Just as you began to recover from the Google Panda algorithm update, now it’s time brace yourself for Google Penguin, the next update made exclusively to combat web SPAM. As usual, Google is vague about what precisely the Penguin is going to analyze and penalize. They merely stated that the change will “decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.”

They also gave some basic guidelines as to what SPAM is, and thus what webmasters want to avoid. They include hidden text and hidden links, redirects, cloaking, automated queries sent to Google, irrelevant keywords, multiple pages with duplicated or mostly duplicated content, phishing sites, or malware/virus sites, doorway pages (which are pages created solely for search engines) and affiliate programs that have low value pages.

Webmasters are uneasy about Google’s citing of “substantially duplicate content”, since this could mean anything from obvious plagiarism to quality keyword pages that read “similarly” to others.

The best way to plan for Penguin, Panda, and any other P-updates that Google comes up with is to avoid underhanded tactics that call out to search engines at the expense of human viewers. In other words, webmasters are being told to stop deceiving their visitors, avoid tricks for advancing to the top (such as link schemes), avoid “bad neighborhoods” when it comes to linkbuilding, and don’t use unauthorized programs to submit pages or check rankings.

Not everyone was pleased with Google’s algorithm update and have even petitioned Google to eliminate the Penguin update altogether. Complaining users state that it’s almost impossible for smaller sites to compete with large publishers like E-How, Yahoo Answers and Amazon, since they have access to more writers, more topics and thus more content.

The long-term effect of Google’s Penguin update remains to be seen, though it’s clear that spammers—and perhaps non-spammers too – have much to fear.

If you feel you’ve been affected by the Penguin update, Google has an online form for you to voice your grievances and while they get thousands of requests, believe it or not, you will get a response. But don’t think Google will automatically reinstate your website index. make sure you follow Google Webmaster best Practices.

Some basic rules:

  • Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords (AKA keyword stuffing).
  • Avoid creating multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
  • Stop adding hidden text or hidden links.
  • Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
  • Skip creating “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.