15 Apr 2013

SEO: Google's Penguin & Panda Updates - How they affect your SEO

Google’s recent penchant for naming major algorithmic updates after animals has the world of search engine optimisation sounding more like a zookeeper’s dilemma. But with rumours of an impending Penguin update —  right around the corner, ecommerce marketers need to know their Penguins from their Pandas, and how to avoid the ire of both.

In both cases, Penguin and Panda are algorithmic updates. Each represents updates to the hundreds of signals that Google uses to analyse and rank web pages for its search results pages. Penguin and Panda are primarily associated with negative impact on organic search traffic. Algorithmic updates are different than a manual penalty, in which human members of Google’s Web Spam team manually identify violations to Google’s webmaster guidelines and assess penalties on those pages. Because Penguin and Panda act algorithmically, if a site that has been demoted can identify and remove the issue, the site should be able to rebound algorithmically as well.

Most algorithms are being constantly tweaked and updated within Google’s main index. As a result, the impact of these continual updates isn’t felt strongly or suddenly as the algorithms evolve. Interestingly, Penguin and Panda are processed outside of the main index. Consequently, the updates to the rankings that these two algorithms produce are experienced in sudden bursts of change to rankings and traffic, lending Penguin and Panda their fearsome reputation.

Penguin: Over-optimisation

Google’s Penguin algorithm update — first launched on April 24, 2012 and updated on May 26 — targets sites that have been over-optimised to an extent that they violate Google’s webmaster guidelines. For example, sites with large quantities of low-quality links and unusually high numbers of highly optimised anchor text, as well as sites that employ more typical keyword stuffing tactics or duplicate content. Google has found that these poor quality signals indicate sites that focus too heavily on the wrong kind of search engine optimisation practises intended to manipulate rankings. Rather than actively penalising the sites that the Penguin algorithm identifies, the update simply removes any positive ranking benefit that the tactics had been supplying the offending site. As a result, the site essentially loses the power of those tactics and drops in the rankings suddenly, which in turn decreases the site’s organic search traffic.

For example, say a site has 100 naturally earned links and works very hard over the next year to boost that number to 500 links. The 400 links come from easier-to-acquire methods like reciprocal requests, SEO directories, article sites, comments on blogs that may not be that topically relevant, and so on And since everyone knows that anchor text is powerful, it only makes sense to use strong keywords as the anchor text for those 400 new links they built, right?

Unfortunately, Penguin can detect this sort of activity as manipulation rather than naturally earned links. So the site that worked so hard to build 400 links suddenly loses the power of those 400 links overnight with the next Penguin update. It’s not a penalty, the algorithm finally caught up with them. But the impact is the same. That site is now back to relying on the original 100 naturally earned links to pass it authority and popularity, and its rankings and traffic drop.

Panda: Poor Content

Long before Penguin, however, Google released Panda — here's the Wired interview — on February 23, 2011. Focused on dampening the rankings for sites that contain shallow content as well as content found on other sites, Panda was actually named for the engineer that created it. Panda has since undergone more than a dozen updates, and the impact of each has become a mere ripple in the fabric of the SEO world.

Panda was created because the web spam team at Google felt confident in their ability to detect the familiar forms of spam like keyword stuffing and random gibberish pages laced with keywords. Panda’s purpose was to spot content that wasn’t adding any real value to the Internet and remove its power to rank. Google is tight-lipped about what the criteria are for judging a poor quality. It claims, however, that it's been able to algorithmically determine with high accuracy the sorts of sites that searchers tend to block manually from their own search results using the Chrome Site Blocker.

The most important step to appeasing Penguin and Panda is to focus on higher value link building and content creation techniques. Focus on long-term content marketing strategies rather than easy link building and content generation tactics designed only to boost your SEO. Yes, it’s harder. Yes, it takes longer. And yes, it looks an awful lot like creating great content and a great experience for real customers. Increasingly it’s also the only way to truly succeed long term.


In short there are no short cuts or easy ways to achieve High Rankings in Google. What it boils down to is fundamentally, is your site relevant for the search term entered by the searcher in Google.

The following factors are the key factors that will influence whether your website ranks and is successful:

  • Submit your site and get listed on Search Engines 

Easitill will do this for you as part of setting your website live but in case you wanted to know how to do it yourself submit your site to Google, Yahoo and open directories to increase its visibility on major search engines. Google and Bing have tools to allow you to request submission for indexing. Don't forget the DMOZ Open Directory. It's the largest and most important Internet directory currently available. Several search engines including Google obtain indexing information

  • Good Content - Create content pages as well as product pages

Try and drive traffic by creating content pages within your ecommerce site aside from your products which are optimised for specific keyword phrases to make people you want to attract who are searching for these phrases land on your site. Write articles for example "Our Favourite Warm Winter Coats this Season" and write all about "winter coats", and "warm winter coats", do some reviews of products you stock and talk about each one and include links to the product pages. SEO is about serving up information which relates to keywords people are actually searching for (not just what you think) and obviously giving searchers what they want when they get there. 

  • Good Product Descriptions

As much as we hear that content is king for SEO, many ecommerce websites do not use adequate descriptions of their product, such as what it is, how it works and key points consumers need to know. If you create good content for the consumer, it will also benefit search engine optimisation.
Importantly, do not write product descriptions only for search engines. Write them for the sole purpose of helping consumers. Use keywords where necessary but don't overdo it so that the blurb about the product is overpopulated with keywords and doesn't make sense to a consumer.
Remember, in Easitill's Product Manager on the Product Records, this would be the "Internet Text" Tabs where you enter your Product blurb and make it descriptive.
I personally wouldn't buy from a site if had no clear definition of what the product is about, good for etc would you? Unless i have already done my research on the product, and in which case if I've done my research I'll more than likely buy from the site that gives me all the information i need without me having to continue my search.

  • Keyword density

Use multiple key words in a coherent, creative and compelling way on your pages. Be sure your keyword “density” is never more than 5 percent for pages with a lot of text, or 10 percent for pages with little copy, or your rankings could nosedive. SEO Chat.com has a free keyword density tool.

  • Linkworthy Pages

Content and link building are important for SEO. It’s important, therefore, that your product pages have links pointing to them. We call these “deep links.” They not only help that specific page, but the overall SEO of your website.
There are many websites or bloggers that link to other sites. For example, if your website sells NBA jerseys, approach bloggers that write about basketball. They may link to your product since they are writing about it.
To make your product page link worthy, use effective images and content. This includes terrific photos, videos, illustrations, and descriptions.

  • Utilise User Generated Review

Another way of helping your product page rank in search engines is to use content that is created by the users, such as product reviews. The best example of effective reviews is at Amazon.com, which uses them not only to help consumers, but also for SEO purposes.
The third party eKomi.com is one Review system the easitill website works with. The results appear in google and help ranking as well as proving that your reviews are impartial.

  • Update your site regularly

Don't forget, keeping your site fresh will keep your visitors and customers returning. Not only will new information keep your regular visitors from getting bored, it also will help you get better site ranking. Search engines rank sites with recently updated information higher.

  • Display Social Media Buttons

Social media activity affects search engine algorithms.

Make sure you have share buttons on every product page to allow users to share and distribute the product. Pinterest, for example, allows users to post a picture while linking back to the source of that image. Make sure every product page has social media sharing buttons. -

Again Easitill does this using the share this widget enabled on the website on everypage.

  • General Marketing

Online Advertising
For small businesses, online advertising is one of the most cost-effective ways to market your business. Here are two great ways to tell millions of prospective customers about your site:

Promote with Google AdWords® - Google AdWords® is an easy and effective way to acquire new customers online or offline. You create text ads that appear alongside Google search results and on Google network sites - based on keywords you've chosen. Start driving the right kind of traffic to your site today! Learn More.

Discover Facebook Ads - Facebook Ads allow you to target your marketing message to hundreds of millions of Facebook users. You can even zoom in on key audience based on people's location, age, interests, and more. Learn More.

Send postcards to everyone in your business database and announce your new site. Include your company logo, URL and maybe a screenshot of your home page.

Offer a discount on your products or services just for visiting your new Web home, and a bigger one if visitors bring you new business through a “Tell a Friend” promotional page on your site.

Re-record your company’s voicemail greeting to include your Web address.

Include your Web address in all printed marketing materials – business cards, letterhead, advertising, invoices, receipts, bags – everyplace it fits.

External links to your site can drive more traffic. Ask professional organisations, your local Chamber of Commerce, local business publications and relevant industry journals if they’ll include a link to your site - be sure to explain to them why your site's content would be relevant and valuable to their audience. The more sites that are linked to yours, the higher your search engine rankings.

Newsletter campaigns
Try signing up to MailChimp to create e-newsletter campaigns to send out to your databases including promotions, discounts or simply news. (Promotions and discounts obviously work best to drive traffic). You can send 12,000 emails a month to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers with MailChimp’s Forever Free plan, though a few features are only available to paying users.

Start a Blog like this one
Offer your customers the wealth of your knowledge and experience in your area.
You may wish to write this yourself or pay a copywriter. Hire a professional with Web experience. There are thousands of freelance writers online offering to do the job at wide range of prices.

Create social media pages such as a Facebook page

Google Shopping submission - find our more about google shopping