Google have never kept their intentions to keep their search engine results to the highest possible standard a secret and with that they have guidelines that are openly available to website owners to help steer them in the right direction while trying to increase their search engine visibility but the question has to be asked, has Google's evolution of their search engine algorithms created an increased possibility of brands and businesses needing to step away from their history in a bid to retain their profession?
Due to the vast marketshare that Google hold within the search engine field, gaining the top result within the search queries that relate to your business, product or service, can be the difference between being able to financially succeed and your income stream failing to support your vision but in an era of high levels of competition, gaining the upper hand over a competitor is vital, sparking the willingness to do anything to claim that coveted top spot.
With competition and increase desire to excel, the creation and development of websites in terms of their significance within the organic search atmosphere became a dark place, full of guideline breaking, reverse engineering and short cut taking websites that only cared about holding the top ranking position, even if that meant that the quality of the website was significantly reduced.
Affirming their desire to give their users the best possible search engine results, Google announced an update in January 2011 in which they focused on the removal of automated website properties (scrapers) that were becoming more and more evident within their results, an update that Google's head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, claimed affected around 2% of all user entered queries.
With a firm message that they were looking to target spam sites that were seeming to dominate some of their search query results, Google quickly struck again less than a month after, announcing their Google Panda algorithm, which was paired with Google Farmer to combat sites that were deemed to be link fuelled websites that were no use to users (link farms).
After the announcement that the update to their algorithm in January had hit just 2% of search queries, the release of Google Panda/Farmer in February 2011 was a whole new experience for many as the update hit with solid focus and affected "up to 12%" of search queries, taking a strong offensive against websites that boasted thin content, were considered to be content farms or were ad rich in comparison to the content that they were serving up for visitors.
This was just the first Panda update that was to rock the Google search engine community and more were to follow as they increased in focus, geographical locations, execution and frequency, before Google once again turned up the heat on poor quality websites, launching an update in November of the same year that was focusing on the freshness of the content that websites were hosting, this time announcing that they had successfully impacted as much as 35% of queries, sparking the need for website owners to have to think about keeping their content up to date.
Continuing their policing of their search engine results, Google proceeded to roll out a total of thirteen Google Panda updates between the announcement of commence until April 2012, when they were going to once again turn the screw on website owners that were operating outside of the Google quality guidelines.
April 24th 2012, Google announced that they had completed and rolled out a new algorithmic update, focused on elements that were external to your website hosting and that trawled the lines of investigation into backlink profiles, keyword stuffing and various other spam related practises, giving the update the title Google Penguin.
With Google Penguin affecting 3.1% of English queries, many felt that the darker world of website development, marketing and creation would begin to fall off the radar but that wasn't the case are more websites continued to push the boundaries of the guidelines while others completely ignored them with the mentality that they could simply replicate once their website fell foul to any of the updates that Google were throwing at them.
As Google Penguin began to become a real threat to website owners across the internet, Google's Matt Cutts announced that there was "a new generation" of Google Penguin, an update that Google believed would be powerful enough to maintain a tight hold on the quality of their guidelines, making the decision to roll both Panda and Penguin into their algorithm with a stern message that informed the online world that they would stop providing confirmation on release of updates related to these automatic algorithm filters.
Continuing updates focused around the two algorithmic filters have continued to cause heartache for website owners across various markets, combining their power to give sanctions against guideline infringing websites, becoming a new dimension of penalisation threat, only considered to be better than a manual action being enforced.
With the pain of penalisation and in some cases, de-indexation, website owners and businesses have seen their income levels fall dramatically over a short timescale, often leaving them with a need to recover from the action as soon as possible in order to prevent closure but that is not as easy as it sounds, something that millions of webmasters would be able to agree with.
Search Engine Optimisation specialists have recently made their thought known about the process, some claiming that they have spent hundreds of hours cleaning up the mess that a website has while well-known SEO Eric Ward wrote a column on SearchEngineLand.com expressing his views and highlighting that sometimes he has to advise those affected to walk away and re-build.
The question has to be whether there is level of penalisation that would warrant a business to be able to walk away from the history and reputation that they have built in the decision to re-locate from one website address to another?
While telling a story about two clients that he had worked with, Ward explained that both sites had suffered manual penalisation actions being placed over their site, both sites failing to receive "appreciable traffic from Google".
Explaining how the road to recovery can be a costly and time consuming one, Eric reveals that sometimes he has to look at the work that a client would have to complete in order to bring the website back into Google ‘compliance' and the decision that sometimes leads to telling them that their time would be better spent rebuilding the site on a new domain.
Although we know that many websites have altered their website address, recently Google's John Mueller expressed his thoughts about the situation, saying on Google Plus that simply changing the URL of the site and completely copying a website over was not enough sometimes, revealing that Google can and will pass a penalisation over to a new domain regardless of whether the old domain is linked into the new one or not, simply based on the Google algorithms being able to identify that content on the new domain is the same as that on the previous address.
With two well respected individuals within the online community speaking publically about their thoughts on the subject of whether website owners should simply walk away and rebuild, it was only a matter of time before one was going to comment on the postings of the other, John Mueller being the first to address the collective subject, posting a comment about the SearchEngineLand.com post on his Google Plus account.
Although Mueller did point out that simple replication under a new alias would not be enough to warrant ‘starting a fresh', he took the time to advise one Google Webmaster Help user on his battle to recover, giving him advice on how to make the ‘walk away and rebuild' decision work for him.
Mueller told the user that if he wanted to start a new site and did not "want to be associated with the old one", he would need to ensure that he was "not just moving the content to a different domain."
Obviously the decision to simply turn your back on a domain that has been associated with your company for a long time is never going to be easy but in a time where Google continue to turn the pressure on the bolts of their search engine results, sometimes the situation can be so severe that it could result in months of work and expense to ‘recover' the domain and even then, excessive penalisation clean up can result in websites failing to ever return to their former glory.
Do you think that you could make the decision over whether to invest time and money into a domain that would more than likely fail to return to former ‘pre-penalisation' rankings or would you be one of the many people that are now looking to rebuild their website on a new domain?