I’ve had a huge number of inquiries lately as to the nature of the Panda and Penguin updates. It seems a large number of people have been impacted by recent Google changes. So here’s my analysis, both from examining data from hundreds of websites, and from my statistical analysis.
Panda is our friend.
Actually, Panda seems to have been updated a number of times. It first rolled out last year, then was updated a few months later. Now it seems to be updated about as often as a teenager’s Facebook page.
It’s pretty simple, actually. Google is finally attacking the quality question. You can choose to look at it like a progressive penalty, or just an objective quality score. But if you have crap for content on your site, you are not fond of the big black and white bamboo eater.
This applies to sites that use content from other sites, or ‘spun’ content, or simply content that is of little use to a searcher. I used to preach against duplicate content simply from the perspective that it is easily identifiable and easily penalized. But Google (in their crazy wisdom) has taken a more difficult, and holistic approach. Duplicate content is of low usefulness, and therefore quality. So a number of huge sites bit the bullet with Panda. Rightfully so.
I’ll preach yet again – the number ONE thing you need to be doing with your content creation is satisfying the needs of the searcher. People searching on Google have one of two needs: 1. They have a question they need answered. 2. They have a problem they need solved. As a website owner, you should be addressing that need.
In the case of a query that is obviously asking a question, does your page answer said question?
In the case of a search that is looking for a solution to a problem, does your page provide that solution?
There are a million ways to turn those searches into income for you. But the most important step that MUST come first is to satisfy the needs of those users that have made the queries.
Penguin is an entirely different beast.
Sure, he’s upright and black and white. But is a bird in any way related to a bear? Not really. (please, no comments on whether or not a Panda is actually a bear…)
Penguin is a spam filter. He’s not a quality index or score or progressive penalty. He simply looks for sites that are breaking the rules, and sends them to the South Pole. And he’s completely automatic (which is great).
Google has really struggled with how to objectify some of their rules. For example, if they prohibit linking in a certain way, or from certain types of sites, or even at certain ‘velocities’, they are bound to catch legitimate sites in their filters. So they designed a filter that looked for obvious indicators. If someone is trying to influence their rankings in Google by building links all over the Web, and they know a thing or two about SEO, they’ll build those links with their target keywords as the anchor text of those links. If their efforts are the majority of linking behavior on the Web to that site, obviously the propensity of links will have keyword-loaded anchor text. So if your site has incoming links that are all of the same anchor text… obviously you are link building and unfairly trying to influence your rankings in Google.
So a certain amount of link building will be tolerated. If there are other, natural links coming into existence as well, your link building behavior won’t look totally unnatural. It’s a pretty simple equation. Look natural. If you have done any sort of analysis of backlinks on a larger site… you will see that there are a huge number of links with the URL as the anchor text; as well as “click here” and “here” and even “link”. Your site needs to mimic this. Be it unnatural or natural.
There are several other factors that Penguin looks for. Anchor text is the most easily examined with data instruments, so I’ll leave my analysis there. But the overriding principle is to keep your SEO efforts in check and go for more organic promotion of a site. Get Web 2.0 and Social Media traffic. Do things that are buzzworthy. Provide resources that no one else provides. Build quality resources and people will naturally link to them.
And if all else fails… hire me to figure it out for you.