What is the Google Penguin Update?
Google initially released an update called ‘Penguin’ on April the 24th 2012 after several weeks of rumours about Google preparing an over optimisation penalty to target the spammy side of the SEO industry such as link farms and keyword stuffing.
The SEO industry found that it affected several different SEO practices that at the time were very common, including link farms, excessive keyword-rich anchor text, link networks and links from low quality sites. Initially, it affected approximately 3% of English language search queries and had a larger effect in some of the more competitive areas in search, as more of these techniques are likely to be used.
There have been several Penguin updates since the first one:
- Penguin 1.0 - April the 24th 2012
- Penguin 1.1 - May the 26th, 2012
- Penguin 1.2 - October the 5th, 2012
- Penguin 2.0 - May the 22nd 2013
- Penguin 2.1 - October the 4th 2013
- Penguin 3.0 - October the 17th 2014
Google Penguin 3.0
This update has been expected for a long time as the last penguin update was over a year ago, on October the 4th 2013, leaving many website owners who had been hit by the update unable to recover from it for over a year, despite having fixed the issues that caused them to be affected by it in the first place.
At the beginning of October, a Google Search Quality Engineer, Gary Illyes, said at the Search Marketing Expo East that an update to the Penguin Algorithm was imminent. The new update would enable Google to refresh it regularly, instead of taking 6 months – 1 year as previously. True to their word, the update was released on Friday the 17th of October. It is currently unknown how many sites have been affected by this update.
How do I know if my site has been affected?
The best way to see if you have been affected is to look for large changes in the traffic to your site using software such as Google Analytics, if you have been affected you should see a large change in traffic beginning on the 17th or the 18th of October without recovering to the previous amount.
If you have had any SEO work done on your site in the past, this will increase the likelihood that you have been hit, especially if this work was carried out over 2 years ago when the techniques that are being targeted by Google were common.
How can I recover from Penguin?
Unfortunately, recovering from Penguin can be a time consuming process and you can only recover from it once the issues have been fixed and there is another Penguin update. Therefore, it is best to start fixing the issues as quickly as possible so that Google can pick them up before another update happens. The first thing to do is to carry out an audit of your links. To do this, we use a tool called Link Research Tools DTOX as it makes the audit process (fairly) painless! Try to import links from as many sources as possible, at least Google Webmaster Tools, to improve the results and so that you do not miss any links.
Link Research Tools can automate the process of finding which links to remove, however, it is not 100% accurate so we prefer to use it more as a guide. When you have selected which links that you think are having a negative effect on your site you should then export them as a disavow file and then upload it to Google on their disavow links page.
You may also wish to look at your anchor text profile using a tool such as Open Site Explorer, anchor text is the text that you click on that links to another site. Penguin can penalise your site if you have too much keyword rich anchor text. An example of keyword rich anchor text would be “probate lawyer” as this is a term that people would directly search for. While keyword rich anchor text is valuable, the majority of your anchor text should be branded. If your anchor text is too heavily weighted towards keywords you can either ask the website on which the link is hosted to change it or you can disavow the link. You should be careful before doing this, as some of these links may be valuable.
After completing this process and when Google updates Penguin again, your site should recover. If not, you may need to carry out a further link audit.