Google's Penguin Update: Our SEO team's take on the matter...
As we know, Google update their search engine algorithm on a regular basis. On 24th of April Google released an update that has since gained the nickname 'Penguin' - continuing the animal theme from the previous 'Panda' updates.
The 'Penguin' update was introduced to tackle over optimised websites, targeting those that have used over-aggressive techniques (such as keyword stuffing and link schemes) to manipulate Google's search engine rankings. The update also favoured big brand websites with high levels of Domain Authority ahead of small to medium size sites with less authoritative domains, who would previously have been able to compete strongly in the search engines.
Using the competitive keyword 'pet insurance' as an example we can see the effects of this update. As shown in the screengrab below the Tesco Bank pet insurance page is ranked 4th place directly above Animal Friends.
When analysing page metrics we can see the Tesco Bank page has 2 back links and a low Page Authority score of 32. The Animal Friends website has 7,703 back links and a high page authority score of 60.
Pre penguin update, page authority score would have heavily influenced what pages ranked highly in Google's search results.
Tesco Bank has a very high domain authority score of 70. The Animal Friends website has a respectable but lower domain authority score of 52.
The latest penguin update has shifted influence from Page to Domain Authority score, hence the reason a page with only two backlinks can now rank in the top 5 results for a highly competitive keyword.
For the record Tesco Bank did not rank in Google's top ten prior to the penguin update.
Also caught in the net
Unfortunately this update has also penalised websites that may not have been over optimised on purpose. These include sites that have branded themselves around a specific generic keyword and have used exact match anchor text to build their website link profile. This has led to a drop in rankings across websites that have no unique brand identity in search.
Penguin is part of Google's overall Panda updates. This is the 16th Panda update since February 2011 and the 5th update of 2012. Panda was introduced to help Google fight against web spam however, it seems many legitimate small to medium size businesses are suffering as a result.