The Google Penguin algorithm is one that targets websites where webmasters attempt to artificially improve the search engine ranking of its pages by manipulating the number of links pointing it. There has not been an update to Penguin in a year, which over the past few weeks has had industry experts and search engine marketers speculating on its arrival, publishing Penguin-rich articles day after day in preparation. Violators of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines as they relate to link schemes on the other hand have been shaking in their boots and black hats. Last week on Friday October 17, Penguin 3.0 rolled out. How’s that for a TGIF?
Now that a few days have passed and reports have come in from across the globe a bigger picture of what this algorithm update has brought with it has become more clear. Today I weigh in on what you as an online business needs to know, and do, moving forward.
What Your Online Business Needs to Know About the Google Penguin 3.0 Algorithm Update
1. It’s Global, so Monitor Your Links Internationally
Penguin as an algorithm has been known as a global update, impacting websites in all countries and those using all languages in text. The 3.0 version is no different. Since last Friday approximately 1% of all English “speaking” websites have been impacted by Penguin 3.0, which is very significant (one out of every 100 websites is a big deal). Reports are still coming in for other language based sites which could fall on either side of the calculation. So what’s your takeaway? Since link builders use resources from all over the world, it is important to take note that Google will notice any foul play in your backlink profile no matter where it exists. If you have noticed a drop in your rank, you will want to look at where your link builder has been securing links for your website, both within North America and abroad. It’s easy enough to ID a questionably placed link within an article in English, but you will want to pay extra special attention to any linking articles of other languages. Moving forward it will be important to monitor where your links reside on a global scale. If you manage a local business in North America then it’s safe to say that a link pointing to you from a website in Spain is questionable. This is something that will cause Penguin to look in your direction.
2. It’s Still Rolling Out
Traditionally such an update may run for a few days and be done. It looked like that was the case for 3.0 as a Google rep John Mueller reported its conclusion on Monday (Oct 20). However, that statement seemed to come too early as it was retracted a few hours later. It is now reported that the Penguin update will run longer than expected. So if your site was not negatively impacted over the weekend it is not time to celebrate and give your link builder a raise quite yet. That being said, I personally feel that the biggest wave has passed, and that moving forward in the weeks ahead there will only be smaller changes to ranking positions here in North America. A conspiracy theorist would suggest that Mueller was possibly chastised for letting webmasters “off the hook” early by noting Penguin’s conclusion, which would cause many to return to “business as usual”. Google’s Pierre Farr quickly kept all on guard with his recent post on Google+ claiming that Penguin will waddle around the globe well into November.
3. It’s Not Just About Punishment, but About Redemption
While Penguin 3.0 does indeed look to demote violating websites it is not just about the “witch hunt”. Those sites that were hurt by the last Penguin update have had an entire year to clean up their act and Google is not letting this go by without positive recognition. Peirre Far made the following statement:
“This refresh helps sites that have already cleaned up the webspam signals discovered in the previous Penguin iteration, and demotes sites with newly-discovered spam.” (Pierre Far, Google)
If your website was impacted by any prior iteration of Penguin, and you’ve done all that you can to clean up your backlink profile while ethically improving your link building practices you may very well benefit from this update.
4. It’s a Refresh, not a Rewrite – But Expect a Rewrite to Come
As the quote above mentions, Penguin 3.0 was simply a refresh, which is why the 1% English site impact was not even greater. This is contrary to a statement made back at the October Search Marketing Expo where it was told that the Penguin update would be a “large re-write of the algorithm”. Google and industry reps do have a flare for the dramatic to keep webmasters on their toes, so it’s not a surprise that the update ended up being a refresh. What webmasters need to be aware of however, is that while grandiose statements are often made about these updates, there is often truth behind them. It is expected that Penguin will not only update more often but within these updates there will indeed be a large scale rewrite. The best way that you can prepare yourself for these future updates, rewrites included, is to ensure that your backlink profile is completely cleaned up (regardless your ability to cruise through Penguin 3.0 without concern) and to build links 100% naturally into 2015.
Stay tuned as more news comes in from all over the world as Penguin 3.0 continues to roll out.