Following on from our recent article at regarding Google’s Penguin 3.0 update, here is a bit more detail around this update and what it means.

It has been more than 1 year since Google last released a Penguin algorithm update. Google recently confirmed that the most recent revision to their large-scale Penguin algorithm update started rolling out late on Friday 17th October.

Googles Penguin is an algorithm, originally launched in April 2012, that identifies evidence of what Google identifies as “webspam” (occurring both on and off a website), and penalises websites identified as being guilty of spammy, manipulative tactics. The penalties come in the form of heavy reductions to the visibility of the offending sites in search results.

As was the case with the initial Penguin rollout and its 2.0 follow-up, there’s always a chance that pretty much any website can be impacted by this new update, even if you are following best practice guidelines. This is because Google keeps us on our toes and continues to implement game changers, and entirely new rules that weren’t previously in existence. If you have noticed a major change in your Google rankings or organic search traffic, you need to be proactive and have the issue diagnosed correctly, and have action taken to and correct what caused the Penguin penalty.

The Penguin Update – to Date

On April 24th 2012, Google rolled out its first Penguin algorithm to compliment the Panda algorithm, which was designed to reward sites with a better user experience. The Panda algorithm recently received a new refresh in the form of Panda 4.1. The Penguin algorithm covers the biggest ranking factor—external links. Penguin rewards sites that have natural, valuable, authoritative, relevant links, and penalises sites that have built manipulative links solely for the purpose of increasing rankings, or links that do not appear natural. The original update, later dubbed “1.0,” impacted about 3.1 percent of all search queries. That may not seem like a lot, but the impact it had on the world of search optimisation was incredible.

Just 1 month later, Google released Penguin 1.1, and then again in October 2012 with Penguin 1.2. Over the course of 2012, Google unleashed a series of “refreshes,” which updated data, but did not make any major changes to the search algorithm.

The next big hit was on May 22, 2013, when Google unveiled Penguin 2.0 and further refined the rules laid out by Penguin 1.0. Rather than making tweaks or refreshing data, 2.0 made further fundamental changes to the algorithm, impacting about 2.3 percent of all search queries. There were a handful of refreshes in 2013, but all was quiet on the Penguin front for more than 1 year, until Penguin 3.0.

What Makes 3.0 Different

In many ways, Penguin 3.0 is similar to its predecessors. Its intention is to cut down on spam and improve search results by eliminating or penalizing sites with links that don’t appear to be naturally built. Like with the transition from 1.0 to 2.0, the algorithm has grown more sophisticated. There’s no word yet on what percentage of search queries has been affected, but it’s reasonable to think it will reach a similar level as 2.0. Google has confirmed that this is a major algorithm change, not just a slight update or a data refresh, and webmasters should be prepared for a little turbulence.

As is the case with most Google algorithm updates, it has taken some time to show signs of impact. Originally, according to Google’s John Mueller, as of Monday, October 20th, the rollout was complete—however, he later backtracked, and on Tuesday, October 21st, Google’s Pierre Far revealed on Google+ that “it’s a slow worldwide rollout, so you may notice it settling down over the next few weeks.”

The full details on the scope and specifics of what, exactly Penguin 3.0 targets, are still being investigated. Google is not in the habit of revealing its strategies or algorithm specifics—mostly to keep people from exploiting weaknesses—so it’s unlikely that we’ll receive any information from the source.

Should You Be Concerned?

Are you aware of your link profile? Have you recently performed a review of all links your site has, and can state with confidence that each of those links are relevant, from safe, reliable, high quality sources? .

A link review is the first step in the process, and strongly encouraged. Next, take a look at your rankings, as well as your organic search traffic, and note how they’ve changed over the past several days, and continue checking them daily over the next several weeks. If you notice a sharp drop in rankings within that time period, odds are you were hit by Penguin 3.0. If you haven’t noticed any changes, or if you’ve improved in rankings—you may have recovered from a previous Penguin penalty that was holding you down, or you benefited from competitors that were previously ranking ahead of you getting hit by Penguin and falling in the rankings. There’s always the possibility that Google will follow up with tweaks to Penguin 3.0 (possibly in the form of Penguin 3.1, etc.) in the coming weeks or months.

Penguin 3.0 Recovery Steps

If you do notice that your rankings have dropped, or if your organic traffic numbers are inexplicably low over the past few days, you need to take action to recover from the update. Do note that this is a long-term process; there is no “quick fix” for a sharp ranking drop after an algorithm update, but with time and effort, you can turn your situation around, all is certainly not lost.

Step One: Identify Bad Links & On-site webspam

If you have been hit with a penalty, it’s probably a result of too many “bad” inbound links pointing to your website. Bad links include:
• Links on article directories, link farms, and other gimmicky aggregators
• Links you paid for directly (other than advertising)
• Links posted in irrelevant forums or conversations
• Links in non-industry specific directories
• Links embedded in fluffy content, or those with spammy (ie, exact-keyword-match) anchor text.

An audit of your inbound links will satisfy the task above and identify harmful links.

While spammy, manipulative inbound links are the overwhelming majority of the reasons websites get hit by Penguin, on-site webspam can also cause a Penguin penalty. Keyword stuffing, link cloaking, and hidden text can all trigger Penguin penalties, so if you haven’t engaged in any manipulative link building, seek a professional review of your website for these possible issues.

Step Two: Remove the Offenders

Next, you’ll want to remove the questionable links that could be responsible for your ranking drop. First, reach out to the webmasters in charge of the source sites and ask them to remove your link. If they refuse or are unable (or ignore your request), you can use Google’s Disavow Tool, in Webmaster Tools, to notify Google that you would like to disavow your site’s relationship with those links.

Getting links removed is preferable to disavowing them, but you should disavow the ones that you’re unable to remove. If you received a manual penalty in addition to an algorithmic one, you’ll get a notice from Google Webmaster Tools (Note: you’ll only receive this notice if you have set up your website in Google Webmaster Tools already). If you have a manual penalty, you’ll need to follow steps one and two, and then also file a reconsideration request.

Step Three: Reassess your strategy

If you have a company or SEO expert helping you with Online Marketing then a thorough review of their work is the first order of business. Moving forward, make an effort to build better links on better sites through a strong content strategy. Instead of building links, think about how you can earn them. Turn your website into a magnet for links, attracting them with great content, rather than building links that may feel forced.


Even if you weren’t hit, this is a great opportunity to review your existing strategy as well as the work that’s been done for you to this point, and update your strategy to protect yourself against future penalties, while also positioning yourself to recover when the next Penguin refresh is launched by Google.

Newpath WEB can assist if you have been hit by the latest Penguin Algorithm update, or if you are seeking professional, results driven assistance that wont lead to a penalty being applied to your site.

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