Slide1It’s become quite the thing these days to spread fear and loathing about Google’s impending updates to its algorithm. For a few years now the SEO world has been running scared as they try to work out whether what they’ve been doing is “good” or “bad” in the eyes of the world’s largest search engine. If it turns out what they’ve been doing is “bad” then there’s a very real chance they could end up with their website sitting hundreds of pages down in the wilderness. If they’ve been “good” then, well, sales and profits could be just round the corner.

There are two main algorithm changes that people are interested in. The first is “Panda” which is all about content. If your site is filled with rubbish or copied content then Google may decide to demote you.

The second is “Penguin” and this is the one that’s got most people flustered because it reaches long into a staple of the SEO industry – back links.

A quicker primer is maybe needed here. The links to your website have, for a long time, been a clear indicator of it’s popularity. In the past, if you had lots of links then you would do well. The sites with fewer links would find themselves nowhere to be seen in the search results.

However, Google reckoned it had worked out which were “good” links and which were “bad”. If you’d created the link yourself, then it was bad. If, however, the link had been created by someone giving you a virtual high five, then that was good. But how on earth can they know?

I guess that’s something for Google to keep close to their chest, but as one of the biggest tasks of SEO people was to build links, and build lots of them, they suddenly found themselves in a very dodgy place. What if these links are deemed by Google to be in breach of their rules? What could happen?

Google decided, in the worst cases, to penalise sites and sometimes this resulted in being removed from the search results altogether.

Penguin has now had three major updates, the last one being earlier this month. The last two have been jarring and scary. Some fairly innocuous and generally “nice” websites found themselves banished. It sent ripples through the industry with people calling foul.

Google Penguin 3, however, seems to have been far more subtle. Many sites that say they’ve been unfairly punished are now actually rising back. It seems this update has, as a whole, had little effect on “real” business and instead has hit the spammers, the “black hat” brigade very hard indeed.

Nobody is really complaining this time. In fact, many in the industry are now praising Google. Instead of their blunderbuss approach to the problem of bad sites and dodgy SEO, it seems now they’ve got it right.