidelines rather than trying to better its search results as has been with its earlier Google algorithmic updates.
Now, what is spam in terms of Google? If you have committed the crime of too many link exchanges, you are a spammer; buying or selling of links on your site; more than 50% of your link backs are using your money keywords; most of your links are coming from link pages on other sites; from directories; from press release sites etc. If this is the case, you are a heavy spammer. Sites engaging in mild form of spamming have been equally penalized. Mild form of spamming would include small credit links that you add on other sites. To make it more obvious, these would the credit links a web design company would put on the footer of the sites they created; or a hosting company may put on the sites that they host. And if those links are on spam sites, then you are history.
I will give you an example of one of our sites, www.raytemplates.com; the traffic for this site fell over 50% after this update. We created and distributed free Blogger templates a couple of years back. So a lot of people liked and used those templates and we do get a lot of backlinks from those templates. We have no control over who uses those templates as they are freely downloadable. Many types of sites would be using them including hacked blogs or sites or perhaps even sites distributing malware, who knows. But how does that become spam on our part? And what’s wrong in having credit notes with link back to our site? After all, we created those templates? Is it fair to penalize a site for distributing free templates?
This is like opening up a new window for negative SEO! If someone wants to hurt his competitors, then he can get a hacked blog with malware and link to his competitors, and they are gone from the search results. Who knows, competitors are not doing that already?
Further, there is no point in writing for reconsideration if your site has been affected due to the Google Penguin update, as all they will tell you is to clear the mess from your site and all the other sites that link to you, then automatically you should do better. Can we write to everyone linking to us or using one of our templates? How do we even find that out?
So has Google succeeded in what it was trying to achieve? Google says yes, however, search results are not so promising. Many are reporting irrelevant sites making it to the top of search results, there have also been reports that parked domains have now made it to the top 10 results for competitive search terms.
You decide for yourself if the update was worth it or not. I have stopped using Chrome now and religiously use Mozilla Firefox. One of the main reasons for this is the forced ads Chrome was showing due to the Page Rank Checker I had installed on the Chrome browser. I thought that was purely spam and so very irritating. I couldn’t believe a browser could show you forced advertisements. Also I have started using Bing a lot lately. And to my surprise, it is a lot better than what I had expected including the relevancy of the results.