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Penguin 3.0: “It’s a slow worldwide rollout”

On Friday 17th October, Google updated the prolific Penguin algorithm, version Penguin 3.0. The “slow” rollout is said to be affecting around 1% of all English search queries globally.
This was confirmed by Pierre Far in a Google+ post to his page:


We’ve put together a quick Q&A with our Head of Manual and Algorithmic Removal Services, Alex Darwin, to bring you the low-down on Google’s latest update, Penguin 3.0.

Q. What is Penguin and why might I be hit?

A: “Google’s Penguin algorithm penalises sites with an unnatural backlink profile by ensuring that they drop down the rankings in the SERPs (Search Results Page). Google introduced Penguin to combat poor link building techniques that have historically been used to manipulate the algorithm to gain higher rankings.

The Penguin algorithm primarily focuses on:

  • Anchor text that is used on incoming links to a site
  • Article sites
  • Blogs
  • Forum / comment spam
  • Directories

This so called ‘black hat SEO’ has been tackled many times by Google’s Penguin algorithm. The aim for Google is to make its search engine user-friendly, and user-centric, by only displaying results in the organic listings for sites which have ‘earned’ their position, not artificially manipulated their position.

If you’ve been building links using any of these mechanisms, you could be at risk. You need to consider any link building activity that has been carried out for your domain over the last 10 years or more, as they could still have an effect today”.

Q. How big is this update compared to the last few?

A: “Google haven’t been very forthcoming with their information on this update (infact, they all seem a little confused!), but what they have said is that it will affect less than 1% of English search queries. To put this into context somewhat:

Penguin 1.0 = ~3.1% of English search queries
Penguin 2.0 = 2.3% of English search queries
Penguin 3.0 = less than 1% of English search queries

What we can’t tell from this is what the effect may be on other language searches. It’s likely that the measure is in English search queries because this is the most widely used language for Google and therefore will feel the most impact.

This mustn’t confuse the fact that this update is worldwide and affects all languages.

The update does, however, appear to have far less impact than previous updates. Perhaps this is a sign that their previous clean-ups via the Penguin Algorithm, plus the introduction of the disavow tool, have worked together to remove spammy links and sites from the Web.”

Q. How do I know if I have been hit by a penalty?

A: “Unlike a manual penalty, where Google kindly informs the webmaster that they have received a penalty in their Google Web Master Tools Account, an algorithmic update is something which happens automatically. You won’t be notified, you will need to keep your eye on the following 3 key signs:

  • A drop in rankings (if you track these)
  • A drop in organic traffic (as a result of your lost rankings)
  • A drop in organic sales (as a result of a drop in traffic)

This is a “slow” rollout, so just because you haven’t seen any fluctuation just yet, you should keep your eye on these key signs over the coming weeks to be absolutely sure.

Of course, the safest way to tell if you have been hit is to get in touch with me, and I can run a link analysis on your site.”

Q: Google have said this was a “refresh” – does this mean I might see an increase?

A: “Yes! Usually, Google refer to an algorithmic update as a “refresh” when they haven’t added new signals to the update. They have basically re-run the algorithm that last ran.

This in itself was a surprise for us as we were expecting a much bigger and more aggressive update. However this could be a really positive thing. It means that sites who have cleaned up their link profile and updated their disavow may now be ranking for phrases they had previously lost rankings on due to poor link building techniques. There should definitely be some winners this time around.”

Q: How long does a Google Penguin Penalty last?

A: “I actually answered this question in detail in this video. The short answer is how long is a piece of string? As Penguin 3.0 will be issuing algorithmic penalties, the removal process of these can be longwinded. If that removal is done well, the next time the algorithm refreshes, you will see your site come out of penalty. It’s important to understand that you cannot remove a Penguin penalty from your site before the algorithm refreshes. You must wait for a refresh.”

Q: Is this something I can handle myself?

A: “Not really, no. At least I wouldn’t advise you do. There is a very long-winded process (take a look at this infographic for more on our process), involving link removal, disavowal and eventually, the removal of a penalty with the next refresh. We also did a video on this which will help to explain how we get rid of a Google Penguin Penalty.

You would need lots of data on black listed domains, lots of data management software to run through the links, and a lot of patience!”

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