Guest post by Nelson Dy.
After almost two years of waiting, Google confirmed a Penguin update on September 23, 2016. Dubbed as Penguin 4.0, this is the seventh and probably the final update for the said algorithm. The update created the newest game changer that optimizers need to understand its effects on their search engine optimization (SEO) initiatives—real-time. Below are the details.
First announced on April 24, 2012, Penguin targets black hat websites or those websites that deliberately violate its Webmaster Guidelines. These are the sites that attempt at gaming the system through techniques that are otherwise considered as spammy (unnatural). It has been updated at least five times between 2012 and 2014.
- April 24, 2012 – Penguin 1.0 was announced, impacted 3.1% of queries
- May 26, 2012 – Penguin 1.1, the first refresh, affected 0.1% of queries
- October 5, 2012 – Penguin 1.2, the second refresh, affected 0.3% of English queries and other non-English languages
- May 22, 2013 – Penguin 2.0 targeted at the page level, affected 2.3% of queries
- October 4, 2013 – Penguin 2.1, another refresh that affected approximately 1% of queries
- October 17, 2014 – Penguin 3.0, impacted less than 1% of English queries
Today, Penguin is officially a part of core algorithms as Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst and part of Search Ranking Team of Google, said on the announcement. It means Penguin is now one of the 200+ ranking signals that the search giant uses and the SEO Manila need to monitor.
The two main changes that affect all languages and all countries are:
Penguin is now real-time. Previously, after announcing or confirming an update, affected websites are penalized. Once the webmaster implemented strategies to recover from a penalty, it has to wait for a refresh before he’d be able to know if the site recovers from the said penalty or not. This is not the case now.
If you introduced changes to your site or pages—penalized or not—these changes (in ranking, in particular) will take effect faster after the spiders re-crawl and re-index your site. [But since crawls are massive, the term real-time may translate into a few days or weeks.]
Penguin is now more granular. That is, compared to being a site-wide factor before. Although Google won’t announce the list of factors and signals it uses when ranking a website, it will adjust ranking based on spam signals. The update concentrates on devaluing spam.
If the web page includes spammy links, the spiders will ignore the page. It means it won’t crawl the website hence it will not be indexed. While this is the case, other web pages that do not have unnatural links will still be crawled and indexed.
If you have been penalized by Penguin 3.0 and done your homework in proper link building, you’d see improvements. Recoveries started exactly five days after 4.0 was announced. With the new filters, however, others will recover while others will be hit (although Google only declares devaluing spam).
In Google’s lingo, demoting refers to adjusting the ranks of a website while devaluing means not displaying a particular web page on the search engine results page (SERP). There it is–if your pages have some bad links, don’t expect to see them on SERP in the next few days. On the contrary, if you’ve used good links on your website, you may see them on higher rankings after a re-index.
With this, the biggest advantage is that if your site or pages were devalued or its rankings are demoted, you may do the necessary tweaks now. Due to real-time updates, technically, rankings may improve knowing that you’ve done the right steps, which include removing enough of the bad links. Again, changes are reflected faster.
Unfortunately, while you may recover from a demotion or devaluing, your site or pages can also be hit by this core algo much faster than. That’s the trade-off.
The question now is—how can you make Penguin 4.0 work to your advantage? Below are some suggestions.
1) Check your link profile now.
We cannot be complacent with the fact that Google hasn’t changed its linking guidelines despite Penguin 4.0. To make sure, though, remove the bad links and place good links instead. Due to the gap between the updates, some links that are previously regarded as high-quality links are now considered as low-quality links. Hence, check those sites that link back to your site as well.
For pages with spammy links that Google may devalue sooner or late, disavow them appropriately. Never participate in link schemes. And, consider a more proactive link audit by doing it on a regular basis perhaps weekly.
Also, if you’ve seen web pages with these links, consider reporting them to Google.
2) Check your site for manual actions.
Manual Actions report is found on Google Search Console (previously Google Webmasters Tool). The report includes items on your website that are not compliant with Google’s quality guidelines. If you have address each item. For every page where you make improvements, don’t forget to do fetch and render to trigger a recrawl. Help Google find your pages through:
– a sitemap,
– a robots.txt file,
– manual submission, and
3) Check your technical SEO.
Understand the risk level of your website on the page level. Finally, make sure that Google is crawling what you want it to crawl, index and show on SERPs.
Bottom-line, the core SEO principles remain the same post-Penguin. Nevertheless, Penguin-proof your website. First, you need to be proactive in various facets of your SEO not just on performing link audits, but also a comprehensive site audit. Second, you need to stick with the guidelines set forth by Google otherwise, your site will be demoted or deindexed.
You don’t want that to happen to your site, right?
About author: Nelson Dy is freelance marketer and writer he is now working in the Philippines. He likes it when you jump in the conversation by commenting.