Google’s Penguin Update was Supposed to Clean the Web, Right?

Less than one week ago Google announced the release of a new search algorithm known as the “Penguin Update.” As most Google algorithm changes go, this had many business owners feeling nervous and holding their breath in fear. However, this algorithm change was going to be different than your typical Panda updates—it was supposed to catch webspammers. According to Google, the update affected about 3% of search queries.

For those who are unfamiliar, there are many websites that use tactics that have no value to the reader simply to rank highly on a Google search engine results page (SERP). In most SEO circles, these are called “Black Hat Tactics,” which include keyword stuffing, cloaking, and doorway pages. You can learn more about black hat tactics here. Although Google has made clear that these approaches to SEO are off-limits, many websites still find loopholes and somehow cheat their way to the top of SERPs. The response was the Penguin Update, which was launched on April 24, 2012. Now that it has been a few days it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room: Did this update really help clean the web?

Google Penguin Update Analysis

Despite the name change, Google is sticking to the old Panda tricks by not telling anyone what changes were made to the new algorithm. This leaves much analysis up to speculation, so the easiest way to tell whether or not anyone was improved is by looking at a few examples.

 Example #1: Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land tests Viagra search results.

Sullivan decided to take a look at the search Viagra because Viagra is a product that creates a lot of spam. When typing in this search query, Sullivan found that four of the top ten results were hacked by spammers, three of which Google knew were hacked because there were warnings posted on the searches. Two additional top ten results had absolutely nothing to do with Viagra. That makes the majority of top ten results irrelevant, which is a big red flag when analyzing the effectiveness of the Penguin Update. However, Sullivan did add a postscript explaining that there is no way to prove that this problem is due to the algorithm change.

Example #2: Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide tests his own articles.

This example shows Shotland typing in the title of articles he wrote into the search box of Google. Shotland found that not only was his article not on page one, but page one was full of scraper and spam results. He then tried searching for another article he wrote and the same thing occurred. However, 3 hours after posting his article was ranked number four. This brings Shotland to the conclusion that the Penguin Update might work, but it takes some time to see results.

Example #3: Aaron Wall of SEO Book searches for baseball cardholders for mini-cards.

Wall decided to type in this search query only to find the first page full of old blog posts, a Facebook note that was auto-generated feed, and a Yahoo! shopping page that was completely empty. Wall eventually concluded that this new algorithm still puts too much emphasis on domain name and authority.

What Do These Google Penguin Update Examples Really Mean?

It is still tough to know whether or not this Penguin Update is making a difference. The examples above suggest that this update did not help clean up the web, but these could be isolated examples. Every example that I tried on my own seemed to turn-up a nice SERP, but I was unaware what the SERP looked like before the update. This seems to be the problem for most when trying to determine whether or not this new change has really made a difference, so some are giving it a little bit more time.

It is also important to note that those who were hurt by the Penguin Update are going to be much more vocal than those that saw a positive change. This also makes it tough to come up with a conclusion about the update.

Over to You!

What are your thoughts on the Penguin Update? Do you think it has really helped clean the web, or are you still seeing just as much spam?

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