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Key Differences that Impact Performance
Contrary to popular belief, Panda and Penguin are not considered penalties. While these Google algorithm updates can have a dramatic impact on a website’s SEO performance, it’s a far cry from an actual manual penalty. In this post I’ll explain the difference between algorithm updates compared to the manual penalties issued by Google, and the implications of each to website owners.
Google Algorithm Updates
Google algorithm updates occur when a change is made to one or more of the “over 200 signals” the computer program uses to rank websites. An algorithmic update affects how websites are displayed in search results based on the changes made to the automated ranking algorithm. While Google makes as many as 500+ algorithm updates a year, the impact of each is rarely dramatic enough for Webmasters or business owners to notice. Every so often, Google releases a major algorithmic update that stirs the SEO world into a frenzy. For example, Google released Hummingbird last year; it marked a major change to how the algorithm interprets keywords into “search intent.” When these types of Google algorithm updates happen, it can feel like your website is penalized. Panda and Penguin for instance are prime examples. Many websites — especially those with thin content or poor quality links — can see a noticeable drop in their SERP rankings. Last year at the SMX Advanced conference, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land asked Matt Cutts “What’s the deal with Penguin. Is it a penalty?” His response …
We look at it [as] something designed to tackle low-quality content. It started out with Panda, and then we noticed that there was still a lot of spam and Penguin was designed to tackle that. It’s an algorithmic change, but when we use a word like “penalty,” we’re talking about a manual action taken by the web spam team — it wasn’t that. We don’t think of it as a penalty. We think of it as, “We have over 200 signals, and this is one of the signals.
It’s safe to say Google Algorithm Updates are not Penalties.
Recovering from Algorithmic Changes
Fortunately, with major Google algorithm updates like Panda or Penguin, they tend to provide an official statement explaining what the change is and why it was issued. This information helps to determine 1) who is most likely to be impacted and 2) what actions should be taken to avoid a negative impact. If you suspect your website is suffering from an algorithmic change, you can verify your suspicion by checking your traffic fluctuation against Google’s known algorithm change history. If you see a correlation… there’s your answer. The recovery process itself varies depending on which algorithmic change impacted your site. Here’s my advice: follow the best practices outlined in Google Webmaster Guidelines. Using this guide is the only way you can work towards recovering any lost momentum on your website. Recovering from a Google Algorithmic change is only possible when Google crawls your site. Typically Google doesn’t recrawl most websites on a set schedule. Don’t expect immediate improvement, as it can take time for the algorithm to notice (and reward) you. Try not to panic during this time. Instead, focus on producing quality content and links, as things will eventually work themselves out.
Google Manual Penalties
A manual penalty is when the automated Google algorithm process is overridden by a web spam team member who flags your website. This action prevents a website from appearing in search results for tactics that go against quality guidelines. There are two types of Manual Actions performed by Google, including both site wide and partial. When Google penalizes a website manually, there is no guessing game. You will receive an official email notification within Google Webmaster Tools alerting you of the action. If you missed the email, you can check to see if there has been a manual action placed on your website within Google Webmaster Tools. Most website owners are familiar with websites receiving manual penalties from Google for unnatural links or spam. Be aware of the many different types of penalties; understanding each will help you avoid tactics that can get your website into trouble.
Recovering from a Google Manual Penalty
Regardless of the type of penalty, the process for recovering from a Manual Penalty involves acknowledging your mistake, working to correct the problems identified, and asking for reconsideration. This is the biggest difference between recovering from a manual penalty and Google algorithm updates. With a penalty, it requires a labor-intensive clean-up project. With an algorithm update, clean-up is still necessary but it doesn’t involve documentation and correspondence with the Webspam team. The outcome of the penalty itself depends on your willingness to demonstrate that you follow the rules set forth by Google. Are you following all the guidelines to avoid a manual penalty?
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