2014 has seen the introduction of 10 official Google updates, with the first coming in February.
It’s been an interesting, albeit, an unusual week in the world of search marketing, and if you’ve been on sabbatical, then you may have missed out on much buzz, hearsay, deliberation, gossip and, well, the usual type of hysteria associated with ‘leaked’ Google announcements; as was the case with John Mueller’s ever so slight premature public declaration on the 20th October:
This announcement was made during the E-GWC and GN Office-Hours Hangout. (For those interested to find out more about ‘Office Hours’ you can find some descriptive info on the timetable here). Hints of Penguin 3.0’s arrival have been seeded as early as the 2nd October by Gary Illyes at the SMX East conference.
Despite John Muller’s premature statement Penguin 3.0 has ‘rolled-out’ as of the 21st October and has been rolling out since Friday 17th October. Danny O’Sullivan was fast on the case to report the news from the hangout session and interest certainly peaked around the time of original statement.
John Mueller was reluctant to elaborate on any further information as to what this update does, but the word on the wire points towards a new system that is capable of more regular refreshes.
Penguin is intellectual property in the form of an algorithm developed by Google to help eradicate spam and manipulative behaviour in its end-user search results.
In particular, this system focuses on a websites’ external backlinks and the nature as to how they have come to exist.
Google’s latest research and technology is becoming increasingly more sophisticated at detecting paid and manipulative linking practices that in previous years enabled webmasters to game the SERPs easily. Penguin 3.0 is said to be a total re-write of this existing algorithm.
It has taken over a year to produce and one can only presume it is a much sharper, deadlier and faster fish.
Penguin 3.0 primarily focuses on newly discovered spam.
This iteration could be an array of things. Is it purely link based as the original Penguin was made out to be?
This could target the typical ‘burn sites’ that enter the SERPs during well known holiday periods, ie. a way to prevent sites that game an absolute influx of links and last a few weeks over Halloween /Xmas /Mothers Day etc on the front page.
Perhaps it targets new networks, or potentially this could also be a technique to help eradicate negative SEO whereby old known network owners target other domains but are actually revealing themselves as the new spam signal within the profile.
Depending on how Google is currently weighting the algorithm, these new spam signals could mean anything else besides the linking aspect, ie. Citations: Has anyone performing link removal noticed that many old reciprocal link directories are now asking webmasters to upload a text document on to your server containing the directory’s link page URL in order to manually verify that you are the link owner?
If the significance of link URL and brand name citations is still prominent in the algorithm, then could Penguin 3.0 see this increase to be a signal of new spam?
Other spam signals could include CTR’s, traffic, engagement signals etc. This remains to be seen, however – the consensus surrounding Penguin 3.0 is that it’s link and SERPs based.
As this is the first major Penguin update announcement in over a year (besides the Payday Loan specific SERPs updates in June) a studious trends analyst may expect the levels of commotion to be more akin to the trends of May 2013 illustrated in this graph:
The chart suggests that the latest update has not overly impacted web communities in as dramatic a way as its predecessors did.
Judging by the country trend comparison below it seems that us Brits are much more neurotic about the associated buzz with for term “Google Penguin” than neighbouring and emerging online economies.
Despite our fascination with how Google tend to change the rules overnight, on this occasion webmasters are left a little bewildered. According to Gary Illyes if you didn’t disavow links more than 6 weeks ago then it’s unlikely you’ll be getting out in this current rollout/ refresh.
This late communication has created controversy as many website owners choking in algorithmic barriers/ penalties under the might of Penguins fin-wing grip are still eagerly submitting and awaiting replies to their Dear John letters.
Besides this and a few reports in notorious affiliate and link selling forums there has been little fuss across the scene but quite a few positive remarks. The decline in discussion threads and general controversy on the subject certainly suggests that Google has not caused much of a stir…yet.
Is this an utter anti-climax, or is there more caffeine brewing in this stormy algo teacup than meets the eye?
In response as to whether Penguin 3.0 will operate more regularly, say on a monthly basis, John Mueller demurred to answer directly whilst retorting that the holiday season is coming up soon, and we don’t want to cause too much fuss there.”
If history is to repeat itself, then webmasters may wish to pay specific attention to what happens around the mid/late November mark in the run up to Christmas.
Speculation suggests that Google are infiltrating more and more PBN’s in well-known forums, with confirmed reports from webmasters having their best performing websites knocked from page 1 to page 4, and some totally out of the index just before the official Penguin 3.0 announcement was made public.
This sounds like further bad news for affiliates, link sellers and domainers as the universal refresh sets a new bar on web quality.
There’s talk that the frequency of inner page rankings has increased and observations of increased social results entering organic search like Facebook pages and LinkedIn user profiles. Quantitative evidence on this data is yet to be discovered and analysed fully as the Google dance begins to settle over the next few weeks.
Mozcast weather reports show the highest SERPs crowding levels to date:
Less domain diversity means greater rewards for those authority sites already established in Google’s best practices.
Since Friday 17th and over the weekend, percentage levels for search query impact were around the 1% mark (US-EN Search queries) according to Gary and many marketers wonder what this wing flapping Penguin flitter is all about:
Presently, it’s hard to say what’s going on – but so far it seems… not a lot. Webmasters do not seem to be too worried. In fact, a considerable amount of interest is invested in information related to more generic Google updates that may encompass, but seem to utterly dwarf the Penguin specific threads entirely:
Does this indicate that the majority of the web is cleaning up its act, and that the web is becoming a richer, more trusted and reliable source of information?
Is the Penguin 3.0 algorithm roll-out really complete and rolled out as John Mueller suggests and leads us to believe? Or is this roll-out actually the finishing touches to the new system that provides the facility to allow fast and more regular algorithm refreshes?
If what Gary Illyes (Google Search Quality Engineer) said at SMX East is anything to go by, then why else would this re-write take a full year to release without the intention of making it scale faster and wider?
What remains clear is even though Google are certainly upping the ante on their FUD campaigns, generally there is no smoke without fire.
It would be extremely advisable for webmasters to review any linking practices and thoroughly check the quality of their existing back link profile and disavow anything suspicious in the next few weeks on a regular basis on the run up to the Christmas shopping calendar.
Since the time of writing, there are some very interesting observations to make on the potential influence of Google’s completed Penguin 3.0 algorithm roll-out.
While on the 22nd October – the EMD influence (frequency of exact match domains found in the higher SERPs) dropped to its lowest levels within the period – a week later (27/10/2014) this discovery is turning back in a very bullish manner towards its highest peak.
It seems the PMD (partial match domain) influence is following suit passing through the head & shoulder formation, however what is interesting is the overall direction of these fluctuations.
Both are veering in different directions and I wonder whether a balance will be reached near a break-out point.
Currently, and maybe inevitably as it should be – EMD’s have a stronger trending influence than PMD’s.
We’re constantly monitoring the updates, correlations and shake ups that Google are doing in the SERPs.
If you’re concerned about the new Penguin 3.0 update and what it means for your e-commerce business over the Christmas period, feel free to get in touch to get a report from our in-house tool ‘LinkScout’.
This can help you to easily detect the level of threat that you may be facing throughout these updates and depending on the results we’d be happy to offer you a full manual review on your link profile and make recommendations that will help you sustain your business.