What if there was a non-governmental organization that demanded you to restructure your business at its whim, and might even suggest that you demolish your entire company and start again completely fresh? If that type of organization did exist, you can be assured that its headquarters would be under constant siege by millions of businesspeople from all over the world who would be protesting (or worse) on its doorstep. However, such an organization not only does exist, but it wields its Thorish hammer while provoking barely a whimper from the worldwide business community: It is Google and its latest search engine update, entitled Penguin, came with the chilling warning that if you’ve restructured your entire website to suit its algorithms “and still don’t recover, ultimately, you might need to start all over with a fresh site.”

Unrealistic Tyranny

Many online companies essentially are their websites, and such an admonition by Google’s chief search engine guru Matt Cutts amply demonstrates the sheer chutzpah of the Googleplex combined with the nonchalant totalitarianism that makes Sasha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator seem like a kindergarten playground bully. There are countless smaller online companies that have the majority of their investment locked into their HTML pages, and Cutts’ cutting admonition to just flush the whole thing and start again is not only fully unrealistic but reeks of “let them eat cake” tyranny.

Panda’s Sequel

Penguin follows in the footsteps of the quixotically named Farmer and Panda, which overnight led to massive loss of traffic to multimillion-dollar perfectly legitimate websites:

  • Associatedcontent.com: -97%
  • Suite101.com: -94%
  • Ezinearticles.com: -90%
  • Hubpages.com: -87%
  • Buzzle.com: -85%

Penguin may impact some websites to an even greater degree and force them to overhaul 100% of their content to reflect Google’s petulant demand for what it deems “quality content.” In a nutshell, every phrase on your entire site has to not only be unique but also “build value.” That may seem like a respectable goal except that it applies to every single aspect of your site. So if you’re selling the same knitting needle your competitors have listed in their catalogs, you’d better come up with fresh, unique and distinctive ways of describing it or fear the wrath of the Antarctic flightless bird! Have a long list of technical specifications for your mp3 players, smartphones or marine engines? Let’s hope you enjoy rewriting each line about ARM Cortex-M processors or diesel nozzles to uniquely “build value.” Good luck on that and let me know how you make out.

Some Common Sense Restrictions

Some of Penguin’s demands are common sense restrictions that legitimate online companies already adhere to:

  • No hidden text or links
  • No automated queries to Google
  • No malware
  • No pay to list programs
  • No multiple domains with duplicated content

Death of Link Building

However, some of the restrictions strike at the very heart of conventional and fully legitimate website strategies. Link building is now blasphemy, as Penguin will demote sites that link to outside sites that link to them… which is the fundamental building block of obtaining links in the first place. So if your company gets a favorable article in the press and you want to let your customers know about it… you’re Penguin-zapped!

Indeed if your site has what the Emperor Penguin determines to be too many outbound links, here is another zap for you: So if your catalog has a link to the manufacturer’s website for download of manuals or access to support on each item, you’re Penguin fodder. Similarly, incorporating any keyword more than Penguin wants to see it is a zap-inducer. Therefore if you’re a computer products marketer you’d better come up with an alternative in your site’s content to the term “computer!” Good luck with that one too.

If you’ve seen your traffic melt away since the late April introduction of this evil bird, you can fill out a form to ask Google to reconsider, which is yet another trigger for wishes of luck. It seems that luck is all that an online company can ask for in their universal subservience to the Googleplex.