“What are Google Panda and Google Penguin?”
They are major updates to Google’s search engine algorithms. Google Panda came out in 2011 and Google Penguin came out in early 2012. Both caused massive upheavals in the SEO world, and both have improved Google’s search engine quality dramatically. They have been regularly updated since release.
Google Panda’s purpose is to remove low-quality sites from ranking high on Google’s search engine results pages. Low-quality content includes things like duplicate content, mass-produced content, unhelpful articles, pages with very little content, and many others.
Google Penguin’s purpose was specifically about link building and link spam. Many sites were trying to game the system by using SEO techniques that artificially drove up the authority of a site, such as buying links, link sharing networks, and others. These techniques were purely for the benefit of the marketer, not for the benefits of users or of the search engines.
Google Panda and Penguin shocked many people because it didn’t give any users a chance to change their content before the rug was pulled out from under them, and they did punish some legitimate sites that were using bad SEO techniques. As time has passed since their release, internet marketers have discerned what Google is looking for in their rankings now.
“What are the things that Google is specifically frowning upon with Penguin?”
Penguin is the more important of the two updates in regards to link building. Luckily for us, Google has made it very clear about the types of things it doesn’t like anymore. Specifically, you should be avoiding these techniques:
1. Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
2. Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
3. Don’t send automated queries to Google.
4. Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.
5. Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
6. Don’t create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.
7. Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
8. If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.
This is quoted verbatim from Google itself. If you have used these techniques in the past we highly recommend learning about Google’s new disavow tool to remove the offending content. We can help you analyze your site and figure out where your penalties are coming from.
“I’ve got this site template that’s sure to drive ad clicks. Should I be using it now?”
Probably not. Panda’s focus is making sure that the content on a web page is actually relevant to the keywords being searched for. Obviously, Google doesn’t penalize the mere presence of advertising; otherwise AdWords would be in a whole lot of trouble! Instead, the content of the page should be the main focus, and the ads like tiny, relevant, and unique sprinkles.
“So if I can’t use my old techniques to get an edge, just how am I supposed to build links?”
It’s quite simple really. Build quality content that people want to share with others and link back to. Yes, this is hard and slow, but it really is the way that things are going. Google is increasingly looking toward social media to determine relevance and popularity of a domain or web page. While backlinks are not going away, authority and sharing are rapidly gaining equal importance. A few years from now, social media sharing may even surpass backlinks as a ranking indicator. Like it or not, I’ll say it again: the way to get content shared is to make awesome, relevant content for your users that they’ll want to share and link to. It’s that simple.
For a more detailed look straight from Google’s mouth, read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines at http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769.