As we all know, Google is a pioneer, and the world leader in internet search. It owns around 2/3rd (66%) of the shares in the industry at the time of this writing, making it bigger than any other internet company. Since the past few years though, we have seen some radical changes in its search model. For example, it was only last year that the dreaded Panda update was unleashed onto the world! And these days, everyone is talking about the new Penguin update that rolled out just a few days back.
So why are these updates needed?
If this is about any one thing, it's about Quality Content vs Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The concept of SEO has evolved ever since search engines like Google have come along. SEO is good. It allows you to take your website ranking to a higher level. But that's precisely where the problem lies. You see, it provides a shortcut where you can skip writing quality content, and still be able to take the low quality content to a high ranking. In late 90s and early 2000s, when Google was still newborn, some webmasters started doing just that. They would spare themselves the trouble of writing good quality content, and would learn SEO tricks instead, which brought their poor quality content to the top.
Through the years, search engine optimisers kept at it. Google has been constantly improving its search module, but these people learned to duck and dodge everything Google had to throw at them. Fundamentally, this practice defeats the basic goal of Google, which is to provide good quality content to readers, instead of bogus websites that spam the web and gain the high ground in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Hence, the need for an advanced screening mechanism which would let quality through but not spam content.
Google unleashed the Panda on Feb 24 2011. And immediately, it made its mark and hit so many blogs and websites that the entire ranking structure was shaken, with new websites coming at the top while some old established websites dipping down. According to Google, it was aimed at filtering "thin or low quality content". Since its launch, Google have made changes to it 13 times as of 20th April 2012. And a total of 62% websites have been affected by this update.
Google Penguin is another instalment in Google's arsenal of weapons to be unloaded onto the online world. This was introduced on 24th April 2012. Again, it aimed at discouraging / punishing spam websites.
By far, it has affected about 45% of the websites.
Panda and Penguin penalty
Once again, these updates are aimed at punishing spam websites, although there could be a lot more reasons for the updates to hit your site. Sites that are hit have seen a demotion in their Google PageRank, and their traffic has dipped, while sites that have benefited from this update have seen a soar in their traffic.
The saying "One man's gain is another man's loss" never seemed more appropriate.
Why have you been affected?
There can be many reasons why you got hit. But the exact factors are known only to Google insiders. Google doesn't disclose this information, because if they do, search engine optimisers would grab on to those points and cheat Google once again. So Google does not give out the precise details, thank you very much. Here are, however, some probable causes as to why you took a hit.
- Over optimisation - This is very important. People who don't have quality content over optimise their websites. So you should do what is necessary, and no more!
- High keyword density - This is like calling out loud to search engines; "check me! check me! I have the most keywords!". And they don't like it when you call them. Using excessive keywords is also a form of spamming, since you are seeking for search engines' attention. In the past, pages were ranked according to the number of keywords they had. Not anymore though. Always keep that in mind.
- Virus and malware - People simply hate it when they land on a website infected with a virus. And so does Google. Having a virus on your site, or even having too many spam or bot scripts can trigger the alarm bells for Google. Please review your website regularly from now on.
- Lack of user experience - Now this is very crucial, and Google has been stressing on this a lot lately. Pleasing the search engine is one thing. Pleasing the visitors is another. Even with adequate SEO, a website that lacks a good user experience might have been hit by Google.
- Duplicate / copied content - Yeah you think you are making things easier for yourself when copying content, but actually, you aren't. In fact, quite the contrary, you are axing your own feet. Google hates it when it finds duplicate content on your website. Never copy from another source, and never use redundant content.
- High Bounce Rate - Make sure to reduce the number of banners and other heavy graphics as much as possible to make sure your site loads faster. Slow loading blogs are hated by visitors and so by Google. Do not reduce the size of the page so much that it may begin looking dull and grey. Be creative yet smart!