Online Merchants Brace for Google's Next Attack on Bad Links
By David A. Utter
The value of "above the fold" placement in Google's organic search results weighs heavily on the minds of webmasters everywhere. Being in the first five links seen by a searcher for a given keyword or keyphrase can mean thousands of dollars to a site, and is particularly valuable to online merchants.
Naturally, enterprising souls try all kinds of ways to find their way to top rankings. Some methods involve positive means like providing quality and authoritative content to visitors. Other methods attempt to game Google's fabled PageRank algorithm, to the point where people like Google antispam engineer Matt Cutts and others on that team work continuously to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff in search results.
Cutts recently posted a video on what webmasters can expect to see regarding search engine optimization (SEO) in the coming months as it pertains to Google. The next update, dubbed internally at Google as Penguin 2.0, means the company will be digging harder to unearth and disqualify bad practices.
"Penguin is a webspam change that's dedicated to try to find blackhat webspam and try to target and address that. So this one is a little more comprehensive than Penguin 1.0 and we expect it to go a little bit deeper and have a little bit more of an impact than the original version of Penguin," Cutts said.
Expect no mercy when it comes to PageRank being passed from one site to another in a questionable way, especially in an "advertorial" format. While Google doesn't have any real issue with advertorials, they don't want to see these permitting PageRank to flow.
"There should be clear and conspicuous disclosure so that users realize that something is paid, not organic or editorial," said Cutts.
For sites and webmasters who already do a good job of being quality and authoritative presences, it appears Google will also work harder to recognize these efforts. Cutts noted Google is doing a better job at noticing these types of sites and are trying to make sure those rank a little more highly in return.
In the meantime, many online merchants will be holding their breath hoping there's no collateral damage for their rankings when Penguin 2.0 rolls out.
About the author:
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. Send your tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.
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