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January 8, 2015

Google’s Penguin 3.0 Update: Who Is Affected and How?

Penguin, Google’s crime-fighting SEO detective, has just gone through another major overhaul at a time when Google promised it wouldn’t bother us again, the busy and overwhelming rush of the holiday season.

Apparently Google deemed the update so critical, it couldn’t wait until after the busiest season of the year. So how does it impact you? If you haven’t yet noticed a change in your rankings, perhaps it won’t impact you at all. Some experts say less than 1% of all content on the web will be affected by this latest algorithm update, but that’s all speculation. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, your ever precious rankings.

Whether or not you notice any impact on your site, there’s no denying that the Internet as a whole is in an uproar. Access any SEO board or discussion site, and you’ll find a flurry of comments, concerns, and excitement. What you won’t find, however, is any level of certainty about exactly what was updated, and how it will impact the masses. As usual, Google has been vague on the exact details of the algorithm update, but the results are starting to show, and we can accurately speculate what has really gone down.

Most of the flurry is not as much focused on what has happened with the current update, but centers around fear of what’s happened in the past. Penguin’s 2.0 update last October created a whole mess of issues for a lot of webmasters. This rollout doesn’t appear to have affected as many users, but the release has been no less clumsy. Google+ profile pages have been in an uproar, especially among SEO gurus who are sharing their grievances.

How Penguin 3.0 Is Creating a Stir

Penguin, for the uninitiated, is a part of the cherished algorithm that involves diminishing rankings for any sites that are using black hat SEO practices. Penguin aims to punish anyone doing things like keyword stuffing, using bad link building habits, or any other means of attempting to trick the search bots into falsely granting higher rankings. Of course, some folks were penalized even though they were following the rules. It’s worth noting, however, that Google’s done a better and better job of making sure sites that are exercising honest SEO practices are in fact rewarded, not harmed. While the rollout has in fact been awkward, and certainly secretive, there’s not a lot of fuss about dropped rankings.

Yet it remains to be seen how far-reaching this latest update will actually be. It’s worth noting that this is an actual update, as opposed to a simple rerun of the algorithm. Google frequently reruns the algorithm to catch any sites that weren’t included in previous rollouts. An update such as this one involves new additions to the algorithm, and because Google doesn’t reveal what those additions are, it takes the rest of us a little while to figure out what’s happened.

We can only assume this update contains some significant changes because of the odd and unexpected timing. With the launch happening smack dab in the middle of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the Christmas holiday season, the speculation is that Google is up to something big.

SEO expert Barry Schwartz recently published a fantastic timeline of Penguin’s many updates, Google’s confirmations, and related information. We know for sure that Penguin first hit the scene on April 24, 2012 and while only about 3.1% of all queries across the web were affected, it made a huge splash right out of the gate. Penguin 1.0 only had a couple more updates throughout 2012. This was back when Google was still confirming the changes, and even warning us of their impact.

In 2013, Penguin 2.O launched in May, with only one update, and the total affected sites ranged around 3.3% of the web.

Since Penguin 3.0 was released in October of this year, it seems as though we’ve seen a total of four additional updates, but these are of course not confirmed by Google anymore. Still, the ramifications are apparent. The only update to Penguin 3.0 that Google has confirmed occurred on November 27, but no impact was formally noted.

Yes, it’s true that some sites seem to find that their rankings are diminished by these updates, but those are few and far between. The bottom line is simple: if you are still attempting any level of black hat SEO practices not accepted by Google, your clock is ticking.

Penguin simply will not rest until all those attempting to cheat the system are brought down. That’s actually great news for all of us who were trying to do things the honest way. If you do see any unfair penalties, don’t panic. Keep on the straight and narrow, and give the algorithm a chance to reset itself. A lot of people are noting that they saw diminished rankings that were corrected later on. The only real way to increase your rankings is through relevant, appropriate link building, and loads and loads of fabulous, information-rich content. Those are the two key building blocks of any successful SEO campaign. Stay focused on those two components, and Penguin will help you reap the rewards.

Have you noticed any fallout since Penguin’s 3.0 arrival? Please share with us anything that you have noted!


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile