Google Penguin: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Since Panda’s launch in February in 2011 there have been hundreds of changes to the Google search algorithm but none more frightening then Penguin. One of the bigger changes to Google, Penguin seeks to find poor content, low quality links and other poor SEO practices designed to fool search engine results. The program was launched April 24th, 2012 and some estimates have it affecting as much as 3.1% of total English searches performed on Google. When Panda first launched we saw major companies like JC Penny take big hits for unscrupulous SEO tactics. So how are things going with Penguin? To answer this let’s look at some cases within the SEO world.

Andrew Strauss is the owner of Oh My Dog Supplies LLC based out of San Francisco California.  In the past as much as 70% of his customers found him through Google search terms. Since Penguin his Google traffic has fallen by 96%. In March, his website did $68,000 in sales, since the change he expects to do about $25,000 in April. Strauss believes the nose dive in traffic stems from a link buying program he launched in 2011 in response to a drop in traffic from a different round of Google changes. During this time he purchased hundreds of inbound links to his site to help boost his page rank. He discontinued the program in 2011 because it did not help boost his traffic. Now he is feeling the repercussions from that link building program more than ever.

While Google is tight lipped about how its search algorithm works, they do say that paid links or low quality links are a no-no. “The Penguin algorithm update was designed to reduce Web spam, which is when websites try to get a higher search ranking than they deserve by deceiving or manipulating search engines,” says Matt Cutts, a Google engineer. “In many cases, the affected sites had been spamming for a long time,” Mr. Cutts adds. But not everyone is feeling the pain.

Tony Emerson, from SpareFoot Inc. out of Austin Texas, says that their site traffic has doubled since the most recent Penguin changes took effect. He contributes the increase in traffic to the positive SEO practices his company has been doing for years. “It was vindication,” he says. Emerson believes that some of his competitors engaged in unfair practices to get their sites to rank higher than his. “It’s been frustrating. We’d been doing the right thing for so long.”

Staying up to date on Google changes is a full time job and many owners are finding this out the hard way. One miss step can lead to months of recovery in the search engine rankings.  Pam Hansen thought she was helping out her business by participating in link exchange programs such as and Since the Penguin update her traffic has gone from 500 visitors a day to less than 200. She now says that she is spending more time rebuilding her website and online standings then actually building the stained glass windows her business sells.

Keeping up with Panda and Penguin can seem like an unwinnable game of tug-a-war, but here are a few simple steps to help you stay ahead of the game.  First, read before you act! If you are dead set on getting more links for your business from a program, make sure you know where the links are coming from. Many companies who sell links, farm the work out over seas. They generate a high number of poor, low content related links back to your business. Secondly, Read! Read! Read! Google is one of the hottest topics on the internet right now. Each day the internet is filled with great resources to help guide you through changes to Google. Knowing which mistakes not to make will prevent you from doing further damage while you try to repair damage that may have already been done. Lastly, Google loves social media and blogs. These help create new content for your business and can generate quality links back to your site that are not considered spam or low quality.

–          Matthew Wilkos


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