Author: Shammi Farook
Search engine optimizers have been eagerly awaiting a new Penguin update for almost a year when Google suddenly announced on October 19 the release of a new iteration of the algorithm. This newest update, named Penguin 3.0, has sparked chatter amongst SEOs industry-wide and significant fluctuations in SERPs (search engine results page) were to be expected. Although on a macro scale, websites were largely unaffected, the websites that were affected noticed a large increase or decrease in rankings.
First, we’ll provide some background information on what Penguin actually does. The Penguin algorithm primarily evaluates a website’s backlink profile to demote websites that cheat Google by creating unnatural backlinks. A backlink is any inbound link pointing to your website. If Penguin deems a number of links that point to your website are untrustworthy, Google’s trust in your entire website reduces as a whole. Inbound links to your website remain the most crucial element of Google’s ranking algorithm.
This latest Penguin update, coined “Penguin 3.0” by Search Engine Land, has SEOs scrambling to understand what this anticipated update will mean for SERPs. According to Pierre Far, Google’s UK Webmaster Trends Analyst, this “refresh” is a worldwide update that should demote sites with manipulative backlink profiles, allowing improved sites that were previously hit by Penguin to improve their rankings.
With expectations so high, many are shocked to learn that this simple “refresh” only affected less than 1% of English queries. When Google names an algorithm update, we assume it’ll be a large one. However, this isn’t always the case. When Google refreshes an algorithm, we can only do our best to guess exactly what changed. With that said, perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into the name and instead remain vigilant for negative impacts in the coming weeks—and possibly for a larger, more impactful update happening soon.
While there isn’t much information regarding the new Penguin update, here’s what you should take away:
Beware of Spammy Links
Google has always been interested in improving results by penalizing spammy and manipulative links. These are links that are deemed untrustworthy—forum threads, press release pages, link pages, etc. This Penguin refresh is no different. Many business owners were significantly affected by previous Penguin iterations, and now that they have worked hard to clean up their links, they can expect to see improvement in their search rankings. If you notice your rankings decreasing, you may have some more cleanup work to do.
A Slow, Global Rollout
Penguin 3.0 will affect all Google users across the world over the next few weeks. This update is more of a “refresh,” meaning that no new signals were added to the algorithm, and instead, the refresh will pinpoint any issues that might not have been previously addressed. Websites that removed bad links after the last update should see improvement in rankings. It may not happen immediately, so keep an eye on your website’s rankings.
The Beginning of a Bigger Update?
Many SEOs are predicting that this refresh is really just the framework for a much more impactful update in the near future. With that in mind, resist the urge to indulge in archaic tactics like keyword-stuffing and link spamming. Identify any manipulative links pointing to your website and remove them immediately. If you can’t remove them, use Google’s Disavow Tool to have these links disregarded. (Warning: use this tool with caution.) All this work will pay off and serve as a great foundation for future algorithm changes.
Help! I’ve Been Hit by Penguin!
If Penguin has penalized you for unnatural links, you will definitely benefit from a quick sweep. This means getting rid of links from untrustworthy directories, content aggregators, or anything similar in nature. Many businesses have regrettably used black hat SEO techniques in the past; so if you’ve done the same, get rid of those links as well. Unfortunately, the cleanup can be pretty time-consuming. But it’s your best bet for recovery.
Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between good links and spam links. If you’re left confused, take a look at the link in question, and ask yourself, “Does it look like spam? Does it smell like spam?” If your answer is anything but a resounding “no,” then you won’t need to touch it or taste it to know it’s spam.
Simply put: take down all your spammy links!