GOOGLE SUFFOCATING RANKINGS THROUGH PENGUIN – In April 2012 Google updated its Penguin Algorithm. The remit, according to Matt Cutts, head of Google Spam, was to prevent websites from ‘artificially’ boosting their websites rankings in Google Search by creating lots of links from other websites.
The practice is known as ‘back-linking’ and once web owners discovered that external links were an important part of ranking higher in Google a flurry of new business services became available that would allow web site owners to simply buy back-links; in effect gaming Google’s system.
Why are back-links important? Google treats back-links as a signal for quality content; the premises here is that if you have lots of people linking to your website then your website must have great content that people want to share; therefore a website or web page could move up the rankings in Google search.
Note that I used the word ‘gaming’ above because that’s exactly the position Google took. Google felt that simply buying back-links was in effect a form of spamming and not a true reflection of whether a website or its contents were indeed of any interest to anyone.
It is, and always will be, true that for every action there is a reaction; the ying and yang if you like so what are the effects of Google’s Penguin algorithm?
I’m not fan of Google, in fact I’ll openly admit I despise them but that doesn’t detract from the issue Google that felt buying back-links was not a true signal of quality and why Penguin was created.
Buying back-links was simply a way for any idiot with a computer, a few bucks in their pocket, and a cheap website to drive vast amounts of traffic to their websites with almost no effort.
On the other end of the scale there are those who work tirelessly at their craft to produce content that attracts readers. For this section of the web community there is little time to engage in buying into services that offer a fast route to top rankings in Google.
For a starter these folks are much smarter for they know that such a system doesn’t last long and in the long-term will do an incredible amount of damage to their websites; not just in the Google rankings but also in the credibility of their sites; nobody likes a spammer.
With the Penguin algorithm now firmly in place there is a downside to this scenario. Yes Google has managed to remove a lot of spam sites from its index but the result is that many up and coming and credible sites are losing out simply because nobody will link to them.
Linking to a site that has a PageRank of zero can be seen by Google as ‘linking to a bad neighbourhood’; which may then result in Google imposing a penalty on sites that link to it.
With this issue came the birth of the rel=”dofollow” and the rel=”nofollow” attributes; two snippets of code that tell Google whether a link should be followed, giving the linking site credibility (link juice), or not.
Since the introduction of Penguin and Penguin 2.0 in 2012 many websites now employ the rel=”nofollow” attribute so as to avoid any possible reason why Google might penalize it in the rankings.
When I first started meebal.com I was advised by a few SEO experts that I should tread very carefully when it comes to linking to other websites; regardless of their PageRank status. I’ve looked around and there appears many well established websites who automatically include rel=”nofollow” attribute to all links regardless of site authority.
It would appear that Google has everyone running scared and simply will not take a chance of getting a penalty by linking to another website without using the rel=”nofollow” attribute.
So where does this leave us with Google telling us that we need to generate high quality back-links to our sites so that Google can determine if our site is credible or not?
That’s the conundrum of creating ongoing algorithms that whilst reduce the number of spam sites evidently hold back credible ones.
The real issue here is our obsession with Google Rankings. Most web owners appear to spend all their time worrying about PageRank and overall site ranking within Google search and what many do not realise is that they are fighting a losing battle for as soon as they discover one way of legitimately lifting their rankings there are spammers who will come along and mold that into a way to game the system.
Of course in turn Google then tweaks, updates or creates an entirely new algorithm that once again leaves website owners right back to square one.
So if you are fighting an uphill battle with your Google Rankings what’s the solution? Take a look at the many videos that Matt Cutts has produced on the subject of SEO and you will quickly discovered his advice is to take the laissez faire approach.
Laissez faire is an economical term that basically translated means ‘leave well alone’ that is let the system organically find its own balance.
The advice therefore is not to worry about your Google Rankings but rather concentrate on producing high quality content that your users will share.
Now that may appear like some pretty good advice; after all if Google is continuously updating or creating new algorithms then any money you spend on SEO services will simply be a waste. However, if you can’t get a decent ranking then how can anyone find your website in order to share it and spread the word?
Yes it’s a bit like the chicken and egg scenario but in fact contrary to belief you don’t need Google at all. Do exactly what Matt Cutts suggests; just create an xml sitemap, submit this to Google and then forget about it.
In the meantime you need to generate some traffic. Firstly consider carefully what your website is about and then consider how you can create some buzz around the web.
Target some very high profile forums but don’t simply join up and start placing links on relevant threads. Take your time and talk to the folks and engage in what’s going on.
When you do eventually start adding links in your comments you will find these are readily accepted by the members and will generate some significant traffic.
Here’s a quick scenario that is completely true. Last week I was struggling to get 500 people a day to my website. I had been engaging in one particular forum for nearly 3 months and I decided to add to one particular thread a link to an article I wrote.
I then decided to check with the webmaster of the forum if they would object. I got an email back saying how nice it was for someone to ask permission and that they would go one better and place a lead-up to my article and link on their main news board.
The result was that I received just fewer than 10,000 visitors and four days later the article is still generating over 1,000 people a day.
Not bad from just one forum and one post and the result is that because it has been shared widely among the social networks the signal that Google receives will also ramp up my ranking for that page.
If I had to give a new web start-up advice it would be to focus on real users and not some algorithm that some corporation has developed to determine your worth. By attracting real people, with real views and opinions, you will quickly discover if what you produce is useful and whether such a website is likely to be a success.