Still confused, concerned and confounded by Google’s Penguin update? Have a read of the following post for recovery tips and advice.
First and foremost a little catch up on the conception of Penguin. Google officially launched the Penguin algorithm back in 2012. Its aim was to weed out those sites suspected of using ‘spammy’ techniques for SEO gains. Commonly this would be in the shape of buying links or building a link profile through link networks and directory sites, specifically in existence to help better your site’s rankings.
On the evening of October 17, Google rolled out a refresh of the Penguin algorithm named Penguin 3.0. As far as experts can tell, there aren’t signs of new signals to the algorithm which marks it as an refresh rather than a complete update. This worldwide refresh impacted less than 1% of English search queries and the roll out was expected to last several days… and yet here we are three weeks later, still seeing the effects of the latest refresh.
Three weeks on and three questions come to mind; ‘why is it still rolling out?’, ‘was I hit?’ and ‘how do I recover?’
It can take a few days (or in this case, weeks) for an update to fully rollout. Google has datacentres worldwide which don’t update simultaneously. There is also talk in the industry that there were problems with the algorithm which explains the longer than usual wait for the refresh. With this in mind, Glen Gabe of GSQi, has analysed the data following the rollout and warned that ‘…there was potential for disaster (from Google’s standpoint), so there was no way they would roll out it globally all at one time. Instead, I believed they would start rolling out Penguin, heavily analyze the SERPs, adjust the algo where needed, and then push more updates and expand’. It is also worth noting Google also often confirms that the rollout is complete. However on this occasion, Google’s John Mueller spoke about the update in a recent Google hangout where he was quoted as saying, “As far as I know, the whole data is still rolling out slowly.”
With some simple searching you will be able to spot any significant movements in rankings. For those still unsure, I’d suggest taking a look at your search traffic from Google immediately after October 17. You’ll almost immediately be able to spot any significant drops compared to the days leading up to the refresh. As common sense would suggest – a drop in traffic would imply a slap on the wrists from Google, while an increase in traffic could mean you benefited from Penguin. No change at all means your site likely wasn’t affected.
If you believe you have been hit by Penguin, you need to bear in mind that the update targeted spammy link building tactics. This means you need to identify and remove any suspect links you think you might have.
As often is the case with SEO, there is no ‘quick fix’ for a sudden or significant drop in rankings after a refresh. Once you have identified the offending links, you’ll quickly want to remove them from your backlink profile. You can do so by using Google’s Disavow Tool in Webmaster Tools to “tell” Google you would no longer like to be associated with those sites. Moving forward it is important to carefully consider the quality of the links to your site. The safest way to do this? Yep, you guessed it, great content! There is definitely still a real need for building links but ultimately we work in a world now where traffic is earned by building a site with a-may-zing content.
Remember, the true impact of the update won’t be seen until its has completely rolled out. Until the dust has settled, you may notice your site’s rankings fluctuating and even slightly recover (hoorah!). Even if you haven’t seen a drop in rankings or traffic, this couldn’t be a better reminder that now would be a very good time to review your backlink profile and link building strategy with an aim of hopefully future-proof yourself against any more refreshes or updates.