On Friday 17th October, the latest Google update was rolled out. This the first major Google algorithm update in over a year and by the following Monday, it was apparently complete (although this was later retracted). While the world’s biggest search engine is fairly coy and somewhat confidential when it comes to revealing the integral details of such changes, Penguin 3.0 is attempting to deliver a better browsing experience for users by targeting sites populated with spam.
Despite the fact that this latest update will only affect one per cent of search queries, as opposed to the 3.1 per cent when Penguin was first launched in April 2012, it could have far-reaching consequences for several businesses.
At this moment in time, several sites are surveying and scrutinising their own data to see whether Penguin 3.0 has had the monumental impact numerous marketers previously predicted. And while the latest Google update and its intrinsic features and characteristics are not yet known, it is possible to draw a few solid conclusions.
Google never tells you much about algorithm changes and Penguin updates, but some employees have disclosed a few important details
The reason why the Penguin update was rolled out globally, unlike the Panda algorithm, is because link profiles are the main target. Therefore, language and keywords don’t really come into it. The Panda algorithm was all about content, which required different implementation times depending on the region and language.
Some marketers were wondering why their site was not impacted immediately after the update, but Google’s Pierre Far said that it will probably take a “few weeks” to be fully complete. Therefore, any potential issues or major problems may not come to fruition just yet.
By calling it a “refresh,” it seems like Google hasn’t added or changed any notable algorithm signals. This has shocked many in the industry, mainly due to the amount of time between updates.
Google has been kind enough to let the webmaster community know just how many sites could be affected by revealing the percentage of queries impacted. Thankfully this time around, it is significantly lower than a lot of other updates.
Because of Penguin 3.0, some sites will see their ranking increase, as the previous algorithm is no longer punishing them. But this also means that others will witness a ranking drop.
Reacting to Penguin 3.0
One of the biggest issues facing businesses and brands is that changes you make as a result of Penguin 3.0 might not make a difference until Google releases its next major update, which could be the best part of a year. This may sound a bit harsh and unfair, but is just how Google works.
Currently, numerous marketers are looking to see whether their actions in response to the last Penguin update have actually worked. Some are yet to notice a difference, but others have found that their sites increased significantly in ranking for some keywords. So, if you made changes as a result of the previous version of Penguin and have recently witnessed an improvement, then congratulations!
But if you’ve noticed a considerable drop in ranking or website traffic since the roll out, it is probably because the update discounted a range of links. Unfortunately, this can often be through no fault of your own, as other pages featuring links to your site might be flagged as spam. Therefore, these virtual votes of approval will no longer work in your favour.
Preparing for future Penguin updates
Even if you have been penalised, changes should be made promptly, as Google might re-run or refresh its next update sooner rather than later. Therefore, clean up your link profile and end the bad practices that might have been successful in the past. Again, Google is the best place to find out what you should be doing with links, but Search Engine Journal founder Loren Baker has this advice about content:
“Amazing content is the only thing that is Google update-proof. Google will never penalise useful, unique content that the user is actually looking for. Instead of spending your time on trying to beat Google algorithms, you should be focusing on asking yourself what your ideal end user really wants.
“After all, that’s what Google is doing. If you aren’t sure what type of content would go over best with your audience, run a reader survey, put yourself in their shoes, or answer the question in a way that blows your competitors’ out of the water.”
The final word on Penguin 3.0
Granted that Penguin 3.0 is still being rolled out, numerous commentators and industry thought leaders believe this latest update will not be overly significant. As long as you’ve complied with Google Webmaster Guidelines and haven’t given in to the promises of cheap or spammy link-building services, you should be fine.
Over at Moz, a comprehensive blog about how consequential Penguin 3.0 could be has found that it wasn’t a major update at all. While it conceded that other sites might be different, the closing statement said this was more of a “construction outside your window,” and not a situation where “the whole world felt an earthquake.”
Another reason why not many sites have reported major ranking demotions is because they are the ones adhering to best practices. Whereas spam sites populated with bad link profiles will have been rumbled and pushed into search engine obscurity.