Google first released its original Penguin algorithm update in April of this year, 2012; since then, at least one major secondary update has been unleashed and dozens, if not hundreds, of tiny ones have been released on a regular basis.
The original April penguin update deranked or in some way affected at least 3% of internet websites, the second major change to Penguin (in May) affected 0.1% of sites on the web. These figures are indeed small, when the whole of the internet with its hundreds of millions of domains is taken into account, but if you look at specific web niches, the Penguin effect has been quite heavy.
In essence, since the very first day that Google released Penguin, it has aimed the algorithm at sites whose SEO practices were considered to be heavy on spam type tactics. This is part of a directed policy that actually began with the Panda update that came out in February of 2011 and also impacted SEO spam and low quality web pages.
While most of the internet has little or no involvement with so called “black hat” SEO,” certain industries, like internet marketing, information sales, online ad revenue pages, and the online business community, were all impacted with above average percentages due to their tendency towards using more aggressive SEO tactics.
These optimization tactics consist of the following:
Link building spam: Penguin went after websites that had worked at building links whose profile was unnatural and didn’t follow an organic link building pattern; in other words, sites that had either placed backlinks to numerous low quality content farms, blog comment threads, forums or had simply bought links from link farms. What Google wants are web pages that have backlinks coming to them because people actually have an interest in spreading the word about what’s being said: they’re sharing it on their own or letting a webmaster share his site through guest posts on relevant websites because he’s trustworthy in his niche.
Penguin also targeted websites whose backlink anchor text was entirely made up of the same one or two non-contextual keywords that the site was trying to rank for; the more proper approach would have been to use related words or phrases related to the content being discussed
Content Stuffing: Another SEO tactic that was attacked by Penguin included “keyword stuffing.” This SEO tactic involves gearing thinly written content towards the search spiders that Google sends out instead of human readers by stuffing the content with as many keywords and phrases as possible to make it noticeable. The result is often a garbled mess that is hard to understand in the worst cases and sounds just plain dumb for being too repetitive otherwise.
Again the logical preference of Google, which wants to deliver quality search results to its hundreds of millions of users, is that the content it ranks well for queries be of high quality, well written and informative, not just something a website owner created to get a high ranking for its own sake.
What Penguin will Continue to Mean for Black Hat SEO
These are the essential and key changes that have occurred since the Penguin algorithm came out, and there have been others that were more minor, but all were in roughly the same vein. Any future updates can logically be assumed to follow the same direction, targeted at black hatters.
This means that the parts of the SEO industry that have geared their rank building practices towards quick rank building methods which could be construed as black hat and inorganic should continue to worry, because their position under Google’s vast and ever more intelligent supervision will only become more and more difficult to maintain.
Of course, black hatters are flexible and almost always have a new trick or two up their sleeve as old methods die out. But, Google’s algorithms are also getting smarter as search filtering technology improves.
Where Reliable SEO Really Lies
The future of SEO, at least for reliable long term results, seems to be headed in the direction of white hat tactics that relay on the fundamental rules of creating quality, informative content, building a reputation for expertise and creating the kind of trust that gets your content shared on others sites and gets you chances at guest posting on other reliable websites.
SEO in Social Networks
Furthermore, many new avenues of opportunity in exactly these areas are growing through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, where you can build fan bases much more quickly than through Google ads and website-based references.
The new age of trust based Optimization through social media and other more classical tactics is growing larger every year. The social networks are also a great source of niche community interaction on a level not possible elsewhere except in blog comment threads.
This post was contributed by Dirk Reagle. Dirk’s writing career has been vast and has spanned the greater length of two decades covering the tech industry. When he’s not writing about SEO, you can find him reviewing companies like www.orbitmedia.com or fishing with his two sons.