It's happened. With one blog post, the rollout of an algorithm, and a couple hours of processing, Penguin 2.0 has been unleashed. The Internet will never be the same. Matt Cutts published a brief post on the topic on May 22, 2013. Here are four key points that you should know about Penguin 2.0
1. Penguin 2.0 affected 2.3% of all English-US queries.
Lest 2.3% sound to you like a smallish number, keep in mind that there are an estimated 5 billion Google searches per day. 2.3% of 5 billion is a lot. A single small business commerce site may depend on 250 different queries for substantial traffic and revenue. The impact is bigger than a little decimal number may suggest.
By comparison, Penguin 1.0 affected 3.1% of all websites. Remember the catastrophic results of that?
2. Other language queries are also affected by Penguin 2.0
Although the vast majority of Google queries are conducted in English, there are hundreds of millions of queries conducted in other languages. Google's algorithmic impact extends to these other languages, putting a bigger kibosh on webspam on a global level. Languages wither higher percentages of webspam will be affected more.
3. The algorithm has changed substantially.
It's important to keep in mind that Google has completely changed the algorithm in Penguin 2.0. This is no mere data refresh, even though the "2.0″ naming scheme makes it sound that way. A new algorithm means that many of the old spammy tricks simply won't work anymore.
Obviously, this isn't the first time we've met Penguin. Here's a bullet-point history of Penguin.
- April 24, 2013: Penguin 1. The first Penguin update came on April 24, 2012, and impacted more than 3% of queries.
- May 26, 2013: Penguin update. A month later, Google refreshed the algorithm, which impacted a fraction of queries, around 01%
- October 5, 2013: Penguin update. In the fall of 2012, Google updated the data again. This time around 0.3% of queries were affected.
- May 22, 2013: Penguin 2.0 releases, affecting 2.3% of all queries.
As Cutts explained about 2.0, "It's a brand new generation of algorithms. The previous iteration of Penguin would essentially only look at the home page of a site. The newer generation of Penguin goes much deeper and has a really big impact in certain small areas."
Webmasters affected by Penguin will feel the impact a lot harder, and it will probably also take a lot longer to recover. This algorithm goes deep, meaning that its impact trickles down to virtually every page in potential violation.
4. There will be more Penguins.
We haven't heard the last of Penguin. We expect additional adjustments of the algorithm, as Google has done with every single algorithmic change that they've ever performed. Algorithms evolve with the ever-changing web environment.
Matt Cutts mentioned, "We can adjust the impact but we wanted to start at one level and then we can modify things appropriately." One commenter on his blog asked specifically about whether Google would be "denying value upstream for link spammers," and Mr. Cutts replied, "that comes later."
This suggests incremental tightening and, perhaps, for some a loosening, of the impact of Penguin 2.0 over the course of the next few months.
Many webmasters and SEOs have been understandably frustrated at the negative impact of algorithm changes on their otherwise healthy site. Some webmasters are situated in niches that are swimming in webspam. They have spent months or years creating solid content, building high-authority links, and crafting a legitimate site. Yet, with the release of a new algorithm, they experience penalties, too. One small-biz webmaster lamented, "Was it stupid of me to invest the last year into building an authority site?"
In consolation, Cutts wrote, "We have some things coming later this summer that should help with the type of sites you mention, so I think you made the right choice to work on building authority."
Over time, the algorithm eventually catches up with webspam. There may still be some ways to game the system, but the games come to a screeching halt when a Panda or Penguin walk onto the ball-field. It's always best to obey the rules of the game.
Are you affected by Penguin 2.0?
If you're wondering whether Penguin 2.0 has affected you, you can perform your own analysis.
- Check your keyword rankings. If they have declined substantially beginning on May 22, there is a good chance that your site is affected.
- Analyze the pages that have received the most link building focus, for example your home page, conversion page, category page, or landing page. If traffic has declined drastically, this is sign of a Penguin 2.0 impact.
- Look for any possible ranking shifts of keyword groups rather than just specific keywords. For example, if you are wanting to rank for "windows vps," than analyze keywords such as "windows vps hosting," "get windows vps hosting," and other similar keywords.
- Track your organic traffic deep and wide. Google analytics is your friend as you study your site, and then recover from any impact. Pay special attention to the percentage of organic traffic, and do so across all of your major site pages. For example, find out which pages had the highest amount of organic traffic during the month of April 21-May 21. Then, find out if these numbers dipped beginning May 22.
The ultimate question isn't "was I affected," but "what do I do now that I am affected?"
If you've been affected by Penguin 2.0, here's what you need to do:
How to Recover from Penguin 2.0
Step 1. Relax. It's going to be alright.
Step 2. Identify and remove spammy or low-quality pages from your website. For every page on your site, ask yourself whether it truly provides value for users or whether it mostly just exists as search engine fodder. If the true answer if the latter, then you should either augment or remove it entirely from your site.
Step 3. Identify and remove spammy inbound links. To identify which links could be bringing down your rankings and causing you to be affected by Penguin 2.0, you'll need to perform an inbound link profile audit (or have a professional do it for you). After you've identified which links need to be removed, attempt to remove them by emailing the webmasters and asking them politely to remove the link to your website. After you've completed your removal requests, be sure to disavow them as well, using Google's Disavow Tool.
Step 4. Engage in a new inbound link building campaign. You need to prove to Google that your website is worthy of ranking at the top of search results. To do so, you'll need some trustworthy votes of confidence from credible third parties. These votes come in the form of inbound links from other publishers that Google trusts. Figure out which publishers Google is ranking at the top of search results for your primary keywords and contact them about doing a guest blog post.
A solid SEO strategy going forward will refuse to accept or engage in black hat techniques. It will acknowledge and integrate the 3 pillars of SEO in a way that adds value for users and establishes trust, credibility, and authority. Focus on powerful content, and work only with reputable SEO agencies with a proven record of helping sites to succeed.