Google Over-Optimization Penalty (Penguin Update) Is your Website at Risk?

We’ve been hearing about it for weeks. It’s sparked debate in many SEO Inc. meetings and is finally here. Google has launched an update targeting webspam in search results. It has been interesting to read the buzz online about this update. First, we’ll tell you what the update entails, according to Google. Next, we will get into some winners and losers. Then we will end this post with some SEO insight and some reactions.

What is the Update Targeting?

In this portion, I would like to list a few choice quotes from Google, and then we can discuss them. These quotes are pulled from Google’s Post on Another Step to reward high-quality sites.

In the post, Google mentions, “Earlier this year, we launched a page layout algorithm that reduces rankings for sites that don’t make much content available “above the fold.”

I thought this was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people missed this update. If you did, get that content higher up on the page.

Google goes on to say the following. “In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites we believe violate Google’s quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high-quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high-quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.”

Here we see that Google wants you to create high-quality websites. So let’s learn more about what they view as a high-quality site. Google starts with an example of a website that is keyword stuffing.

Google Penguin

“Here’s an example of a webspam tactic like keyword stuffing taken from a site that will be affected by this change:”

This one is pretty hard to argue with. No one wants to Google something and then come to a page with keywords stuffed into it like this. So I have to say, they got it right here.

Google then goes on to show another example. “Most sites affected by this change aren’t so blatant. Here’s an example of a site with unusual linking patterns affected by this change. Notice that if you try to read the text aloud, you’ll discover that the outgoing links are completely unrelated to the actual content, and in fact, the page text has been “spun” beyond recognition.”

Again, bravo to Google for making this not OK in the search world, but wait, weren’t these things already not OK? The answer is yes! Almost all items targeted in this update have been frowned upon and spoken against. However, Google says they are now making better updates to the algorithm to catch this type of spam.

Google says that sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise. However, the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; they are spammy.

This is also a multilingual update; this algorithm affects about 3.1% of queries in English to the degree that a regular user might notice. In addition, the change affects roughly 3% of queries in German, Chinese, and Arabic, but the impact is higher in more heavily-spammed languages. For example, 5% of Polish queries change to the degree a regular user might notice.

So now we have a decent idea of what Google says the update entails. But first, let’s take a look at the web.

Winners and Losers from Google Webspam (Penguin) Update

There have already been significant gains and massive losses in this algorithm change. In this post by Danny Sullivan, we see who won and who lost.

Big Winners Include

  • – Traffic up 30%
  • – Traffic up 30%
  • – Traffic up 30%
  • – Traffic up 30%

Big Losers Include

  • – Traffic down -73%
  • – Traffic down -72%
  • Cubestat – Traffic down 69%
  • – Traffic down -65%

Overall, it looks like the update has made an impact on sites. However, it’s pretty interesting to see how drastic it has been. Seeing how powerful this change in traffic has been for these websites leads me to believe that Google may be looking at much more than they let on.

SEO Strategies for Google Webspam Update

This Google Penguin Webspam Update is still very new. So making any significant SEO policy changes is hard without thoroughly evaluating them. That being said, we do know a few things.


1.      Get content high on the page
2.      Do not keyword stuff
3.      Do not spin content
4.      Do not internal link non-relevant content

Nothing new here… We don’t do this anyway.

Comments from Around the Web

The outcry has been tremendous to this update. Here are some of the things people are saying.

  •  There is no way it only affected 3% of searches.
  •  People are angry at Google; which has lost rankings (duh)
  •  People feel that this is an effort to kill SEO and drive everyone to PPC and Google +
  •  People think that this is an update done to increase Google’s income strategically


  • Winners & Losers From Google’s Webspam Update
  • Google Launches Update Targeting Webspam In Search Results
  • Google’s New Anti-Spam Algo Causing Anger, Frustration Inside Marketing Industry
  • Another step to reward high-quality sites

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