In an ongoing effort to improve search engine results, Google has released a number of algorithmic updates in the past year including the well known and controversial Panda update. Recently, Google released a new algorithmic search engine formula, dubbed Penguin, intended to target aggressive webspam tactics. Unfortunately though, Penguin may have not only targeted spammers but small business websites too.

According to a recent article by CNBC’s David Mielach, small business owners are reporting hard hits on their website rankings after the Penguin update release on April 24th, 2012. But why is Penguin affecting small business rankings?

Penguin was designed to target websites which displayed an unnatural link structure – in an effort to penalize websites that use a variety of paid links, or even webspam links, to artificially boost their search engine rankings. Small and large business though, may seemingly look like they have an unnatural link structure according to the new algorithm simply because they may have a lot of links coming into their sites.

Small business websites have been hit by Penguin in two main ways:

1. For a small business which has a modest sized website with a lot of incoming links, the website can now look especially contrived to a search engine using Penguin’s mathematical formula. Even though these are authentic links, and resulted from the success and/or marketing strategies of the small business, a penalty may still occur.

2. Some types of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services marketed specifically to small businesses to boost their website rankings used SEO link building strategies and techniques which are now targeted by Penguin – including paid link services. Businesses which signed on for these services to help improve their website ranking results may now be experiencing a dramatic drop in rank.

One such example of a legitimate business hit by Google’s Penguin appeared in a recent article on the Wall Street Journal. According to the article, Andrew Strauss, co-owner of Oh My Dog Supplies LLC, experienced a 96% drop in traffic and an over 50% decrease in sales after the Penguin release. However, Mr. Strauss did report that he had paid for hundreds of inbound links to help boost his traffic after his site was hit by Google’s Panda update – and the amount of paid inbound links could have triggered a penalty.

Fortunately, small businesses which have experienced a hit in ranking results can recover from a Penguin punch. To achieve higher ranking results, small businesses need to focus on high quality content and authentic incoming links from reputable sources including press releases and quality blog articles. Paid link services need to be avoided as well, and small businesses which have been unfairly hit by the Penguin update can write to Google and present their case for a ranking reassessment.


David Mielach, TMN. “Google’s Penguin Freezing Out Small Business Searches.” CNBC (05/14/2012).

Sarah E. Needleman and Emily Maltby. “As Google Tweaks Searches, Some Get Lost in the Web.” The Wall Street Journal (05/16/2012).

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