SEO is the widely used acronym for search engine optimization. It is the practice of designing, building and producing content for websites which serves to increase the authority and relevance of that site; with the simultaneous aim of ensuring that site also appears more highly ranked on search engine results pages (S.E.R.P’s). When the phrase ‘search engine’ is used, largely it refers to Google because while there are other search engines available, like Bing and Yahoo! for users to use, Google still holds the largest share of the search engine market, estimated at somewhere between 65-70% of the whole (imforza).
Penguins and Pandas
That statistic alone means you need to know your penguins from your pandas if you’re going to be successful in handling your SEO strategy, regardless of whether you outsource that strategy or handle it in house. The Penguin algorithm focuses mainly on identifying and penalizing sites that are engaging in activities like using: link spam, paid links, link farms and overly optimised anchor text. Penguin is concerned with your sites CREDIBILITY. The Panda algorithm focuses on targeting low quality, thin and duplicate material. So of course, Panda is concerned with your CONTENT. Changes to these algorithms are designed to remove ‘spammy’, irrelevant or poor quality sites from Google’s S.E.R.P’s, in order to improve the relevance of these results for users and their search queries. This has a hugely negative impact on sites engaging in such practices. However, there have been cases where changes to these algorithms have also benefited the sites that are engaging in low risk, high value and long term SEO tactics.
Here’s an example of both a negative and a positive outcome from a Penguin or Panda update:
Interflora lost visibility in a huge way in February 2013, to the extent that they no longer ranked in Google for their own name, let alone their most valuable keywords: flowers, florist, flower delivery and flowers online (Martin Macdonald)! It later transpired that Interflora’s SEO team had been acquiring paid links through the method of sending a free product to bloggers. This is a classic example of engaging in unnatural or “Black Hat” back link building which means it was the Penguin algorithm that Interflora fell afoul of. On the other hand, YouTube gained visibility with the last Panda refresh and largely it’s unsurprising as the site relies heavily on user generated content which is therefore relevant to users and unlikely to be duplicated or unnatural (interestingly, it’s also one of Google’s own). However Wabauto.de is a German site, unaffiliated to Google that also saw an increase in visibility after the last Panda refresh, they recorded a rise in visibility of 132.77% (Orchid Box). So, a change in Google’s algorithms should not be synonymous with a negative effect on SEO, IF you’re playing by the rules.