Google’s Penguin Search Algorithm Updates: Should We Worry?

Google has been making a lot of changes to its search algorithm over the last year. The changes, including the latest one dubbed Penguin, seem to be geared at improving the overall search engine experience for users by detecting “black hat” SEO methods and removing those sites from search engine results while continuing to reward original quality content with higher rankings. Over optimized websites and those with more than two advertisements above the fold have also been penalized. This sounds good, though Google’s continued algorithm updates raise a serious question for marketers: how much should we continue to focus on Google’s algorithm changes? To answer that question we need to look at why the changes are being made and who really benefits from them.

Why Is Google Really Making Algorithm Changes

There is a lot of speculation about why Google continues to modify its algorithm. The changes do seem to be geared at rewarding high quality content. Blog networks have been de-indexed, over optimized websites that are so stuffed with keywords as to be barely readable by humans have seen their rankings drop, and more websites with quality content that is unique have seen their rankings increase. There are, however, reports of other results of the algorithm changes that are not so great.

We have seen websites rankings’ penalized for no reason that we can discern while others seem to rank well even though they have no content (and haven’t been updated in months). We see websites that have absolutely no keyword targeting rank extremely well when there is no reason. We see Google’s own properties, along with Apple and Wikipedia consistently favored in search engine results.

Some SEO professionals think that Google is trying to make SEO itself unreliable so as to deter bad behavior and get people to focus on quality content. Others believe there are even more cynical reasons for what Google is doing, such as making it seem the web is loaded with spam websites that user will think it’s best to just click on a paid link, thus increasing Google’s revenue. Perhaps it is simply the hiccups that come along with many of the changes that Google has made to its algorithm. After all, it’s not as if actual people are reviewing these sites. Getting a computer to determine if the search engine results are correct for the search query takes some time and effort, and there are bound to be issues along the way.

Who Benefits from the Algorithm Changes?

Google has expended a great deal of effort to ensure its search engine results are the best. Or, at least what Google thinks is the best. After all, who is Google to decide what is and is not good content? They have a huge amount of user data so they are able to determine what their users want. Nonetheless, how often do people say they want one thing and do another? Are people behaving they way they do because that’s what they want or because Google is controlling how the information is being delivered? Good questions that only scratch the surface, but are difficult if not impossible to answer.

Regardless, if users do not get the search engine results they want then they are likely to go elsewhere. Deliberately providing unreliable search engine results in order to get more people to click on paid links seems short-sighted and ultimately disastrous, not to mention uncharacteristic of Google. Google tends to take a longer view than most businesses and seems very concerned about providing the best results. This benefits Google just as much as it benefits the user. The user continues to use Google and gets good search engine results for query and Google continues to get people viewing their paid ads—even if the click-through rate is not very high, marketers will continue to pay and Google will continue to charge.

What To Do About Google Search Algorithm Changes?

As a marketer, how do you respond to the constant change in the Google search algorithm? We suggest pretty much ignoring them. It is extremely difficult to keep up with every search algorithm change. Amit Singhal at Google said, “Just last year we launched over 500 changes to our algorithm so by some count we change our algorithm almost every day, almost twice over.” Some of those changes are big, but most are quite small. If you area following best practices and regularly producing unique high quality content then you have little to concern yourself with Google search algorithm changes. They are not likely to effect you in any negative way.

In fact, we suspect Google is ultimately aiming for just that. They want you to focus on producing good content, not trying to find a way around the search algorithm using black hat SEO or other questionable methods. This latest update shouldn’t even really be a surprise. Google wants to deliver a quality results for every query because it benefits them. You should want to provide quality content because it benefits you. If you continue to focus on providing value to your users then Google’s search algorithm updates will only benefit your website. There’s no reason to worry or obsess over every search algorithm update.