For those of us who work in online marketing, or even online reputation management, it’s important to remember where our bread is buttered. The tools we use to become successful, and ultimately to make money, are the very same tools that the average online user implements to obtain day-to-day information in a word, search engines. Without them, we’d all be out of work.
That is why it’s so important for us to remember that Google is not the enemy. The most successful members of the online marketing or reputation management communities are those who treat the search engine as an ally, not a foe to be overcome.
With that said, it is important to acknowledge when Google crashes and burns. And their recent Penguin update is nothing if not an epic failure.
What is Penguin?
There is already been much ink spilled on the topic of Penguin, but here is what it means in a nutshell. Google, as we all know, is constantly tinkering with its own search algorithms, seeking to get the most accurate and relevant results possible (whatever that even means). For some reason, they have a thing for naming their most significant algorithmic updates after black-and-white animals first the ongoing series of Panda updates, and now Penguin.
But with Penguin, Google’s quest for search engine relevance has gone too far. The update is said to target spam, but, as many owners of online real estate have already learned, Penguin’s evaluation of what is and is not spam leaves something to be desired.
Only Google knows for sure how Penguin works on a technical level, but the evidence we’ve seen, along with Google’s comments, make it clear that Penguin is aggressively targeting (read: de-indexing) online content that’s overstuffed with keywords and links. And according to the Google pros themselves, the update has been nothing but a major success.
Many of us online marketing and reputation management pros feel differently.
And you don’t have to work in online search to know that Penguin has failed pretty spectacularly. There have been a few well-documented cases of this, starting with the fact that the main page for Viagra was de-indexed while phony/hacker sites have ranked well. Apparently Penguin thinks the official Viagra site is spam, but it has no problem with, well, actual spam sites.
And the list of epic Penguin fails goes on from there; there are many reports of completely empty websites ranking extremely well. (Having no content at all is one way of avoiding keyword stuffing.)
Bouncing Back from a Penguin Attack
If you work in a field where online content is key and online marketing, affiliate marketing, and reputation management all fit the bill then there’s a decent chance you’ve been affected by Penguin. (Around 3 percent of all search queries have been hit, Google reports.) Don’t let Google’s epic fail keep you down, though; there are certainly measures you can take to get back up and running.
Some of these measures, of course, are pretty obvious: If you actually have been guilty of spammy content, of illicit link exchanges, and so on, it’s in your own best interest to remove this content as soon as possible. Google’s campaign against irrelevant, spam-laden content is not going to stop any time soon, with further Panda and Penguin updates all but guaranteed.
It might also be helpful to revise all of your content. Here it’s important to remember exactly what Google is attempting to do. The purpose of the Penguin update is, basically, to give priority to content that is helpful and relevant for users and not just built to appeal to search engines.
So the best way to ensure your content is Penguin-proof is, in effect, to write it as though you’re simply seeking to appeal to human readers. If you’re writing content designed to be relevant and interesting to human readers, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Penguin’s unlikely to hit content like that, and you also won’t have to worry about getting links through less-than-legitimate means. If the content is good, you’ll get natural links and organic traffic without having to stoop to gimmicks.
None of that changes the fact that Penguin is a failure of epic proportions. Given Google’s enthusiasm over the algorithmic update, though, there’s unlikely to be any change in their ongoing crusade to ensure relevant content. So you don’t have to like the Penguin patch, but there’s no use in fighting it. Search engine success is as ever dependent on your willingness to learn, adapt, and play by Google’s rules.
About Rich Gorman
Rich Gorman is a veteran of the direct response marketing industry and an expert in reputation management and direct response marketing for companies large and small. Rich also operates the official blog for the Direct Response industry where he shares his thoughts on Direct Response Marketing.