Google Penguin Strikes Fast and Fierce

Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Business Technology [ 8 Comments ]

Over the past several weeks, much has been written and discussed about the game-changing Google Penguin update. Since Google holds the lion’s share of search traffic (at nearly 70% in the US and over 90% in the UK) the effect of this major change to their search result algorithm has been substantial.

While Google stands by the idea that Penguin has made its search results better for users, it is clear that this dramatic shift in natural ranking rules has hurt many legitimate businesses and likewise hurt the people searching for them.

What is Google Penguin?

The Penguin update is being used to completely revamp what kind of sites show up in search results. It focuses on giving priority to websites with recently updated content, links from social media and related sites, and those websites that are an authority on their subject. Some have referred to this as a “Spring cleaning” by Google.

And it’s true, the update will help everyone in the long run by making sure none of the sites lacking relevant content and overloaded with search engine optimization tactics will ever be ranked high. Sure it looks messy at first, but then again when you’re cleaning house everything looks a little disorganized before it gets straightened up.

Through social media, guest blog posts, and other mentions, many sites can get their ranking back to respectability over time. If you build authority on pages you want to rank, you should see your rankings increase.

The Unexpected Victim – Small Business

But, the fact is many legitimate websites who used tactics that were previously accepted as “white-hat” SEO (or at least in the grey area) have been dealt devastating blows to their search rankings because of over optimization issues.

Even worse, some websites have been the victim of negative link building, where a competitor will send low quality unrelated links to a site in huge numbers. When we researched Google Webmaster Tools for one site we manage, we found over 35,000 links from one low quality site that we had never pursued, much less seen before.

These issues include the overuse of specific keywords, a large amount of incoming links from unrelated sites, excessive internal linking, along with others. One effect of this is that many new sites using little, if any, of the aforementioned SEO tactics were pushed to the top of search results.

This might not seem like a big deal, but for these young, underdeveloped sites getting the amount of traffic that sites showing up on the first page of Google receive would certainly stretch them beyond their limits. Whether these limitations are based on the quality of their content, capability of the technology that runs the websites (e.g. server processing thresholds), supply of goods sold on the sites, or a combination of these, Google undoubtedly is causing a problem for a substantial number of users. They are now being sent to websites that can’t fully meet their needs.

The effects on established websites that rely on Google search traffic for their revenue have been much more disturbing. Thousands of Internet marketing companies have been affected by the update and many of these were forced to make layoffs in order to remain viable.

While some have claimed that there is a “zero-sum” outcome when it comes to revenue through search results (meaning that the traffic that was diverted from these sites went to one of the websites that replaced the negatively affected sites), there are several arguments against this in addition to the ones stated in the previous paragraph.

Why Google? Why?

One argument is that the only relevant sites that are showing up for certain terms are in the Google Ads section, which requires the websites to  pay Google each time they receive clicks on the ad. This is like a tax Google is placing on proper websites to show up on the first page which means less profits for the businesses paying for these ads.

Another probable outcome of this update is that the search traffic is now being diverted to megalithic websites like Amazon (the Wal-Mart of the Internet and regular partner of Google) and thus wreaking havoc on small businesses like affiliate marketers who have spent years building up their sites to look benevolent in the eyes of Google.

An additional argument is that the search traffic may be unable to find what they were looking for and put off their buying decision for a later time, or not make a purchase online at all. This is obviously a lose-lose situation for Google and the businesses who rely on the search engine to deliver customers.

Overall, the Penguin update has been a nuisance to the majority of SEO-focused, web-based businesses. While it is understandable that Google is trying to improve search results in the long-run, the short-term effect of such a dramatic and irrevocable change in ranking rules is irresponsible at best.

Reece Freeman is a research analyst for, a guide to help small businesses and consumers choose and compare online fax services. He also works very closely with start-ups, providing helpful advice to entrepreneurs on  A resident of Austin, Texas, Reece is also working on his Master of Science in Economics from Texas A&M University.

8 thoughts on “Google Penguin Strikes Fast and Fierce

  1. avatarMarcus

    The thing that really gets me about Penguin is that there is next to no way to recover the site in MOST cases because you have no control over the sites that are linking to you in the first place. A HUGE implication of this that I haven’t seen mentioned before is that it makes the domain name itself useless from a Google SEO point of view.

    If Google doesn’t sort this out then the domain names that have been badly affected by penguin will be abandoned for clean domain names to start again. When these domain names return to the market new webmasters who purchase these domain names will still be under the penguin penalty from a previous owner.

    It will make buying domain names very risky over the next few years. The ONLY solution I can see if for Google to provide a disallow tool as Bing have done to block unwanted links, without it the future for SEO and the web in general is very precarious.

  2. avatarken

    Thanks for writing this post. Perfectly legitimate white hat seo link building tactics that were considered legitimate one year ago are now considered spam.

    This update is by far the most heavy handed as it does not take into consideraton that many SEO’s and webmasters can’t control who links to them. It assumes that any link from a link is because you put it there or asked for the link.

    If you own a site your traffic can be manipulated at any time because of this update.

    What a shame!

  3. avatarNasdaq7

    Google is just creating more spam, where one wants to target say 100 words, now you need to create 100 pages – one page for each keyword.

  4. avatarGarrett Williams

    “This is like a tax Google is placing on proper websites to show up on the first page which means less profits for the businesses paying for these ads”

    and shouldn’t we say “more profits for Google!” Isn’t that what this is all about? So Larry Page can have his big yacht?

    User Experience my butt! If anything it is worse now than ever. All you get now is wiki articles and Youtube garbage. This is all about padding profits for Google so they can prop the stock price up as insiders sell as much as they can to fund their lavish lifestyles. The hell with the little people out there. Lets tell the truth here!

  5. avatarReece F.

    And guess what, folks!? Google’s revenue jumped 11% in the past quarter while thousands of websites perished. Makes me sick that people had to pay to get their websites back on top of search results (with Google Ads) since they lost their natural ranking due to this drastic algorithm change. Someone’s begging for an anti-trust lawsuit.

  6. avatarJessica Sanders

    Marcus, that’s a really important point to include – thanks so much for mentioning it. There’s no question that many small businesses are suffering from all these updates, and from the sounds of it, they may be for a long time to come.

  7. avatarJessica Sanders

    It seems as though Marcus was thinking the same thing. It’s definitely a concerning issue – thanks for sharing with us!

  8. avatarJessica Sanders

    That is definitely one way to look at it, and likely more on the correct side then not. Unfortunately, all we can do is hope to comply with their changes and make the most of our resources. Thanks so much for checking out the post!

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