Google Penguin – Dude Where’s My Links
With all the recent Google updates it is hard sometimes to see the wood for the trees. When Penguin landed with new spam classification rules it had SEO’s running for cover. Sites disappeared and the results and rankings began to appear as if they were tidal moving in and out, up and down. Some days rising and some days dropping at a faster rate than previously seen.
Imagine the question at Mountain View an imperious Matt Cutts brooding on a balcony uttering the immortal words
‘To link or not to link- That is the question’ and then finally deciding ‘Cry havoc and let slip the bots of quality content’
Immediate attention Post Penguin (PP) was focused on the most holy of SEO Dogmas the inbound link.
Straight off Penguin had rules set to discount certain types of links from certain web resources appearing in certain numbers. The result lots of sites received the notorious Google web master email between Feb – May. This email notified web masters that unusual or potentially fraudualent links had been discovered pointing to the website.
This could be to do with too many links with exact match anchor text pointing to a site and that these links could be from potential low quality or built for SEO purpose sites . You might be familiar with the type single page domains in networks with spun or low quality content.
Bill Slawski gives an excellent breakdown of how Google looks to classify link behaviour and index and place a value on a link based on factors link type of anchor text and position on the page.
What emerged PP is that these links were most likely dampened and not penalised. Sites retained some high rankings and completely lost others PP. The situation re link behaviour was far more complex than first thought. Though as Bill points out in his post the particular patent he analysed specifically looks at the Google Place Page. It is possible this method or something very similar was put in place on sites outside of Google.
Google Penguin – Dude It’s Not the Links
But in the Merry Month of May far more was happening than Google addressing the quality of inbound links. Dave Harry did a great job in May of holding back on an analysis of the Penguin update as he says there was simply too much going on to make accurate analysis. Dave cautions against regarding Penguin as simply an update about unnatural links. His line of thought is that Google are moving away from the idea of Page Rank from links and that elements of trust and authority are now being scored by additional onsite factors.
This leaves the thorny issue of where does authority come from now? One place we might start to look is the concept of users as authors of the web. Duncan will be speaking more on this at the State of Digital Day on the 27th.
Backing up Dave Harry’s (though not implicitly) ideas that Penguin shifted much more than just link evaluation and indexing. Chris Crum looked at the Tom Waits and Otis Reading updates which both have a very specific focus on how titles are presented and generated in search results.
So why are we seeing tidal SERP activity which is more movement then previously we have seen?
Going way back Google added a Coffee flavoured algo change that was focused in large part on the speed of indexing content. But it seems movement is now on an almost daily basis in a process of adjustment with very few sites achieving a static position.
The recent freshness updates seemed to be focused on providing the most relevant results for certain query types.
Movement may come down to the nature of the niche other sites in the SERPs being re crawled. The point is not to pin everything on one solution there could be a myriad of potential answers to test and analyse.