As many people know, the world of SEO is ever changing.  Google rolls out many updates that change how the results on a SERP (search engine results page) are ranked, and thus changes who gets traffic and who doesn’t.  While the vast majority of these changes do not make a large splash in the way search results are shown, there have been two massive updates that have the SEO world erupting.  At TargetClick, we like to call those roaring changes the Google Zoo.

The Google Zoo gets its name from the names of the last two large updates: Panda and Penguin.

Here’s a little overview of what happened in each of these changes:

What was Panda?

The Panda update was certainlGoogle Panday not a cute, fuzzy animal for a lot of SEOs.  In fact, it was more like the ravaging dogs infected in the Will Smith movie, I Am Legend.  Kinda scary.

Anyway, Panda was rolled out to remove pages that were ‘thin’ in content.  This means that those pages that were put on a website simply to rank high and get users in the door.  They were all useless pages, but from Google’s perspective they provided little or no value to users.

Who got the wrath of Panda?

Content Farms: These were sites, usually blogs, where people could post spammy content and backlinks to get a boost in rankings.  Most of these sites would post about any topic, and the majority of the content was spun (use synonyms within a piece of content to generate multiple pieces of unique content) resulting in a poorly written article.

Learn more about how Panda was rolled out.

Now, on to the always formally dressed, Penguin:

What was Penguin?Google Penguin

According to the Google machine itself, the Penguin update was an “important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.”

Okay, so what were people doing to break Google’s rules? The number one issue webmasters were getting penalized for was ‘unnatural backlinking.’ Unnatural backlinking can be done a number of ways, but the most common is purchasing links. People can go to Fiverr, oDesk, or really any place where outsourcing services are offered and purchase thousands of low quality links for as little as $5.  We’ve all probably been reading a blog and suddenly come across a random post trying to sell us Viagra or how to increase a credit score.  This is how people were getting links, and for a long time, it actually worked. With the Penguin update, Google notified webmasters in Google’s webmaster tools that their site was being flagged as using unnatural linking tactics.

Here are two leading indicators of what Google was looking for in this smack down:

  1. Ratio of exact match anchor text to citation based links
  2. Lots of links from low quality domains and/or blog spam

So, What’s the Takeaway?

GET A GOOD ZOOKEEPER. Make sure you know what your internet marketing companies are doing to drive traffic to your site.  If you think something smells fishy, ask.  If they can’t give you a solid answer, it might be time to start scouting out a new internet marketing company.

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