Google Panda, Penguin, etc. What are these cutsie nicknames Google keeps talking about?

First let’s look at what a Google update is: A Google update is a change they make in order to make things better for you (apparently) when you’re searching for a product or service in Google. Every one of these changes is given some sort of nickname (panda, penguin, etc.). You may also see it like this, “Google Panda 4.0.” All that means is that it’s the fourth version of the Google Panda update. It’s very simple really.

Google Penguin

Let’s first look at the Google Penguin update. What was this update about?

Originally when it came out, internet marketers figured out they could, by sending links to your website from other websites, raise your ranking in Google. It’s the old “we’ll get you to #1 in Google in three days” trick from a few years ago. This became the op basis for a number of years: Find any old website, and link it to your client’s website. Then do that thousands of times over.

An SEO company back then could simply send thousands of links to your website, and you would rank high in Google when someone Googled “water damage company needed” along with their location. The issue was that this, of course, was overly manipulated by internet marketers all over the world,  and it did not take Google long to catch on. Personally, I always considered that technique to be very lazy SEO, and in the end, I was right.

Google Panda

Thus Google introduced Panda. When Google Panda came out, websites all over the world that had been manipulating this back-linking trick experienced significant drops in Google rankings, with some disappearing altogether. Some companies did not even know why as they were hiring agencies on their behalf to do SEO, simply trusting them to do the right thing, and then had no idea what happened to their rankings. Everyone fired their current SEO companies and moved on to others. Or, in the event that they were doing SEO in-house, they gave up and hired an SEO company to fix it.

Quite frankly, the whole situation was a mess. My company got a ton of new business after each release, and each new client was a major damage control project that entailed us tediously disconnecting our new clients’ websites from damaging links to damaging websites — lots of them in foreign languages. The loss in revenues from companies we were working with due to this SEO back-linking technique was astounding. There were two other versions of of Google Panda that came out, 2.0 and 3.0, and now 4.0 will come at some point soon.

Should you be worried?

It depends. If it stays true to the last updates, it is targeting low-quality links pointed to your site. If this is the case, and you have been sending links to your site, then, yes, you should be worried.

You must remember, though, not all links to your site are considered bad. But let’s say you send a link from to your website, and the page that points to your water damage restoration website is a web page talking about Kim Kardashian’s Ugg boots. This isn’t very relevant is it? That is one small example of what Google would consider a toxic link to your site and would lower your ranking because of it.

What to do

Here are my tips to stay safe in this Google Panda update and most other future updates:

  1. Avoid using overseas SEO people. In my experience, the worst of these back-link problems were caused by overseas SEO people who had no accountability with their US-based clients, which made them prone to damaging SEO techniques. If you are using a U.S.-based SEO agency, you must ask them where their tech-team is based. Often they will have a U.S.-based consumer service rep but utilize staff from India and the Philippines. If they don’t have a domestic tech team, avoid using them. This is one of those, “If I had a nickel” things. Incredible amounts of damaging work is done this way.
  2. Do not attempt your own back linking, and do not link yourself to other websites thinking you’ll be helping your SEO. We had a client who was dominating his Google rankings with us for five years straight… and then it suddenly crashed. After investigating why it crashed, my tech team found that he had linked his website to his son’s baseball team’s website, which then sent hundreds of spammy links to his water damage website and crashed five years of our work with him.
    We recovered it, but you all know how much income can be lost in a short few weeks form not getting any calls. Sometimes we’ll find our clients back linking to their websites without telling us because they read a six-year-old SEO article on how productive it is for SEO. Then it crashes their program, we find out about it and have to fix it. In short, if you don’t know what you’re doing with back linking, just don’t do it.
  3. Work with a company you know is really watching out for your rankings. This is a tough business; it’s like shooting a moving target. You have to understand that and be willing to persist through all the barriers to be successful at it. This business is also like construction — for every 25 companies out there, there is only going to be one good one. Think of how many bad resconstruction jobs you have seen other companies do after a water damage emergency and you were called out to fix it… again. This business is similar. There’s some good guys out there, but you have to sift through some of the not-so-good ones first. When you find a good one, you’ll know. They’ll actually care.
  4. Remember this: If it seems too simple, like “this one trick will make you beat everyone else in Google,” it will, sooner or later, get your website in trouble. Google is not full of dummies. They employ very, very smart engineers. Don’t underestimate their intelligence.

Dan York is the founder and CEO of Stellar-eMarketing and a seasoned entrepreneur, administrative and marketing consultant, and Internet marketing expert, as well as a veteran public speaker. More information is found on York’s website: