Google's Penguin 3.0: First Penguin Update in Over a Year

Google Penguin updateThe search giant Google has completed rolling out its Penguin filter update on October 20th, 2014. The Penguin targets spammy websites, especially those found in violation of Google's guidelines about linking.

Started being released on Friday, October 17th, the Penguin 3.0 is one of the most awaited update in Google's algorithm history. Publishers and marketers have been anxious because of the way the Penguins work. Websites that are hit by the previous Penguin, but recovered by removing spammy links, are expected to see further improvement after version 3.0. If not, they have to try harder to meet the new update.

However, people may find their website's ranking to drop despite they have done all the Penguin's requirements. This was not actually because of the update. This is because the Penguin causes a wide range of links to be discounted, and those links will no longer pass along the credit (votes) as they once might have.

On the other hand, websites that gained rank from these fake votes will lose credits and potentially, their visibility when Google finally consider them. Even tough they weren't penalized by Google directly before.

Despite Google itself hasn't given its Penguins their own numbers, the media has called the new update the Penguin 3.0 because it has been long since the company last released the update.

Penguins Fighting Spams

Google first launched the algorithm with the codename Penguin back in April 2012 in order to better catch websites that are spamming its search results. The Penguin is the search engine's response to so-called "black hat" SEO tactics for link building, particular those that buys links or obtain them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.

The Penguins identifies evidence of what Google considers as "webspam", both on-site and off-site. The algorithm significantly penalizes websites that identified as being guilty of spammy, manipulative tactics by drastically reducing their visibility in its search results.

When a website is caught in the act, Google may remove its ranking, or even from its search results. However, when the site took actions to remove bad links, it may regain its rank again.

Websites that weren't previously caught be previous Penguins, might get trapped by newer versions of the Penguins. And false positives sites that were caught by mistake, may escape.

The Penguin algorithms are a complementary partner to the Panda algorithms (first announced on February 2011), which are designed to reward sites that have good user experience and high-quality contents, while penalizing sites with a poor user experience. After the Penguin and the Panda, the Hummingbird reinforced everything that had been done by both, and by highlighting the importance of mobile devices, contextual search and responsive design to its search results.

Google uses its in-house algorithm to rank websites that it thinks worth to its search engine result page. But there is no single factor is to provide insights because Google and other search engines use complex algorithms that blend many factors. Since Google is not releasing sufficient information about how its algorithms work, mostly because to keep people out from exploiting weaknesses. Because of that, a wide range of topics are considered. These include, and not limited to, the following:

  • Link authority: number of backlinks, quality of the sites, and anchor text.
  • On-page factors: title tags, responsive mobile design, page loading speed, etc..
  • Brand metrics: search volume for the brand, brand mentions, citations of brand name in connection with specific keywords.
  • Content: quality and depth, frequency of new content updates, reads and shares on social media.

Penguin 3.0 is similar to its predecessor Penguins as its intention is to cut down on spams and improve search results by eliminating or penalizing links that don't appear natural. The algorithm has grown more sophisticated, and as Google said, the version 3.0 is a major algorithm change, not just a slight update.

To look how the Penguin 3.0 affect your website, you can take a look at your ranking, as well as your organic search traffic. Note how they've changed recently.

If you see a noticeable drop in you ranking, or your organic traffic are decreasing significantly, you need to take a look in how your website hosts links. This can be a long-term process because there is no quick fix for a sharp decline in Google's rank.

Beside spammy links, you must also see whether you site is keyword stuffing or not, does it have link cloaking, or hidden text that can trigger the Penguin.

After you have removed all the possibilities, you should build better links on better sites through strong content and social media strategy. Keeping your site updated with new useful contents is one of the ways that is Google update-proof. Google never penalize useful and unique content. So instead spending your time of trying to see the weakness of the algorithm, you better spend your time focusing on what your visitors want most.

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