Penguin 8 Months On

After reading a great article on the current state of Google.ie SERPs for SEO related searches by Kieran Flanagan I started thinking about what sectors have actually been affected by Google’s infamous Penguin update last April and which have gotten off lightly. It seems to me that despite claiming to penalise artificial ‘black hat’ link building techniques, in some cases Google are still rewarding many sites using these techniques with top positions in the SERPs.

Image courtesy of National Maritime Museum on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of National Maritime Museum on Flickr

What Penguin Did (In Theory)

The idea behind the Penguin update was to weed out sites that were building links artificially and therefore manipulating the search results.

This in theory should improve the search results by making them more relevant because the sites that remain have earned their links through referrals.

As Kieran points out in his post, this is simply not the case for some industries including SEO.

I’m not giving out. I wouldn’t blame anyone for using these methods if that is what is working for them. It does beg the question however…

Do Artificial Link Building Methods Still Work?

Every blog post that you read now will tell you that moving forward you shouldn’t use article directories or that you shouldn’t use directories and that you need to earn links rather then build them. This is all great in theory however what if your competitors are outranking you by using these methods?

This is still a common enough scenario across a range of industries. I can’t point to specific examples because I don’t want to be seen to criticise any particular company. If you take an interest in SEO however you’ll probably know what I’m talking about.

So Why Is This?

SEOs can easily avoid the main Penguin signals. For example by using less exact match anchor text and using more branded anchor text they can make their link profiles appear more natural.

The problem with using so call artificial link building methods is not that they don’t work but that they may stop being effective once there is another Google update similar to Penguin.

Google are constantly trying to improve their algorithm in order to prevent what they see as unsavoury tactics. Companies who continue to use link building methods that are against Google’s guidelines on link schemes run the risk of being penalised in the future.

Until Google manages to practice what they preach however SEOs will do whatever they think is necessary to help their clients to rank. After all, talk of internet ethics seems quite hollow when you’re trying to run a business and put food on the table.