The Panda and the Penguin: Kicking Spam and Taking Names
The world of SEO has been subject to somewhat of a rollercoaster ride in recent years, as the masterminds over at Google have taken dramatic steps to crack down on various forms of “spamdexing” that were widely popular in SEO circles prior to 2011.
Since that year, when Google’s Panda updates were unveiled in an attempt to favor “high-quality” sites over “low-quality” sites in search rankings, companies and individuals who had been using manipulative methods to promote themselves online have been struggling to stay afloat. The Penguin update in 2012 was the follow-up blow in a 1-2 punch that knocked out many SEO companies and small-time spam marketers for good.
The SEO industry got a pretty bad rap because of all the spamming that was going on before these updates, and the comparatively small but still substantial amount of short-term spamming that goes on today. Panda and Penguin updates have done a lot to clean up the “black hat” SEO techniques, but it’s an algorithm after all. Its judgment at times is off. How do you know if you are using black hat techniques that may be thwarted by the forces of Panda and Penguin? Listen up.
Panda was created to clean up what Matt Cutts, Google webmaster engineer, refers to as “stuff that’s derivative, or scraped, or duplicate, and just not as useful.”
This essentially means that websites that are plagiarized, or that host repeat/reshuffled content that can be found elsewhere on the internet, or are littered with content that is in some way poor-quality will be hit hard in search rankings.
This is generally thought to be a fairly noble endeavor on Google’s part. After all, the internet has been caked with a rather thick layer of non-essential crap over the past decade, as anyone and everyone with access to a connection and some html knowledge can generate whatever type of content they want—whether it adds value to the overall online “community” or not.
As opposed to Panda, which is focused mainly on decreasing the value and visibility of low-quality sites, the Penguin update released in April of 2012 was intended to penalize specifically sites using “black hat” SEO techniques. These black hat methods, as defined by Google, mainly include keyword stuffing and link schemes, which they loosely define as pretty much any buying and selling of links or link-building services.
The update was extremely effective, affecting about 3% of English-language searches and creating a hassle for SEO companies with services in what Google considered to be illegitimate and of poor quality. If Panda crippled black hat SEO, Penguin and its subsequent updates were the knockout blow.
What This Means
None of this is new news, at least not since 2012 anyway. You’ve probably read all about the Penguin and Panda updates on one internet marketing blog or another. But what’s important to focus on is how the industry is shifting in response to these changes.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that white hat SEO is the only way to go if you’re going to create sustained progress for yourself or your client. Google has kept its Penguin algorithm a secret, in an attempt to keep people from finding loopholes and shortcuts, but it has released a bullet-point list of some features of what it considers to be a “high-quality” site. Most of these are fairly obvious, just as you can often intuit just by visiting a site whether it consists of spam or not.
It will be imperative for SEO companies and online marketers to adapt to the Panda and Penguin updates. More importantly, it’s imperative that instead of building up temporary defenses against current versions of Google’s algorithms, SEO as industry turns to more white hat methods as a way to work with Google on a way to move forward with online marketing in a way that will benefit everyone—from client to consumer.
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