Penguin 2.0 – It’s an absolutely fantastic concept, but the way it’s carried out and the way it affects business is very worrying for me. I’m seeing a lot of my local and small business clients getting completely owned by Penguin 2.0 due to them not being able to afford to build the same kind of quality links that the likes of Amazon, eBay and Gumtree (the Craigslist equivalent for the UK), over the past 3 weeks I’ve seen black hat sites take over SERPs that have super powerful guest post links on tons of High DA networks and sites. I’ve seen Amazon and eBay dominate the first page of a client’s keywords and them fall over 6 places in a week (bare in mind this is a pretty low volume keyword but brings a ton of business for this client, a fall like this has affected their sales dramatically).
I totally agree that Google needs to do something about spam techniques and paid links, but having quality over quantity just means blog network owners can create 200 backlinks from authority sites and play Google into ranking their site for pretty much any keyword. There have been some great examples over the past few months of black hat and paid sites ranking hugely for keywords, yet having a pretty dodgy looking backlink profile. I’m going to be doing a $300 case study on a domain that has a random name and try to rank it for a keyword, it’s not even close to finishing yet but we’ll see soon in the future!
Rand Fiskin –
“My general opinion is that as Google targets manipulative links through algorithmic updates, they’re really doing two things: 1) increasing the value of earned links and 2) creating fear of buying links amongst marketers. Both of these are generally positive for the web ecosystem, though they can certainly be frustrating in the short term. One of the toughest parts of this struggle is the distribution of these actions. Sometimes, Google hits the wrong sites. Sometimes, Google doesn’t hit enough sites. And sometimes, paid links seem to work for years on end and then, when you finally decide to cave in and buy some yourself, Google takes action against you while the spammers who’ve been doing it for years somehow stay protected.
There’s no doubt this is a hard challenge for marketers and business owners of all stripes, but as always, the answer lies not in taking the easy path (sitting around and waiting OR caving in and buying links), but in building a web marketing strategy that’s defensible, scalable, white hat, and truly innovative. Is that an incredibly hard task? Yes. But nothing worth having has ever been easy – we should have all learned that when we left grade school.”
Matthew Barby –
“Since the very first Penguin update that Google implemented I think that we have seen, in general, a better experience for the end user (or searcher, should I say). The experience usually consists of being delivered results from higher quality websites that tend to bear more relevance than many of the spammy results dominated the SERPs before. Having said this, I don’t believe that the original or second major iteration of the Penguin updates has been all good, and this is why:
Although search results seem to have flushed out many spammy results, they seem to be filled with websites that have much greater marketing budgets at their disposal. Of course, this is always going to be the case for many things but when it comes to really specific, local niches then you don’t always expect it.
The reason, in my opinion, is because since the Penguin updates, SEO has become a lot more expensive. Gone are the days when you could rely on dofollow blog comments and free directory submissions for local SEO. Now you need to invest in high quality directories and have quality reviews on your account (which many small business can’t justify). Previously scalable SEO techniques have been made redundant and the big focus of ‘quality content’ isn’t always achievable for your small website, whereas companies with in-house PR teams and large marketing spends can churn out content for fun.
I’m all for better link building practices that promote good quality content and that are genuinely great examples of link building work; however, not everyone has the capability to do this. Not every local plumber has the ability to sit and write some great articles on the plumbing industry each week (no offence intended to plumbers there at all) but it doesn’t mean to say that what they offer is any less than a larger corporation.
On the other hand of things, the Penguin update has blocked off a load of crappy fake websites dominating the search results and, effectively doing the same kind of thing. I would just like to see more of a balance in the SERPs and a true reflection toward relevance; not just a result based on how many guest blogs have been written by a website.”
“The problem we’re seeing is that each niche/category has a dominant player or three. Those players (Amazon, Wikipedia, Yelp, etc.) simply always show up on page 1 somewhere. Whether you’re in the hotel niche, operate a local tour company, run an educational site, or do eCommerce, you’re competing with major brands (Hotels.com, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Amazon and Wikipedia are some of the dominating forces.) A small hotel on the east coast isn’t just competing against other locals. They compete with aggregators with much bigger marketing budgets. Instead of your competition being Hotel 1, Hotel 2 and Hotel 3, your real competition quickly has become Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity, and 15 other aggregators. If you’re lucky, two actual hotels may get on page 1 for a hotel search.
The effects of Google’s recent algorithm changes have been worse for eCommerce. A simple search for “buy clothes nyc” gives us a Yelp post from 2005, Trip Advisor, City-Data and magazine articles (NYMag, NYTimes.) Half of page 1 is taken up with results that don’t actually help you buy clothes.
Any question users have is similarly answered with Yelp forums, Yahoo Answers, and even obscure 8 word searches are now dominated by the major brands: “where can i buy coconut oil in chicago” includes a page one with Yahoo Answers, Walmart, Chicago Tribune article, a couple of local forums with similar questions and ONE retailer who sells the product (other than Walmart.)
Want to run a movie review site? Save yourself now. Don’t. Google returns a knowledge box, local movie times, Wikipedia, IMDB x2, Google News results, *then* the official movie page for “great gatsby movie.” The official site is below the fold. Rotten Tomatoes, Entertainment Weekly, Yahoo Movies, Fandango and Apple – that’s page one. Those are (almost) all household names. The first user review of a movie is 14th in the SERPs.
So Google’s recent updates have almost guaranteed that even when you can get on page one, you’re going to be dominated by big name brands, businesses with major advertising budgets and more content than a small business. Catching up to a business who has it figured out is very difficult so the more big brands that jump in your space, the harder it will be for small businesses to rank. Growing the amount of unique content on a site is only practical to a certain level. Communities can post much more content in a short period of time. Businesses are posting as much content as they can but ultimately, one person won’t be able to keep up with the masses so you either entice the masses to your site or you will float back further and further in SERPs.”
“The fact that high quality links help a pages rank better is not necessarily related to Penguin algorithm. Penguin removed a certain layer of rather obvious, simple webspam and not as efficiently most of us hoped. What you describe is more related to a spiraling effect which happens when Google lets one website cheat and get away with it. Soon after others follow, until somebody gets hurt.
My thoughts on this are nicely reflected in this article:
Ultimately it’s Google’s responsibility to police linkspam equally but the problem is that Google’s not concerned over “ranking justice” they just want the best result for their user.
Personally I am deeply disappointed with SERPs after Penguin 2.0 and believe that in some verticals they did more harm than good, to the point where the results are no longer the best and most reliable results for the user.”
I hope you enjoyed this post and got some cool information out of it, I’d like to thank all the people who gave replies and especially those who got featured!
- God of SEO.