“I spoke too soon…Google’s Panda 2.1 hits the SearchWays”

by Brightfire on October 14th, 2013 Inbound Marketing

Was it only recently that I said we could now forget about Pandas and Penguins?

I really should have known better!

On 4th October 2013, Google launched yet another update to its Penguin Filter; Version 2.1  – which is technically the fifth update to this filter.

For anyone who doesn’t know what the Penguin filter is all about – it’s a specific filter that is occasionally applied to the overall algorithm. Whilst it is a part of the algorithm, it is not always in place. Right now, Version 2.1 is part of the Hummingbird algorithm although it will be removed at some point in the future.

Its sole purpose is to identify and penalise poor-quality sites that deal in spammy content. Using duplicated copy, providing limited information or dubious links? Google Penguin is out to get you.

Personally though, I feel that Penguin targets links much more heavily than content. I’m still seeing sites that I dislike (with poor content) that are ranking just as highly as they did before the application of the filter.

So….will Penguin smack your site?

It might do if you fall foul of any of the following:

  • Does your site have links directed at it that are identifiable as being paid? Risk – 9/10
  • Does your site have numerous links using the same text (anchor text) & linking to the same pages? Risk – 8.5-10
  • Does the site have a substantial amount of Blog links that are not tagged as No Follow? Risk 7/10
  • Does your site have a substantial amount of forum/blog comment links? Risk – 8/10
  • Does your site have a substantial amount of blog comment signature links?  Risk – 8/10
  • Has Google Webmaster Tools flagged up any issues with your links? Risk – 8/10
  • Does your site have links from directory sites? Risk – 8/10
  • Does your site have more links to internal pages than the home page?
  • Does your site have a lot of exact match anchor text links?*
  • Have you copied copy 100% from other sites onto your own? Risk – 7/10

[* Google have sussed out that some blog sites exist for no other reason than to publish purchased content. These sites normally allow their links to pass link strength. Penguin 2.1 targets this type of site to stop them. It should be noted that the sites being targeted are network sites that have only purchased post content, rather than relevant links from relevant blogs. All of the above are now signals to Google that your link profile has been achieved through manipulation.]

If you’ve answered ‘No’ to all of these questions, pat yourself on the back and feel a bit smug because –  on the face of it – you should be unaffected by the Penguin 2.1 filter.

If you’ve answered ‘Yes’ to any of these, I would strongly suggest that you review your sites exposure.  Check your Google Webmaster account and compare your traffic/rankings since the 4th October to an earlier period.

Surely Penguin 2.1 is a good thing?

On the face of it, this is a great thing for the index and the users.

However…

Not All “Bad” Sites Will Be Penalised

Not every site that utilises dubious techniques will be identified by this filter.

Some, inevitably, will slip through the net. Of course, this is a huge frustration for SEO’s.

Not All “Good” Sites Will Be Unaffected

There will be some sites that have avoided dubious SEO activity but will still be hit by Penguin.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Content could be considered to be too similar to a competitor. This can happen without any deliberate plagiarism.  For example, if you have a retail catalogue site that sells trainers, there’s a limited amount that you can say about each product and generally, you will always take the brand description as your content base. It’s likely the competition will too.
  • A competitor could have been applying Negative SEO* to your site, making you fall foul of the Penguin 2.1 Filter.
  • You may have countless blog roll links from one guest post, all using the same link text and from duplicated content. Often, your post can end up on several pages of a blog. You may think you’ve had one link from the blog, but in actual fact you can end up with 50 – all with duplicated content and pointing towards one page on your site, using the same link text. If this is repeated multiple times, your link profile can look more manipulated than it actually is.

For even more detail on this update, Searchengineland have an excellent post here

Negative SEO

I hate giving any credit to this term. It goes against everything that I stand for in terms of online marketing. Nonetheless, the technique is to isolate elements (bad links) that Google penalises sites for having and to applying them to a competitor site, so that they lose/drop ranking positions. This affects the overall quality of the web by removing quality sites from view and (usually) replacing them with sites of lower quality.

Where does it end?

Let’s say that you “successfully” run a negative SEO campaign against a competitor.

They lose rankings and you rise in their place. No-one will ignore these actions, but the likelihood is that the affected competitior will start performing negative SEO against the site they perceive is the culprit.  This may or may not be your own site, but it’s likely that you will end up with negative SEO directed towards your site.

Terrible, isn’t it? Why waste the time being negative, when you could spend the time producing quality content and gaining quality back-links?

Overview

As with every different Google update, there are sites that are affected. Many are claiming that they have done “nothing wrong”. They could be unaware of negative SEO or experience historical activity that is only being identified by Google as being of low-quality.

I’m inclined to let the dust settle – but I shall keep reading posts and comments which have been made by affected companies. Personally, I hope this doesn’t signal a rise in negative SEO practices. Even if it does, it just calls for a more rigorous and regular examination of your site links.

 

IMAGE CREDIT: http://newhomesmarketing.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/google-penguin-changes-search-engine.html