The Penguin Update: Google's Worst Move Ever
Google’s Penguin update has created a storm of controversy that threatens to permanently damage its reputation. Thousands of honest webmasters are up in arms after seeing their traffic disappear after the update. Many are calling for the search engine to be regulated as a monopoly.
The Penguin update, launched on April 24 2012, was designed to punish websites that relied on excessive back linking, keyword stuffing and exact match key terms. Google claims that Penguin only affected 3.1% of searches and only hit websites that contravened its existing quality guidelines. The devastating results of the update suggest that its impact was far more widespread.
Since April 24 thousands of quality websites have tumbled down Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) to be replaced by poor quality rivals with little or no valuable content. Many affected site owners are adamant that they have never used any of the techniques that Google claims Penguin was designed to eliminate. They are crying foul after having to lay off workers and cancel contracts despite following Google’s guidelines.
Penguin did affect websites that blatantly abused back linking and other on-page SEO tricks, dubbed webspam by Google. However so many legitimate sites saw their traffic vanish after Penguin that the search firm is facing a level of indignation that it has never experienced before. Google has even been accused of worsening the current global economic crisis by damaging thousands of profitable businesses.
Penguin has also left honest webmasters vulnerable to a sinister practice known as linkbombing. This is a technique that uses links to damage the credibility of a website. Linkbombers create thousands of spammy links pointing towards a target website. These links are then picked up by Google.com’s spiders as they crawl the internet. With no way of detecting their fraudulent origins the search engine assumes they are webspam and sends the site tumbling down the SERPs. .
Linkbombing quickly became a huge industry post-Penguin. For a few thousand dollars anyone can now destroy a rival site’s traffic and business. So far Google hasn’t even acknowledged that linkbombing exists and insists that Penguin only affected sites that actively sought to cheat its algorithms. It refuses to admit that legitimate websites have been hit hard by Penguin.
With its 70 percent share of the global search industry, rising to 90 percent in some countries, websites are currently at the mercy of Google. Many now question whether one for-profit company should have this much power over the whole internet.
Google, a publicly listed company since 2004, also faces accusations that it is manipulating its algorithms to increase revenue from its highly pay-per-click adverts.
It is currently facing investigations by both America’s Federal Trade Commission and the European Union. Webmasters the world over are calling for government regulation and also for a boycott of its services and search engine.
Google’s famous corporate mantra is “do no evil”. Until the Penguin update most people were willing to accept that it operated in an altruistic way. Now the online world is facing up to the fact that its former darling is just a profiteering monster that refuses to acknowledge its mistakes.