Digital Marketing Update – Penguin and Panda for Marketers


There has been a LOT of comment on the recent Google algorithm changes following the Penguin update and Panda tweaks in April. As with most things, people generally only speak out when they have a problem so it would be easy to assume these updates were a negative thing for your website. Wrong! The updates are designed to reward sites with useful, quality content and meaningful inbound links and downgrade those that don’t. And that is exactly what they do.

It’s perhaps had one of the biggest impacts we’ve seen for a while from a Google update but that was entirely its intention, to begin stamping out the sort of black hat tactics that boost poor quality sites above those who choose a more ethical approach.

Penguin and Panda. What’s the difference?
The Panda update is the newest of the two and it looks specifically at the quality of your links. For the marketers out there who don’t know what this means; links to your website are good and give the impression that other web users like your content enough to point to it via a link on their site/blog/comment etc thus indicating high quality.

BUT there are many unscrupulous folk out there who have been selling links to site owners in the hundreds and thousands for a set fee, these links are not quality as they have no real relevance to your site nor has a conscious decision been made based on the user’s requirements.

Google has always has processes in place to identify these low quality links and discount any boost they may have given to the site’s ranking as well as penalizing the sites of those selling links. With Penguin, Google has taken this a step further and is actually penalizing sites that appear to have engaged in link buying.

Before Penguin, the action was only penalized the seller for selling and not the buyer for buying. Worst case for the buyer, they lose the potential rankings boost and are a few quid out of pocket. Now there is a much stronger deterrent to buying in the first place which is a good thing for all the sites out there who take the time and trouble to create good content that users actually want to find and promote on their own networks. It’s great news for marketers and PROs as it puts a lot more of the weight of attracting traffic onto engaging content and effective marketing to gain high quality links.

I’ve seen a few companies bemoaning the update’s negative impact on their site, apparently the fact they’ve been buying links for years is grounds enough to continue doing so. Just because it’s taken Google a while to work out how to catch them doesn’t mean it was ok in the meantime.

As a compliment, Google also release two tweaks to its Panda update which was launched a year ago and targeted low quality content, laden with keywords and very little else. The update had a huge impact and really cemented the notion that quality was indeed better than quantity and saw the worst hit sites have to work hard to clean up their acts.

The two changes were positioned either side of the Penguin update which I personally feel was a stroke of genius as penalized sites didn’t know which one they had been hit by. (At least, those who had poor quality content AND paid-for links didn’t know which one had found them).

The bottom line is it doesn’t matter, Google’s message is clear; if you’re investing in good content that’s marketed and shared well you won’t be affected.

SEO isn’t about easy fixes and quick wins, it’s about making good content visible to Google so it can promote it to users that want to find it. This takes a bit more time and effort but the rewards are much more substantial and requires both sides to work together. I personally hope Google continues to make these improvements and pushes ownership of web visibility more towards the marketers who know what their customers want.

If you want to find out more about SEO listen to the Digital Marketing Podcast – Out favourite SEO myths and mistakes

Written by Felice Ayling

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