The recent Penguin update, according to Matt Cutts, was introduced to penalise low quality sites and target spam, but have innocent web sites also suffered as a result? Having seen a few examples, I’m inclined to think that not everything went as smoothly as intended (or not?) by Google.
I noticed that the PR of sites hasn’t changed as a result of this update, even in the case of those who seem to have been penalised. And there seem to be a few types of sites who suffered after the 24th of April 2012: some have been blown out of the index altogether and some only lost in rankings, although considerably. Even sites with great quality, original content, have come under fire for having exchanged links with others in the niche, which makes me think there is more than just keyword stuffing and cloaking that was punished in this update.
All the above, plus the warnings from Google received by some sites earlier in mid March, and we get a picture where the most used search engine seems to be at war with more than just what it calls ‘spammers’, the recent tweaks to the system creating a completely new landscape for site owners and SEOers alike. First, Google targeted and de-indexed some blog networks, which was shortly followed by yet another Panda update, and finally the killer blow for so many in the form of the Penguin update, after which it seems the internet landscape has changed significantly, and not necessarily in favour of the users or site owners.
A significant change is that some search results have become reminiscent of the late 90s, many users laughing at them and labelling their quality as ‘1998 Alta Vista style’. In the light of this – surely the updates haven’t brought about a better user experience? Not to mention that is has become increasingly easy to harm sites by linking them to low-quality sources, something no one from Google has explained in any way.
All these sudden changes have caused significant financial losses and at this scale can potentially harm Google itself, with people looking for alternatives and literally hating what is now described by many as some kind of internet fascism, where Google is trying to get everyone to use ad words and increase its revenue – the days of Google helping the internet community by providing free tools and the like are long gone and all we’re left with is a monster brand that takes no prisoners.
Personally, I already switched from Google as my primary search engine, and millions will follow. After all, competition, even among search engines, can be a great thing for us, the users, site owners and many others. By mainly promoting big brands, Google is alienating the internet community on which it has built its reputation as a relevant search engine which puts its users and searchers on top of its priorities, and this is bound to have consequences.
There will be much debating before the dust settles following the Penguin update, and I won’t be surprised if later this is seen as a turning point in the world of search.