Google has been reworking search algorithms for years, however, they have been coming thick and fast recently, and Google I’m sure has taken great pleasure in applying names to them. Earlier in the year we had the Panda update that hit poor quality sites and recently we had the Penguin update that is said to hit spammy websites. The problem with the Penguin update is that it came hot on the heels of a fresh Panda update, so webmaster who suffered a drop in traffic are unsure if it is due to poor quality (Panda) or spam (Penguin).
There is a relatively easy way to tell, if you have Google Analytics (or any good analytics software). The Panda update was released on April 19 and the Penguin update on April 24. If your traffic started to drop off after April 19, then you have quality issues. If your traffic dropped off after April 24, then Google has issues with your website related to spam.
You don’t use spam? Me neither, can’t stand the stuff! What about your website? Have you ever, particularly in your sites early days, built a few unethical links? Pay for links? Does your website have any duplicate content issues? This may be duplicate content on your own site, or content you have copied from other websites.
Whether it’s Panda or Penguin, you will need to work on areas that don’t meet Google’s quality guidelines. A complaint to Google will not necessarily reverse Penguin related loss of traffic. Clean up your site and, with luck, you’ll float back to your original position in search results. Google is not against search engine optimization, in fact, it has written guidelines on how to get it right. Just don’t over optimize, or use grey (or black) hat techniques.