Google’s Penguin Update 1.1 and What it Means to You

Did you miss the announcement about Google’s latest algorithm updates, dubbed Penguin? If you did, your website’s search ranking might have changed – for better or for worse – because of it.

About Google Penguin

On April 24, 2012, Google announced the first iteration of Penguin or its “web spam algorithm update.” To me, it was a very significant move by Google to its algorithm management.

Before I get into why Penguin is a big deal for websites, let’s review a little about algorithms and why monitoring them is important.

According to Wikipedia, an algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for calculations. With regard to Google, an algorithm is a step-by-step procedure used to determine valuations of websites and web pages for the purpose of ranking them in an order list for search results.

These algorithms are the secret behind Google’s ranking recipe and the things that keep SEO professionals like me up at night. When Google makes a change that re-orders how websites are ranked in search results, we all take notice.

Why Google Penguin’s Changes Matter

While Penguin is the just latest round of changes to Google’s “secret sauce,” it has more significance than many of its predecessors because of what it does. What makes Penguin significant is not that, according to some, it has dramatically affected rankings of approximately 12% of all websites, but rather that it is the first time where Google is penalizing sites that have been “over optimized.” 

Penguin’s updates are a good thing because it penalizes websites – including automotive dealers’ websites – that have, for lack of a better phrase, been taking the cheap and easy way out. As Google’s “Spam Master” Matt Cutts has said about Penguin, “(it is) to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs.”

Prior to Penguin, Google tended to simply remove the positive impact of SEO efforts that were over done or abused by search engine marketers. After Penguin, a site with too many low value inbound links or with overly used keywords can see its search rankings drop.

As Google continues with its further deployment of Penguin, webmasters will need to create unique and valued content and site experiences in order for sites to continue to rank well.

What Car Dealers Can Do

What Penguin’s changes mean to car dealers is that cheap and easy SEO tricks will no longer help with their website’s SEO and search rankings. Worse, it may actually cause their site to drop out of the top rankings. Examples of these tricks include auto-generated content pages where only the city and one or two other key words are different from one page to the next or websites where hundreds of sold inventory pages are kept to assist in “building out” its content. (Yes, these tricks are definitely out there on dealers’ websites!)

If you are worried about how Penguin may impact your dealership’s website rankings, start by reviewing your website, its pages, content, and inbound links. Look at it from the perspective of a search engineer and ask yourself, “Is this done for real viewers or are we trying to game Google?” If the answer is to game Google, you might want to make some changes, either on your own or with the help of your dealership website provider, because Penguin is here now and it’s targeting websites that are attempting to do just that.