You thought it was all over…Google confirm Penguin 3.0 still rolling out worldwide
It’s been 19 days and counting since Google begun rolling out their latest refresh of the Penguin algorithm – informally known as ‘Penguin 3.0’ amongst search marketing circles. October 17th marked the date in which the American multinational confirmed that their flagship black-hat SEO detector would begin impacting queries worldwide and would continue to roll out over the upcoming weeks.
Since then the British search marketing contingent have learnt that around 1% of their queries have been impacted by the update thus far, with this figure remaining consistent with the global average on affected searches. “Not bad, right?” After all, a portion of this percentage actually represents people who have had their search results positively affected after successfully recovering from link penalties handed out to them from the last incarnation of the programme.
However, it appears that questions marks over Penguin 3.0 are rifer than ever, with Google identifying that the update has yet to even finish rolling out worldwide. The news has created a dual-pronged batch of fresh concerns about the refresh, including just how damaging it will be to the ranking prospects of search marketing companies worldwide and more importantly, which algorithm update is actually affecting a website’s performance.
Google’s John Muller provided official confirmation of this actuality in a video hangout on Google+, compellingly answering the question of the current status of Penguin 3.0: “As far as I know, the whole data is still rolling out slowly”.
Mueller’s confirmation of the slow roll out has meant that webmasters are now finding it extremely difficult to ascertain which algorithms are affecting different websites, with both the Panda and Pirate updates both being slowly launched worldwide at present.
So what exactly is the Penguin algorithm?
First launched on the global stage during April 2012, the Penguin algorithm was designed in order to combat web-spammers and black-hat SEO’s from illegitimately attaining high search rankings.
In particular, the main functionality of Penguin has been to clamp down on websites which utilise spammy or black-hat strategies to outsmart Google’s ranking algorithm. This includes contrived attempts by webmasters to make inorganic link purchases and the dark art of keyword overloading. Essentially, the algorithm hands out a penalty to any organisations who are found to be guilty of breaching Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
The initial incarnation of Penguin – creatively assigned the title “Penguin 1.0” – was hugely successful at achieving its aims of clamping down on the malpractice of black-hat SEOs and affected a monumental 3.1% of all queries worldwide. To put this in perspective, there are over 3.5 million unique queries made on Google every single day – and over 3% of these were affected during the inaugural rollout of Penguin.
May 2013 saw the second edition of Penguin released, with new layers of complexity being added to the functionality of the algorithm in order to make it more adept at identifying and punishing those using black-hat techniques. The update was again a hit, impacting 2.3% of queries worldwide – a hugely respectable figure considering how effective the first edition was at cleaning up the act of the digital marketing world.
Now the third chapter in Penguin’s lifespan has opened, with mark three actually having a relatively understated impact on the search landscape compared to its predecessors. The fact that it has only impacted around 1% of queries worldwide has led many analysts to argue that it is more of a data update than a genuine refresh of judgement day for webmasters. And considering that the previous refresh happened over a year ago in October 2013 and ,site owners have had to wait an entire year in order to see whether the legitimisation of their SEO practice has been sufficient to begin ranking highly again, it is hard to argue against such a notion.
Google have received a lot of stick for their policy of making webmasters wait until the next refresh before they are able to have their websites re-evaluated for indexing on Google, and it is highly likely that Penguin 3.0 is a reaction to vocal critics who rightly pointed out that it had been far too long since the last update.
If you are someone whose website suffered a Google penalty last year, then you should be noticing a change in your search rankings provided that you have brought your practice in line with Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Moreover, if you had yet to see an upturn in your rankings despite improving your practice, then Mueller’s remarks should be taken positively because it means there is hope yet that you attain the rewards you feel you deserve for your white-hat endeavours. We recommend evaluating your site rankings and traffic on a regular basis over the next few weeks in order to get confirmation over where you have benefitted from the Penguin refresh.
However, those of you who only begun cleaning up their act during the last weeks of September or the opening weeks of October will not benefit from the new Penguin 3.0; conversely you are at risk of suffering a Google penalty. This is because Google has not taken into consideration changes to websites made in the weeks leading up to the Penguin refresh, meaning you could have wasted your time legitimising your site and preparing for the update in advance.
Penguin 3.0: SEO Do & Don’t List
Considering the amount of flack that Google have taken for the amount of time they took between the last two refreshes, it appears safe to say that the next update won’t take quite as long to be rolled out than the current version This means that all people who have been negatively impacted by the algorithm refresh this time, or failed to do enough to make it back to the rankings from their previous penalty, have an opportunity to make amends over a shorter space of time and hopefully make a swift return to the positions they desire.
If you are someone who falls into these categories, then I recommend removing the following practices from your business conduct, in order to minimise your risk of suffering further penalties from the prolific Google Webspam Team.
- Pay for inorganic links. One of Google’s biggest goals has always been to make search rankings organic; a legitimate representation of how good or bad a certain website is for the theme it discusses. This has meant that people who pay other parties to get them to link back to their websites have become a major target for the search giants, who now swiftly remove such sites from their rankings altogether.
- Create blog networks. Google’s Webspam team have been severely hard on blog networks during the second half of this year and have actually reduced prominent organisations in the industry such as PostPoint to virtual rubble. The art of artificial payment to networks such as these in order to attain ‘guest-blogging’ chances is now regarded almost as badly as inorganic link acquisitions and conducting such activity will put you at serious risk of being penalised.
- Optimise anchor text too heavily. This might seem like madness to certain webmasters who will point back to time when it was essential to have matched keywords and link text. However, it is now a black-hat practice which gives Google the impression that your site is spammed-up; something which needs to be avoided at all costs.
- Acquire links for the sake of links. In particular, make sure you conduct a regular SEO audit of your website in order to assess the quality of the back links it possesses. Keep in mind that it is the quality, not the quantity of your links which determine your rankings and all links from spammy sites will serve as negative ranking signals to Google – putting you at risk of being dispatched to the bottom of the ranking pile. We recommend using Moz, Majestic or ahrefs in order to conduct your regular evaluations of your sites’ links.
- Seek to acquire organic links through the production of quality material on relevant topics to your industry. You can then get into contact with authorities in your sector, ask them for a merited link for promoting some of their material and providing insight into its value – a white-hat method of taking on the Google search rankings.
- Write and release quality content on a regular basis which provides informative and genuine value to the people it is targeted at. Supplementing such an approach with a strong social media campaign will put you in good stead to generate a buzz about your work when it is released as people take to their profiles to spread the word of your brand and material. This will help you to organically acquire high quality links as more people will link to your content as it begins to gather momentum.
- Email people and ask them to evaluate your content and link to it if they deem it worthy of receiving one. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive and there is nothing wrong with asking relevant and authoritative parties for a link if you believe you have the goods to back up your request.