Ep#7: Panda & Penguin Panic

Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates in an interview with Tony McCreath from Web Site Advantage.

In episode 7 I chat to Tony McCreath from Website Advantage about two of Google’s biggest algorithm changes in the past 18 months, ‘Panda,’ and ‘Penguin.’ This interview is the first of four about various topics to do with search engines. The remaining interviews will come out over the next few weeks.

Included in this episode;

  • What is an algorithm and what do we mean by ‘algorithm changes’?
  • What does panda target?
  • What should business owners do and not do to stay on the right side of panda?
  • What does penguin target?
  • How can business owners come out on the right side of penguin?
  • What algorithm changes might Google be working on in the future?
  • What is the trend (of changes)?


  • Tony’s business website www.websiteadvantage.com.au
  • Flying Solo Adelaide Meetups (monthly events announced within that forum)
  • Google Webmaster Guidelines – It is worth a quick read even if you are going to hire someone to manage your website and online marketing. Then you will have an idea if the person you’re hiring is heading down a dodgy path. The quality section will give you clues on what Penguin may be targeting. The menu on the left links to the new Webmaster Academy which is a great way to get started.

We have another great photo from The Wandering Videographer this week.

Taken on Black Hill Conervation park


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Nick: Welcome back to theWeb Marketing Adelaide Podcast. This week, I’m talking with Tony McCreath from Website Advantage. Welcome to the show Tony.

Tony: Cheers.

Nick: How are you doing?

Tony: Good, good. I’m in my element here. We’re in a pub.

Nick: We’ve just had a Flying Solo Meet-up, a monthly meet-up that it is at the Hackney Hotel. We’ve had quite a turnout this month, we had 12 people. So, if you want to check those out, I’ll have a link in the show notes to the Flying Solo meet up groups. It’s a great place for meeting small business owners.

This week, we’re talking to Tony about SEO topics. I’m going to have several different topics over the next few weeks. This week it’s Panda and Penguin Panic, Tony.

Now, Panda and Penguin are the code names for algorithm changes by Google, is that correct?

Tony: Yeah, they’re the specific algorithms that have been introduced in the last year or so.

Nick: Yep, and let’s just start with what are algorithm changes?

Tony: Well, we should probably start with, what’s an algorithm? That’s an automatic mathematics functions and programs that gather and process data. It’s how Google works, whether the website’s good, bad or ugly and so these latest ones, Panda and Penguin are trying to find the ugly ones. There are many other algorithms that do rank, in fact, just work out how Google displays things. This one, we’re focusing on the ugly stuff.

Nick: Great. And so let’s start with Panda. What does Panda target specifically?

Tony: Panda was introduced about a year ago, it’s a means to target low quality content. So, Google was a bit idle for a while and people started to get on the system by spinning content, doing what we call thin content, which is maybe just a paragraph of gibberish. So, people were doing this a Google decided that they wanted to improve things. So, Panda came out and its job is to try and detect this sort of content that’s no good for users, and what it will do, it punishes on a website as a whole. So if you have a website that has a lot of this thin, horrible content, Google will punish you and the Panda will take you and you will suddenly disappear from ranking. You’ll be put in a kind of sin bin until you clean up your act. So, basically, it’s about low quality content.

Nick: Great. What are some things that business owners can do to make sure that they don’t come out on the wrong side of the Panda algorithm?

Tony: The key thing and what Google is trying to get people to go for is creating great content. If you write stuff that people want to read, so focus on the users and not Google and write stuff that is very useful and informative, entertaining. That’s what Google is trying to reward and anything that’s the opposite of that, they’re trying to punish. So, the key thing is write great stuff, and make sure it’s your own, don’t steal it, because Google works that out and will punish you as well.

Nick: What kind content are we talking about? Kind of like Q and A type of stuff, or stuff directly related to your business or?

Tony: I guess it depends on your business, what sort of content they’re talking about. For some businesses the content is just describing what the business does. You might have only a few pages and that’s fine, just hire a copywriter and make sure it looks right and focus on the users, what do they want to see and read, whereas other businesses might be focusing on writing articles to help their clients and use that. So, make it so that those articles should help people, and after you’ve helped people, they might come to you for business and hat’s the idea.

Nick: Great. So, moving on to Penguin now. What does Penguin target?

Tony: This one, there’s a lot of speculation. This is a very recent one. There’s actually been one update, actually to clarify on Panda and Penguin. They are kind of one-off events. Panda’s been around for a year and there have probably been around 10 different updates with Panda. So, on certain dates, you’re either, you could get put into Panda or taken out of Panda and the same with Penguin. Now, Penguin has only actually had 2 updates, or more correctly, Penguin existed and then 1 update.

So, there’s a lot of speculation about what it does, and nobody really knows because there’s not enough feedback information from it. Just before the first Penguin, Matt Croft from Google mentioned the concept of over-optimization, so this is where a lot of people are getting clues from and this talking about stuffing keywords into your website, doing massive link-building exactly on keywords, websites with a million links, all these sort of things that basically break Google’s Web Master Guidelines.

So generally, the idea is that Penguin is about that. It’s over-optimizing, it’s trying to get into the system, and it’s trying to detect those things and punish you in the same way that Panda does, you get knocked out of the results.

Nick: Right, so just to clarify, in the SEO industry, when we’re talking about trying to sort of figure out what Penguin is about, the reason that we don’t know is because Google isn’t so forthright about telling people what they’re exactly doing with their algorithm?

Tony: Yeah, as far as Penguin, they have not really said much, they’ve not confirmed things, so, basically, there’s a lot of SEO’s doing a lot of, a lot of them are coming to the wrong conclusion. A lot of stuff I read about it, people say, I recovered from Penguin and the only thing Google has said is, you can’t have, it’s not changed, it’s not been updated. You can only recover from Penguin when they update it and as I said, there’s only been 2 updates, only a few articles I’ve seen where they’ve confirmed that recovery was on the right dates, so there’s very little information. The strongest sign is keyword text in and your back links and people linking to you, because if you over create these links to you saying exactly what your business is, Google may punish you because of that.

Nick: Great and what are some things that business owners should be looking at to try and make sure they’re not hit by the Penguin algorithm?

Tony: Because it’s so vague at the moment, probably the best advice is to read the Google Web Master Guidelines and that is what Google wants you do and Penguin is trying to attack people who are breaking those rules. So, learn them and make sure you’re not doing anything against it. In fact, it’s good to read, and because you’ll find good things that you should be doing as well, the legitimate ways to promote your website, like type and tags and stuff that they basically want you to make good websites and great content and you follow that, you should be okay.

Nick: Great. So, that’s the Google Web Master guidelines, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes so people can have a great look at that.

Let’s now move on to the next question. What kind of algorithm change do you think Google might be looking at in the future, if you can speculate?

Tony: Speculation. Google actually says they make 500 changes a year to their algorithms, now most of these are little tweaks and are probably not relevant to you, things like improvements on how they deal with different languages and countries, slight alterations to bits and pieces. In fact, Google’s quite often lists all these changes for you but things like Panda and Penguin all they will say is, it happened, they’re not confirming it and nothing more on that.

So, what we do know is Panda will continue to have updates. It’s a lot more stable now, so we won’t expect bigger tax from Panda to surprise you, whereas Penguin is very new, it’s unstable so we’d expect some changes. In fact, there has been a warning that there is one coming up soon and we should expect that there will be quite a few changes happening there.

On the longer term, the algorithms are going to get enhanced, things like semantic understanding, to understand pages more. So, that’s my projection of what they’re going to do. They’re trying to understand the meaning behind pages and from that, provide better results because if you understand what someone is talking about rather than just the words that they used, you can match that up with what people are asking.

Nick: And that would be the Knowledge Graph coming in to play, wouldn’t it?

Tony: Yeah, which only just got recently got introduced in Australia, and for people who don’t know what that is, to you it’d be something like if you search for a famous person, Google will show on the right-hand side, information about that person, pictures, who they associate with, a little bio, all this is taken from Google’s understanding of that person, rather than just the words that relate to them.

Nick: So, it’s more and more, leaning towards kind of an artificial intelligence, more of a learning machine, as opposed to just associating web pages with keywords.

Tony: I think that Google needs to save the eco-system, anyhow. So, the animals in the eco-system are starting to get a little bit clever and we might be getting monkeys.

Nick: Great. So can we say perhaps that the trend of Google changes is more of an overall view towards trying to serve us better content?

Tony: Yes.

Nick: Is that a sort of like a… ?

Tony: A general knowledge graph is that the, if they can understand what the content is more, they can give us better content and we will like Google more, which means Google gets more money from advertising, which is the ultimate aim always with Google.

Nick: Right and where can people go to find out more about you and your business?

Tony: Well, I have a website, websiteadvantage.com.au. That evolved into, basically as I was learning the trade, I also like to teach. I find that a good way to learn, so the website has got a lot of articles, focusing a lot on helping small businesses help themselves and also helping website developers learn about how they can do SEO. So, that’s built up and the motivation behind a lot of stuff I do is that I had to do it, so afterwards, I wrote about how to do it, to help others learn how to do it in sales.

I also act as a software engineer. I write a lot of tools, some of them I share on the web, some of the smaller ones to help website developers do their SEO work quicker.

Nick: Great, I can definitely recommend Tony’s website to anyone who is interested. I have used some stuff in there and some tools I used as well in my business, it’s very handy.

Tony: So the tools are, as advice for someone, tools are a great way to attract people to your website. You’re actually providing something very useful to people and they come back and tell people about it. They are the most popular pages on my website, so if you’ve get any ideas for tools, I’d add them onto yours.

Nick: Well, thanks very much for talking to us today about Panda and Penguin and we’ll catch up with you again in a future episode.

Tony: Great, nice to talk to you.

Nick: Well, that brings us to the end of episode number 7. If you want to learn any more about any of the topics we’ve discussed in this episode, head to our website www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au. We’re so happy to hear any suggestions or feedback that you have and I’ll see you next week!


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