Google, Google, Google, what are we going to do with you? It’s been a week since you updated the Penguin algorithm, surprising us all with an unexpected version Penguin 3.0. Unlike the majority of previous updates, Penguin 3.0 was confirmed with a 24-hour window and very little details. While most SEO pros knew that 3.0 would hit sometime in 2014, the 24-hour notice was certainly sudden and left little to no preparation time.
From a purely statistical standpoint, Penguin 3.0 is moderately impactful. Penguin 1.0 came back in 2012 and while it seems like that time flew, a lot has happened since then. We primarily judge Google algorithm updates based upon the number of search queries affected. Search Engine Land provides a quick estimation of Penguin’s previous impact:
- Penguin 1.0: 3.1%
- Penguin 1.1: 0.1%
- Penguin 1.2: 0.3%
- Penguin 2.0: 2.3%
- Penguin 2.1: 1%
Penguin 3.0 is said to be impacting 1% of search queries, so in the scheme of things, it’s pretty significant. From a broader look, the changes from Penguin 2.0 to Penguin 3.0 were massive. For some companies, this meant websites taking a huge hit in search rankings. For others, this meant quite the opposite with a rise in rankings.
At any rate, Penguin 3.0 is sure to have somewhat of an impact on everyone. Let’s dig deeper.
A Word from Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google UK’s Pierre Far
Good ole Google waited for several days after the release of Penguin 3.0 to give us any information. But in the middle of the night/very early morning hours on October 21st, Pierre Far, Google UK’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, gave us some insight into the projected impact via a Google+ post. Now, it’s time to break down what this could and should mean for websites around the world. Yes, this is a worldwide update that will affect every version of Google.
- The Panda update only hit certain regions, Penguin 3.0 is rolling out globally. The reason? While the Panda update focused on language and content, Penguin 3.0 is primarily focused on link profiles, which makes region and language irrelevant.
- While the update may affect a greater number of search queries in other languages, English queries felt less than 1 percent of an impact.
- The rollout is projected to take a few weeks, but the official release of Penguin 3.0 was October 17th, 2014. Since the rollout is not over, it’s tough to say for certain which sites were impacted, as more will likely feel a change in the weeks to come.
- Like in any update, some sites will rank better and some will fall in rank. When the algorithm is refreshed, those SEOs who utilize strictly white hat practices benefit from the update.
- Pierre Far used the term “refresh” in regard to Penguin 3.0. To clarify, this just means that the algorithm was run again to punish the sites with issues and to reward the sites that fixed their issues.
- To reiterate, no new signals were added to the algorithm in Penguin 3.0, this is why many SEO pros are referring to this update as “Penguin 2.2”.
In a nutshell, spammy sites get demoted, websites with strong link profiles get rewarded. After a full week since the update hit, it’s safe to say that Penguin 3.0 has had a positive impact on those sites who have been doing it right. If you have your white hats on, congratulations on the positive movement!
How to Remove the Black Hats and Survive Penguin 3.0
Lessons can be learned from every Google algorithm update. Whether it’s an algorithm refresh or an addition of new signals, spammy websites will always be defeated. Penguin 3.0 was far more a lesson in what not to do than anything else. Sometimes, however, these are the best lessons of all. It seems silly that we are still referencing white and black hat principles. For SEO pros who do it right, the term “black hat” seems like an antiquated, trivial topic. No one does that stuff anymore, right? Well, updates like these prove that many people still do.
Even if less than 1 percent of English search queries were affected, that is a significant number. For those who are still questioning whether or not their site will feel an impact, let’s recap what mistakes to avoid in order to survive Penguin 3.0 and any future algorithm updates:
- Stop with the excessive link exchanges – it’s enough, this doesn’t work anymore
- Directories and other poor quality bookmark sites are not worth your time
- Links are not for sale. I repeat, links are not for sale (and never should be). Don’t sell them, don’t buy them.
- Links created using automation are bad, very bad.
- Stop commenting in forums with highly-optimized links, in both the signature and the post itself.
- Anchor text from press releases and articles do not need to be optimized, at all.
- Broadly scattering your links in the templates and/or footers of many sites is not the way to go.
- If you have poor links on your site, get rid of them…now.
Once all of this is well and done, go ahead and upload a disavow file and then file for reconsideration. You may even need to do this several times, whatever it takes. Moving forward, pay better attention to your links. Creating awareness for your content through blogger outreach is awesome. Promoting your content by contacting influencers is worthwhile. Build content that is authoritative and all-inclusive, and use social media to propel its value.
At the end of the day, there is no short path to SEO success. Google algorithm changes and refreshes keep proving this, time and time again. Generating great content and earning your links is the goal here, and Google will be sure to reward those efforts.