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Penguin Update & SEO Companies by Darren Strudwick
Once again Google have stirred the pot so to speak with their latest update, the now infamous Penguin update. If memory serves, it wasn't that long ago since we experienced the Panda update. If the intended goal of all these updates is to improve the end-user experience by filling the first few pages of Google's search results with highy relevant websites then it could be debated (and infact is being debated) that the goal has not been reached. In some instances quite the opposite has happened, websites with pages full of irrelevant content are making an appearance in the search results. Curiously my own website has started recieving more traffic from Yahoo and Bing, I never get traffic from these two search engines, so one would have to assume the end users have noticed a change in the quality of content being returned to them in Google's search results and have switched to alternate search engines; but however many people stop using Google, unless the entire planet and possibly solar system do it on mass - which is unlikely - Google will remain very much the dominant player in the market, so I would suspect the boys at Google HQ probably aren't going without too much sleep at this moment in time.
Those who are going without sleep are the owners of the websites who have been badly affected by Panda and Penguin. Not since the now almost legendary Florida Update back in 2005 have so many websites been adversely affected by changes to the Google Algorithm. I have been reading in many forums comments by angry website owners who have seen their Google rankings drop dramatically. In one post, a shop owner somewhere in the USA claimed prior to the Penguin update his website was getting in the region of 50 000 visits per month. Since Penguin, his website's rankings have dropped so significantly it's almost impossible to find his site anywhere in Google's search results. Apparently the website now only gets 300 or 400 visits a month and he has had to lay off 90% of his workforce.
Being in the website design business and having some knowledge of SEO, a lot of my clients not only think I know all the answers but they seem to have the impression that I operate my business from an ivory tower and that I am untouchable, however I am not immune and my own website has taken a bit of a hit. Panda and more specifically Penguin have caused my website to dissappear completely from the search results for searches using my main keyword phrase - website design - and my position has dropped for other search phrases, thus the traffic to my website is now halved. Fortunately for me, my business is very well established, plus my website hasn't totally dissappeared from Google's search results so I am not as badly affected as others.
Millions of businesses in the UK do very well without a care in the world as to how their websites perform in Google's search results. To an extent I am not happy with what Google have done in these last few weeks, but everything they have done prior to these past few weeks has helped me immensely and was free of charge. Google gave me hundreds of clients and a profitable business and I never paid them a penny in return. They don't owe me a living, if anything I now owe them. Google have always said they don't want people to rely on them. If you set up a business, Google should only form a small part of your business model. Google provide website owners with what is essentially a free service, thus to expect anything from Google in return is wrong. Yet millions of websites have come to rely or even depend on Google for their existance thus placing a lot of power into Google's hands. Does that amount of power not come with some kind of moral obligation and responsibility? Should Google really be rocking the boat and playing with their Algorithim at the potential expense of millions of livelihoods? I don't really know the answer and I will throw that one out for debate.
Where I feel any moral authority is really lacking is in the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Prior to Penguin and Panda many SEO companies offered set price packages for website optimization, and immediately after Penguin and Panda the same packages were still on offer! Is that not like a travel agent charging £500 for a holiday to a particular destination, then a week later after a major hurricaine has swept through and ripped the place up, they are still charging £500 to the same destination. I have always had a dislike for SEO companies. Indeed arguably a major reason for Google making these constant changes to it's Algorithim is as a reaction to the constant barrage of tactics that SEO companies employ in their attempts to manipulate Google's search results.
More curious are those SEO companies who do openly acknowledge the recent turbulance and who have changed their prices to reflect this. Many of them are offering advice and charging to get websites back onto the front page of Google. They claim they can not only get your website onto page 1 but they guarantee it. I've watched many interviews with the heads of big SEO companies talking about Panda and Penguin and explaining what should be done to get their client's websites performing well again in the Google search results. My question would be how do they know what to do? I can't think of anything more top secret than the Google Algorithim, so how can these SEO "experts" be dishing out advice as to how to get round Panda and Penguin? Where are they getting their information from? What is certain is they don't have a man on the inside and they are not psychic. They all talk with such certainty about what do and yet the truth is they don't know. What I find even more telling about the SEO industry is I've read several different articles by different SEO experts, and each article suggests a different course of action. They can't all be right! I suspect none of them are.
This is a brilliant quote taken from a video posted by Michelle MacPhearson on youtube in reference to the countless SEO experts claiming to know the answers .. "Anybody who tells you that they know what to do going forward about Penguin and that they've got the formula for you, they're full of sh*t!"