If you are actively involved in internet marketing, then I’m pretty sure you already know just how difficult it can be to get your website or websites ranked favorably with Google. Whether we like it or not, your online success is massively dependent on search engine rankings and organic traffic. Studies have shown that the average person very rarely pays any attention to search results appearing beyond page three.
Generally speaking, if people don’t find what they are looking for on page one of the search results, a large percentage will click on to page two. If page two also doesn’t yield the desired results, many people will move on to page three, but that is where it usually ends. At this point, most people will try typing in a different search phrase. In a nutshell, you need to do everything within your power to get your site and/or content ranked on one of the first three pages of Google’s search results.
Pre Panda and Penguin Days
Getting your content into the top spot has never been easy, but up until quite recently, there were several SEO (search engine optimization) tactics which could dramatically improve your chances. While this was great for some website owners, it was actually quite a pain in the butt for regular people like you and I. It wasn’t uncommon for the front page of search results to be dominated by sites and/or content offering absolutely nothing of value. In short, if you had enough backlinks out there, you could get your site ranked on page one.
Thankfully Google decided to put an end to this. First came their much feared Panda algorithm update, and this was soon followed by their dreaded Penguin update. Yes, many good websites unfortunately got caught in the crossfire, including two of my own sites, but in my opinion, Google has done an excellent job. Okay, let’s take a look at Panda vs. Penguin.
Panda Algorithm Update
Panda is a highly complex search and rank algorithm update which first made its debut in 2011. The primary goal of this update was to systematically lower the search engine rankings of “low quality” websites, thereby making it easier for “high quality” websites to occupy the most favorable rankings.
Since it was rolled out in 2011, Panda has been updated on a number of occasions, with the last update being designed to “punish” over-optimized websites. These are essentially websites which have been optimized primarily for the search engine rather than for actual people. In other words, they don’t offer much real value to real people. This is what Google has to say about Panda:
“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites with copied content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites with original content with information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on”.
Penguin Algorithm Update
Penguin was rolled out in 2012, and as with Panda, it too has been updated a number of times. One thing is for sure, and that is that thousands of websites got severely hit when Google rolled this one out. Google has also gone to great lengths in order to keep the specifics of Penguin a secret. Here is what Google has to say about Penguin:
“Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings“.
As is to be expected, there is no shortage of speculation with regards to what might or might not attract a penalty. While nobody can be 100% sure, most SEO specialists believe the following SEO tactics will almost certainly expose you to the wrath of Penguin:
- Keyword stuffed links
- Poor quality articles linking back to your site
- Excessive use of exact-match domains
- Overuse of exact-match anchor text
- Spammy blogging
- Link Spamming
- Use of invisible texts in webpages or your website content
Has One Or More Of Your Websites Been Penalized?
When Panda first made the headlines, and again when Penguin arrived on the scene, I had people asking how they could determine whether or not their sites were penalized. As you may well know, Google doesn’t send out any sort of penalty emails, but they do make certain tools available to you which you can use in order to see whether you have been bitten by their Panda or their Penguin.
Panda was released on the 23rd of February 2011, while Penguin was released on the 24th of April 2012. Using Google Analytics, you will need to see if either of these dates corresponds to a sudden decline in web traffic to your site. Also, because there have been a number of updates to both Panda and Penguin, you really should be looking for any unexplained decline in traffic occurring at any time after February 2011.
You should also take a look at your Google Webmaster Tools because Google will sometimes send messages to site owners if questionable activity has been detected on their websites. It is important to remember though that there are many things which can have a destructive impact on your traffic and your search rankings. However, if the changes coincide with the release dates of Panda or Penguin, then there is a strong possibility that your site was hit by either one or both updates.
What to Do If You Have Been Hit?
Naturally, if you have been hit by one or by both of the updates, you will need to start making the necessary changes. Your best bet is to remain calm and focused because Google is not going to backtrack just because you are not happy.
There is a ton of information freely available on the internet which can help you to recover from a Google slap. Alternatively, there are many SEO service providers out there who have the knowledge and expertise for getting your Google penalties removed.
So, when it comes to Panda vs. Penguin, which of the two is the bigger evil? I think we all know the answer to this question. Both of them had a significant impact on how websites are ranked, and both resulted in many websites disappearing from page one results. However, many reputable websites have benefited tremendously, and yours can too, so I personally don’t think either of them are evil monsters.