Imagine, you start your computer up and get to work for the day, only to see your traffic has plummeted to below half of what it was. This happens to many businesses after being hit by a penalty, and it can be devastating.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of search engines, back then the competition for the top spot was fierce, and algorithms were very simple. Many different techniques to manipulate search engine rankings worked well, and often it would take quite a bit of hunting for a user to find what they were looking for.
Fast forward to 2015 and it’s a whole different situation, you can’t step out of the search engines shadow without receiving some kind of penalty for your sneaky attempts at jumping the queue. This is all thanks to the clever little algorithms every search engine now has, I say little, but these things pretty much control your websites popularity. You play by their rules, you’re rewarded. If you don’t, you could see yourself lose large chunks of your traffic.
Crackdown on search spam
It’s understandable why the search engines have hit hard on this though. Search engines want the user to find the best result for their query, as quickly as possible, and deception leads to ‘Spam’ websites ranking, rather than the useful, helpful websites search engines prefer. Penalties can happen to companies big or small, and sometimes affects well known sites, as Ebay found out the hard way when their ranking was absolutely shattered by Google’s Panda update, as they fell from #6 in “the big 10” of various searches related to them, to #25. This meant they weren’t even on the first page anymore, a huge loss for a company of that magnitude. But with Google having made an example of the giant, it showed that they weren’t to be messed with anymore.
What is Google’s Panda update?
The Panda algorithm strikes fear into a lot of people and it’s easy to see why; it targets weak content that is deemed by Google to be unnecessary to the searcher. The Algorithm was first ran in 2011, removing a lot of ‘low quality’ sites. It now runs very frequently, aiming for sites with low quality content which provide little value to a user.
Low quality can vary; it can mean very little information, poor information, stolen information etc. Google has a threshold that sites have to stay above in order to avoid penalties, if they fall below it, they can have as much punishment as Google deems suitable, the only way to know if you’ve been hit by a Panda update is to check your traffic with a tool like Google Anayltics. But if the website owner is able to change the issue, Google will more than likely correct the punishment that they gave out when the next Panda update comes around.
Google’s Penguin Update
Google seem to have a pattern with animals and algorithms, Penguin targets unusual backlinks that a site has and essentially terminates these to the best of its ability, and its ability is pretty incredible. It was a ground breaking achievement when it first came out in 2012, with the first wave hitting over 3% of its targets. This may not seem like a lot, but when you think about how many pages Google has; it’s a massive amount for a first attempt. Penguin converted the majority of black hat marketers to white hat the moment it was ran, with its ever increasing ability to remove useless, poor or unrelated links between websites, the algorithm can only grow to decimate the web even further, and make searches even more user friendly.
What does Penguin search for?
Penguin is not an algorithm that is used to remove an entire site, its main focus is to target links on the site that have little to no relevance. So whilst it may not remove the entire site, you can still lose up to 80% of your domain’s strength and trust purely through the links that pages possess. Penguin has been known to not penalize websites directly, and can sometimes just remove the unnatural links from the website with little damage to your pages themselves. Recovering from a Penguin algorithm is more difficult than a Panda one, as running the algorithm itself can take Google weeks, so if you’re punished it’s unknown when the next update could come round in order to refresh your website.
Google’s war on Piracy
It’s well known that Google’s major priority is their users, hence why it’s lasted so much longer than advert centred search engines. With 65% of search engine usage coming through Google, it’s fair to say they are the giants of the internet. They always hope to give the user exactly what they want.
But if there’s one thing Google won’t give their customers, its piracy websites. Google developed an Algorithm that targeted nearly every single torrent website on their search engine, whilst they were unable to remove the torrent websites altogether, they did manage to decimate a staggering amount of piracy websites from their search engine. The only reason they could not remove all the searches was because not all the websites were completely illegal, some were operating with legal sectors in order to allow them to stay relevant to the search engine.
How does it work?
Essentially, the algorithm targets websites that have a multitude of copyright violations and removes them from the search engine. New torrent sites can be made, but they are quickly shut down once their copyright violations have been noted by Google. Google receive over 10 million requests to remove websites every week, with most of these requests being spam, Google has to verify the removal of certain websites it believes necessary to remove.
So, what should you do?
If you’d like to be worry-free about penalties, we’d always advise to follow Google’s webmaster guidelines, and those of any search engine you’re trying to rank in. This is a future-focused way to ensure you don’t risk your traffic. Sometimes activity on your site can look like a violation, or can be carried out accidentally, so always ensure you regularly conduct SEO audits to protect yourself.