Just when writers thought that SEO copywriting was safe, along came the Google Penguin update. While the Google Panda update was designed to weed out websites that Google deemed “content farms,” the Penguin update may be far more insidious and have a far-reaching impact on those who provide content services.
What is Penguin?
The Penguin update was designed to target websites and blogs that participated in keyword stuffing and cloaked links. In a word, webmasters were using what is commonly called “black hat SEO” methods as a way to get higher rankings in search engines. In addition to cloaked links, this update was also designed to weed out those webmasters who thought it was a good idea to buy back links to their site. Often, these back links had little (if anything) to do with the content on the site.
How much damage did Penguin do?
In their efforts to reduce web spam, Penguin reportedly had a target in mind. First, they targeted websites that were crammed full of keywords. Secondary targets were those purchasing back links and those heavily involved in blog networks. Ironically enough, these penalties should not have come as a surprise to most webmasters. Google has clearly explained these guidelines in the “webmaster guidelines” section of their advertising programs. Several sites took a significant hit during Penguin, in some cases the same sites were just recovering from the Panda update.
What corrective action is needed?
For those who are providing content, it is critical to educate your clients. Google intends to penalize sites that are using spun content to submit for directories. In addition, if the content is designed to manipulate search engine rankings, chances are that the end result will be a lack of satisfaction for the reader. Those who are hiring writers need to understand how Penguin, and other updates, may impact their websites and blogs. Unfortunately, writers may not be the ones who can provide that education. Writers are hired to provide content and most clients do not feel they should be told what type of content is best for their site.
Client that insists on keyword stuffing
Inevitably, writers encounter clients who are looking for 300 words with three keyword phrases to be used three to four times in their content. You know, as a writer, that this spells doom for the content. For the client who refuses to understand that keyword stuffing is not the answer, you have no option but to write to their specifications. Those who try to buck the trend or try to educate clients may be replaced by a writer who will simply produce the specified content.
Most writers accept the fact that the primary goal of content is to educate or entertain the reader. The secondary goal is to satisfy search engines. These do not have to be mutually exclusive goals. Good content can, and should, do both. A surprising number of website owners and blog owners are learning that high-quality content means keyword stuffing is the last thing they should be doing. Lessons learned from the Google Panda and Penguin updates should mean that high-quality writing will be more, not less, in demand.
Doreen M is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.