Google Penguin 2.0

Dealership websites have always had an interesting relationship with the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Being behind the times might be an understatement for these types of sites, which have traditionally been slow to implement new techniques and technologies (do responsive sites ring a bell?).

Every technology conference I go to, there is the same group of vendors preaching the same thing: “your site may be on the verge of being penalized by Panda and Penguin” or “our SEO strategies are Penguin proof”. The truth of the matter is that everyone is missing the point. SEO is not supposed to be a tool used to manipulate rankings and dodge updates; it should be used to point quality sites in the right direction so they can receive the traffic they deserve.

I want to talk about the newest algorithm update from Google called “Penguin 2.0”. Created to be a beefed up version of its predecessor, Penguin 2.0 is Google’s attempt at eliminating spam.

The original Penguin update was designed to seek and penalize spammy link building strategies. It affected a large chunk of websites and around 3.1% of all English search queries. Penguin 2.0 has similar characteristics, Matt Cutts (head of Google’s web spam team) tweeted some details about Penguin 2.0 before it launched at the end of May, but the exact details will never be fully explained. So here are my thoughts on how the automotive industry should react to the update.

1. Take a deep breath.

The automotive industry tends to worry too much about algorithm updates. If you are proactive, up to date in your practices, and not using “Black Hat” techniques, then chances are your site is and will be fine.

2. Track and Analyze

In the next few weeks, keep an eye on your traffic. If everything continues to look normal, then congratulations, your SEO efforts (at least in link building) are well put together.

If you notice an unusual drop in rankings or traffic for your site, then keep reading.

3. Hack and Slash

If you got hit by penguin the first time around, you should already have an understanding of your link profile but with the new update you might need to trim away even more links.

If this is the first penalty to affect your site don’t worry all hope is not lost. You need to “hack and slash” all of the bad links in your link profile. The easiest way to do this is by utilizing a back link tool like opensiteexplorer or majesticseo. Download your link profile into excel and use your best judgement to determine which links you should remove. The goal is to rid your profile of spammy directories, paid links, and links from irrelevant sites. For example, if you’re a dealership and you have a link from a scuba diving tours site, then Google will consider this an irrelavnat link. You want to clear those out immediately.

Some links are harder to eliminate than others. For hard to get rid of links, you may need to consider Google’s disavow tool (note: only use this tool when all else fails).

Recap and thoughts for the future

Penguin 2.0, like all other algorithm updates, is designed to make search results more relevant. If you have been cultivating your site in a natural and non-manipulative manner, then this is good news. For those of you who pay for links or don’t follow best practices, this is a chance to learn from your mistakes and fix the manipulative efforts you’ve made to change your site for the better.

At the end of the day, following best practices and staying up-to-date with the SEO world will eliminate the need to worry about Google (or Bing and Yahoo) updates. Isn’t that the goal? When you are establishing an SEO plan, whether it be in-house or with an agency (I hear Haystak is awesome by the way) just make sure that you trust and feel good about the strategies you decided to implement.