After weeks of rumour and speculation, Google have finally rolled out their much talked about Penguin 2.0 update.
Google Penguin was first rolled out over a year ago, and aimed to tackle ‘link spam’ by penalising sites which had, in Google’s eyes, an ‘unnatural’ link profile. This resulted in a lot of sites, big and small, being affected – and led to a new focus on analysing link profiles and attempting to remove suspect-looking inbound links. Google even introduced a new tool, called the Disavow Links Tool, for webmasters to tell Google which links in their profile could be ‘spammy’ and could be ignored by Google.
Now, just over 6 months after the introduction of the Disavow Links Tool, Google has updated Penguin – with Google ‘Distinguished Engineer’ Matt Cutts saying the update will go ‘deeper’ than the first version of Penguin.
Announcing the news of the roll-out on his blog today, Cutts said:
We started rolling out the next generation of the Penguin webspam algorithm this afternoon (May 22, 2013), and the rollout is now complete. About 2.3% of English-US queries are affected to the degree that a regular user might notice. The change has also finished rolling out for other languages world-wide. The scope of Penguin varies by language, e.g. languages with more webspam will see more impact.
This is the fourth Penguin-related launch Google has done, but because this is an updated algorithm (not just a data refresh), we’ve been referring to this change as Penguin 2.0 internally.
Cutts has also previously released a video explaining in more detail what webmasters can expect from Penguin 2.0:
Should you be worried about Penguin 2.0?
As Google now has access to a lot of user data, thanks to the Disavow Links Tool, it’s safe to assume that every manual link building tactic you may have used in the past is now very much on Google’s radar. Sites who have focused more on natural ‘link earning’ and which have a diverse link profile should be ok – but if you have relied too much on one particular ‘manual’ link building tactic (e.g. guest posts, advertorials etc…) then you might be in danger of being penalised by Penguin 2.0.
The message from Google is pretty clear on inbound links – any manual link building activity will be identified and penalised.
What can I do if I my site is penalised?
As Penguin 2.0 is an algorithmic change, rather than a manual one, you won’t be receiving any messages from Google in Webmaster Tools to alert you to a penalty. Therefore, you will need to keep an eye on your traffic, and if you notice a big drop in natural traffic after today then you may need to analyse your link profile and try to identify the links that could be causing the penalisation. This is not an easy or quick task though, and there is a danger that perfectly good links could be singled out as ‘spammy’ – so be careful. You can then use the Disavow Links Tool to tell Google about these links. This whole process has been known to take at least 6 weeks – so the key is to be patient. If your business is very dependent on natural search traffic, then you may have to consider other forms of traffic to cover the short fall – particularly Pay Per Click.
If you need any help or advice during this process then get in touch with me on email@example.com.
Where does this leave SEO in 2013?
The true scale of Penguin 2.0’s impact is yet to be seen, but Google’s purpose is clear – any links that fall outside of their guidelines are fair game for penalisation. Here’s what their guidelines on ‘link schemes’ says:
Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site, or outgoing links from your site. Manipulating these links may affect the quality of our search results, and as such is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Here at Anicca Digital, our focus has always been on earning links rather than ‘building’ them. This is done by promoting content and services within certain industries in order to earn natural, relevant links – not leveraging ‘manual’ tactics to manipulate link profiles. If you would like a review of your current SEO activity and a plan to improve and move forward then feel free to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org to request a free audit and consultation.