Posted on: May 7, 2012

Got hit by Penguin? It’s probably your own fault

Having been involved in SEO for several years now I have come to know about both white and black hat techniques used to raise your rankings in the SERPs.

What many people I speak too often overlook is the fact that Google search is a product offered by a business. We as website owners use this service to make money , either through the AdWords platform or by appearing in the organic search results. As the owner of the product, Google have every right to make changes the deem beneficial to their business and unless you’re an AdWords user you have no ‘right’ to feel aggrieved if an algorithmic change like Panda or Penguin negatively impacts your website’s traffic.

In truth Google and website owners have a symbiotic relationship – Google needs our websites to index and attract users which it then hopes will click on an advertisement. If we all decided to block Google from indexing our websites, Google search users would drop dramatically as users stop seeing quality, relevant results. However without Google many businesses would not been making the revenue that they currently do.

The problem is in this symbiotic relationship one side has much more control than the other – we are, as website owners at the mercy of Google and how it operates. If we are carry out link building techniques that unnaturally improve our search rankings (i.e. with link networks) we cannot do so without acknowledging the fact that we’re breaking Google’s rules and should be willing to accept the punishment that may result from an algorithm change or a manual review.

The recent ‘Penguin’ release is said to have targeted sites that are over optimised, have poor back link profiles or were generally classed as ‘webspam’. As a result hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of websites have seen keyword rankings fall. In some rare instances this was a mistake and perfectly legitimate websites were punished but on the whole it was successful. If you were hit by Penguin and you genuinely don’t understand why I would recommend asking a respected SEO consultant or agency to carry out a review of your website and its link profile – the chances are you did fall under what Google classes as ‘web spam’ and there will be actions you can take to address this.

On the other hand if you do know why you were hit it’s time to review whether you’re after short term or long term gains and relative stability. The reason ‘black hat’ SEO exists is because it works and usually quicker than following Google’s guidelines, but even the most ardent ‘black hat’ practitioners know that it’s success is temporary and don’t expect things to last beyond a few weeks or months.

I personally don’t have a problem with black hat SEO if it’s your own website, your own money and you understand the risks. Where it becomes an issue is when an SEO agency or consultant practices black hat on behalf of their clients without making them aware of the risks, and having spoken to many, many companies in the last month who have been on receiving end of Google’s crackdown on link networks it’s obviously something that is happening all the time. If these agencies had been up front about what they planned to do and what the risks were the clients would have nothing to complain about.