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Understanding the Google Penguin 3.0 Update

As reported by Search Engine Land last week Google has rolled out its new version of its infamous Penguin algorithm – Penguin 3.0 – shaking up the already volatile world of SEO. A number of industry insiders have reported seeing big changes, both positive and negative, in their search traffic since the update, but the full extent of the change remains unclear. So we’re here to guide you through what this update involves and what it could mean for your business.

Why is there so much fuss about Penguin? 

Penguins may be better known as birds, books or biscuits, but in the world of online marketing Penguins strike fear into the hearts of SEO professionals, with the power to slash a website’s traffic in one stroke. The first version of Penguin was released in April 2012 and was designed to target sites that were using “spammy” techniques to game Google’s algorithm, thereby violating its quality guidelines. Penguin’s primary target was unnatural linking techniques, such as paying for links and over-optimising anchor text, penalising sites it detected were engaging in these underhand tactics.

The new algorithm was designed to create a better user experience for those searching online and push companies to create genuinely useful and engaging content that people would link to naturally. The most recent update, dubbed Penguin 3.0, has been anticipated for some time as it’s been over a year since the last one and is believed to have cracked down even further on unnatural linking.

What could it mean for my business?

Generally Google’s big algorithm updates like this cause mass pessimism in the world of SEO, but the news may in fact be positive for you. Especially if you were hit with a penalty during a previous Penguin rollout and have been trying to clean up your act. Penguin penalises sites automatically, but can only remove a penalty once a new update has been implemented. So if you’ve been furiously removing links in the past year, you may finally be about to see the benefits of your labour in the form of improved rankings and increased search traffic.

But, if you do get hit it’s possible that you may see a sharp decline in the organic traffic your site receives. This could seriously impact your business, especially if a lot of your online sales come through organic search. Even if the update doesn’t affect your site directly it’s possible that one of your competitors may have a penalty removed which could then impact your search rankings. So whatever happens, it’s highly likely that Penguin 3.0 will alter the search landscape in your sector.

How do I know if I’ve been hit and what should I do if I have?

Check the traffic to your site on Google Analytics to see if there’s any noticeable drop in traffic (filter to just organic search traffic for a clearer picture). If you use any rank tracking software for your site or work with an SEO agency that does, this can also show if your rankings dropped significantly when the update was introduced.

If you have been penalised you’ll need to clean up the backlink profile of your site, essentially removing links that could be considered spammy by Google’s algorithm. If you’ve paid for links or used some unsavory tactics in the past, either by yourself or through an SEO company, you’ll need to go back and disavow all those links through your Webmaster Tools. This essentially tells Google to ignore these links pointing to your site, disassociating your business from those dodgy sites.

It may be painful, but in this case it’s better to be safe than sorry and disavow any links you feel may be considered spammy. You may unintentionally remove some good links in the process but it’s better than having to wait until the next Penguin update comes around before Google will trust your site again.

What can I do to ensure I don’t get penalized in the future?

Firstly, make sure you are familiar with Google’s Webmaster guidelines and ensure that your marketing efforts in SEO aren’t violating any of these. Secondly, it’s important to regularly check your site’s inbound links to ensure they remain spam free. Thirdly, it’s vital to stay up to date with the fast changing world of SEO and the latest industry news. Sites like Moz, Search Engine Land and the Google Webmasters YouTube channel provide both industry updates and excellent resources for both beginners and experts looking to learn more about the industry.

Finally, if you want to improve your search performance and ensure you never get penalised in the future, there really is only one thing you need to do – create high quality content. Google’s primary objective is to provide the best search results for its users that people will link to naturally. So creating a great site with content that is useful to your target audience and influencers within your sector so they will want to share and link to it, really is the only sure fire way to succeed in the long term in SEO


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