Google Worldwide Penguin 3.0 Rollout October 2014

Google Releases Penguin 3.0
Google Releases Penguin 3.0

Google confirms that a new version of its Penguin filter aimed at fighting spam went live on Friday!

Note to Clients: There will be an adjustment period of a couple weeks to see the effects of the change. We are monitoring rankings and reporting carefully and will be making the necessary adjustments as we locate any factors that may be impacting performance changes. This is typically when your history effects your present… we fight to keep it from negatively effecting your FUTURE!

On October 19th Google officially confirmed they pushed Penguin 3.0 live. Even though it’s called Penguin 3.0 it’s actually the 6th iteration of the link spam fighting algorithm update. This is the first time Google has updated Penguin in almost exactly a year, so many site owners have their fingers crossed that the last year of link cleanup and link building is enough to put them on the right side of the Penguin line in the sand. If you’ve managed to sail through the other versions of Penguin, hopefully you didn’t mess up in the last year and are still on Google’s good side!
Some noticed major changes in Google search results beginning late Friday night US time and speculated that this was due to the long-awaited Penguin Update that Google had said to expect this month.

Penguin Releases Over Time

This is the sixth release of Penguin. Google itself hasn’t given it a number, but we’re calling it Penguin 3.0 because it’s been so long since the last release of Penguin that it’s worth counting as a major release.
Here are dates of all Penguin releases:

  • Penguin 1.0 on April 24, 2012 (impacting ~3.1% of queries)
  • Penguin 1.1 on May 26, 2012 (impacting less than 0.1%)
  • Penguin 1.2 on October 5, 2012 (impacting ~0.3% of queries)
  • Penguin 2.0 on May 22, 2013 (impacting 2.3% of queries)
  • Penguin 2.1 on Oct. 4, 2013 (impacting around 1% of queries)
  • Penguin 3.0 on October 17, 2014 (impacting around 1% of queries)

Penguin 3.0 – A Refresh

Google’s Pierre Far called this update a “refresh,” he didn’t mention that any new signals were added or the algorithm was changed in any way. A refresh in Google’s terminology around algorithms means they just re-ran the algorithm to release sites that fixed their issues and demote sites that had issues they didn’t pick up on. They did not add any new signals to the algorithm to find Penguin related sites, it was just a refresh.

Just a refresh even after waiting over a year? Indeed, and this is pretty shocking to most of those in the SEO industry. Many expected a refresh could have happened way earlier and that Google was laying the groundwork for a new Penguin algorithm.

Again, this is why some want to rename this update to Penguin 2.2 versus 3.0.

Note that Penguin 1.1 and Penguin 1.2 were previously reported by us as Penguin 2 and Penguin 3, because Google itself hadn’t given them numbers, so we did. But when the fourth release happened, Google declared that to be Penguin 2.0. We’ve renumbered to fit in with Google’s belated numbering sequence.

The latest Penguin release is one of the most anticipated algorithm updates on Google’s history. Some publishers have been desperately waiting for the refresh that arriving just over a year since the last.

How do you know if you’ve been helped or hurt by Penguin?

It’s a little tricky since most weekend data is (on average) lower than during the week, but if you see your traffic bottomed out on the 17th and has not come back up then chances are you were hit by Penguin. You will NOT receive any kind of notice in Webmaster Tools, like you would if this were a manual penalty, so you’ll have to self-diagnose your Penguin 3.0 penalty.

Many SEO Plans are strictly focused on progressive and offensive SEO strategies, now more than ever, defensive strategies must be a major part of your SEO Plan. Do keep in mind that some people may see ranking drops but not actually be hit by Penguin. That’s because if Penguin causes a wide range of links to be discounted, those links will no longer pass along the credit or act as “votes” as they once might have.

Keep in mind that as Penguin 3.0 works its way across the web the SERPs are bound to be bouncing all over the place while the dust settles. Some sights are going to be tangentially effected as well, even if they aren’t directly penalized.

As Search Engine Land pointed out;

Here is the summary:

  1. This is a worldwide update, impacting all versions of Google
  2. The rollout is not complete yet, it will continue for the “next few weeks.”
  3. It impacts less than 1% of English queries but may impact other languages more or less
  4. Google confirmed the roll out began on Friday
  5. Pierre Far specifically called this a “refresh”
  6. It should demote sites with bad link profiles and help sites that were previously hit that cleaned up their link profiles

Imagine you had 100 links in your link profile, each being worth one “point” to Google. With Penguin 3.0 live perhaps 25 of those links have been devalued. You still have 100 links but only 75 “points.” The rest of your link profile is strong enough and clean enough to protect you from an actual link penalty, but the overall value of your link profile might have taken a hard enough hit that your website drops in the SERPs a few spots. Those 25 links had artificially boosted the value of your site so now you’re sitting where you actually belong.

An update this big is bound to take a few days to roll out completely, so keep an eye on your Google Analytics data throughout the rest of the weeks for any signs that you’ve been hit by Penguin 3.0 either directly or indirectly. Hopefully this isn’t the first time you’ve heard of Penguin so you’ve been actively watching your link-building steps for the last year.

Helps Some Sites & Hurts Other Sites

Like any algorithm refresh, some sites that were previously hit would see a ranking increase because they are no longer negatively impacted by the algorithm. While other sites may see a ranking drop in the search results because they were just picked up as sites that should be impacted by the Penguin algorithm.

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