Industry chatter has been at an all-time high this weekend. Our SEO experts have been following it, but we didn't want to weigh in until we had some firm answers. We finally have some of the qualified input we're looking for, and we're ready to give you the EZMarketing take!
This is the big news: Google's Penguin Algorithm has finally been updated after about a year.
Obviously this is huge, as the Penguin 3.0 update apparently corrects what some have seen as widespread problems with the prior algorithm change. However, the update seems to be relatively low-key for the time being. While that impression is very likely to change over the coming days and weeks, there's still a lot we just don't know.
Our goal is to give an overview of Penguin 3. What do we know, what don't we know, and what are we still hoping to see?
What we know
According to Search Engine Land, Google confirmed the update to them. Google's John Mueller subsequently confirmed it publicly earlier today. Until this point, there was wild speculation across the web that the algorithm had updated, as search results in Google changed dramatically over the weekend.
This change was expected - in fact, in early October of this year, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst and Search Quality Engineer Gary Illyes, said that the full-scale algorithm re-write would make things “easier a bit” for webmasters and SEOs, and that it would be a “delight" for most.
Everything he said seemed to jibe with what we, and others, have felt from the beginning - that the last Penguin update more than a year ago unfairly penalized sites across the web, and that Google is attempting to make right their mistake with this large-scale algorithm update.
So far, here's what we can say for certain:
- While John Mueller has talked about the update, there are still some details unclear as to how this is being rolled out (and how long it'll take). We're still waiting on "official word" as to the full nature of the changes we'll see in 3.0. However, we are monitoring this very closely and will offer updates as soon as information becomes available.
- The results have been haphazard and a bit confusing, but this may be due to the fact that they're still in the process of rolling out the update. We are seeing dramatic increases for many of our clients, particularly for companies that had already been penalized by Penguin. We did what we could to clean up their link portfolio and set them on the right path. It looks like our work has finally paid off!
- Refreshes should happen more frequently, according to Google, meaning we won't see another yearlong wait until tweaks are made. This is a huge, huge relief and a benefit to sites across the web - if Google keeps its word, that is. It is still unclear though as to how often they will update it, but they have said it will be more often then waiting an entire year (which felt like an eternity to a lot of website owners and agencies).
What we don't know
As yet, we're not entirely sure how this update will play out. It can take weeks for the effects of an algorithm update to be fully understood, and as Google tweaks Penguin 3.0, we can expect some adjustments until the dust settles completely.
The research is mixed, which is to be expected at this early date. Some are reporting massive changes in rankings, while others (including Dr. Pete Meyers from Moz) report no large-scale changes in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for most websites.
Another few things we're waiting to learn:
- We don't know what percentage of search queries have been affected by the changes Google has made. Again, we'll have to wait for official word on this one; otherwise, there's no way of knowing.
- Will we (and other webmasters) see the positive changes Google has been hinting at for the past couple of months? Or will the changes be minimal, as some have suggested?
- We're not sure yet whether the changes made to pages after the last update will suffice for Google to lift the algorithmic penalties many sites got slammed by. (Another one we're cautiously optimistic for!)
An algorithm update is neither good nor bad. It's just a different way that Google views, evaluates, and ranks websites. We're all affected by it, no matter how strong our SEO strategy may be - but we're also in a great position to minimize any negative outcomes if they crop up.
What we hope to see
We feel the last algorithm update really shortchanged a lot of solid, honest websites. (We're not the only ones!) As we said above, the update will hopefully correct some undeserved penalties that sites across the web were hit with when the Penguin 2.0 came out a year ago.
There are a few things we're crossing our fingers for, including the following.
- Regular updates rolling out for Penguin. It was mentioned that the reason that this update was taking so long is that they wanted to be sure to be able to re-run the algorithm more frequently like they do with Panda currently. So if you haven't cleaned up your mess beforehand and are still in penalty then you won't have to be in "Penguin purgatory" for the next year once you do disavow links and make sure you have a diverse strategy.
- The Davids beating Goliath. Sites that are putting out great, resourceful content on a consistent basis, getting a natural and diversified portfolio of links, and fixing any errors on their website should hopefully be able to outrank the authoritative websites like Amazon and Walmart for their competitive keywords. It's a David vs. Goliath internet world out there, and sometimes the adamant David just has to come out victorious.
- Ability to distinguish between bad automated link building and negative SEO. There are some agencies out there that still aren't diversifying their link portfolio and over-optimizing with their link building campaigns. These should still fall under the Penguin algorithmic penalty. Those who shouldn't still be affected by Penguin are those sites that have negative SEO attacking them. All you can really do at this point is constantly be disavowing links, but Google needs to be able to decipher who is doing it right, and who is being sabotaged by an outside source or competitor.
- Using traffic data to analyze the relevance and importance of a link. Using Google Analytics, webmasters would be able to determine the referral traffic from a link. If the link is in the grey area of a spammy, irrelevant link, or if there is no traffic coming to a website from it, than it probably should be deemed a bad backlink. If there is traffic coming from the link, then obviously people are visiting the linking website, reading the material, and clicking through the link to visit your website.
We'll continue posting updates as we get them. Thanks for reading, and let us know if you have any questions!