Tuesday 17 October 2017

Thousands of websites hamstrung by Google initiative

Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

DIGITAL experts believe that thousands of Irish websites have had their effectiveness drastically reduced by Google's "Penguin" initiative -- an exercise in search engine house-keeping rolled out a week ago to hamstring websites in breach of the internet giant's strict quality guidelines.

Google released the "Penguin" update on April 27 -- but it is only now that affected companies are realising that their sites have been knocked all the way down the Google search ladder and are seeing levels of hits and responses flatline.

To those businesses reliant on their websites for e-commerce and customer attraction, a demotion in search ranking can prove disastrous.

According to Jim Cassidy of leading web and digital consultants Lucidity Digital, many website owners through carelessness or ignorance will not have realised that their sites were in breach of Google's rules.

"Google are all the time updating but this was a global initiative and there will always be some collateral damage when they do this.

"The last time they did it globally with the 'Panda' initiative, around 8pc to 12pc of websites were affected in some way -- millions and millions of websites worldwide."

There are around 176,000 websites on the "ie" domain and an estimated half a million more using the "dot com" domain.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, around 3.1pc of English language websites are likely to be affected, indicating a casualty rate here in the order of 20,000 sites -- although many of these are unlikely to be active.

Penguin is Google's second global initiative to prevent over-optimisation -- when users manipulate their search engine rankings using illicit means.

This time last year Penguin's big brother Panda caused consternation when it was felt that many sites had been unfairly targeted.

In many cases stolen or "scraped" web content ended up receiving a higher ranking search than the original content.

Mix-ups

To prevent such mix-ups, Google has asked that Irish website owners contact them if they feel they have been wronged.

Jim Cassidy said: "The owner of every website should have it linked up to Google Analytics and check it out at least once a week.

"I do it daily for our website and it takes me five minutes to look over the data.

"Those who notice that their traffic has fallen significantly without explanation would do well to call in an SEO company to assess their site and assess whether or not it is in breach."

In an email to its newsletter subscribers, the Digital Marketing Institute's Irina Adashkevich said it had received enquiries since the Penguin initiative kicked in.

"There has been a surge in cases whereby some website owners add links to their competitors from websites that have been blacklisted by Google, and in that way ensure the competitors get penalised for being in a 'bad neighbourhood'."

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