Panda and Penguin algorithm updates

Every blogger should read Google’s quality guidelines.  There have been at least nine major updates to Google’s “Panda” algorithms since they were introduced February 2011 to purge search results of  duplicate content and low quality content. Google’s Penguin Update launched on April 24, 2012 was a change to Google’s search results designed to punish pages that have been spamming Google. 

Though my sites were not affected by these updates, there have been bloggers posting to the WordPress.com support forums, who have sites that do appear to have been caught out in these algorithm changes, which are aimed at ridding the SERPs of spam, low quality content, duplicate content, and/or over-optimized content.

Earlier this year, Google revealed that we sent out over 700,000 messages to site owners in January and February 2012 via our free webmaster console at http://google.com/webmasters  .. well above 600,000 were for obvious blackhat spam, and under 25,000 of the messages were for unnatural links

At the SMX Advanced conferenceAdvanced conference in Seattle, Google’s web spam chief Matt Cutts told Search Engine Land Editor-In-Chief Danny Sullivan that Google’s definition of a “penalty” is when manual action is taken against a site, Google doesn’t use the term “penalty” but insetad say “manual action.” Matt Cutts also said neither Panda nor Penguin are penalties; they’re both algorithm updates.

Danny Sullivan: What’s the deal with Penguin. Is it a penalty?

Matt Cutts: We look at it something designed to tackle low-quality content. It started out with Panda, and then we noticed that there was still a lot of spam and Penguin was designed to tackle that. It’s an algorithmic change, but when we use a word like “penalty,” we’re talking about a manual action taken by the web spam team — it wasn’t that.

We don’t think of it as a penalty. We think of it as, “We have over 200 signals, and this is one of the signals.”  — Matt Cutts On Penalties Vs. Algorithm Changes, A Disavow-This-Link Tool & More

20 thoughts on “Panda and Penguin algorithm updates

  1. Interesting.

    You are keeping me up to date.

    But, what is blackhat SEO? Just a 20,000 foot view, I don’t focus on stats or marketing guru stuff accept to understand it all.

    Wayne

    • Google itemizes it for all to see:
      Quality guidelines – specific guidelines
      Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
      Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
      Don’t send automated queries to Google.
      Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.
      Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
      Don’t create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.
      Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
      If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.
      If you determine that your site doesn’t meet these guidelines, you can modify your site so that it does and then submit your site for reconsideration. http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769#3

  2. Fascinating topic. It still amazes me that algorithms even exist that can catch things like duplicate content. It seems a bit like law and order coming slowly to the Old West… : )

    • Hi Mark,
      The sophistication of these algorithms goes far beyond detecting duplicate content and blackhat SEO tactics. I don’t pretend to have any special knowledge. I rely on the experts. When I have the time to I read top SEO blogs and glean a little information here and there. You see, I’ve never been a person who is into numbers, so the reading your stats part of SEO is where my weakness is. Unlike those who are addicted to stats watching my eyes glaze over when I look at columns of numbers.

  3. Hello there I’m only new to blogging and had a problem with my blog that I went to the forum to get help with. It was OK in the end but I kept noticing this mystery timethief character and then I saw how many people you were helping both new like me and experienced. I just thought I would say fair play to you for going out of your way to help so many people all the time. It’s people like yourself that make wordpress worth it’s while and there may be a time when I need your help. Keep up the great work. P.S. your blog is so informative

  4. From what I can deduce, is the way how we “test” if our blog has been or not downgraded, is to conduct some pretty searches for our own blog in Google?

    • Yes. It’s easy to search, see that your site has gone down and assume the worst. Google does report some spamming offenses through Google Webmaster Central, but there’s no way currently to log-in and know if the Penguin Update hit you. However, as you aren’t into black hat SEO you have nothing to worry about.
      What’s “webspam,” as Google calls it, or search spam? Sites that try to gain better rankings through things like:
      Keyword stuffing
      Link schemes
      Cloaking, “sneaky” redirects or “doorway” pages
      Purposeful duplicate content

  5. Thanks for this very helpful info.
    “designed to punish pages that have been spamming Google” that’s funny when Google is the one who crawls our pages

  6. I don’t seem to have been penalised. If anything, just recently (particularly since I fixed the sitemap issue) my search results have risen. There is no duplicate content (that I am aware of) on my site, but I do wonder how Google treats link that are ads, having been accepted into the WordAds programme.

    Do you have any knowledge about how Google treats ads?

    • Hi there,
      Your site is a high quality site and your don’t have anything to fret about. :) I’m sorry but I don’t know anything at all about advertising. raincoaster is who I would ask.

        • That sounds like a good plan. I use an AdBlock plus add-on on my Firefox browser so I don’t have to see ads so I don’t know what the ads look like.

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