Google Penguin Update 3.0: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Google Penguin Update 3.0

In case you haven’t heard by now, Google started rolling a long anticipated Google Penguin refresh in mid October. As with all Google algorithm updates, this Penguin rollout has sent tremors throughout the Internet marketing world.

Many website owners started scrambling to find out if their websites had been negatively or positively affected by the change. Reports surfaced that some websites had been released from the Penguin’s dungeon and other sites’ traffic plunged.

Google’s Penguin is a complicated algorithm that may have you puzzled. If you are, you are not alone. This article will take a look at Google Penguin 3.0, and what you as a website owner need to know.

Google Penguin 3.0

Google employee, Pierre Far, announced that Google began rolling out a Penguin refresh on October 17, 2014. He stated that:

  • This refresh would be a slow worldwide rollout.
  • We may notice it settling down over the next few weeks.
  • The refresh would help websites that had cleaned up “webspam signals discovered in the previous Penguin iteration, and demotes sites with newly-discovered spam.”
  • This refresh is reported as affecting less than 1% of queries in US English search results.

It has been almost three weeks since the debut of Penguin 3.0. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller said that as far as he knew the data was still rolling out in a Webmaster Central office-hours hangout earlier this week.

The previous Penguin update was over one year ago on October 4, 2013. For some websites that were in the Penguin jail since last October, this release meant a welcomed relief and recovery. For others, it meant a huge drop in organic website traffic due to questionable linking practices.

What is Google Penguin?

Google’s Penguin is not a cute little flightless bird or a fierce Gotham City villain.

Google Penguin is a search engine algorithm update that specifically targets practices that are against Google’s guidelines. First announced on April 24, 2012, this filter received its name from Google. There have been a total of 6 major Penguin updates to date according to Search Engine Land. Penguin’s roll out dates include:

  1. April 24, 2012
  2. May 25, 2012
  3. October 5, 2012
  4. May 22, 2013
  5. October 4, 2013
  6. October 17, 2014

What we know about Google Penguin

Although the search engine Goliath does not reveal the specific signals that are used, what we do know is that Penguin focuses on filtering out unnatural links. These links are perceived as manipulative with the sole purpose of increasing search engine rankings. Examples of poor quality or unnatural spammy links include:

  • Links that were purchased (appear on another website).
  • Incoming links from low quality websites.
  • Incoming links from unrelated websites.
  • Links that have over optimized anchor text. For example, if every incoming link to your website is the same keyword phrase, “blue widgets”, then the Penguin filter might be tripped.

Penguin is a site-wide issue according to John Mueller. This means that if your website has lost trust in Google’s eyes, then it is likely that the entire website may not be trusted.

How to Determine if You’ve Been Hit by Google Penguin

Google Analytics organicThe first step to determine if it was Google Penguin or if another algorithm refresh like Panda hit your website. Google Analytics is a great resource of data to help in your investigation. First, drill down and find the organic traffic to your website. To do this, locate:

  • Acquisition > Keywords > Organic

Next, look for the Primary Dimension, “Source” and click that link to show the search engines. You can drill down deeper and separate Google’s organic traffic from the rest by clicking the “google” link.

The graph of Google’s organic traffic will help you determine if traffic to your website dropped in conjunction with one of the Penguin release dates. If it has, your website may have been affected by Penguin.

What to do if Your Website Has been Hit by Penguin

If a website has been filtered out of Google by Penguin, it will take time and perseverance. Plan to have a thorough link audit conducted of all the incoming links to your website and sanitize those that could be perceived as unnatural.

One comprehensive tool to run reports of the backlinks to your website is Remove’em. This is a professional backlink removal tool that you can use yourself to analyze backlinks and contact webmasters for removal.

Recovering from Penguin’s wrath is complicated, tedious and time consuming. I have only touched on the surface to provide an overview.

The Good

To review or if you are new to Internet marketing, incoming links to your website may have a positive effect on your search engine rankings. It is important to note that it is not the quantity, but the quality of those links that impact how your website will be ranked. Quality incoming links are like “votes”.

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team and distinguished engineer had this to say in an interview by Eric Enge, in July 2013.

“Links are still the best way that we’ve found to discover (how relevant or important somebody is) and maybe, over time, social or authorship or other types of markup will give us a lot more information about that.”

The Bad and Ugly

Unethical link building practices have severe consequences and Google is very clear in Webmaster Tools – Link Schemes where the company states:

“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”

Why is Google So Tough?

Google has been clear about their mission: to serve the best possible search results for people who are using Google’s search engine. The search engine Goliath has targeted webspam to reduce it from its results. Matt Cutts gives the following advice for webmasters:

“Our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.

Take Away
Google Penguin is an algorithm filter with the purpose of filtering unnatural or spammy links from its search results. Recovering from Penguin’s wrath takes time and patience to remove unnatural links. Our ultimate goal as website marketers should be aligned with Google’s to create a good experience for those who visit our websites and practice ethical SEO techniques.

Your Turn
Have you seen any significant changes to your website’s search engine traffic and rankings since Penguin 3.0 rolled out? What is your biggest question about Google Penguin?

Fascinated with the growing potential and power of the Internet, Robin founded R & R Web Design LLC in the Chicago area in 2000. As creative director, she is passionate about helping others reach their Internet objectives through a strategic online presence with results driven custom web design, ethical SEO, and social media marketing.

2 comments on “Google Penguin Update 3.0: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
  1. Tina says:

    Oh, no, another Google change! Does this mean I have to work differently in Yoast?

    • Hey Tina, thank you for taking the time to read this. No, there is really nothing to change in Yoast that would affect this Google refresh.

      Google Penguin can be a confusing algorithm. Basically, Penguin targets linking practices that don’t follow Google’s guidelines. These types of links try to game the system with the intent of getting higher rankings in the search results. For example, if every single incoming link to a website had the anchor text with the keywords, “blue widgets”, then Penguin might be triggered. Thanks again for stopping by!