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Google Penguin Update: Explained in Basic Terms

Google Penguin Update: Explained in Basic Terms

Noticed some changes in your Google search ranking? Website traffic taken a dive in recent months? Maybe your head is still spinning from all of the animal-moniker-tech-jargon hybrids you've undoubtedly heard about via constant blog entries from every corner of the Web. Chances are, you're seeing the effects of Penguin 2.0. So, exactly what is all the fuss about anyway?

Google began rolling out search algorithm updates in 2011, ultimately aimed at creating higher-quality search results and a more personalized and streamlined experience for Web users of the world's most popular search engine.  By developing and releasing the first series of "Panda" algorithm updates, Google intended to begin the process of filtering out sites from your Google search that had unfairly manipulated their way to the top of your results list through shady link-building techniques. Think: spamming but with links, or those link-stuffed directory pages on random websites that have thousands of adult-themed URLs right next to coupon pages all in one spot.

Seems fishy, right? Well, Google thought so, too. Understanding that this was a long-term, multi-step process with many variables at-work, Google execs began announcing the rollout of new algorithm updates following the inaugural run of Panda in 2011. To date, there have been five subsequent "Penguin" updates, beginning with version 1 in 2012, which affected over 3% of all Internet queries. If you've noticed a major dip in your site's traffic and/or search rank this year, you're likely still reeling from Penguin 4 (aka version 2.0) which had the second-highest impact on sites Web-wide (2.3% of all queries) than Penguin's first shocking jolt more than a year before.

The Goal: Better Web Searching for Everyone

While Google maintains that Penguin is intended to protect and maintain the rank of those sites that follow Google Webmaster guidelines and best practices, and penalize others that have chosen to sidestep the official rules, inevitably there are going to be some accidental casualties and kinks to work out as part of this process. Many Websites have been hit hard, some deserving and some not, and amidst the fallout of the repair and recovery efforts to regain their rank with Google, two things remain clear: building legitimate, high-quality links is increasingly essential for your Web business, and Google should be regarded as the authority for link-building practices that will improve your rank.

So what can you do to get back in Google's good graces? Especially if you're still confused about where you went wrong in the first place??  While Google has made a continued effort to be transparent and fully disclose their intentions and practices with each update, sometimes the terms of the deal can seem overwhelming. Among other lessons we have learned from the latest Penguin update, we now know that Google suggests considering the following elements in pursuit of high-quality links that are worthy of their precious ranking points: relevance, link type, authority, location, and "smell test", or an instinctual evaluation, of sorts.  When in doubt, consulting an SEO professional or expert team may be a smart choice. As SEO pros, we know how to not only align our efforts with Google's requirements but also adjust and adhere to these policies in a timely way as the updates occur, all on your behalf.

So what's next? Our main priority is helping you get back on your feet. A distant second is wondering if our spirit animal will make an appearance when the next update comes around…

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