Your Guide to the 2016 Penguin Update

Google Penguin Update Your Guide SEO

In early December last year, Google made a cryptic announcement that hints the Penguin 4.0 update is not far away;

“With the holidays upon us, it looks like the penguins won’t march until next year.”

With no update to this algorithm in over a year, webmasters have been eagerly awaiting an announcement such as this for a while now.

The first Penguin Algorithm was released in 2012, and we have seen five subsequent updates since. The last of which we saw roll out in October 2014.

Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, Gary Illyes, has recently confirmed that the next Penguin update will be live before the end of 2015. However, here we are half way through the first month of 2016 and there’s been no sign of it yet. Perhaps, as many experts are speculating, it was postponed as a way of spreading a bit of Christmas cheer to those who may not fare so well from its rollout. If history is anything to go by, there will be a sizeable chunk of businesses who may face losing their online presence altogether.   

So what is the Penguin Algorithm and should you be concerned about the affects this latest update could have on your business this time around?

History of the Penguin Algorithm

The primary purpose of the Penguin Algorithm was to try and curb the black-hat SEO practice of using unnatural backlinks as a way of improving rankings in search engines.

To date, this is a list of all penguin releases:

  • Penguin 1.0. Released on April 24, 2012 (impact: 3.1% of queries)
  • Penguin 1.1. Released on May 26, 2012 (impact: less than 0.1%)
  • Penguin 1.2. Released on October 5, 2012 (impact:  ~0.3% of queries)
  • Penguin 2.0. Released on May 22, 2013 (impact:  2.3% of queries)
  • Penguin 2.1. Released on Oct. 4, 2013 (impact:  around 1% of queries)
  • Penguin 3.0. Released on October 17, 2014 (impact:  around 1% of queries)

To those who were penalised by the last Google update, this latest one could mean a chance at redemption.

After the first Penguin was released, bad links became almost “toxic” to a website, requiring a lengthy audit process to try and clean them up to the standard required by the algorithm. Even then, most sites did not see any signs of recovery until the next Penguin refresh.

There is plenty of speculation suggesting that this new update will be in “real-time”. This means if your site is affected, you can have it ranking again almost immediately once you have made the appropriate changes.  The current Penguin Algorithm hasn’t been refreshed in over a year, which means sites that were impacted negatively last time, and have since cleaned up their links, can get their website ranking again, more than 12 months down the track.

This is where the new update has gained so much anticipation.

The Penguins will march in 2016

The coming Penguin update is said to be a real-time version – which means as spammy links are picked up, sites should be impacted immediately. Other than that, there is only speculation as to what other effects this algorithm may have, how it will work and what impact it may leave on search queries.

The easiest way to monitor your website for affects of the update is to keep an eye on the amount of traffic your site is receiving.  After an update has been released, check your analytics data for any sharp declines in traffic. If you notice any, you may have been hit. If you see a spike in traffic, then your website may have actually benefitted from the update.

If suspicious links have been found on your website Google will notify you through Webmaster Central. From there you can manually remove each spammy links by using the disavow tool.

If you’re unsure of any links then the best thing to do is to contact an SEO professional to confirm any suspicions. From there they can take recovery actions to ensure this latest update leaves your website healthy and ranking as high as possible in the search results.

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