What you need to know about Google “Penguin” search engine updates – Hint, Don’t Panic

Photograph credit: Mac-Ivan, Flickr

Who would have thought it.  Of all the things you need to worry about as a busy self-employed parent  – kids, clients, marketing, cash flow and everything else in between – you now need to fear the Penguin!


‘Penguin’ is Google’s algorithm update, aimed at addressing dodgy SEO practices that some site owners have employed to artificially improve their site ranking.

While Penguin – and more recently Panda – has received a lot of attention, Google does in fact change its algorithms on a regular basis.

As Matt Cutts, head of Google webspam explained at a Q&A session in March 2012.

“… the idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit. So all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.”


What is involved in the updates?

As explained on the Google Penguin Update blog, Google takes hundreds of factors into account when determining how your site ranks, such as links and keywords.

However, the more recent Panda updates have focused on site quality as well and what Google perceives as spam.

The next Penguin update – (date yet to be confirmed) will apparently be a “significant one”, enough to cause ripples in the SEO pond.   We’ll watch with interest.


Should you worry?

Search the Internet and you’ll find plenty of SEO myths on the updates. More worrying perhaps, are the spammy emails from SEO marketing firms, trying to put the fear of Google God into you!

Google has published fairly extensive guidelines on what they call “White Hat” search engine optimisation :

“White hat” search engine optimizers often improve the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster, which is good for both users and search engines.

Good search engine optimization can also mean good marketing: thinking about creative ways to make a site more compelling, which can help with search engines as well as social media. The net result of making a great site is often greater awareness of that site on the web, which can translate into more people linking to or visiting a site.”

… compared to “Black Hat” practices.

“..In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be ranked. We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings.”


So the bottom line is, if you have stuffed your website with hundreds of keywords, or your pages have hundreds of links back to irrelevant sites, then yes, by all means worry!  (For an excellent explanation of this in detail, read  Jill Kocher’s article on Resource.com)

If, however, you have regular, fresh, and interesting content to your blog or ecommerce website, then don’t panic!

In the words of those other famous penguins, “Just smile and wave boys.. smile and wave.”




I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

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