Last year the Panda update created some hand-wringing and frowning as business owners discovered their rankings had been degraded by Google’s major algorithm update. The search engine stood its ground and insisted the fight against low-quality content farming, duplication and scraper websites was fully-engaged.

Now we have Penguin (not as fluffy-cute as a panda but suitably enigmatic all the same), a major update which aims to tackle more of the minutiae of good quality versus bad quality. As usual, the secrets of the actual algorithm will ever remain secret, but what Google says is that this update will root out websites which are over-optimising and trying to trick it, and downgrade them.

What does this mean for business websites?

If you have an experienced natural search optimisation agency managing your content, SEO and backlinks it is unlikely you will have to worry about plummeting down Google’s Page Rank. Google values natural search and ethical linking campaigns and Penguin seeks to give superior websites the search engine rank they deserve by culling the chaff – the ones who have been exploiting the rules of optimisation but offering very little to enhance user experience.

However, if your website has been seriously impacted by the update – not sliding by a few places but by pages, or becoming invisible – some tough questions need to be asked of how your SEO agency is conducting business on your behalf.

The good news is that Google anticipates that only a small percent of British and American searches will be affected: the main perpetrators of keyword stuffing and spamming tend to be Eastern European, it states.

What questions do you need to ask about the quality of your website?

Google has defined the criteria for best practice. Your SEO agency should be fully aware of this criteria and act upon it at all times. Ethics are weighted heavily and the search giant has also defined what it considers constitutes a website worthy of a high ranking on its pages.

The guidelines are split into three sections: design, technical and quality.

They include an emphasis on well-designed navigation and well-written, accurate and appropriate content, very useful information on how to make it easy for their crawlers to index pages correctly, and an emphasis on how websites should be created for customers, not search engines.

All this information is available for everyone to read online, and Adrac recommends every business owner should familiarise themselves with these guidelines. Even if the technical side doesn’t make any sense, the reasons behind it do.

If Penguin has impacted upon your website rankings, take some time to assess your pages using Google’s information, then discuss it with your agency. If you are not happy with the content, it should be rewritten; if you are dubious about the quality of backlinks, ask your agency to draw up a new plan; if navigation is not enhancing your visitor’s experience, this should also be tackled. Also be aware your agency is able to contact Google and file a report if they feel that the update has affected a perfectly good website.

The good news is that something can always be done to improve search engine page ranks. The bad news is that not every agency is capable of doing this effectively. We think that not only will Penguin highlight critical flaws in some websites, it will also expose the weaknesses of those who try to exploit Google’s system because they don’t have the necessary skills or experience.

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