Google has now officially launched an update to the Penguin algorithm, which is being called “Penguin 3.0” within the SEO community. As we’ve covered previously on this blog, Penguin is the name for Google’s link-spam system which punishes websites that have been using low quality link building techniques for SEO purposes.
Penguin 3.0 is the first major Penguin update in over a year. It was first mentioned in early October at a marketing conference, where Google engineer Gary Illyes claimed that most webmasters would find the update to be a positive one.
Now, we have confirmation that Penguin 3.0 has officially launched as of Friday, October 19th. Some webmasters have already noticed changes from Penguin 3.0, while others have been disappointed that this new version hasn’t improved their rankings or resolved their issues with Penguin penalties.
What’s the point of a Penguin update?
What exactly does it mean that Google is updating Penguin? First, let’s review a little more about how Penguin works. The system basically is designed to punish websites which use link building techniques that Google considers malicious or manipulative. This includes things like buying links, blog comment and forum spam, low quality directory submissions, and other cheap and low-value link building tactics.
Basically, Google wants the links that your website acquires to be mostly “natural” – links that are simply given to you organically based on the quality of your website. Attempts to artificially generate links often veer into black-hat territory. And while there’s certainly some grey area, very lazy link building will usually be caught by Penguin. When Google does detect that you’ve been building artificial links, your rankings will drop, in some cases very severely.
A Penguin update works to reassess website link quality and potentially remove past penalties. If you’re a webmaster suffering from a Penguin penalty, and you’ve taken steps to remove your bad links, an update to Penguin could be your chance to restore your rankings.
This is why so many webmasters have been watching Penguin 3.0 so closely – for those previously hit by a Penguin penalty, this update could mean recovery.
What’s happening with Penguin 3.0 now?
As of October 21st, Google has confirmed that the Penguin update is “still rolling out worldwide.” Google didn’t offer too much information about the update, but some information as summarized by Search Engine Land included,
- 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
The timelines are important here. While many commenters thought that the Penguin update had been completed already, we now have confirmation from Google that it will take a few weeks to be fully complete. This means that if you haven’t seen a recovery yet, one may be still be coming.
We can also note that this update doesn’t really seem initially as substantial as some had hoped. Only 1% of queries impacted is somewhat low, and the fact that this is being called a “refresh” implies that not much is really changing about the actual Penguin algorithm – just the data is being reprocessed.
Overall, it’s still too early to tell what the total impact of this update will be. For some webmasters, it might be the rankings fix they’ve been waiting for, while others will continue to be disappointed.