There have been a lot of changes done by Google to kill web spam since last year (2011) till now. First it was “Panda Update” that penalized poor quality websites including article directories, then they blocked some adword accounts, after that they de-indexed blog networks that were being used for buying links, then above-fold ads penalty and now its Over Optimization Penalty or Penguin Penalty that penalizes websites indulging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings. Clearly, Google has been very strict and surpisingly quick in creating and implimenting these new algorithms or penalties; and it appears that these changes are here to stay and more changes may be done to penalize poor quality websites.
The Penguin or Over Optimization Penalty
The latest Penguin Penalty was launched on April 25, 2012 but Google had actually pre-announced it on their official blog here. As soon as this update was LIVE, several people started wondering why they were seeing such huge drop in traffic to their websites. You can see several threads in famous webmaster forums where people are still wondering why their websites lost its ranking. Basically what I have judged from the official blog post and my research on websites that have been hit is that Google has penalized websites that:-
- Use spun articles. (Articles re-written with the help of software)
- Have articles with links to unreleated topics.
- Those who have stuffed keywords in articles and in category titles etc.
- Have bought sitewide links from blogroll/sidebar or footer of other websites. (In some cases even websites of web-designers are affected)
- Have bought links from blog networks or poor quality websites.
- Have links coming from poor quality websites like those coming from link wheels, link exchanges and link schemes.
- Have links coming from pages that have spammy links to several other websites.
How Effective is this update in getting better search results?
This update indeed was able to penalize websites violating Google’s webmaster guidelines but its not true that all this resulted in better google search results. Actually there are several examples brought forward by webmasters in their respective blogs that show that search results are not any better but in some cases even worse than they were earlier.
So, you can safely assume that the battle between Google and Webspam and poor quality websites is far from over and you might see several tweakings in panda and penguin and may be kangaroo, dog, cat, mouse and eagle updates coming next from Google !
For years, Google had been telling webmasters that there is nothing that a competitor can do to harm your website’s ranking but that is not true any more and this reflects in change of language in Google’s support area’s “guidelines”: See here http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66356
Right now, they don’t mention anything about it. But earlier they used to say that “There’s nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking” then they edited this sentence to “There’s ALMOST nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking” and finally(just before completely deleting this mention they were using the sentense “Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index” Now the conclusion I take here is that its possible now to harm your competitor’s website especially if its not very well established.
There is already too much discussion happening about negative SEO and there are several webmasters who still believe that its not possible to harm a competitors website. For example, owner of seomoz.org has challanged anyone to bring his website down in rankings to prove that negative SEO works. But like I said, negative SEO might not work against popular websites unless there are several thousands of bad links created for them. And that would require lots of money and time and I am sure that everyone is too busy to take his challange. But if anybody decides to harm a website, he can easily do so by:-
- Sponsoring few themes and placing two link to vi-agr-a or similar websites and one to the website that you want to harm and then make that theme available for free for others to use.
- Registering to some blog network and publishing some articles with back links to same kind of websites as explained above.
- Do comment spam in poorly moderated forums and blogs that are full of spam comments.
- If you have a domain penalized by Google, just 301 it to competitor website.
- And so on
There maybe several other ways using which one can harm other’s websites ranking in Google Search. I am sure that Google is aware of it. But I hope Google ensures that the there is no way left for webmasters to harm other’s websites. As of now, this does n’t seem to be the case.
How to Get Rid of Penguin Penalty?
- Keep a watch on backlinks to your website and report any suspecious link to google and then hope that they can do some thing about it and save you from penalty.
- If you purchased links from blogrolls in the past, then you must get those removed.
- If you think that some poor quality website is linking to you, then you may contact their webmaster to get them remove links to your website.
- If you fail to get links removed then you can simply remove or move those posts to new URL and let the old URL return an http 404 or 410 error. If you are getting bad links to your main domain, then all you can do is write to Google from webmaster tools and request for reconsideration. But if that is not entertained then you have to move your website to a new domain without redirecting old domain to new.
- Moderate your website’s content and comments section to check if you are linking to bad websites. This can harm you website’s reputation. Use guest posts/user genetrated content with care.
- Make sure that there is no keyword stuffing in articles of your website. If you had written or got written articles by a writer with keyword drnsity in past, then its time to edit those articles and bring the keyword density down.
- Make sure that there are no hidden links, cloaked links and hidden or small font size text on your blog/website.
- Spamming websites isn’t SEO. Stop syndicating one articles to multiple article directories/blognetworks and leaving unrelated comments on blogs and forums to get links.
- Avoid looking for loopholes and shortcuts to faster SEO success. SEO is virtually dead now, just concentrate on site structure, good content and social presence.
- Don’t be in denial and blame mode. Move forward and do the changes to your websites if you want to continue blogging.