Managing search engine optimization from the user-end is not a static process. Rather, Google must repeatedly update its search algorithms in order to continue weeding out webspam and listing search results which are both highly relevant and high-quality. The latest update to Google’s search algorithms was released on April 24, 2012; Google has officially dubbed it “Penguin.”
Why Change Methods?
Google feels that SEO should be both positive and constructive. When done effectively, proper SEO tactics makes good pages easier to find. Most of the time, good search engine optimization strategies can be equated with good marketing tactics; utilizing SEO effectively means coming up with ever-more creative ways to produce interesting content, which then drives traffic. Traffic increase reinforces the idea that those particular sites are more relevant and of better quality. However, some of the ways which Google uses to determine a site’s search result rankings can be taken advantage of. The system is not infallible; Google gets gamed too.
Gaming the Google System
Keyword stuffing, elaborate link schemes, and other “black hat webspam” tactics are designed specifically to find loopholes in Google’s search engine algorithms. Sites may be purposely designed to have hidden text which unseen by the average viewer, yet the stuffed keywords in the hidden text are caught by search engine crawlers just fine. Another example is including embedded links which are irrelevant. These attempts to drive sites higher in the rankings work often enough that the truly relevant sites may be bumped down several spots in the rankings. This leads to inaccurate search results and frustrated users. In order to stay ahead of the spammers, Google must continually adjust its search algorithms.
The most recent Penguin update is the latest in a series of steps taken by Google to help Internet users find better content and improve their overall online experience. Although Google does not release the specific details of these updates, they suggest that the attention of webmasters should be shifted toward creating engaging content while continuing the use of white hat SEO. Penguin corrected algorithms to adjust for several factors, including reduction of webspam in the search results. It is estimated that Penguin will impact just over three percent of English-speaking queries. Ideally, Google hopes that this change will free webmaster up from concerns over proper SEO usage, and ultimately free them to focus instead on creating compelling content and extraordinary web sites.
Concerns about the Penguin Update
In the short time since the release of the Penguin update, with the first effects being felt across the community, there has been some concern that the new algorithms may give search preference to larger sites and neglect smaller ones, regardless of their relevance or content quality. However, Google does provide a reinclusion process in order to gain valuable feedback as well as address any inaccurate filters. Webmasters are encouraged to fill out a form online, either to request further spam removal or request reinclusion in search rankings. Any unanticipated bugs or glitches will be addressed by the Google team. Over time, this collected data will work to make Google’s results even more accurate.
Looking Toward the Future
Complaints are common any time an expected, established system undergoes systems. However, the reality is that the majority of sites are benefitted by Penguin, and most users have not noticed any negative impact. As tempting as it may be to stay within the safe status quo, there are always those will do their best to take advantage of the known system, and reap profit at others’ expense. Through these efforts, Google’s web crawlers are deceived, and users are fed incorrect results to their searches. Everyone loses.
The goal of Google is to bring interesting, evocative content forward for the average user, and discard the spam-filled masses. Penguin is the latest step toward this end.