Google is the most popular search engine in the world.

It captured over 86% of internet searches in 2017, and processed a whopping 7 billion searches per day!

When people search for information, Google evaluates the pages returned and ranks them based on their relevance.  The overwhelming majority of visitors trust Google’s top results because they know those websites rank high because they provide excellent content.

How does Google keep the quality of its top results high?

In 2012, Google introduced Google Penguin – a complex algorithm that detects and penalizes websites for cheating by selling links or keyword stuffing.


Google Penguin is a Google algorithm update designed to weed out websites that were, in essence, stealing traffic from other sites. This was done by using deceptive link-building tactics and/or manipulating user reviews through spam comments.

The penalty works by lowering your site’s ranking priority to influence how high a page ranks in search engine results [SERPS].

The goal is to make it so the page doesn’t rank well at all.

# The consequences of a Google Penguin penalty can be dire for websites that rely on website traffic to generate revenue, but they’re especially bad for small business owners and startups.

Since its release in 2012, Google has updated Penguin multiple times over the span of 6 years. Webmasters had ample opportunity to clean up their link profiles following each update—or face further penalties from future updates.

Google urges websites to follow its set of webmaster guidelines. Websites that follow these guidelines have a higher chance of ranking well in Google search results.

How Update 4.0 Changed Google Penguin

In March 2016, Google released a new update to their search algorithm that made the company’s previous Penguin updates almost unnecessary.

Called “Google Penguin 4.0”, this most recent change simply incorporated the spam-detecting system within the core algorithm for tracking website rankings and lowering them or removing them if they violate any rules.

No changes were actually made to the formula outside of this announcement as well; sites only saw impacts on their ranking in real-time because of it being a part of an overall effort by Google against spam forgeries and clones on its platforms.

The 5 Steps of Google’s Search Algorithm Today

1. Interprets a Person’s Meaning and Searches for the Best Match

Google’s first step in understanding a search query is to decipher what the user really meant. The algorithm then searches all of its data sources (think: Wikipedia, news stories, images, and dozens of other sites that build up Google’s knowledge base) to find the best possible match.

2. Finds the Most Relevant Results with keywords

A keyword is a term, phrase or question that people may ask online. Repeating keywords on your page helps Google understand what you’re talking about and to rank your site higher in their search result.

Keyword targeting is an important part of any content marketing strategy, but all keywords can’t benefit from the same degree of attention.

Over 92% of keywords only get ten or fewer monthly searches. That’s because people who don’t explicitly search for your target keyword never see that organic rank-boosting content.

To understand what keywords are searched most often, you can use a keyword planner or Google Trends. Both allow you to examine the search volume and overall popularity of keywords over time, but Trends also lets you see how many people are searching for that phrase right now!

3. Assesses the Quality of Websites to determine its value

Google has a formula to determine the quality of every website that ranks for a search term. That means the number of backlinks they have, their reputation through social media and other factors are blended together on Google’s own scale. This is how Google determines not just who ranks in top 10 positions but also what the page should look like, and how fast it should load.

Google looks at inbound and outbound links with greater weight being allocated to inbound links. This weighting is based on Google’s assessment of the quality of your site and the value of the content you’re providing to other sites. To achieve high search engine rankings, then your site needs to be seen as a valuable resource. Google’s algorithm now reflects that inbound links are not just important but essential.

“The first Penguin update had a profound effect on SEOs and web marketers. It shook the foundations of link building …”

4. Weeds out Unusable Content

Google now penalizes sites that do not perform well on mobile browsers. Mobile-friendliness is very important in Google’s own search results so it makes sense for them to want their users to be able to access content easily.

The importance of good usability and User Experience (UX) should not be underestimated. Poorly designed sites with poorly written, difficult-to-follow copy will not perform well in search engines or social media.

5. Analyzes Personal Preferences

Whatever you do online or in proximity to a smart device is probably being recorded somewhere. While the fear of Big Brother is very real, it can also be a positive as Google can use your own personal wants and needs in its ad strategies.

While Google doesn’t take an extremely hands-on approach to personalization, it does use the information it has on individuals in order to make more relevant ads that target your specific needs.

Google can also monitor how you interact with websites and alter its ad strategies accordingly. This is why after visiting a website and engaging with something–like clicking on a picture or excerpt–you might see an ad for that product pop up somewhere else on the web.


No matter how you look at it, “Google Penguin” is the gift that keeps on giving. While it might have been an update designed to combat link schemes and spammy backlinks, many SEOs also see it as a huge algorithm update that changed the entire web marketing landscape forever.

Google has more than 200 factors that affect ranking. Especially with its recent Penguin update, it can be difficult to remember them all while avoiding Google penalties.

And as always, there are pros and cons to everything. Some experts will say Penguin is not being used nearly enough by Google. Others will say it is an essential part of modern SEO techniques.

Categories and Tags


If you write about a variety of subjects, categories can help your readers find the posts that are most relevant to them. For instance, if you run a consulting business, you may want some of your posts to reflect work you’ve done with previous clients, while having other posts act as informational resources. In this particular case, you can set up 2 categories: one labeled Projects and another labeled Resources. You’d then place your posts in their respective categories.

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Pages vs. Posts


If you’re new to WordPress you may be wondering what’s the big deal behind Pages and Posts. At first glance they appear to be one and the same: if you were to create either a new page or a new post you’d be presented with nearly identical interfaces and in many cases the public appearance of pages and posts will look the same.

Don’t let this fool you. There’s a very fundamental difference between the two and that difference is what makes CMSs, like WordPress, great platforms for integrating blogs with traditional websites.


Think about the kind of pages that make up a typical website. Most often you’ll see pages like “Home”, “About Us”, “Services”, “Contact Us”, etc. Within WordPress these are often treated as Pages; documents that have no particular regard for the time they were posted.

For example, when you visit the “About Us” page of your favorite company’s website you don’t expect the content to be very different from what was available there a week ago.

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A lot of what it takes to build a successful blog is just being good at showing up. Over and over. For a long, long time.

Most people give up too early

When you write your first post and nobody reads it, it’s pretty disappointing. When you write your twelfth post and nobody reads it, that’s tough. But what about when you’ve been blogging consistently for six months, or a year, and still hardly anyone is taking notice?

The truth is, that’s not uncommon. It takes a long time for an audience to grow. And it can be incredibly demoralizing to keep showing up when nobody else seems to care.

So it’s no surprise that most people give up on their blogs too early.

One of my favorite examples of not giving up is the story Rand Fishkin tells about his wife, Geraldine, and her travel blog,  Everywhereist. When Rand tells the story of how Everywhereist grew, he uses it as a cautionary tale. Unlike the common thinking that if you write great content people will read it and share it and your traffic will start growing immediately, this is a story of a much more likely journey to success.

About two years in, Geraldine had some small spikes of traffic from a couple of posts that got noticed more than usual. They probably looked like enormous spikes at the time, but you can see on these graphs how small they are in hindsight.

Everywhereist traffic went back to what it had been before those spikes and stayed there for a while. As Rand says, most people would give up at that point. But Geraldine stuck at it, and five years on she’s getting six figures of traffic every month.

As author and blogger Reggie Solomon says, “We may all wish for a silver bullet to bolster readership, but it’s less a case of scoring a home run and more a case of getting singles on the board.”

What success really takes

It’s easy to respect people like Geraldine who stick it out and build successful blogs without fully understanding the hard slog they went through. Most of the time we don’t even have graphs like the ones above to give us a more realistic picture of the journey it takes to become successful.

We’re left with quotes or snippets from interviews and our brains fill in the gaps for us. Usually those gaps are filled with things like “they had it easy from the start”, or “that could never happen to me”, or “they must know famous people who helped them to be successful”.


I think people believe that those who show up consistently have some sort of magic power or inherent ability. “It must come easy for him,” they say. “For others like me, it’s hard.”

It’s incredibly rare to get a fluke that makes you popular immediately, and even more rare for that success to continue over time. Look at Geraldine’s graphs—even when people finally started paying attention to her work after two years, it didn’t last. Her traffic dropped back to what it had been right after that.

Betting on a fluke is unpredictable, and if you’re building a blog for your business, it’s—frankly—irresponsible. Just because you can’t control every aspect of how successful your blog becomes doesn’t mean you should leave it entirely to chance. The best bet you can make on your blog is to work on it every day for years. It’s hard, and it’s frustrating, and it requires a lot of discipline (or a lot of love for the work you’re doing), but it’s the most reliable approach to building a successful blog. Not a surefire approach, unfortunately, but the most reliable.

Setting yourself up for success

This stuff is hard. I’m not pretending it’s easy, and you shouldn’t either. We’re much better off admitting it’s hard and committing to doing it anyway.

And don’t get down on yourself for wanting to quit. We all feel that struggle, and we all have to push through it to make the effort to show up every day.

These are the best ways I’ve discovered to set myself up for a long, hard slog. Mostly it’s about preparing yourself for the inevitability that it’s going to get hard and you’ll need to keep going anyway.

1. Choose something you enjoy the process of

If you’re blogging for rewards alone, two years is a long time to wait for results. And you might need even longer to find success.

Show up

It’s a lot easier to keep at something without seeing a return if you really enjoy it. If you’re creating your own blog, you have free-reign to choose whatever you want to focus on so pick something you like. If you’re creating content for your company, look for ways to write content you relate to—whether that’s finding different angles on your focus topic, going deeper on the particular aspects that interest you most, or exploring different content formats.

For Lindsay and Bjork, the creators of food blog  Pinch of Yum, the first couple of years were all about trying and sharing new recipes. Lindsay says they didn’t even consider monetizing their blog initially.

I’m really thankful for this because those first few years were really fun and I think if I would have been expecting to get lots of money from the blog, it would have been full of disappointments. It takes a long time to build a blog and I’m just thankful that my first few years were purely for fun!

This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to build your blog with the aim of making money, but choosing something you’re happy to do for the first two years just for fun will help you stick it out while your audience grows.

Building a blog is a gradual thing that takes TIME – it’s not an overnight thing and it doesn’t come without putting in many hours of focused work. If you enjoy it and it doesn’t feel like work, you’ll be able to do more and stick with it which will eventually lead to growth.

Author Pamela Slim agrees with this idea:

It took about a year to develop a steady group of readers. It was very slow at first, but I found great joy in writing so I kept producing posts.

And don’t be afraid to experiment. It might take you a few weeks to realize you don’t enjoy the process of creating content that you thought you would. If you know you don’t want to do it for the next 2-3 years, just a few weeks in is a good time to rethink what you’re writing about.

2. Set a schedule

Having a schedule does something very powerful for your blog. It makes showing up to write just a thing you do. It’s no longer something you find time for or something you do when you feel like it. You publish content on time, as your schedule dictates because that’s what you do.

The obvious caveat here is that you need to stick to your schedule for it to work. Which means you need to choose a schedule that’s manageable. If you struggle to write one post a week, start with a schedule of just one post every two weeks.

The next step is to start building up a buffer of content so you don’t have to drop your schedule when you’re running behind or if you get sick.

Another great part of having a schedule is how you can watch your archives grow as you create content on a regular basis. Just publishing once a week will give you twelve posts after three months, 24 after six months, and 52 in a year. If you’re writing around 1,000 words per post, you’ve easily written a book in just a year!

And that’s just one post per week.

3. See it as a process

Franklin Leonard was a film executive when he created  The Black List. He asked his friends in the film industry to recommend their favorite unproduced scripts via email for some holiday reading. His email request was shared throughout the industry and Leonard received around 500 responses.

That email was the catalyst for what eventually became The Black List—a site where writers can submit their scripts in the hopes of being discovered by film executives. Through The Black List, previously overlooked films such as ArgoJuno, and The King’s Speech have gone on to production.

Leonard says his site is helping writers get feedback, improve their work, and for some, have their work produced. But he doesn’t look at scripts going into production as  the final moment  of “success”:

Success is usually not one moment. It is a series of minor successes. It is getting feedback for the first time. It is completing a rewrite based on that feedback. It is discovering that your rewrite did, in fact, improve your script. It is doing another rewrite. It is having a bunch of people read your script because it attracted attention. It is an agent calling you for the first time. It is signing with an agent. It is being referred to a production company or studio. There are many successes on the way to what most people would perceive as public success. And I know for me, the only way that I have been able to continue to wake up every morning is by trying to focus on those immediate successes and acknowledging them for what they are.

When you’re working hard every day to build a successful blog, it’s easy to overlook the little steps of success that happen along the way. Perhaps in Geraldine’s case, those small bumps in traffic that came after two years were enough to inspire her to keep going when traffic dropped again.

Whatever small wins you collect along the way, count those as a success. As Leonard says, focusing on the immediate successes can be what you need to keep going.

Plan Your Content


If you’re considering adding a blog to your site, you’ll want to have a plan beforehand. Planning your blog will help your subject matter remain consistent over time. It’ll also help you determine whether or not there’s enough material to maintain a steady stream of posts.

One pitfall many new bloggers run into is starting a blog that isn’t posted to frequently enough. A shortage of recent posts can give your visitors a bad impression of your business. One may think “I wonder if they’re still in business” or “they may want to hire a writer.”

A blog, like any other customer-facing aspect of your business, communicates your brand. If it isn’t maintained and given proper attention, people will notice. Post regularly and keep your content fresh. Give your audience a reason to visit often.

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