The search community has been abuzz lately with the confirmation that Google has officially begun to roll out Penguin 3.0, the latest update to the aspect of their algorithm that focuses mainly on the link profile of a website.
Those who keep up with the moves made by the search giant have been waiting for this update for over a year, and now that it’s finally arrived, it’s time to step back and assess the damage (or, in the case of websites that managed to improve their search results in light of the update, the repairs).
What is Penguin?
Before we get into the latest iteration of Penguin and how it has impacted websites, here’s a quick overview of what this part of Google’s algorithm does for those of you who might not be familiar with it.
Essentially, Google Penguin is “aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared black-hat SEO techniques involved in increasing artificially the ranking of a webpage by manipulating the number of links pointing to the page.”
In plain English: Penguin was designed to penalize websites who use underhanded tactics to obtain links, such as paying for them, using numerous low-quality directories or posting spammy, low-quality articles with links using perfect anchor text (the exact appearance of the keyword for which they are trying to rank) back to their website.
All of these tactics are prohibited by Google, and Penguin was created to find those websites that try to utilize them in order to get higher rankings in search and more or less ensure that they don’t.
What’s New with Penguin 3.0? What does it mean for My Business and Website?
That brings us to the last few weeks, the latest update to the Penguin algorithm, and the question on the mind of business owners, webmasters and SEO professionals everywhere: what does this mean for my business and website?
According to an article at Search Engine Land, “Google Penguin 3.0 was a refresh that impacted 1% of queries.” The same article offers a nice, neat summary of the update:
- This is a worldwide update, impacting all versions of Google
- The rollout is not complete yet, it will continue for the “next few weeks.”
- It impacts less than 1% of English queries but may impact other languages more or less
- Google confirmed the roll out began on Friday
- Pierre Far specifically called this a “refresh”
- It should demote sites with bad link profiles and help sites that were previously hit that cleaned up their link profiles
Now here’s a look at what this means for your business or website:
- If you’ve been using tactics such as buying links, submitting your website to a ton of directories or “spinning” low-quality articles (submitting the same article to multiple websites with a few word variations here and there, with links back to your website), without working to obtain relevant links from quality sources, you’re quite likely to see a significant drop in rankings with this refresh.
- If you had a bad link profile for any of the above reasons and have been working to eliminate those links while also working to obtain natural, earned and relevant links from quality websites that bring value to users, you may see an increase in rankings with this refresh.
- If you’ve been focusing mainly on obtaining natural, earned and relevant links from quality websites that bring value to users, without engaging in any tactics that are prohibited by Google, you are likely to see an increase in rankings with this refresh.
Essentially, this refresh of Penguin worked to serve the purpose that Google strives for with its search results: to ensure the most useful, informative and high quality websites appear higher in search rankings, while those with low quality content and links appear lower.
What if I was Negatively Impacted by Penguin 3.0?
It’s not always a business’s fault they have a low quality link profile: sometimes, the individuals or agencies they hire to help with their SEO and web presence engage in bad tactics without divulging what they’re doing.
Unfortunately, this results in business owners wasting a lot of time and money on work that not only didn’t get them anywhere, it caused them to tank in the rankings.
Regardless of how your drop in rankings happened, whether it was intentional or not, you’re no doubt wondering: what if I was negatively impacted by this latest iteration of Penguin? What can I do to regain those rankings?
Bear with us, because this is where it gets a bit tedious if you’re serious about fixing the situation.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is compile a list of links pointing to your website (Google Webmaster Tools works quite well for this), find contact information for as many as you can, and get in touch with the webmasters, requesting that they remove any links to your website.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary part of the process, because aside from starting over, buying a whole new domain and building a whole new website (which could take even more time and effort, considering that won’t rank from the start either), the only other action you can take is using Google’s Disavow Tool – and in order for that to have any impact, you need proof that you’ve really, really tried to have those bad links removed.
The Disavow Tool acts as a last resort, a way of telling Google that yes, you have a lot of bad links pointing to your website, and you’d like them discounted so you can get your rankings back. As you can imagine, regardless of how those links got there, Google won’t like that you have them, and they’ll want to see that you took the proper steps to have them taken down yourself before you got in touch with them.
Recovering from a Penguin penalty can be very difficult and time-consuming, and unfortunately, there are very few methods available other than this one. You’ll need to be patient and, in the meantime, make sure you’re not engaging in any other prohibited link building tactics.
The release of Penguin 3.0 was definitely another interesting development in search, and like previous updates and refreshes from Google, it had SEO professionals, business owners and webmasters scrambling to gauge the significance of the impact, whether or not they were affected and what they could do if they were.
Moving forward, businesses should ensure that all efforts to obtain links are earned, natural and do not violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Putting more effort into legitimate links now will pay off in the long run, and will help you avoid the painstakingly slow and tedious process of deleting bad ones.