It first raised its head in 2012… and it caused ructions. It re-surfaced in 2014. Now, after a frustrating few weeks of prevarication, Google has announced the released a long-awaited wholesale Penguin update, designed to deal with on and off-site links that unfairly play the algorithmic system.
Why release a Google Penguin algorithm update?
Why are Google doing it? The better quality your links, the better the user experience, and that’s what Google wants. Penguin assesses link quality, hunting for patterns that reveal deliberate attempts to manipulate the natural search results. If it finds a ‘link scheme’ it targets the offending links and the website loses visibility.
What does the new Google Penguin algorithm update mean to you?
If you’ve played the game and avoided building dodgy links, not a lot. If you’ve been taking the mickey and the quality of your links is an issue, you can expect to lose some visibility in the natural search results.
This time it’s all about real time algorithmic updates rather than data refreshes. This means that mending your wicked ways, improving quality signals from your backlinks and dealing with over-optimised on-site links should give you a faster recovery.
It’s also a more granular update than the original Penguin, dealing with the dodgy parts of a site – the places where the manipulative links live – rather than trashing an entire website’s natural search visibility. Both of these are good news for people who have pushed things a little bit too far.
On the downside, future Penguin updates will roll out continuously, which means it’ll be much harder to identify the exact point at which you fall foul of Google’s link quality requirements. On the other hand it simply means you will have to stick closer to the quality guidelines in the first place. They’re not particularly onerous, just common sense.
If you’ve played the game according to Google’s guidelines, and your competitors haven’t, you may see your natural visibility actually improve. It looks like masses of spammy websites have fallen out of the SERPs,and some legitimate businesses have also suffered significant visibility loss.
How do you recover from a Penguin slap?
It’s your job to clean your act up, which can mean several things. You will need to carry out a full audit of your site’s external backlinks first, so you know what’s what. Then you’ll need to either remove the offending links or disavow them altogether if you can’t remove them. You might also want to replace dodgy links with good quality ones. Bear in mind that this time, Google will also penalise less-than-good quality outbound links. Only when you can show you’ve done everything possible to clean up your act will Google reconsider your rankings. And the clean-up process in no way guarantees you’ll return to your previous level of visibility.
If you’re approached by a low quality link creation scheme, walk away… unless you’re one of those marketers who targets short term gains and doesn’t mind having to clean things up when they eventually – inevitably – go wrong.