Yep, you guessed it … “a large sea-bird which is found in Antarctic regions and which cannot fly” is just one of many dictionary descriptions of a Penguin. And over the last few months there’s probably been more words written about the other pesky-Penguin that is more likely to be found hanging around in the sun-washed Californian tundra that’s the natural regional habitat of Google, rather than the Antarctic we fancy!
Online marketing Blogs and forums (where SEO types can typically be found hanging around) have been a-weeping and a-wailing since the dreaded 24th April 2012 penguinator incident and as there was a 3rd Penguin release/update only yesterday, it’s a fair guess there’ll no doubt be a lot more of the same to come.
According to our friends over at SEARCH ENGINE LAND the 3 x Penguin releases thus far have been:
Penguin 1: April 24, 2012
Penguin 2: May 26, 2012
Penguin 3: Oct. 5, 2012
Penguin 4?: Jan. 17, 2013 (something occurred, affected UK SERPS significantly)
If you then factor in the 20-some-odd (and counting) Panda Updates released in the last 18 months or so (again, according to the Search Engine Land list) it’s sure been a traumatic time for many online marketers:
1.Panda Update 1, Feb. 24, 2011
2.Panda Update 2, April 11, 2011
3.Panda Update 3, May 10, 2011
4.Panda Update 4, June 16, 2011
5.Panda Update 5, July 23, 2011
6.Panda Update 6, Aug. 12, 2011
7.Panda Update 7, Sept. 28, 2011
8.Panda Update 8, Oct. 19, 2011
9.Panda Update 9, Nov. 18, 2011
10.Panda Update 10, Jan. 18, 2012
11.Panda Update 11, Feb. 27, 2012
12.Panda Update 12, March 23, 2012
13.Panda Update 13, April 19, 2012
14.Panda Update 14, April 27, 2012
15.Panda Update 15, June 9, 2012
16.Panda Update 16, June 25, 2012
17.Panda Update 17, July 24, 2012
18.Panda Update 18, Aug. 20, 2012
19.Panda Update 19, Sept. 18, 2012
20.Panda Update 20 , Sep. 27, 2012
21.Panda Update 21, Nov. 5, 2012
22.Panda Update 22, Nov. 21, 2012
23.Panda Update 23, Dec. 21, 2012
24.Panda Update 24, Jan. 22, 2013
EMD = Google’s version of WMD:
And is if all that wasn’t enough, on 28th September 2012 “unrelated to Panda/Penguin” the head of Google web spam fighting team Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that Google will be rolling out a “small” algorithm change that will “reduce low-quality exact-match domains” (EMDs) from showing up so highly in the search results.
Search Volatility: with so much change/volatility going on, it’s hard to keep up to date with it all but here’s a couple of tools that seek to graphically track and portray likely recent search impacts …
The SMUGS -v- The MUGS
The nett effect of all of the above Google change has been to create 2 x distinct classes of online marketeer:
a) the smugs = those that haven’t been ‘hit’ by any of the above Google updates
b) the mugs = those that have been ‘hit’.
This is nothing new to those in online marketing that were around back in November 2003: they’ll recall with little pleasure the first wholesale Google change that was given the name ‘Florida’ back then and swept through Google’s search results with a hurricane like effect, a not dissimilar impact to what we’re seeing now. Although there have been a bunch of Google updates with Big Daddy, Caffeine et al in the meantime, this Panda/Penguin is the most Florida-like change we can recall.
But Google is still the market leader in search and whilst it retains its dominant position, we’ll no doubt continue to dance to its tune.
For completeness, a timely general review of how much Google’s ‘on-screen’ presentation of its Top 10 search results has changed over the last couple of years: how it effects clients/users/customers and companies who are engaged in, advise on, and claim to ‘know’ about SEO/PPC.
In the beginning …. Google’s mission was “to organise the world’s info” and to that end they just did it and presented their (free/organic) Top 10 list of search results for any given search keyphrase on a simple, ‘uncluttered’ white background - many loved them for that. In terms of ‘on-page’ display/presentation, dependent on individual screen settings, it was typical to see most of the Top 10 results above the fold (ATF) on-screen in those days. Then came the ‘claim-jumpers’ … as the ‘infant’ SEO industry formed and jockeyed to try to grab those ‘uncluttered’ Top 10 spots with various White Hat and/or Black Hat techniques: many were content at that but just as many were ‘miffed’ because their website didn’t feature in the Top 10.
Google itself introduced the first little bit of on-page ’clutter’ with the introduction of its (paid for) Adwords programme. But even then ’on-page’ demarcation lines were pretty well drawn: paid for/sponsored results on the far right of the page … free/organic results on the left. Then the first seeds of confusion were sown as Google decided to promote up to three of the paid for/sponsored results to the top of the page … immediately just above free/organic results and the free/organic results were pushed further down the page: many people didn’t even notice, the Adwords supporters were content but many in the SEO community were ‘miffed’.
Then came major ‘clutter’ to the on-page real estate with the introduction of Google Local (later called Google Places then +) where Google added free local listings (allied to their Google Maps product) that were strategically placed immediately below their three top of the page Ads, but just above free/organic results and further seeds of confusion were sown as the free/organic results were pushed further down the page to the point that ATF, free/organic results would be rare.
Subsequently, Google repositioned their sponsored adds away from the ’right-hand-side’ and moved them significantly to the ‘left’ so as to ‘butt-up’ almost next to the free/organic results. Google also added an option to Adwords users to ‘enhance’ their sponsored links by adding Site Links to their Ads … the nett effect of which is to push the free/organic results even further down the page, where even the No. 1 ‘organic’ result would be below the fold (BTF).
Another Google search enhancement that had predictable impact, particularly on the SEO community, has been Google Suggest … that, in effect, pre-empted many searchers, carrying out individual searching at all, as they let themselves be influenced by ‘suggest’.
In the meanwhile, Google introduced blended/universal search results …. and ‘personalised’ search results …. including images, locations, business listings, videos, news.
And, of course, Google wasn’t alone in driving change in search: the new Social Media innovations like Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube et al, with dynamic ‘real-time’ updates took centre stage and Google had to respond. Along the way … it was becoming more of a challenge for the SEO community to know what was going on, as there was no longer a ‘single’ view as to exactly what results were being displayed to their core audience.
More recently, in April/May 2010, there was Google’s roll-out of its Caffeine index update and soon afterwards its complete overhaul of its Home Page ‘look-and-feel’ with ’usability’ improvements that they claim are a natural progression to provide a much richer end user experience – you may or may not agree with that statement! Users can select from the ’pick-n-mix’ menu of presentational styles (some of which are listed below) that suits their individual preferences … but all in all, compared to the ‘uncluttered’ point from where we started, some may take the view that it’s an awful lot of ’clutter’.
For whose benefit was all this being done? For Google’s of course! Google’s Q2/2010 revenues of $6.82bn for the quarter tells its own tale. The sure-fire winner is Google’s Adwords programme and those involved in PPC which now pretty well dominates the ATF ‘on-page’ real estate, but not much sunlight there for the SEO community.
But reflecting on all the foregoing, is all this ‘clutter’ signalling the end for the SEO community? We don’t think so. It’s a ‘game-changer’ for sure … and presents a ’different’ set of challenges, that’s all. There’s a slew of evidence (source: The Info-Tech Group) that even in these ‘different’ times, by undertaking SEO you are 6 times more likely to increase the ‘stickiness’ of your website and by achieving high ‘organic’ rankings on key search terms, you bring a lot of value to your brand. In a survey of 95 IT companies, The Info-Tech Group found that 100% of companies that pursued a very high amount of SEO saw their brand gain value.
Although undoubtedly ‘different’ in these days of Social Media et al., the business model for ‘search’ is still pretty much the same as ever: get the right online marketing mix of PPC and SEO and you’ll do well. Win by doing!