So finally we know where we’re going. It’s off from Asia and their pandas and on to the Antarctic to greet the penguins. If you have absolutely no idea what I’m on about then it is simply that Google has just announced the name of the new algorithmic changes they’ve rolled out, and which I’ve been discussing in this blog for the last week or two. First there was the Panda update, and now it is the Penguin update.

Google Penguin Update

I have been discussing on this blog ways in which it is likely to be advisable to adapt your web marketing and development strategies in order to safeguard your site’s current position and traffic. But until recently it was purely speculation and guesswork on my part, and on the part of all other SEO marketers I have been discussing it with.

But finally Google has released clear, precise and unequivocal advice on exactly how to survive the Penguin update. Matt Cutts and others have been very clear from the beginning that the Penguin update is specifically designed to minimise the visibility of websites within the search results that have achieved that position through underhand web spam techniques.

We are all fairly confident that we can spot a web spam, underhand or black hat technique, but how closely do our assumptions and beliefs match the statements released by Google? Let’s take a look at what Google has said what we should and shouldn’t be doing within our website marketing strategies.

Hidden Text Or Links

Unsurprisingly Google is very clear about this, stating that at no time should we ever include hidden text or hidden links within our websites. This isn’t news, and you may well be surprised to learn that there are still many website marketers using this technique. Reducing the size of your text so that it becomes so tiny it is virtually invisible, colouring your text white on a white background so that it is invisible, or including large chunks of text within ‘div’ tags so that is not rendered visible on the page are all techniques which should be avoided at any cost.

However, we know that some people will be concerned as to whether this also includes text which may be hidden within a tag such that when the reader clicks on a ‘Read more..’ link the section of text expands to reveal the remainder of that passage. This will not harm your website, as long as it is done in a reasonable way. For example, if you simply have one or two words, then a ‘Read more..’ link which reveals several hundred words this doesn’t suggest a reasonable balance.
However, if you have one or perhaps two paragraphs, with a ‘Read more..’ link that reveals another two or three paragraphs this is perfectly reasonable. If in any doubt, think about whether you are genuinely formatting the text for the benefit and convenience of real readers. If you are, then the chances are high that Google will appreciate that and you will not be penalised.

Cloaking And Redirects

Astonishingly there are still many webmasters who are using cloaking techniques, or automatic redirects so that in effect whenever a genuine visitor or search engine bot reaches the top level domain they are briefly confronted with a torrent of keyword rich text which is quickly replaced by a more reasonable homepage. This technique should be totally avoided, and there is no excuse for having a URL redirect within your meta tags which is virtually instant and provides no warning or explanation to the visitor.

Automated Google Queries

I suspect that this is something Google has been cracking down on increasingly over recent months as even I have sometimes found that when searching on Google I am redirected to a Captcha verification page because they suspect I may be a bot! Hopefully they have addressed this slight overreaction, but clearly they are making a statement that automated queries of any kind are absolutely not permitted. If these come from your own site in any way then fully expect your domain to be quickly penalised.

Irrelevant Keywords

A technique which some people seem to be using and which Google has not appreciated is creating pages full of what appears to be perfectly reasonable text, but which has completely irrelevant keywords, often turned into links, and these seem to be randomly inserted throughout the page. As an example, “clearly if you were cheap clock repairs a real reader you would notice a sentence which second-hand cars in Manchester didn’t seem to really make sense because it included random irrelevant words and phrases“! But this is exactly what some people are doing. If guilty, stop it. No excuses.

Duplicated Content Across Pages Or Domains

Again, this is something which I have recently mentioned in a previous blog post, highlighting the danger in having duplicated or very similar content included in different pages either within the same domain, across subdomains, or even across different domains altogether. Effectively this message is that you should be reducing your usage of content, and increasing the variety of fresh, original content. Good news for copywriters!

Affiliate Program Dangers

It seems that Google has picked up on the fact that a large number of people who have affiliate websites through which they are promoting and selling products and services under various affiliate schemes are failing to provide sufficient original and relevant content. Many of the websites which have suffered most as a result of Google’s Penguin update seem to be those which do not themselves offer any unique, original content or service, but which use a variety of marketing techniques to draw in traffic and then promote and sell products through affiliate links.

It is important if this is a technique or approach you have been using yourself to make sure that your website is bolstered with unique and original content which provides useful and relevant information. Again, it seems that the biggest winners as far as the Penguin update is concerned are the copywriters!

In summary then it would seem that the advice and recommendations I have been giving recently are pretty close to the mark. Reduce any duplicated or low value content, and increase the variety, relevance and quality of content on your website.

Has the Penguin update affected your website rank for traffic? Have you made any changes to your website or your SEO marketing in advance of or in response to the Penguin update? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a brief comment in the box below.



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