Google Shakeup: Coming to a Website Near You

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Rumors have been flying the past couple of weeks. In fact, my friend’s cousins dog trainers nephew lives next door to some guy named Bob (I think he’s a landscaper) whose ex-girlfriend was recently stopped at a red light and saw someone walk by that looked kind of like Google’s Matt Cutts, but with black hair and a nose ring. Well, she overheard him say that Google was going to start punishing sites that use SEO and we should all drop into the fetal position and clutch our Yellow Pages for dear life.

So is it true? Well, yes and no. You see, Google releases updates to their algorithm on a very regular basis. A majority of these updates go unnoticed for the most part, but every now and then they publicly name an update and that’s when it gets interesting. Last year their Panda update had everyone in a tizzy scrambling to patch the holes left by over-enthusiastically writing and indexing worthless articles. This time around the culprit is Penguin.

Personally I would have chosen Platypus…they are so much cooler than Penguins!  Is it a duck? Is it a beaver? Is it an otter? Yes!

Why Do They Keep Doing This to Us?

Google’s number one job (besides driving around in people-less cars) is to return results that are relevant with the term being searched. Period. When the results become less and less relevant, so does Google…just ask Yahoo! (Ohhhhh snap!) Would you still use Google if you had to rummage through 5 pages of garbage to get the result you were searching for? Of course not. So, Google has no choice but to continue to change things up in order to keep improving the quality of their results.

The purpose of the Penguin update was not to punish sites that use SEO. Search engine optimization is a sound strategy for driving traffic to your website and likely will be for some time so you shouldn’t stop what you are doing but you may want to consider changing your strategy a bit.

If you are doing anything that could be considered “gaming the system” it is very likely that Penguin is going to get you…and you thought Happy Feet 2 was bad! It appears that spammy techniques like keyword stuffing, duplicate content, questionable linking practices, creating fluff content and basically anything with the sole purpose of misleading Google is getting penalized. Look, I know it hurts, but strategies that are used to make up for a lack of content or activity on your website should not be rewarded with a first page placement on Google.

So, what is the solution?

For fear of over-simplifying a fairly complex problem, the fix is simple. Make yourself more valuable and create extraordinary content…and lots of it.

I’m sure this isn’t the answer you were hoping to hear, but it is the answer you need to hear. Whether it is Panda, Penguin or Platypuss (click here to sign my petition to have Google name the next update Platypus) Google is not going to stop making changes. In the coming months and years they are going to come down harder and harder on questionable techniques that are used in an attempt to cut in line. If you are abusing the system and you haven’t been punished this time around, don’t get too comfortable because you aren’t out of the clear just yet. You’re next.

I know what I am suggesting is much harder than outsourcing your link building. It’s much more difficult than hiring someone overseas to write 100 articles at $5 a piece. It’s much more time consuming than some automated software that is going to dump your link on forums all over the Internet. But eventually there is going to come a time where it’s going to be nearly impossible to beat the system, and then what?!?

Instead of waiting, start now.

  • Create a blog and consistently build up your site into a wealth of valuable content.
  • Work with a PR firm or read a book and start writing legitimate press releases on a regular basis and post them on your site.
  • Visit blogs within your industry and leave valuable feedback in their comments section.
  • Link out to other valuable resources within your industry that would benefit your visitors.
  • Share everything you are creating on 2 or 3 of your favorite social media sites of choice.
  • Position yourself as an expert.

Do this and every time a big update is released you will not only be able to sleep at night but you will actually benefit as others get penalized. If you need specific techniques that you can use right now to ethically increase your search engine ranking without having to worry about the coming of Platypus, make sure you download my free SEO e-book!

Have you had any negative effects from the Penguin update? What techniques are you using to make up for these big changes in the last year? Have they been working?

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  • Matthew

    rummage through 5 pages of garbage to find the result I’m looking for? That’s exactly what this update HAS done. I’ve never seen so much spam appearing in search results. This update is the worst tested I have seen. The SERPS are riddled with forum profiles and spammy tumblr pages!

    • Marc Ensign

      I’ve gone through a bunch of sites that have been hurt by this update as well as a bunch that have actually improved because of it. Most of the sites I found that were SEVERELY hurt (meaning almost dropped completely) were building tons of bogus links or stuffing keywords on their pages, etc. That’s not to say they weren’t relevant. They were just over-using a technique that is frowned upon by Google and this update gave them the smack of their life. On the other hand, I haven’t met anyone that was doing EVERYTHING “right” and yet disappeared completely from the SERPs…many of them actually improved. Those are the two extreme cases and there are a whole bunch of angry people that live somewhere in the middle. People were up in arms with Panda too and we all moved on. This too shall pass.

      • Sameer Ahamed Mulla

        Hey Marc,

        Google has and will remain as the go to place for any online ads for a foreseeable future. I am both an Adwords customer and an Adsense Publisher. There has been a huge difference in the way I’m treated from both ends.As an Adwords customer; I have an account manager who takes care of my concerns and addresses issues that I come across, and has a phone number that I can call up if I have any doubts.
        I have plethora of tools to laser target my campaigns when it comes to adwords; and they simply keep getting added and optimized. I just have to spend $100 to get the limelight in adwords.

        But when I am adsense publisher; the best I can do on adsense dashboard is pull out reports; its only been recently that Google added the ads review center which seems to be quite useful. If I have my cheque delayed by 15 days; there is no place for me to raise concern other than join the people who are facing same issue in google groups. I can’t in anyway find out why my statcounter shows 30 clicks and adsense registers 10?
        All I deserve is a monthly newsletter, even if I’m generating thousands of $ in revenue each month from adsense.

        Being on both side; I see a clear difference between the way both are treated. I can understand that its impossible to respond to millions of publishers; but again I don’t see the same friendliness that was there a few years back.All in all; its us who have to stop being so dependent on Google and stop treating it as our Girlfriend and upgrade to a full-proof plans. 

        The days of Adsense claiming ‘One-stop’ monetization solution for small publishers and Google as sole source of traffic are long gone.

        • Marc Ensign

          That’s a completely different subject altogether. Of course Google is out to make money. If they didn’t they would be in big trouble. Considering the size of the organization, it’s surprisingly easy to get in touch with someone when you need to. They may not get it right every time but they are pretty good. It could be worse! Think back to the days of AOL and how they made it nearly impossible to cancel your account. 

  • Eevie

    absolutely bogus.  results are pathetic and quality has only suffered.  Google is only concerned with $$ & consequently the less quality organic searches, the better they think the ppc ads will do.  not about user experience.  as a user, these changes in algorithm only hurts.  GOOGLE is NOT the powerhouse it once was…as a business owner, I will adjust.  But this not only hurts the user experience, but the GOOGLE brand as well.  Nice work Cutts…

    • Marc Ensign

      I agree that the Penguin update doesn’t fully make sense yet and clearly is not perfect. For example, if you search “new shoes” the first result is a YouTube music video from 2007, second is a marketing program and then starting third is Nike, Foot Locker, Finishline, etc. Makes no sense. 

      I do think you are taking it too far with the whole “Google is only concerned with $$” rant. The search eco-system is really fragile. If their organic results become useless their PPC will suffer as it is dependent upon their visitors and if their visitors take off there will be less people to click on those ads, less advertisers, bid prices go down, etc. Sticking up the proverbial middle finger to Google or Matt Cutts in frustration is not going to serve anyone…they ARE still a powerhouse and will be for quite some time. They own the search market. That doesn’t mean they can’t get knocked off the hill, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. You don’t have to like it but you do have to work with it if your business depends on visitors finding you online.

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  • Rob

    Of the four sites I get traffic to, the one the is full of auto generated posts that I left for dead over a year ago was the only site that was not affected, actually it picked up about 10 percent more. The sites that I actually work on are the ones that got hammered. Yes the back linking I do with them are keyword driven, but I don’t overdo it in my mind. No crappy blog links or forms links or profile links. Mainly guest blogging on higher quality sites. Perhaps my writing style is to technical for seo and keyword rich. I know the future is less seo but how can I still write about something and still let the engines know what the main go us is?

    • Marc Ensign

      What’s better than trying to unnaturally work keywords into your text for the sake of SEO is writing natural content and disregarding your keywords. Perhaps going in later and sneaking a few in but being very conservative about it. Google has somehow figured out how to get a car to drive without people in it, I’m sure they are going to be able to figure out what your page is about regardless of how technical your writing is.

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  • Ashutosh Kumar

    I am going to kill you for that Platypus joke. ;)

    Apart from that, I liked your suggestions accept for I am yet figuring out how small business website will release regular press releases in a legitimate fashion.

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  • marcusbond

    Google says they have the results to show search is now more relevant for their users… I despute this. Yes, they have created a first page better populated with relevant results, but they are lower quality relevant results, not well targeted. They also seem to be giving – me at least – results that they think I want, rather than the keywords I’m actually searching for. It’s like they have ‘blurred’ their algorithm, giving a more homogeneous result, but loosing the ability to focus sharply.

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