November 9, 2015
With the latest round of Penguin updates about to launch before the end of the year, we take a look at frequently asked questions about the new update and try to give some clarity.
Penguin tackles spam and ‘spammy’ link building practices. It is usually discussed in reference to black-hat link building practices, but it can also cover anything outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. For more detail about the difference between Penquin and Google’s other recent major updates, check out this post by Moz.
Penguin penalizes sites and links pointing to sites that appear to have manipulated the search engine results outside of Googles Webmaster Guidelines. The most common practices are buying links, arranging spammy websites to link to your client or being part of a link network.
The speculation around a ‘real-time’ update is that Google will no longer refresh the algorithm in large manual updates. Up until now the updates to the Penguin algorithm have been manually pushed out at certain points across the SERPs, meaning that we see large updates or changes across Google in short periods of time. These updates are noticed and felt across most queries, often resulting in mass shifts in tactics.
The real-time update will be different; tweaks made to the algorithm will likely be more subtle and changes will be instantaneous instead of rolled out across a couple of months with every new update.
With any algorithm adjustment the queries you rank for or want to rank for may change, meaning that you will likely have to alter your strategy to move your way up the rankings. For websites with natural link profiles you will likely see a bit of an increase in rankings as your spammier competitors see drops in theirs.
For profiles that are traditionally link spam heavy, there will likely be some drops in rankings and possibly a manual penalty.
The real-time aspect of this change means that once launched it will (hopefully) be a lot easier to see the effects of the Disavow Tool and see recovery from algorithmic penalties across days rather than months as previously experienced.
Traditionally if you have seen drops around the time of a confirmed algorithm update then it has been a clear indication of the issues you are facing. With the real-time update, however, this will become less obvious. Here are a couple of ways to see if it is a Penguin issue:
No. They have confirmed they are working on it, and they have confirmed that they are hoping it will be the “real-time” version but that this doesn’t always go to plan.
Before the end of the year is the best we have been given from Google so far.
Honestly, the best way to tell when these things happen is monitoring twitter and influencer reactions to the serps. If you are part of an agency, you might see some stronger changes than normal across more than one account, which might suggest a change in the results or you can always try MozCast.
Either way, this is only likely to be confirmed when Google decides to announce it.
Run a complete backlink profile analysis across any sites you look after and look at disavowing any links that you consider to be spammy.
My favourite tool for this at the moment is Cognitive SEO. It doesn’t get it 100% right, but makes the manual analysis easy and allows me to import Majestic, Ahrefs, Moz and Webmaster Tools into it to get a fuller picture of my clients link profiles. The software is simple to use and speeds up the process so we can manually analyse 200 to 300 domains an hour with more detail on the domains than a simple excel sheet can obtain.
Then I simply review every domain and any that I feel should be disavowed get added to an automatic disavow file that can be uploaded once reviewed.
Similar to the preventative measures, you need to be extra vigilant with the links that are pointing to the site, remembering that even manipulative anchor text on strong domains could be penalty worthy if the Anchor text weight is really imbalanced against your branded anchors.
Review all domains pointing to the site and disavow any that you no longer want to be associated with.
Here is a handy PDF guide to disavowing links that we give to clients who want to do this themselves: A Guide to Disavowing Links