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What is the Google Penguin update?

In spring 2013, Google released yet another change to the way in which websites are ranked in the search results, with the release of Penguin 2.0.

The update is expected to have noticeably affected 2.3% of English-US search results. Unlike the ongoing Google Panda update, which is aimed more so at rewarding websites that are rich in high-quality and unique content, the Penguin update looks to target what it deems as “webspam”.

It’s therefore likely to affect any websites that use any suspicious techniques for ranking highly in the search results e.g. keyword stuffing, over-optimisation, paid links from suspicious websites, links from untrusted sources/websites, etc.

The aim of the update isn’t to penalize or blacklist websites for such techniques, but to minify the impact these techniques have on search results. Consequently, if your website relies on any of these techniques, then you may notice a decline in search rankings for certain keyword phrases.

Why do these updates occur? What does this mean for SEO?

The recurring aim of these ongoing algorithm updates is to reward higher search ranking to genuine, high-quality websites that are highly accessible to both users and search engines. Once again, this raises the question of “Is SEO Dead?” and leaves many questioning if there is still a place for SEO.

Let me put this clearly – there will always be a need for SEO. Fresh, high quality content is essential for ranking well in the search engines. There will always be a need for knowing how to make such content as accessible to search engines as possible in order to ensure maximum Google rankings.

Updates like Google Penguin 2.0 require a revised approach for any website that perhaps relies too heavily on certain SEO techniques, which the search engine then no longer recognizes as prominent (or at all).

It is a calling for webmasters and business owners to ensure that their websites create a strong first and ongoing impression to both visitors and search engines, ensuring that content is relevant, genuine, high-quality, and updated/revised accordingly.

SEO is not dead; it is evolving. And it’s important that websites evolve alongside what search engines are looking for in order to rank well.

How do I know if my rankings have been affected by the update?

Check a variety of your keyword rankings and compare them to where you were ranked before May 22nd. Are there any noticeable changes? If your rankings have noticeably increased, then it’s possible some of your competitors were negatively affected by the update – great news for you! However, if your website rankings have noticeably slipped, then you’ve got some work to do!

My rankings have noticeably slipped – how do I recover them?

It’s tempting to run around like a headless chicken if your website rankings have noticeably slipped – but don’t ruffle those feathers just yet! The key is to be proactive. If your rankings have slipped, then it’s likely your website was previously relying on one or a collection of techniques/factors for acquiring higher search engine ranking, which are not working as effectively now since the update. To work towards recovering your rankings, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Carry out a full diagnostic check of your website – are there any broken links? Are any images and links missing relevant ALT/Title attributes? Are there any pages that are inaccessible and/or difficult for search engines to reach?
  2. Review your website content – is it genuine? Is it relevant to the keywords you’re targeting? Do you have a sufficient amount of copy for each page? How often is it updated? Is it easy for visitors and search engines to understand how your content and pages link together? What is the overall impression your website gives to users and search engines?
  3. Review your links – are you receiving links from any suspicious websites? Are you linking to too many sites from your own website? Could any links you’re receiving or giving out be deemed suspicious?
  4. Reevaluate your keywords in line with your content – which are your most important keywords? How does your content line up with the keywords you want to rank highly for? Do you have strong landing pages for each keyword that you’re targeting? Are any keywords potentially being overused/over optimised throughout your website?

The above is just an idea of some initial questions you need to ask of your website in order to try and recover any decreases in your Google positions. You will find there is an overwhelming amount of information, advice, and theories online as to how to recover your rankings if you’ve been affected by the recent update, however the Penguin 2.0 roadmap to recovery article from is one we’d particularly recommend referring to. This provides further resources and depth into how to move forward with recovering your rankings.

How we’re addressing the update

Since May 22nd, we’ve been carrying out keyword checks for all of our SEO clients, to assess if any of our websites have been affected by this update. To date, we’ve noticed a real mixture between all of our clients’ websites. Some websites have been unaffected, some have benefited from their competitors being negatively affected, and a small number have been noticeably and negatively affected by the update for certain keyword phrases.

There doesn’t appear to be a reccurring pattern in our findings across all our websites, and so we’re approaching the update on a case per case basis, carrying out a full diagnostic check for all of our SEO clients’ websites.

From the findings, we are then discussing this individually with each SEO client (or at the next SEO review), and implementing any changes necessary over the next quarter in an attempt to recover any rankings for certain keyword phrases which have noticeably declined.

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