The recent Google Penguin update is a key change to the Google algorithm that will affect your website. To the uninitiated, the algorithm is the magic formula that automatically decides where to rank a particular page in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).
If you can setup, add good content and promote your website in the right way then Google will rank your pages higher than your competitors in SERPS.
Google Penguin is the friendly name for all the clever logic that blocks attempts to fool Google into artificially ranking a particular website higher because of its backlinks. Google refers to this as spam and like spam emails, spam websites are often poor quality, aren’t produced for a good user experience and often out of date. If you happen to get a link from a spam website then you may need to take action.
Here’s what Google say about the subject in their Inside Search site:
“Every day, millions of useless spam pages are created. We fight spam through a combination of computer algorithms and manual review.
Spam sites attempt to game their way to the top of search results through techniques like repeating keywords over and over, buying links that pass PageRank or putting invisible text on the screen. This is bad for search because relevant websites get buried and it’s bad for legitimate website owners because their sites become harder to find. The good news is that Google’s algorithms can detect the vast majority of spam and demote it automatically. For the rest, we have teams who manually review sites.”
In the past, people have got away with artificially boosting their websites rank with so called ‘Black Hat SEO’ techniques which may work in the short term but are now likely to get penalised by Google. This can result in a manual action or demotion of your website in SERPS until you get rid or disavow the offending link on the spam website.
How backlinks affect your website ranking and the Google Penguin update
One absolutely key ranking signal among over 200 is backlinks from other websites. They have links to your web pages and can be regarded as independent endorsements of your website and its content.
Google looks at both the number but, above all, the quality of the websites that link to you. It is here where quality counts and also where the Google Penguin update can have a major influence on where your website ranks.
If you have links from a lot of thin (single or low number pf pages), poor quality websites with low authority, then this will not help or could even lower your website rankings. If you have backlinks from good quality websites that are relevant to your subject area then this is likely to boost your website ranking.
That’s where Google Penguin steps in to assess your backlink profile and eliminates the backlink boost from poor or spam websites.
The latest Google Penguin update
The latest Google Penguin update was released at the end of September 2016. Google Penguin’s main aim is to eliminate the influence of Black hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing and link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings artificially.
To a greater or lesser extent we are all trying to influence search engine ranking but Google wants this to be based on high quality, fast loading websites with quality content and great user experience rather than links from private blogging networks, link farms or link exchange schemes.
Here’s what Google’s Gary Illyles said about the update:
- Penguin is now real time so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after Google recrawls and reindexes a page.
- Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.
One of the most significant changes in the latest Google update is what to do about webspam. Previously a link from a poor quality spam website might cause your website to be demoted. When an SEO expert finds a damaging link, then they would either contact the webmaster or use Google’s disavow tool – https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main which lets you upload a file containing certain links to pages and websites that you want Google to disregard when assessing your site.
The latest update means that this process is not so critical. Google’s Gary Illyes said the new Penguin algorithm “managed to devalue spam instead of demoting.”
From this we gather that Google Penguin no longer penalizes the site or specific pages but rather ignores/devalues the spammy links and thus the rankings are adjusted. Gary said this should make webmasters “happier,” adding “and that makes me happy.” There’s less need to disavow spam sites but it should still be done on balance.
This is part of Google’s efforts to reward good quality websites that are relevant to user’s search queries with higher rankings. That is all they care about and that is we should care about too.