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From Panda to Penguin

What Google’s latest algorithm changes mean for content marketers and creators

Like the crazy but beautiful woman that keeps men guessing by refusing to let them get too comfortable in a relationship, Google has changed things once more, this time by releasing an algorithmic change – yep, another one – to their search product.

While some companies are still reeling from the changes brought in last year with ‘Panda’, it appears that the new version, known as ‘Penguin’, is just as ruthless in terms of penalising websites that don’t cut the search mustard. (It also seems that in the fight between what it has called ‘black hat and white hat SEO’, Google has decided that black-and-white animals are best suited to represent its battle.)

While Panda focused on the quality of written content and aimed to increase the overall relevance and user experience of websites, Penguin focuses on reducing link stuffing and keyword-heavy anchor text.

The Google explanation

Here’s an excerpt from Google’s blog post on the changes:

‘The opposite of “white hat” SEO is something called “black hat webspam” (we say “webspam” to distinguish it from email spam). In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be ranked. We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings.

‘The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also want the “good guys” making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded. To that end we’ve launched Panda changes that successfully returned higher-quality sites in search results. And earlier this year we launched a page layout algorithm that reduces rankings for sites that don’t make much content available “above the fold.”

In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high-quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.’

What it means for content marketers and creators

Ironically, with every algorithmic change comes an onslaught of fluffy online articles trading in panic that offer advice on ‘The Ten Things You Can Do To Survive Google’s Algorithm Changes’.

But instead of offering bland, predictable advice on how brands and content marketers alike can avoid getting penalised, we will simply reiterate what we have been saying for years. Focus on the user experience. Focus on the content, making it engaging, enriching and worth reading rather than being inane nonsense stuffed with keywords. That way, the end result will take care of itself.

Treat informing, entertaining and enlightening consumers with the same importance as getting their money, and Google’s changes won’t impact negatively on your campaign at all. In fact, they’ll probably help your cause.

 

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