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Dancing with Penguins and Pandas: Keeping Step with Google

Intouch Team

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You may have heard mumbling and chatter about Google’s latest update — labeled “Penguin.” It was an algorithmic update to their ranking system largely designed to combat “webspam” — content which has been deliberately generated to manipulate search engine results. The Penguin update — which rolled out April 24, 2012 — was preceded by the “Panda” update in 2011.

Panda vs. Penguin: What’s the Difference?

In the world of search engine marketing, algorithm updates and tweaks are a regular occurrence. Most of the time, Google makes small tweaks that don’t impact a significant volume of websites, but these two animal-themed rollouts have resulted in considerable changes to SERPs (search engine results pages).

The 2011 Panda update was designed to target low-value websites. These sites are not necessarily engaging in malicious tactics for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, but they also aren’t adding unique value to a user’s online experience. For example, many sites that simply copy content from quality webpages were impacted by Panda, as were “made for advertising” sites and parked domains. These types of sites have little original content and don’t provide value to a user.

In comparison, Google’s 2012 Penguin update is targeted at webspam. To keep a long story short, Google’s goal is to provide the most relevant results possible for their users. Site owners that use intentionally manipulative SEO tactics — called “black hat SEO” by the search marketing community — have been impacted. Examples of tactics defined as webspam include “keyword stuffing” and “link spamming.”

What Do You Need to Know About Penguin?

If you are interested in learning about the potential impact of Penguin on your site, the good news is that by now it should be fairly obvious. Since April 24, sites affected by the Penguin update have seen a significant and sustained drop in organic search traffic and rankings. If you did not see this for your site, you are likely not impacted by Penguin. If you have seen a decline in your trends, you may have been impacted and should plan on making updates ASAP.

The criteria that factor into Penguin are not necessarily new to SEO vendors — it is simply an updated weighting system by Google. They have spent years studying “black hat” SEO techniques and have targeted this algorithm update at the people who practice them. Across the board, Intouch client websites have not seen significant drops in organic search performance due to the Penguin update; in fact, in many cases we have seen sustained improvements.

Penguin and Duplicate Content

In a recent blog post at Dose of Digital — entitled “Will Penguin Freeze Out Pharma?” — David Cherry stated that Important Safety Information (ISI) could be a particular concern for pharma websites because — on the surface — it would violate Google’s guideline to minimize boilerplate repetition and other duplicate content. Cherry writes, “The problem is that almost every pharma company’s legal review team insists on placing 'Fair Balance’ copy — usually the full Important Safety Information — on every page of their sites…”

From a purely SEO perspective, this statement is a fair assessment, but from a pharmaceutical SEO perspective, we respectfully disagree. Though most SEO vendors working for pharma have likely raised the red flag on this topic at some point, it should be clear that marketers in the pharmaceutical industry should not be concerned about being penalized or negatively impacted by ISI. There are many different ways to include this information, and some are better than others. Working with a partner who has tested and honed the variety of methods for displaying ISI can be beneficial to your site’s overall SEO health.

The Bottom Line

The search engine marketing experts at Intouch have been learning the Google dance for 10+ years now and continue to follow the same standard stated since day 1:“Focus on the user, and the rest will fall into place.” We know our customer-centric clients agree. And apparently Google does, too.



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