A lot! What am I talking about? Penguin! That’s the name of the latest Google algorithm update released last month – April 24th, to be exact. “Great,” you’re no doubt thinking. “Another update designed to punish my site and kick me out of the SERPs!” Well, that’s one way to look at it. But the truth is, if you weren’t doing anything wrong in the first place, you probably didn’t even know that the update had been released, because your site was most likely not affected by it.
So what is Penguin designed to do? Pretty much the same thing all Google algorithm updates are designed to do – filter out bad results. In this case, the results that are being targeted are for sites that have “spammy” links pointing to them. In other words, if you somehow got (bought?) a bunch of links on other, low-quality, topically-unrelated websites Google is going to frown on that. In their opinion, a link from one site to another represents an “endorsement”. The owner of originating site is saying publicly that she believes the content on the page she is linking to is relevant to whatever her page is about, and also of good quality. The more sites that link to a particular page like this, the better that page will typically do in the SERPs (search engine result pages). Google uses links, among over 200 other metrics, as a way to measure a page’s popularity and importance. The more important a page is the higher in the rankings it goes. Penguin looks at the links pointing to a page and tries to determine if they are of good or bad quality. Bad quality = bad news for the target of those links.
It gets worse. If your site has fallen victim of Penguin there’s no quick fix. Unlike when your site has been manually demoted or removed from the SERPs, you can’t submit a reconsideration request. This is an algorithmic penalty. The only way to recover from it is to fix the problem and let the algorithm figure out that you fixed it. This can be a frustratingly slow process, to say the least. But, unfortunately, there’s no way around it. Do your best to remove the offending links (wow, that doesn’t sound easy!) and wait for Googlebot to crawl your site again and hopefully lift the penalty.
So what’s your best defense against algorithm penalties in the future? Simple. Don’t use ANY black-hat SEO techniques! Ever! Period! Get your links the natural way – by establishing yourself as an authority in your field and becoming a part of the community. People (site owners are people, after all) will grow to respect you and look (link) to you for quality, relevant, and timely information. And that’s exactly what Google is trying to promote.