The concept of two cute, cuddly animals striking dread into the hearts of webmasters worldwide is at first, a comical one.
However, these two strangely named algorithms can completely devastate a poorly conceived, structured and executed site in minutes.
Constantly scouring the internet and analysing websites, these two bots are sophisticated, highly efficient and merciless.
Should a webmaster ignore the Google SEO guidelines, take shortcuts or even worse try to cheat the system, their website could be deindexed instantly without warning and a stern warning will follow from the internet search giant. Worse still, even after rebuilding and conforming with all the guidelines, getting the site re-indexed will be even harder.
Each algorithm has a specific task. Panda monitors content on websites whereas Penguin analyses backlinks to the website.
There are three major areas that each monitors’ relentlessly. If there is infringement on ANY of these areas, expect Google to wield the axe.
The Major Panda Criteria
Hidden content. Many inexperienced webmasters will try to take advantage of Google by hiding content in white space. Placing white text on a white background, they will attempt to hide keywords and links, assuming panda will miss them.
This is a huge mistake as the bots are way smarter than we can imagine and will spot the text. Even if they cannot identify the text but suspect there is an infringement, the site will be passed up for manual inspection and these guys have seen it all.
Duplicate content. A whole industry has sprung up with software that will ‘spin’ written content; taking a piece of content and producing multiple variations with altered text, word count and formatting.
Google will not be fooled. Not only does most respun content read like garbage but it leaves the user, who Google ultimately is most concerned with serving, with a poor experience. Anything which jeopardises Google’s reputation for offering the most relevant content to the searcher receives the most serious sanctions.
Keyword stuffing. The most relevant content for each search produces the highest ranking. However, constantly repeating the same keyword or keyphrase throughout the content piece will not enhance ratings. Again, user experience is the highest priority and keywords should be used in context and only when relevant.
The Major Penguin Criteria
Bought links. The more backlinks a site has is normally a good indication to Google of its’ relevance and authority within its category; two factors which weigh heavily in the Google ranking criteria. It must be stressed however that relevant backlinks are the key.
Many have tried to boost their site with questionable links which can be bought freely from link farms and private blog networks. But once more, if a site is concerned with ‘weight loss’ and buys a zillion links from ‘cage fighting’ sites, far from being elevated in organic rankings it will almost certainly be de-indexed and disappear from sight.
Reciprocal links. Webmasters on a budget will often look to short cut the ranking process again with outside rankings. This time they will swap links with other sites in an effort to forcibly show authority to Google.
Penguin is far too sophisticated for this nonsense. Unless both sites are related, the links will count for nothing. In fact, they are like a red flag to a bull and are one of the quickest ways to get a site severely penalised. It clearly shows the webmaster is far more concerned with artificial ranking than providing relevant, applicable content for the user.
Comment likes. There are several software programs and hundreds of thousands of individuals who specialise in leaving thousands of comments on websites and blogs. Each comment will carry a backlink in the hope of providing link juice to the site.
But seriously, does anyone think a backlink for Viagra from a gardening website is going to fool anyone? Well, obviously, many do! These comments are not only flagrant spamming practices but they can even harm the site they are placed on.
Not only will webmasters incur the wrath of the Penguin algorithm but also justified complaints from website owners. It is a rapid shortcut to site de-indexing and should be avoided at all costs.
All responsible website owners will do regular housekeeping exercises on their site to ensure it remains Google friendly. No better way than to enlist the help of a quality SEO agency to do a free Google audit of the website to ensure all bases are covered.