By now, you've probably heard about Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, but do you know what they are and what they mean for your dealer website? Let me then give you a quick overview of each of these website-shattering updates.
For a long time, Google had been criticized for how it allowed “content farms” to rank with crappy, useless, or simply ad-filled content. Panda was built to eliminate content farms from the search engine ranking page (SERP.) By the end of the year, they also included the appearance of the site as part of the Panda update.
The Panda update is focused on content quality. It looks at grammar, spelling, and page layout to determine if a page is “webspam” or not. Pages which are built to rank for a niche or specific search phrases that are meant to confuse visitors into clicking Google AdSense or other ads are considered to be “spammy” pages. They're not good pages and rarely provide any information or value to a visitor. Panda sought to rid the Google SERPs of these kinds of pages. For example, Panda can de-index your page. This is a page-by-page scenario rather than a full site punishment, but it's pretty bad when Google refuses to rank your site or acknowledge its existence.
There has been a lot of controversy about what it means to be hit by Panda. If you've been hit by Panda, first work on your content. Clean up your grammar and make sure you're not just copying your content from other sites without adding your two cents to make it original and valuable. Next, retool the site's appearance to make ads less obtrusive. If there are ads that push your content “below the fold” then you need to get rid of these ads. They may be a revenue generator, but they shouldn't be at the expense of providing your visitors with information.
Where Panda is concerned about the page content and appearance, Penguin is concerned about links and which ones point to your site. Google has long been concerned about how people manipulate their PageRank algorithm with their crafted anchor text and links. Penguin is the latest in a long line of “link control” updates which are designed to catch those manipulating Google through “link spam”.
Penguin looks at the links that are pointing to any given site and evaluates how natural those links are. If there are a large number of links which use the same words, come from a small number of domains, or appeared “overnight” they may be flagged as unnatural. Natural links tend to number very few per domain, often have very different text from each other, and rarely appear quickly. Building links is supposed to take a lot of time and effort, so anything that cuts time out of the process could be flagged by Penguin.
This is a bit tricky. Google understands that this problem may not be of your doing. Someone could've engaged in negative SEO tactics specifically to take you down. Other times, it comes from inattention to your link profile. Regardless of whether this is your fault or not, you need to evaluate for yourself what those other webmasters are doing to link to you. Contact them and get them to remove, update, or correct their links to you. It's a time-consuming process, and it's supposed to be, so don't be discouraged if you can't get a hold of a few webmasters. Keep at it and make sure that you're doing everything you can to clean up the mess Penguin sees.
Both of these updates are looking at features about your website that you have some control over. You may not have 100% control, but you have some control and that means you're responsible for it. However, identifying whether you were hit by either is a bit trickier. To find out, answer these questions.
If your site is pretty, doesn't have a ton of ads, has content worth reading, and you know doesn't have a spammy link profile, then you don't have anything to worry about.?? If you answer yes to any of those questions, you might – I stress MIGHT – have a Penguin or Panda problem.