A little over a month ago, Google’s own Matt Cutts announced that the search behemoth would be working on a search ranking penalty for any websites that ‘over-optimized’ their content or, as he put it, any sites that “overly SEO’ed.” It looks like Google made good on its promise as it unleashed yet another update to its algorithm in an effort to weed out webspam. The update, now known as Penguin, was designed primarily to ‘level the playing field’ once and for all. Did it live up to the hype? Did a lot of webmasters wake up the next morning to find abysmal rankings for seemingly no good reason? It wouldn’t be a Google Update without those things. Let’s take a look at a few of the reactions Penguin elicited the day and weeks following its launch.
A Petition To Kill The Google Penguin Update
It appears that some webmasters and business owners are none-too-pleased about the recent update to the Google search algorithms. There is now a petition to kill the Google update at Change.org. According to the page, “With the recent Google Penguin update, it has become nearly impossible for small content based websites to stay competitive with large publishers like eHow, WikiHow, Yahoo! Answers and Amazon.” Then, later it says, “On personal [sic] level, this update has ruined small businesses, passive incomes and families [sic] livelyhoods [sic] worldwide.” It then goes on to publish personal accounts of webmasters and business owners who have seen their rankings drastically affected by the recent Penguin update.
So why is everyone so up in arms about Penguin? Did it actually weed out webspam? Are those business owners who are complaining about ruined livelihoods just upset because their spam-games have been caught?
Much More Than An Over-Optimization Penalty
Google claims that the Penguin update only affected about 3.1% of its search engine queries, and it claims that most of those impacted fell into the ‘commercial transaction keywords worth a lot of money’ category. However, based on all the complaints that have come in as well as the recent petition, it’s clear that Penguin may not be the webspam-killer Google had hoped.
Spam vs. Over-Optimization
According to SEO Books’ Aaron Wall, the Penguin update was originally sold as being strictly about weeding out sites that over-optimized. Then, once it was launched, there was no pet name given. Google merely called it the webspam update. This made it so that anyone who complained about the new update was labeled as a spammer by definition. Wall reports that a mere day after declaring that the update didn’t have a name, Google changed its position and called the update Penguin.
Why the sudden name change? According to Wall, “If you smoke a bunch of webmasters and then label them all as spammers, of course they are going to express outrage and look for the edge cases that make you look bad & promote those.” Wall was referring to many blogs, including Search Engine Land, that showcased several prominent search terms to see how the update affected them. These included such terms as ‘Viagra’, ‘Payday Loans’ and ‘Make Money Online’. Let’s just say that the search engine result pages the blogs promoted where quite a mess.
Did Penguin Hit Its Mark?
According to most accounts, including one by Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, Google’s Penguin update fell flat. According to him, “I do suspect that Google’s twin goals of greatly increasing relevancy and not rewarding spam haven’t been met with this update.” He does claim that he is just speculating, but so far the results haven’t exactly been positive.
How To Navigate Penguin And Other Google Updates
If you weren’t affected by Google Penguin, hold on tight because a new one is undoubtedly coming. Google sent out a form for webmasters to fill out so that they can get feedback about how the new update performed. This usually means that they missed their mark and want to see how bad the collateral damage is.
If your sites and rankings remained unscathed by this update, then good for you. You may not be out of the woods just yet, however. If you are doing well in your respective categories and rankings, you will likely feel a pinch as a new update invades your territory. The best advice is to tighten your control over your SEO processes, continue to analyze your data and use that data to consistently improve. Then, just hope that Google doesn’t release another animal-named update that completely decimates your SEO efforts and rankings.