The Penguin’s on its Way (Again!)

The Penguin’s on its Way (Again!)

Matt Cutts warned informed SEOs back in March 2013 that this year would see the launch of the next generation of the algorithm named the Google Penguin update. He touted this as an update that would be amongst the most talked about of the year.

We can be sure that means it’s big! But other than ‘this year,’ we’ve had no further insight as to when we might expect it- that is, until now.

In a series of Tweets on Friday, Cutts confirmed the update is just a few weeks away.

Google penguin matt cutts

The Penguin’s on its way (again!)

Of course, this won’t be the first update since the initial launch in April 2012. There have been two small updates since, which led to some debate about the naming conventions.

penguin matt cutts danny sullivan

So, what should we expect from the forthcoming Penguin update and should we be worried?

The First Penguin

When the first Penguin update rolled out in April 2012, there were huge effects. It impacted 3.1% of search queries, far fewer than the 12% impacted by the first Panda rollout. However, it affected more short-tail search terms – terms targeted by businesses and SEOs, essentially! Penguin’s target appeared to be sites carrying out spammy linking activities (with a particular focus, it seemed, on unnatural anchor text profiles). Search Metrics Essentials published a list of the biggest winners and losers. Just look at the visibility graph for the announced ‘biggest loser.’ penguin loss

This was a common graph and not just for websites like that. Commercial websites suffered too. There are many examples of sites out there (commercial ones) experiencing a drop that produces a graph almost identical to that one.

This was a clear attack by Google on spammy linking practices. It was reasonably effective, though, of course, not perfect.

What’s Likely to be Coming?

Well, the Penguin 1.1 and 1.2 updates (as Cutts suggests they should be referred to) of May 2012 and October 2012, respectively, were small. Cutts is suggesting this one will be big. We can safely assume that Google has made the algorithm more sophisticated. The search giant is unlikely to have announced this in the way that it has were it not going to have a huge impact on some websites.

I don’t think the core of what it aims to eradicate will change. The aim is to stamp out spammy link building. So, we can safely assume that Penguin 2.0 (or 4 if you stick with the previously adopted naming convention) will cause the most concern for sites engaging in aggressive black hat link-building tactics.

Practices such as guest blogging, which have been effectively given the ‘all clear’ by Cutts, are being increasingly abused. We can assume that Cutts’ seal of approval for guest blogging only applies to real quality guest blogging (not some of the awful spun and churned rubbish that we see touted as such).

I think Google has a long way to go before it really can make an accurate judgement as to what’s a ‘worthy’ guest post, so I don’t think this method will be wiped out by the next Penguin.

However, even if you’ve been implementing high-quality practices for link building, it’s healthy for anybody to approach a new update with a degree of trepidation. After all, Google doesn’t always get it right.

At Six Search, we were unscathed by the first Penguin update, and we’re expecting to remain unscathed by this one. We’ve invested for years in people who can deliver quality in all aspects of SEO, particularly link-building. We’ve used link bait tactics successfully and have consistently delivered quality content as a core part of our link acquisition approach for many years. But we’ll still be watching and waiting for this one, and, of course, on launch day, we’ll be ranking checking and Analytics digging for most of the day. On that note, Google, it would be handy if you could make it a weekday and not at some ungodly hour…

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