A Brief History of Google – Part 9

Our last post in this series talked about some of Google’s behind-the-scenes technical updates brought in to improve search engine readability and user privacy. This edition will look in some more detail at Google’s “Top Heavy” Ads update and the notorious Penguin update.

January 2012 – Ads Above the Fold

This update was brought in to tackle websites which Google’s algorithms considered to be too packed with adverts at the top, or ‘above the fold’. Primarily with the aim of improving the user experience and as a result of user complaints, this update looked at the page layout and how easy it is for a user to find the content they are looking for. Google advised checking the layout of websites which may have been affected by this update across all browsers, as obstruction of the main page content across any display by advertising blocks could negatively affect the page ranking.

Not designed to completely stop adverts on websites – Google knows better than most how well adverts can perform and monetise online content – this update regulated sites which have historically overloaded their advertorial content, hence the ‘Top Heavy’ nickname.

24th April 2012 – Penguin

Google’s Penguin update remains, along with Panda, one of their most renowned updates for the impact it had on organic search rankings. Initially termed as the web spam update, Penguin adjusted several spam factors and started to penalise ‘over-optimisation’ and ‘black hat webspam’ techniques such as keyword stuffing and link schemes.

By penalising what had previously been ‘go-to’ tactics for some digital marketers and content writers, Google made it very clear with Penguin that they would no longer be permitting the use of previously existing loopholes and shortcuts to increase rankings. This change was brought in to combat these tactics and decrease the rankings for websites which they believe had been violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.

The Penguin update noticeably affected around 3.1% of all search results pages in English, more in some languages, to the extent that someone browsing the internet would notice a change from previous searches. Rolled out simultaneously across all languages, Penguin did release warnings within Google’s Webmaster Tools to websites expected to be penalised.

Google’s primary aim has always been to provide the best results and user experience it can, so by updates such as Penguin which focus on the quality of their results they are also encouraging website designers, digital marketers and webmasters to focus on white hat SEO and good practices. By rewarding, through higher search rankings, websites which are written well and with the user in mind Google is continuing to encourage good practice in website development and optimisation which will benefit all involved from business to consumer.

Keep an eye out for the next part of this series where we will look at some more of the later background updates including Google’s Manual Action Warning and Exact Match Domain updates.