These are the numbers: 80% of us will only look at the first page of results when searching on Google. We are that impatient when surfing the web that we would rather reword our search than look on the second page, less alone those that come after that. No wonder then that appearing on the first page is the Holy Grail of search engine optimisation / search engine marketing and that some people are willing to go over to the dark side to achieve it!
In order to rank well, you need many things, including a certain density of keywords in your content and inbound links, i.e. other websites pointing to yours, which, as far as Google is concerned, indicates that your site is useful and popular. So some out there thought that they would be clever and that they would ‘stuff’ their text with keywords, and pepper a few more in the website code where humans couldn’t see them, and buy inbound links from so-called ‘link farms’, and trick web crawlers into ranking their websites well.
Really? Could it be that simple? Yeah right …
Of course not! Google have caught on to those ‘black hat’ techniques and developed programmes to identify them and penalise websites that used them. While its proprietary, heavily protected algorithms were already quite efficient at filtering sites culpable of those shady dealings, the internet giant also launched Penguin 1.0 in 2012 and Penguin 2.0 in May 2013 to further refine its criteria.
Not all of Penguin 2.0 was focused on “shady links” however, it looked at a lot of other elements as well, such as how much genuine, fresh content had been addedto the website over the past 6-18 months, and what sort of “social” activity is going on with the company’s brand, level of sharing etc.
The Penguin 2.0 update reflects Google’s commitment to assess websites accurately as to the quality of their content and how useful they are to people. It heavily rewards interesting, relevant sites, and downgrades those with weaker content that appears stale and out of date.
However, what’s a bit frustrating, is that even for website owners who had done everything right, with good links, and lots of content, Penguin 2.0 still affected their rankings and traffic. So it is not completely clear-cut what Google did with their latest update.
Penguin 2.0 certainly caused a few panic attacks, as previously visible websites suddenly saw their ranking drop down overnight. For businesses of a seasonal nature, disappearing from the first page of Google results could have dramatic results and lead to serious loss of revenue. If only those websites had created lots of unique, interesting, relevant, and shareable content.
But with threats come opportunities …
It is a common misconception that once you have achieved a good ranking, you will stay there. The web is a living, breathing organism that is constantly transforming: Google updates their algorithm over 1000 times per year, competitors change their strategies, people’s needs evolve. In order to remain successful, you therefore need to review your search engine optimisation and your link building strategy regularly, as well as update your content and your keywords accordingly.
Social networks have had a huge impact on a website’s natural rank, especially in this new landscape, so you would do well to try and engage with your client base through social media marketing. Those that do not do this will be left behind.
Although the launch of Penguin 2.0 and its first incarnation certainly resulted in some stress for business owners, they are actually really good news for quality websites and the worldwide web in general, and they can benefit your site too provided you embrace this algorithm’s philosophy and are willing to adapt.
With Penguin 2.0. Google has more than ever placed the emphasis and content, quality and relevance, so when it comes to SEO, always adopt best practices and cultivate your online reputation which is highly valued by Google.