April was a busy month for Google. Late last Friday, Google announced on their inside search blog, the 52 updates that have taken place last month including Penguin.
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What is Penguin?
Penguin was the "over optimisation" penalty that Danny Sullivan first mentioned on Marketing Land at the end of March. Matt Cutts alluded to this update at SXSW in which he said that “Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings." Google is basically targeting spam like many of its updates, but this is just a tweak to Panda which was released on April 24th and has stirred up the SEO community once again.
Who's affected by Penguin?
Google said the sites that will lose rankings are those that practice keyword stuffing and sites that have unnatural links. Google were already cracking down on this before the update. However sites that have spammy link signals such as paid text links with exact match anchor text, guest posts of bad sites and comment spam are have been affected by Penguin.
What are the 52 updates?
The announcement last Friday clearly detailed the 52 updates Google amended in their algorithm. Some of the other most important changes included Penguin as well as more authorative results, no freshness boost for low quality sites, sub-sitelinks in expanded sitelinks and smoother ranking, for fresh results. The latter update reinforces the point that Google loves fresh content and will deem it more authorative than those sites that just linger on the web and are never updated. Content is king, so make sure you write relevant content on your site.
So what is the next step?
Do not just focus on rankings. Rankings do fluctuate month on month and it is important to look at overall search traffic (ppc and seo) especially with this latest update. Look at the amount of social media shares you have, if you are not using social media yet, you have to start now. When Google launched Panda there was a big backlash, the same is true with Penguin. Some sites have dropped in rankings, while others have increased. There are some sites that have been practicing white hat seo and have been affected, but if this is the case, Matt Cutts has asked webmasters to leave their feedback on a Google Doc form.
Google will always introduce new updates which will affect how sites rank and we cannot predict what works now will work in the future. However, one thing is for certain, if you create good content that is shareable and is interesting, you will achieve higher traffic and appear higher in Google than those sites whose focus is just about rankings.