UPDATE: Google Penguin 3 likely to be released at the end of October 2014 or beginning of November 2014.
It has been one full year since Google released a Penguin update. While there may have been some tests in specific verticals there has been no major announcement that an algorithm update has gone live. Penguin updates tend to come in October with the 2013 update being on October 4th (Penguin 2.1) and the 2012 update going live on October 5th (Penguin #3). Rather than getting caught up in the names of the Penguin update it is more important to understand what industries are affected.
The original Penguin algorithm update was launched on April 24th, 2012 and took the SEO world by storm. Most people know of Penguin as the “over optimization penalty” meaning any website that has worked too hard to rank for a specific keyword phrase could suffer the consequences of getting penalized. Currently, we have gone through the longest period of time without a Penguin reset. The updates tend to be every April and October. In April 2014 there was not a Penguin update leading many to believe the October 2014 Penguin update is going to be extremely important.
What is Over Optimization of a Keyword Phrase?
Time and again potential clients call me and tell me they want to rank for a specific “money keyword”. This may be “Sacramento Car Accident Lawyer” or “Raleigh Braces”. These keywords phrases tend to be specific to clients or customers in need. When someone gets into a car accident they are not going to browse for lawyers and just see what is out there. They are ready to retain a lawyer or attorney for their services as soon as they find them. These sense of urgency makes these keywords extremely valuable; to the tune of $80 to $150 per click when advertising on Google Adwords in a PPC (pay per click) campaign. Rather than paying $10,000 for 125 clicks to a website most business professionals would rather rank in organic search and not have to pay for leads.
SEO, or search engine optimization, has exploded in the last decade because service professionals and businesses get a large majority of their business from internet searches. To be #1 on Google search for “Richmond, VA dentist” will help a dental office get more patients. Being on page two or page three of Google search could make it extremely difficult for this particular business to stay profitable.
To rank on the front page for many of these money keywords some SEO companies and agencies will try to sell the “magic”. They will claim you can get to the front page in a very short amount of time if you let them optimize your website. Unfortunately, they often over optimize by pointing several hundred, or even thousand, links back to your website for a specific keyword phrase. This is unnatural. How many websites are truly going to point to your law firm for “Houston personal injury lawyer”? Maybe a dozen or two dozen at the most. Why on earth would hundreds of websites link to your website for an specific keyword? How would they know what keyword to link to you for?
Google realized this to be the case and implemented the Google Penguin Algorithm update. When first released, this hit many industries and verticals that were going after “money” keywords. Lawyers, doctors, dentists, orthodontists, financial advisors, real estate agents, surgeons and chiropractors know they can drastically increase their business by ranking on the front page of Google search. Some of these professionals have tens of thousands of dollars a month to use towards an internet marketing budget. That said, they have gotten their business to the profitability by not throwing money away. Rather than choosing an SEO firm or agency that claims to use magic it may be better to vet that company and see what they offer.
Content Will Always Be King with SEO
One way you can avoid over optimization is by publishing amazing, original content on your business website. As a business professional you likely should not be creating this content. Your time is put to better use being in the courtroom or the operating room. Copywriting and content creation is a skill. Just like winning a car accident case is a skill, writing content for the web is a skill. Hiring an SEO company that is also willing to produce original content will help you to avoid any future penalties from Penguin or Panda algorithm updates.
Creating amazing, consistent content and building a web presence over time will help you not only avoid Google penalties but will also allow you to grow your business with people calling you saying, “I found you on Google.”