Blog Archives

Google’s Penguin Update 101

Penguin Police

In my last post, I discussed the Panda and how integral high quality content is to websites for their visibility on Google. In this one, I will talk about the other major update to Google’s algorithm: Penguin. The Penguin update was announced on the 24th of April 2012, and was designed to decrease the ranking of websites in violation of Google’s ‘Webmaster Guidelines’, especially those who have been found to be using Black Hat SEO tactics. When Penguin was first unleashed, it affected 3.1% of search results in English, and approximately 3% in other languages such as Arabic, German and Chinese, whereas Penguin 2.0 (released 22nd of May 2013) impacted 2.3% of search queries.

Penguin Panda










The Penguin update is not overly concerned with quality and user experience, not in the same way that Panda is. Penguin’s main focus is to enforce Google’s ‘Webmaster Guidelines’ to ensure that everyone is following the rules, even if that means temporarily decreasing the quality of search results.

Penguin Batman Meme

What is Black Hat SEO?

It is a goal of most webmasters to get their website to the top of search, as the first result is said to attract approximately 33% of all traffic. Black Hat SEO is an instance where webmasters use underhanded techniques in order to achieve this objective. Below is an infographic by Angie Schottmuller of Search Engine Watch which effectively illustrates the various aspects of Black Hat, Grey Hat and White Hat SEO.

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Some examples of Black Hat SEO include: Keyword Stuffing: Keyword stuffing is a term that refers to the over usage of selected keywords in text. It reduces the quality of content for users, but was also a method of deceiving the algorithm into allowing a higher ranking. Both Panda and Penguin were developed to combat this practice. Keyword stuffing










Link Schemes: According to Marie Haynes of Moz, a link is like a vote for your site. They factor heavily into Google’s algorithm, and are a highly sought after commodity. According to Google, “any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s ‘Webmaster Guidelines’. This includes any behaviour that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site”. Link Schemes








The term link scheme appears to encompass any activity where links are obtained unnaturally. This may be exchanging links for money, a service or a product, trading links for links (“link me and I’ll link you back”),  or using automated programs to create links to your website. With the Penguin, Google removes the value from these links, as according to them they should not be counted as they were obtained unethically. A page can witness a considerable drop in ranking via this devaluation. For more information about links, please check out our other post on links specifically.

Hidden Text:  Hidden text or links in your content was yet another way to fool the algorithm, and is now a focus of Penguin.

Cloaking: Cloaking is the practice of displaying different content or URLs to users and search engines. In the below video Matt Cutts defines and explains the word ‘cloaking’, which is yet another violation of Google’s ‘Webmaster Guidelines ‘, and is another a target of the Penguin.

Doorway Pages:  According to Google, a doorway page is one that is part of a large set of poor-quality pages “where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase. In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination”. They are designed to trick Google, without considering the user and are a clear breach of Google’s “Webmaster Guidelines”.

How do I avoid the wrath of the Penguin update?

In order to avoid the wrath of Penguin, it is essential that webmasters familiarise themselves with the do’s and don’ts of Google’s ‘Webmaster Guidelines’. Sites should centre themselves around high quality content, and it is through this exercise that natural links (the only links that are of value) will be gained, which will improve ranking. Other White Hat practices to engage in include site optimisation, link baiting, internal linking and guest blogging. Black and Grey Hat practices are best avoided even if they do seem tempting.

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The Importance of High Quality Content for SEO

Pick-up Line Panda











When creating content for public consumption, it’s imperative that webmasters have an understanding of Google, the search engine favoured by millions, and what it wants. Google’s primary objective is to present its users with high quality content that’s relevant to any given search query. What it doesn’t want is for users to be exposed to what it deems to be low quality content. Google have published a number of guidelines outlining which hallmarks of low quality content to steer clear of, and they enforce these using manual and algorithmic action.

Google Penalties










In February of 2011, Google rolled out Panda, an alteration to its algorithm specifically designed to downgrade websites containing low quality content. Initially, Panda affected approximately 12% of US search results in English, a figure which Google has released, with many websites experiencing a dramatic decrease in visits. One particular e-business lost 60% of its traffic overnight.

A “hit” by Panda can be devastating to those concerned, and is something to be avoided at all costs.

Panda Hit Graph

Panda continues to have impact with each update that Google unleashes in its quest to eradicate low quality content from the Internet, with Panda 4.0 being the most recent. So in order to increase the likelihood of visibility on Google, and reduce the risk of penalisation, it’s best to aim high.

So what is Low Quality Content?

Low quality content comes in a variety of shapes and forms, and can range from a page riddled with grammatical error, to one where keywords have been used inappropriately.

Keyword Stuffing














Many experts refer to low quality content as being thin or shallow in nature, in that it lacks the substance required to be of any real value to users. Low quality content can also appear spammy, and thus untrustworthy to potential subscribers, or clients.

And what is High Quality Content?

According to Rand Fishkin of Moz, THE go-to source for all things SEO, high quality content is the kind that “makes everyone who sees it want to share it and say WOW”. Google have released a questionnaire to aid in assessing one’s own website (and the content within it) for quality consisting of 23 questions like:

Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?

Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?

Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?

Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

Will Critchlow, founder of Distilled recreated this questionnaire during an edition of Moz’s ‘Whiteboard Friday’, paring it down to twelve questions that address website quality, with content being an aspect of that.

To meet Google’s standards, it appears that content should be unique, useful and free from error in addition to being the sort that people will love, redistribute and refer back to over and over again. A tall order for SEOs, right?

How do I create High Quality Content?

In order to create high quality content, it is helpful to keep Google’s ‘Webmaster Guidelines’ at hand, in addition to the aforementioned questionnaire. These resources will assist you in evaluating any content that you may wish to publish online. It is also beneficial to do the following:

Know your audience: Different types of content appeal to different types of people. It is crucial to consider your target audience, and what they may like, share and bookmark.

Introduce variety: Rather than publish blocks of text that will lose readers, you should instead include different types of media that will stimulate your audience, and perhaps encourage them to return to your website again.

Bear in mind ‘classic’ SEO considerations WITHOUT overdoing it: Google wants websites to be made for users, and not for search engines. While the appropriate usage of keywords is encouraged by Google, the overuse of such is subject to penalty. There is such a thing as too much SEO!

Be passionate about what you’re writing about: Enthusiasm is contagious, if the author is enthusiastic about what they’re talking about, the audience will likely be too.


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Video: How Does Google Work? Explained, by Google.

“How Search Works”

A video from the official Google YouTube Channel. The fundamentals of how Google works, simply explained by Matt Cutts.

Want to learn how you can rank on Google? Read our Top Tips To Rank On Google article.



Video: Matt Cutts Of Google, Talks

Here is a very good talk delivered by Matt Cutts, of Google. He is considered an authority of all things, Google, Search and SEO. We recommend this video.

Interested in ranking on Google. Read our Top Tips To Rank On Google article.


* Uploaded to Youtube by iTop SEO

Top Tips to Improve your Google Ranking


What is Ranking?

According to Webopedia, ranking, in SEO terms, refers to where a website or webpage is ranked within engine results. For example, if your website is about microphones, when a person queries “microphones” in a search engine, your ranking indicates where in the search results your webpage is listed.

There are so many things you can do to get your website to the top. To build a quality website that will achieve high Google search results, you need to focus on how to publish high-quality content that will attract the attention of readers, which they can share easily. Below are some of the most important tips that will help you improve your ranking:

1. Users are very Important:

The main objective of Google is to provide the highest quality, most relevant search results possible. According to Shepard (Moz), the biggest mistake people make is trying to rank for a single keyword at a time. Google is not out to penalize websites or hurt website owners. They want to ensure that users find the information they seek on the first try. When it comes to search engine rankings and improving SEO, start by looking at the site from the perspective of the user searching Google. Does your site provide the best, most relevant information for a given search term and if not, what can you do to fix it? (Social Media Examiner).

2. The Quality of the Content you Publish is a Factor:

According to Cyrus Shepard (Moz), you should be able to publish content of good value that includes a mix of utility; emotional response; point of view (positive or negative) and perceived value. Though value is harder to produce than mere words, but value is rewarded 100x more. Value is future proof and algorithm proof. Value builds links by itself. Value creates loyal fans. Google has attempted to screen out those publishing high-volume, low-quality content with low value. Google prefer fewer high-quality pages than lots of low-quality pages. Blogging is still one of the best ways to move up the search engine rankings as it is a good way to add high-quality information to a website. However, webpages or blog posts offering little or no value can negatively impact a website. Removing these pages might actually help a website move up the rankings or recover from a drop in ranking.

3. Social Media Presence Encourages Backlink Building:

In recent years, both Google and Bing have heightened their focus on tracking publicly shared links on Facebook and Twitter, making social networking sites a great place to build natural backlinks to your website. Your actions must encourage the creation of backlinks. To give your readers incentive to share your content and create these valuable links, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Build your networks on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. These sites enable your content to be seen by a wider audience, resulting in more opportunities for links to be shared.
  • Connect your blog to your Facebook and Twitter accounts so that a new link made on your profile automatically for every new post your make. There are tools designed specifically for this purpose.
  • Additionally, you’ll want to create your Google+ page search ranking algorithms. Boosting your presence on Google+ is a way to ensure stronger SEO for your website. (Park Bench Digital).

4. Let Google be Aware of you:

Once you’ve published high-quality content, it’s important to tell Google about the content and make it easy for users to find. This means that meta titles and descriptions should closely match the content on the page. Keyword stuffing and intentionally filling Meta descriptions with keywords that don’t match the page in an attempt to deceive will only hurt your search engine results. The closer the match, the better.

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5. Avoid Duplicating Content:

According to Jim Locido of Social Media Examiner, when you duplicate content, Google will not penalise you but will not show it in the search result. Therefore, ensure you provide the best possible search returns.
Instead of showing 20 pages with the same content, Google tries to present the most relevant and original content and omit the rest. Users can still view omitted search returns, they just need to make an effort and most won’t.

6. Don’t Overdo the Advertising:

Too much advertising can also result in lower Google rankings. This again, is a result of Google’s attempts to improve search results for the user. Google tends to equate an over-abundance of advertising to lower-quality or “spam” websites. Be sure that advertising does not interfere with the content on the page. This is especially important with advertising above the fold and within the text. (

High-quality content that people want to share will always do well in the eyes of Google. So, don’t over-optimise!


Ranking, Available at:

Wepopedia, Available at:

Cyrus (2013) How to Rank: 25 Step SEO Master Blueprint, Available at:

How to Improve Your Search Rankings with Social Media, Available at:

Jim Lodico (2011), New Ways to Improve Your Google Rankings, Available at: