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Very little has captured the attention of the SEO community in recent years like Google’s Panda and Penguin updates.
Beneath the cute monikers lie algorithm changes that have shaken up the industry, and put webmasters and SEOs that have failed to add value to the internet.
The Panda class of updates, with its steady stream of minor updates following its original launch in February 2011, was introduced to down-rank websites which offered a poor user experience and made use of link farms and low quality content. The Penguin update, on the other hand, primarily targets websites which use black hat techniques such as link bombing, keyword stuffing and article spinning to name but a few.
The Penguin update has only affected 3% of all search results but its effects are difficult to recover from, and while Panda’s numerous later iterations have hardly been felt, Google have warned of a “jarring and jolting” new Penguin release.
So what techniques has Penguin penalised?
In the past, webmasters used a technique called keyword stuffing to increase rankings in search engine results. This practice involves stuffing a huge amount of keywords into website content to appear relevant to the crawlers that index websites.
This practice has changed over time as search engine algorithms have become more complex but is still, to this day, part of the black-hat approach to SEO. The Penguin update has heavily focused on punishing websites using this method. The only real way of undoing this is by going back over your website and removing any cases of keyword stuffing.
Meta data stuffing
Webmasters often optimise article titles and meta data descriptions for search engines. Penguin intends to rule out this kind of behaviour as the focus is on promoting white hat techniques that make for a better user experience. It was, at one time, extremely easy to manipulate SERPs by stuffing keywords in meta data tags to appear more relevant.
Despite not being designed to specifically target duplicate or spun copy, webmasters using this technique will see their sites penalised for plagiarising or spinning content. The onus is on brands to treat their websites as they would any other form of content marketing, producing engaging content that will interest readers, provide quality information and promote brand.
Links from suspicious websites:
Buying large amounts of links from low quality websites was once the most common method used to increase search engine rankings. Google have been working tirelessly to penalise websites who still practice this and the Penguin update is no exception. The best websites are the ones that have links from high ranking websites which are relevant. Google can now see which websites are gaining links from irrelevant sources and will penalise them for doing so.