Here are some notes taken from a webinar I listened to today entitled “Mozinar – A guided tour of the zoo (Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates)“, given by Dr. Pete of Moz. He basically ran through the good and bad news about Google’s direction and what that means for SEO.
Panda runs in monthly updates – It’s probably too complicated to run in real time. If your site is hit by Panda, you will need to wait until the next time it updates to recover.
Panda is content based. There is little overlap with Penguin (which is link based).
Panda Risk Factors
1. User generated content with no moderation. This can be thin and spammy and dilutes your index.
2. Geotargeted pages. Duplicate content and just changing the city name. This is bad if done on a large scale by a small company.
3. Duplicate content generated by CMS. See the article Duplicate Content in a Post Panda World.
Recovery will take a couple of months from a Panda penalty.
Penguin is a penalty based on links pointing to your website. There have been 5 known Penguin updates. The first was April 24, 2012, and the last was October 14, 2013. The update prior to the last was in May 2013, so there is a long refresh time. It is not clear if Penguin is an algorithm change or data only update. Recovery time could be months even if you fix the problems because you need to wait for the next update.
Penguin was meant at punishment for sites breaking the rules and was implemented irrespective of the loss in quality it created. There was a lot of collateral damage.
Sites are punished primarily based on keyword stuffed non branded terms in anchor text.
Penguin 2.1 targeted links from sites with low readability.
To see if you have been hit by penguin: Check dates of update vs. date of loss of traffic. There should be a strong correlation.
How to recover. Cut deep and fast. Remove all questionable links.
First request removal from site owners. If that doesn’t work, use the disavow links tool.
Note: You must submit all links each time, because only one page is saved for each site.
Use of automatic link removal software
Software is ok to gather data, but don’t use without reviewing manually.
The Bad News
Penguin recovery success stories are few and far between.
Hummingbird was more than an update, it was a core rewrite, and there has been and probably will only be one occurrence.
Hummingbird’s primary effect on search results have been in the area of conversational queries, and the way results tie into the knowledge graph. Hummingbird gives Google a new toolbox and the changes due to Hummingbird will likely be gradual.
Hummingbird is not a penalty, it changes the way Google interprets queries. Since there is no penalty, there is no recovery. Hummingbird mostly effected long tail queries. Due to Hummingbird’s move towards the semantic interpretation of queries, exact keyword targeting is becoming a thing of the past, if it has not already.
There were 665 unnamed improvements/launches to the Google search algorithm in 2012. There were also 7000 plus live tests in 2012. With so much change it is impossible to track individual updates and their cause and effect related to individual websites and search queries.
Keep in mind that old updates can still be in effect i.e. Page layout (Top Heavy) update, which targeted sites with too many adds above the fold. Or old updates may not still be in effect. An example would be the May Day update, which may have been dropped because it could be redundant with Panda.
Check Webmaster tools to make sure you don’t have a manual penalty.
Your site may also be indirectly effected by manual penalties. Google penalizes link networks – if you have links on those networks – you will lose authority because of the penalty. Google devalues links from link networks it finds every day.
Future proofing your SEO?
Don’t rely too much on one single source of link authority i.e. Guest blogging. This makes your linking profile look unnatural. Doing a lot if it may be bad for you but good for another site that has more diversified tactics and a more natural profile.
Thanks again to Dr. Pete of MOZ for all of this food for thought. Comments?