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The impact of Google’s Penguin update on the iGaming affiliate community


ON APRIL 24 2012, Google changed how its ranking algorithm scored links and changed the game about what mattered in SEO. Overnight, iGaming affiliates around the world found that previously strong sites with great rankings and high traffic had nose-dived.
Google said the Penguin update was part of its on-going high quality sites algorithm but, at first, it appeared almost arbitrary. Sites with great content saw their traffic decimated, content websites that had been built as a labour love were as prone to penalisation as the most aggressively optimised low quality sites.

Within the SEO community, consensus about Penguin came quickly. Leading up to April, Google made noises about changing how it treated anchor text in links. Until fairly recently, SEOs would recommend that people get links using optimised phrases as anchor text to make pages appear more relevant.

Real people link using shortened URLs, brand names, ‘click here’, or ‘more info’, and they link from places like Facebook or Twitter rather than networks of sites. Real people link differently to SEO people, and as more and more of the links online are made by real people, this has made pure SEO links look increasingly obvious and less relevant to what matters when it comes to recommendations and authority.

In an industry like gaming where the prevailing wisdom is that it’s tough to get ‘natural’ links, website owners across the board got a kicking. Big brands weren’t as badly hit as affiliates because, generally speaking, brands tend to have more people linking to them because they’ve heard of them. People link naturally to websites such as 888.com or Ladbrokes because they’re in the news whereas affiliate sites aren’t.

Penguin was so hard, so fast, and so indiscriminate that it felt like a weapon, and pretty quickly, people began to realise it could be used as one. If links could hurt your rankings, then surely they could be used against others.
 
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