Google’s Penguin update reminded me of why I think the search engine is really a high maintenance woman. She wants everything and barely acknowledges her partner unless she wants more. That’s the metaphor for my Google Penguin blog post.
By now you’ve heard all of the fuss, all of the complaints, screenshots with bizarre rankings, etc …
To webmasters who go through Penguin relatively unscathed, congratulations. I’d say that 90 percent of my sites either saw no change or a minor increase in traffic but some sites fell off the radar and I know exactly why: I did exactly what Google wanted.
Take for instance the following pre-Penguin search: NFL Jerseys
There is an amazing post on SEOMoz which highlights Google’s old blueprint which essentially rewarded sites based on their keyword rich anchor text. Chinese sites essentially built thousands of links through SENuke or Xrumer with NFL Jerseys and a few other variations (to seem natural … ironic?) and clogged up page one.
Webmasters who really do deep dives on sites looked at this and said “Well if that’s what Google wants, that’s what Google will get” and subsequently followed the same pattern (although with less spammy methods) for legitimate sites. I was guilty of looking at anomalies like this and using 6-7 anchor text variations on some sites but again: This is what Google rewarded.
Other people it appears knew nothing of this but had such niche sites that there wasn’t much variety of anchor text to adequately describe the site so even natural link building eventually resulted in a skewed distribution.
It was long overdue
I figured something like this might happen after the Panda update because it was clear Google was really trying to clean up their index. However for most searches spam wasn’t too much of a problem and after Panda dinged article sites, I really felt like it was a success in terms of spam. However Google’s vision of SERPs is really defined by the following video posted shortly after the Panda update where Matt Cutts talks about whether Google feels obligated to return the best possible page regardless of perceived popularity.
I guess you have to accept that if you optimize a site for Google, that when Google decides on a whim that they want to change directions, you have to be willing to follow them. I think most SEOs are beginning to get a handle on the situation and I personally have made some anchor text changes and link adjustments for sites that saw a drop and we’re starting to climb back.
Panda -> Penguin -> Platypus?