Despite making $ 50.2bn (£33bn) in revenues last year, Google has had quite a lot of tough press of late. First of all came the news of the tax loophole that they exploited by routing their business through Ireland, meaning profits cannot be taxed in the UK. Then came the reports that the company has provided direct access to their servers for the National Security Agency and the FBI.
“Don’t be evil” was Google’s formal slogan back at the turn of the millennium, but they have always struggled – despite all the billions they’ve made and the marketplace dominance they have obtained with the purchase of the likes of YouTube and Blogger – to fully capture people’s trust. Their giant share of the search engine marketplace has as much been down to convenience and people being set in their ways (not to mention how poor some of the other search engines are) of late as it has anything else.
But in May this year, Google rolled out the algorithm update ‘Penguin 2.0‘, a sure sign that they were looking to do their very best to target websites that use spammy and manipulative tactics to rank higher in search engine rankings for the terms they choose. The SEO community are well aware that the first Penguin algorithm caused the entire industry to sit up and start being a little more honest about the way they operated. These days, people are asking Google to do exactly the same.
Matt Cutts, Head of Webspam at Google and whose word is gospel in the SEO world, regularly uploads videos to make Google’s intentions as clear as possible when it comes to the world of search, without giving too much information away so that the dodgy types can use it to manipulate the system. He has created over 500 videos now, and anybody who is interested in SEO and the way Google works to beat spam should watch them.
The big question regarding the Penguin 2.0 update in order to get the very best search results for their users, or whether they are just cynically self-serving in a bid to push companies towards Adwords. The search engines have been warned about the way they are trying to blend paid ads into search results, and this seems extremely hypercritical for a company that is punishing companies who have paid for ads on other networks and sites.
Zak Jacobs, Managing Director of Digital Marketing Agency Red Alien says: “Since Google started rolling out Penguin 2.0 we’ve seen an influx of enquiries from webmasters that have seen their rankings plummet. The thing is, Google has never really changed its rules on organic search. It’s just become more effective at tracking those that try to manipulate the algorithm. Some agencies have had an easy ride for quite a long time but this rolling update is hitting some harder than ever. The downside is that there are lots of good sites that have been negatively impacted, the real winner will likely be Google as it sees a growth in those being forced into an Adwords corner. The biggest losers will be small business that have trusted in cheap spammy SEO consultants and rely on their own website for sales.”
Penguin 2.0 – along with the Payday Loan update that takes on spammy niches such as porn and the payday loan industry – shows that despite all their faults, at their heart Google are trying to make the search engine work for the user. With huge debates occurring around the world about the safety of the internet for children, and Google, Sky and Virgin Media (among other internet service providers) looking to target porn and eradicate it from the internet as much as possible, Google are at least aware of the issues that arise and they don’t put their heads in the sand, they look to put a stop to it the best they can.