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Google Penguin is the name given for a Google algorithm update, first launched in April 2012. The purpose of Google is to reduce the ranking of websites which violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Penguin updates are designed to identify so called black-hat SEO techniques, like excessive use of keywords, cloaking, creating duplicate content or participating in link schemes, like the use of misleading or hidden links. Websites which are believed to try to manipulate Google will be penalized, even if their owner had no interest in using inadequate SEO techniques.
When a website is penalized by Google, most owners don’t notice the consequences immediately. It might take several days or maybe weeks to notice traffic drop. Besides that webmasters cannot log in into Google Webmaster Central to see exactly which sites have been penalized. So how can you know if your site has been hit by Google Penguin?
The first Penguin update was launched on the 24th of April 2012. If you’ve noticed traffic drop in the following days you probably have a Penguin problem. However if your traffic dropped a couple of days before you’re problem is more likely caused by Panda update. Google Panda was rolled out on the 19th of April 2012 and was targeting low quality websites. Besides checking the traffic changes of your website another way of knowing if you have been penalized is by verifying your Google Webmaster Account. You might have already received messages from Google regarding your negative SEO behavior.
Most of the websites who were penalized by the Penguin update had some of the following problems: they had hidden text or hidden links, they were using cloaking, they have sent automated queries to Google or had a behavior which affected other websites like installing viruses or Trojans. Besides that using keyword stuffing or creating subdomains with duplicate content can have the same result.
Before everything else the Google Penguin update was designed to target and penalize sites that were "over-optimized" for search engines. That was necessary as many sites with great content were listed lower than sites with poor content but with a better search engine optimization. For example if 50% or more of your links are for commercial terms, you were most likely penalized, even if those links were acquired through directories. Over optimization penalty might also affect you, if you have all your inbound links coming from forums, blogger comments or Wikipedia, if all the inbound links pointing to your site use the same anchor text, or if they originate mostly from other sites you own. Another thing that Penguin is trying to penalize is the creation of low quality content. If you have tens of short articles possible with duplicate content, your website will probably be penalized.
Instead of these negative SEO techniques, there are several ways to correct your web site and make sure you are not going to be affected by a new update. For example if you have only one page optimized properly with a few commercial links it will increase the credibility of your online business. You should also check which contents are not generating traffic and remove them. You should also remove links using unnatural keywords, and try to keep your site as simple and useful as possible. Having a few pages with great content is more valuable than having hundreds of pages with duplicate content and excessive links.
Although in theory it sounds simple, understanding and correcting over optimization penalty is a complex process. The only fact is that Google released the Penguin Update to block the ability of spammy web pages to rank high in search results. If for any reason the update considers your site is spammy, you will be penalized. Unfortunately web masters often do not know why exactly was their site penalized. In order to find out the problem and to be able to fix it, a Google Penguin Audit is the simplest and fastest solution. If you noticed significant traffic drop after the 24th of April 2012, contact Hilda to understand the problem and find a solution.