According to Matt Cutts the Penguin Penalty isn’t what Google consider a penalty but simply an Algorithm change. All semantics really but Matt Cutts in an interview at SMX (the Search Marketing Expo) certainly didn’t seem to suggest he or Google had any remorse for the Penguin update they unleashed earlier this year.
In an interview that will be fascinating to anyone with a passing interest in Search Engine Optimization Matt Cutts also confirms that there are no Penguin Updates yet despite what some think and it is data refreshes that have seen some sites recover, presumably where they have got rid of the links that were causing them problems.
The Penguin update of course has bought up question from observers about negative SEO and many site owners believe that their competitors have used this against them.
Google certainly have removed websites from results or given them a penalty, sorry the algorithm has drastically reduced their ranking, as a result of what Google sees as spam links. So how can Google tell the difference between a link maliciously placed on a bad neighborhood to one that a site owner has had placed there as part of a linking scheme?
Matt Cutts admitted that Google have changed their guidelines from saying it is impossible to use negative SEO to now say that it is difficult and admitted they have known it to happen, how many times it has happened when they know nothing about it though is probably another matter.
Importantly though Matt Cutts admitted that Google are considering allowing sites to disavow, in other words disown, links to their sites: perhaps suggesting that Negative SEO is more of a concern to Google than he would let on, a Disavow tool is likely in two to three months it seems.
Other insights from the interview included that Google are now sending out messages for all suspected Black Hat techniques, earlier in the year when 700,000 warnings were sent out many thought that these were all to do with the Penguin and latest Panda updates, suggesting a more serious algorithm change. Apparently though these problems already existed and Google were aware of them, they simply changed their policy on sending out these warning messages; Matt Cutts then warned that your ranking will drop if you ignore these warnings.
Moving away from Penguin Matt Cutts was asked about Affiliate links: giving the advice that they should generally be no follow links before moving on to whether links were in fact going to be replaced by social signals. Matt Cutts said little of real significance on this question but stated that he ‘wouldn’t write the epitaph for links just yet’.
The most interesting point from the entire interview for Search Engine Optimization professionals though was one that was answered clearly and quickly. Asked about whether Google look at Bounce Rates when ranking Matt Cutts made it clear that not only do Google not look at bounce rate they don’t use Google Analytics at all for deciding web rankings. For some time many SEO professionals had thought, in part due to comments by Matt Cutts in the past, that some of the factors Panda looked at, including Bounce Rate, came directly from Google Analytics. It has to be assumed then that most of Panda’s indicators come from Google Toolbar collected data and users who send qualitative feedback on sites they have visited.