Cartoon of a penguin relaxing on the beach

Sorting Through Some of the Penguin BS

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you are probably aware that Google unleashed its latest major algorithm update, nicknamed Penguin. This was the long rumored “over optimization penalty” that was coming. When webmasters and internet marketers got wind of an “over optimization penalty” in the pipeline, they all assumed that this was going to target onpage SEO. That it would go after those pages that were clearly going out of their way to target one specific phrase. Once Penguin was released, however, Google clarified that remark and stated that what they were really after with this update was webspam.

Since this algorithm update, message boards, blogs, Twitter, and any other online medium you can think of has been full of people up in arms over the changes. Of course, it is only the people who got hit by the update that are voicing their dissatisfaction. The typical search engine user is completely oblivious that this change has even happened. Don’t believe me?  Ask anyone you know who does not make a living online what they think of Google’s Penguin update. They will have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

The dust is still settling on this change. We do not know everything yet, but there is a lot of bullshit floating around out there about it. Let’s clear up a few things.

Myths About Google Penguin

First, this update had little to nothing to do with onpage SEO. It had everything to do with backlinks, and more specifically, low quality backlinks. In the post on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog linked to above, take a look at the second example they list. It is a post with poorly spun content that is basically unreadable. It also has links throughout that are completely unrelated to the content. Where can you find backlinks like this? Sign up for this shitty service or any of the other crap this provider offers, and you will get tons of them.

It is not too hard to uncover large chunks of the network used for that service. From there, it is just a matter of following the links to see what sites they are working on. I have looked at 87 sites so far. I cannot find one with a keyword in the top 100 of Google’s SERPS. So yes, this update was about backlinks and what Google considers to be webspam. Use services like this or any of the “SEO” gigs you find on Fiverr at your own risk.

Second, although this update was previously referred to as an “over optimization penalty”, it is not a penalty. It is an algorithm change. If you saw a drop in your rankings in Google, filing a reconsideration request will not help you. Reconsideration requests are for sites that Google has found a reason to manually penalize. You fix what they found to be wrong, file the request, and if they deem your actions to be adequate, they remove the penalty.

Penguin is embedded into the algorithm. It is a part of how they rate and rank sites. If you got nailed for having lousy spammy backlinks, you need to work on getting rid of as many of those backlinks as you can. That, of course, is no small task.

In that regards, it is similar to last year’s Panda update. Reconsideration did not help. You had to make changes to hopefully improve your site (in the eyes of Google), and then wait for Google’s spider to recrawl your site and to be reevaluated in their index. Likewise, you need to start getting rid of poor backlinks, and hope that when Google reevaluates your link profile they see more good than bad.

Lastly, people keep crying that SEO is dead now. There is nothing you can do. White hat SEO doesn’t work anymore. Blah, blah, blah.  Go back to 2003. Anyone remember the Florida update? Yeah, SEO was dead then too. Since then Austin entered our lives, we have had a Big Daddy, Jagger, enjoyed some Caffeine, and were given a Panda, just to name a few updates. The same outcry is heard each time. Google is done. SEO doesn’t work. This is the end of Google. The SERPs are all screwed up.

Can you find specific examples of something that ranks high which probably should not? Absolutely. However, that was true before Penguin too. Have sites using nothing but “white hat SEO” been hit by Penguin? I have found several people claiming this, but each example I looked into, it has been pretty easy to see they were not innocent. Almost instantly you can find spammy backlinks, usually in large, large numbers, pointing to their site when you take a peek at their backlink profile.

What Can You Do To Stay Out Of Penguin’s Crosshairs?

It is pretty simple really. Stay away from cheap backlink providers. No Fiverr gigs. Nobody promising a page one ranking for $99. Do not use autospun unreadable content. I don’t care how “original” your spinner says it is. Forum profile links, forget it.

Keep a good, clean backlink profile, and you have nothing to worry about.

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