Released on the 24th of April 2012, Google’s Penguin algorithm was designed to punish pages that spam Google through keyword stuffing and cloaking. As such, websites which relied on low-quality link building, were severely affected. Having had four updates since launch, there has been no refreshes to the Penguin algorithm since October 2013, until now…
Back on the 17th of October 2014, webmasters across the globe documented movement within SERPs. As this did not affect a huge number of websites, there was initially a lot of speculation within the search community with regards to whether this was a Penguin refresh at all. However, after two days of industry speculation, Google confirmed Penguin 3.0.
The purpose of Penguin 3.0 is to cut down on spam and improve search results by eliminating or penalising links that don’t appear to be naturally built. Working alongside Panda - which is designed to penalise sites with thin, low-quality content - Google’s attempts to weed out sites using black-hat techniques just got stronger.
If you have been a serial offender of those pesky black-hat tactics, you have probably fallen victim to Penguin 1.0, 2.0 and the refreshes. But...if like us, you only get involved in the white-hat action and haven’t been affected by previous Penguin updates, there is very little chance Penguin 3 will have an impact on your site.
But...has your site been affected?
The first step is to check your rankings and organic search traffic looking especially at the date range 15th October onward. In doing so, you can track your traffic in the days before, during and after the refresh to fully understand whether your site has been attacked by Penguin. Otherwise, you can use the handy Penguin Penalty checker. Didn’t see a difference? Phew. You haven’t been affected. If you have seen an increase in traffic, you have either recovered from a previous Penguin attack or you have benefited as a result of black-hat tactics from your competitors.
How do you recover?
Monitor, monitor, monitor. If you have been affected you have to take action. Here are our top tips to help you recover:
- Identify bad links / spamming: find out what you’re being penalised for. ‘Bad links’ include links that have been paid for (exclusive of advertising); participating in link schemes; links in link farms and in non-industry specific directories. If you have Webmaster tools, you can identify which links you are being penalised for. Penguin 3.0 will also penalise for any spamming activity such as loading pages with irrelevant keywords, cloaking and hidden text on pages.
- Remove the bad links / spam: These can be removed by contacting the webmasters in charge of the source sites and asking them to remove your link however if this is unsuccessful, you can apply to have these links disavowed using Google’s disavow tool.
- Reassess your strategy: when links have been removed, it is essential to reassess your strategy to ensure you are not affected by another Penguin or Panda update for that matter. It is essential to think about how to earn links through quality content in favour of building links. See our blog on how to make off-page optimisation work for you here.
Before taking leave from his position, Google whizz Matt Cutts confirmed that Google actively review black hat forums in-between and prior to all algorithm refreshes in a bid to combat black hat activity and incorporate relevant workarounds into the next refresh. Although black-hat techniques may provide quick wins, this will do nothing for the long-term reputation of your site and as such, best practice SEO is essential. We’re more than happy to provide additional information and advice on how to recover from penguin attacks - get in touch.