Submitted by Alexis Wilke on Tue, 05/08/2012 - 17:45
Google is constantly changing (improving...) and this time many got a hit because of their new Penguin update. In my case, the latest changes have been rather positive, but many people got hit the wrong way around and their ranking went down, possibly very much so (some talk about receiving a negative ranking and suing Google over it!)
The latest change can affect anyone, although if you've done nothing wrong, you should be just fine. This being said, the way this new release works can lead to your website losing its rank because someone else played a trick on you. Whether Google can detect and/or accept that you weren't responsible is a different question. At this point, it is still a bit early to say that it is all bad.
So? What did they do this time?
If you've been following my blog, I mentioned the idea of website spam. There are several forms of such, but the main one is the simple concept of using a bad site with one or more links to your site, or using sites to link to you just for the sake of gaining a better ranking (and no other usefulness1) The Google algorithm now sees those links as Un-natural. In other words, a link that would have been placed there for the sole purpose of increasing the destination Google Page Rank, and not because the existing readers of that website would benefit from that link.
The problem that Google has is to determine that a link is indeed unnatural. The link itself doesn't say anything. Was it created by a machine or by a human? So Google uses a fairly simple concept, that is correct in many cases, to make that determination. The idea is very simple. Links have a title and text (the text appearing between the <a> and </a> tag boundaries.) If the texts of a large number of links is exactly the same, then it is not unlikely that it was duplicated by machines... especially if you created those links in very large quantities (thousands, millions, or like some offered, tens of millions!)
Such spamming of the Internet is indeed not very enjoyable. You find many strange pages when you just browse the Internet on fairly random websites. Many of which are of little interest or are really just 100% just pure spam and thus are not recognized by Google. One would hope that this Google Update will decrease this spam behavior... TBD!
Now, one problem which is a real concern is that you have no direct control over links pointing to your website. This means a bad guy could on purpose create millions of links on millions of websites pointing to your site because somehow they don't like it and... with this Google update will then hit your site with a (much) lower Google Page Rank or even ban you from the Google index altogether.
Will that really be the case, I'm not sure, however, some people seem to think that it could indeed happen...2
On my end, however, I did not see any changes, so far, in my traffic. My traffic slows down when I don't post as many updates on my blog and increases when I write a good post (which I know is rare... ), that's all.
More info about Google Webmaster Tools and how to find links that point to your site.
Note that since I posted this information I learned that (1) Penguin was released around the same time as a new release of Panda; (2) Penguin is a filter that checks your page only, no external links, etc.; (3) side effects in regard to links from the outside is Panda only... So my article is mainly about Panda and not Penguin. I know, this is confusing.