If you’re not fully engulfed in Arizona SEO every day like myself, you probably have no idea what the Penguin update is, or the Panda update, or any of the other hundreds of updates that Google makes on a daily basis. However, the most recent Penguin update has officially gone mainstream. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal took up the issue of Google’s Penguin update, how it’s affecting businesses of all types, and what it means for search.

Oh, and by the way, no matter how on the ball the Wall Street Journal is regarding getting facts out in a timely matter, Google has already implemented another update while this article was being written. See Mashable: Google Knowledge Graph or ZDNet: Knowledge Graph.

As Google Tweaks Searches, Some Get Lost in the Web

The Wall Street Journal took on the topic of Google’s Penguin update by featuring small businesses around the country that have lost rankings and traffic due to this update.  Let’s start with featured business #1:

  • My Dog Supplies LLC – According to the WSJ article, this business lost roughly $43,000 from the hit they took from Penguin. Their site, which was ranking in the top positions for ‘dog beds’ or ‘dog clothes’ is now nowhere to be found. But looking at this from an SEO’s perspective, owner Andrew Strauss did confess to buying links, hundreds of paid-for links, last year. What do we know about buying links? Google will penalize you, both before and after this Penguin update. So, with that said, it’s not a surprise that My Dog Supplies LLC  lost all rankings.

What bothers me is that they have the audacity to complain about losing these rankings for doing specifically what Google tells you not to do!  It is a known Black Hat SEO technique to buy links…to purchase links strictly for the purpose of ‘cheating’ the system and ranking higher. It is a practice done by those companies who have the money to outpace everyone else.

Moral of this story – Don’t Buy Links!!

  • HockeyDB.com – According to the WSJ article, this online business ‘often appeared in the first page of rankings when users searched for hockey players…but now appears several pages deep into the ranking.’ HockeyDB.com has lost roughly 30% of its traffic since the Penguin update. Owner, Mr. Slate, things that the ultimate reason could be because HockeyDB is quite often linked to in hockey forums and on other hockey websites when users are referring to specific players, stats, or teams.

Unfortunately, if Mr. Slate is to be believed, his company is a casualty of the Penguin update, an honest mistake that Google has not taken into account yet. With so many links from forums and possibly ‘suspicious’ hockey websites, Google automatically assumed that Mr. Slate was placing those links on those forums and site specifically to increase rankings, when in fact he probably had nothing to do with it. So as his customers were simply talking about his website, sharing his information, they were ultimately alerting Google at the same time.

What Is Penguin?

Google is always trying to provide the best possible results for its users. It’s entire brand and business is reliant upon providing quick, accurate and relevant results to users. If Google failed to provide accurate and relevant results in searches, users would simply go to Bing or Yahoo. (See Google Knowledge Graph Update above).

In providing the best possible results, Google needed to become better at weeding out those who are ‘cheating’ the system by using techniques to specifically increase rankings. Whether these companies were providing relevant information or not seems to be inconsequential when it comes to the Penguin update. It’s what they were doing to get that information to the top of the rankings that Google cares about.

Because Google makes so many changes to its algorithm, it’s often difficult for small-business owners with limited resources to stay on top of all of its tweaks, says Barry Schwartz, a search-engine analyst in New York. ‪

White Hat Vindication

What do I think of the Penguin update? I absolutely love it!! There are those SEO’s out there whom do right by Google, only using tried and true White Hat SEO practices that, yes, are more time consuming, but are suppose to work you up the rankings. In most situations, these White Hat techniques do work, but there are those circumstances when your client’s competition is implementing Black Hat techniques that are kicking your butt.

This Penguin update has vindicated every SEO and small business owner who has been genuine and honest with White Hat techniques while trying to keep up with those Black Hat SEO.

This entire Wall Street Article is a must read: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303505504577406751747002494.html