Penguin Update — Google’s Stance on SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) can benefit everyone, from website owners to viewers to the search engines themselves. Even Google has acknowledged that SEO has a positive effect on the online experience. Done right, optimization helps search engine “crawlers” find relevant pages, allowing Internet users to access the information they seek.

There are two different types of search engine optimizers: “white hat” and “black hat.’ White hat optimization is the “good” kind, and improves site usability, provides quality content, and speeds up loading time. All these help the user experience and the search engine at the same time. Marketing strategies may come into play, particularly ones that add interest to the site itself. White hat optimization involves making a great site that viewers will value, while at the same time ensuring accessibility to generate more traffic. White hat SEO is not as complex as it sounds, and small things like using common words instead of obscure technical terminology can make a big difference.

Black hat SEO, however, is a different animal. Black hat strategies only focus on generating high rankings while ignoring the important factor of quality. It’s the equivalent of the old “get rich quick” scheme, with the promise of a wealth of viewers without having to produce anything of real value. Common black hat SEO strategies involve keyword stuffing (filling content with popular search terms without adding any useful information) and link schemes (flooding the Web with links to sites through irrelevant sources). Black hat SEO is referred to as “webspam,” a close cousin to much-reviled e-mail spam. Black hat strategists look for shortcuts, and attempt to steal rankings away from more-deserving sites.

In an effort to keep webspam at the bottom of rankings (or keep them from indexing at all), Google strives to ensure that only quality content makes it to the top of their search results. Acting aggressively towards this goal, Google unleashed Panda in 2011, successfully stifling millions of spammy Web pages.

While Google does not divulge their exact criteria for ranking pages, they do offer one crucial piece of advice: build high-quality sites. They urge hopeful website owners to create valuable and informative content, and note that quality, along with white hat SEO strategy, is the key to Internet success.

On April 24, Google announced that they will be enacting further changes to their algorithm in order to knock out even more webspam. The company says that these changes will affect approximately 3.1 percent of searches in English, and will also be applied to other languages. Panda, by comparison, affected 12 percent.

Google’s goal is, simply put, to wipe out those trying to manipulate the system to increase search engine rankings. Only sites that create solid content and practice white hat SEO are set to rise to the top.