Google’s Penguin Gets An Update

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It likely wasn’t a very happy Memorial Day long weekend for a lot of SEO’s and site owners this year.

Late Friday, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, tweeted “Minor weather report: We pushed 1st Penguin algo data refresh an hour ago. Affects <0.1% of English searches.” This tweet included a link to this article which is the original article that Google used to tell us about penguin.

According to my reading while this update affects less than 1/10 of 1 percent of searches it is having a big impact on sites. On one webmaster forum 65% of respondents to a poll say they’ve been affected in some way.  That being said we are starting to see a trend.

While Google’s Panda updates continue to target on-page factors and some site specific things, Penguin seems more about links.

I’ve read quite a bit about this update and the common theme to me is links – there were link networks which were severely penalized over the weekend. Because these networks were targeted, the links they held lost their value. This in turn affected a lot of sites.

What if my site was affected?

Unfortunately it’s might be hard to tell until later today if your site has been affected.

You see, I think Google was smart to roll this update out on a long weekend in the US (here in Canada, we had a long weekend last weekend). That’s because many people are otherwise occupied so won’t be paying as much attention to their computers as much.

Site owners won’t be looking at their analytics and people won’t be surfing. That means your US traffic will be down because of that. So until later today, when you have a partial days data, you won’t be able to tell how badly (or even if) you’ve been affected by this most recent update.

I had a suspicion something was coming. The previous 7 to 10 days sites I watch were showing unusual crawling activity and some unusual traffic trends. Nothing too noticeable but I’ve gotten good at knowing when a Google update is about to happen. And I knew this one was coming – I just wasn’t sure what it was yet.

That’s because, for the past year Google has been running Panda almost monthly – refreshing data and performing occasional tweaks to the algorithms which comprise it.  So it was due for a refresh.

But Penguin is only a month old. It was first launched in late April so I wasn’t sure if they had enough data to update Penguin to 1.1 or we were merely seeing another Panda data refresh.

In any case, as a site owner you will know shortly if your site has been affected. If so you are going to need to revisit your SEO strategies – particularly your link building. While I don’t think individual sites were penalized by this update, some were I’m sure.  In most cases it is collateral damage – a site linked to yours was penalized therefore their links were devalued which lowered your ranking.  It doesn’t mean your site was penalized.  It means the effective number of links pointing to your site has dropped and your site is now less competitive.

So you will need to revisit your links – see if you can figure out which ones were devalued by Google and look at rebuilding links from sources Google hasn’t targeted.

If you need help with this be sure to contact us – we can help you find those links and get your rankings back, usually in as little as 2 months.

If you are already working with an SEO firm, be sure to talk to them – they should have a pretty good idea which link networks were targeted and should be able to help you work around this update and get your rankings back quickly.

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    • […] In this case – if the site still exists in Google but you have noticed your rankings havew dropped it likely means that Google penalized or removed some of your back links.  So if Google removed or penalized links, what can you do?  Well I wrote an article about this too which you can read here. […]