Will Google’s New Penguin Delight You?

Earlier this week, Google announced something that website owners everywhere have been anxious about for some time now: the potential launch of the next Penguin algorithm refresh. That launch could come as early as next week.

At Search Engine Marketing Expo East, Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst and Search Quality Engineer at Google, announced this new Penguin release would be more than a standard refresh. Instead, the new Penguin, which has been almost a year in the making, would be a major re-write of the link-quality algorithm.

What Exactly is Penguin?

Google’s Penguin algorithm, originally released on April 24, 2012, was designed to target websites that created unnatural links in an attempt to “cheat” the search engine’s ranking systems. Although Google’s search algorithm is largely unknown, it is widely accepted that backlinks play a significant part in determining the rankings. This has led many SEO “experts” and website owners to attempt to manipulate the search engines by creating tons of unnatural links. Many sites that did this saw a major boost in rankings and organic traffic. However, thanks to Penguin, such activity only resulted in short-term gain.

The Penguin algorithm doesn’t just look at links, but that’s primarily what it’s known for. In particular, Penguin targets sites that:

  • Build a lot of low-quality backlinks
  • Use unnatural anchor text (such as keyword-rich anchor text)
  • Employ automated linking tools to create unnatural link velocity

Ultimately, Penguin’s goal is to determine how trustworthy a site’s links are. The effects Penguin has had on websites has varied. Some sites saw minor drops in rankings while other sites were buried so deep in the search results they might as well have landed in an ice age. On the bright side, for every site cast aside by Penguin, another site was effectively “rewarded” with a ranking increase.

Once a site gets hit by Penguin’s algorithm, it will be affected until two things occur:

  1. The website resolves the issues that caused the hit
  2. A new Penguin algorithm refresh is released

Penguin Complaints

Since many websites and businesses base their livelihood on Google search, it’s no surprise that Penguin makes a lot of people unhappy. While it’s difficult to argue against Google’s decision to “penalize” these websites (after all, they are in direct violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines), some of the complaints that have surfaced regarding Penguin seem reasonable:

  1. If I correct the problem, why should I have to wait until Google releases an update to regain my position in the search engines? This rings especially true when it takes Google a year to release an update. Imagine not getting any organic traffic for a full year.
  2. What if competitors build bad links that point to my website? Then I could get penalized even though I did nothing wrong. (Note: Google's stance on negative SEO is that it is unlikely to occur, but many industry experts disagree and can provide circumstantial evidence.)
  3. What if an unethical SEO company built these links without my knowledge? Why should my site be penalized when they are the ones who made the mistakes?

The New Penguin Will “Delight” Us

When Illyes made the announcement regarding the release of the new Penguin, he gave it two promising endorsements:

  1. It will make a webmaster’s life “easier a bit”
  2. It will be a “delight” for most people

What exactly could “delight” website owners about a new Penguin? Well, there are two things in particular that could make everyone happier:

  1. Frequent refreshes that don’t leave websites buried deep in search for a year
  2. An algorithm that ignoresthe bad links rather than penalizing a site for having them

If Penguin learned to ignore the bad links, then this could have many positive implications. Negative SEO would no longer be a threat. Writers and website owners wouldn’t have to worry about the potential pitfalls of guest blogging. There would be no more disavow tools, no more requests to remove backlinks, no more people charging hefty sums to correct those problems of the past. Website owners wouldn’t have to worry that a bad SEO company would end up getting them penalized. In fact, bad SEO companies might just go away completely. After all, if Penguin is ignoring the bad links, then building millions of spammy backlinks would no longer result in any ranking increase to begin with. Just imagine a world without dozens of emails “guaranteeing” better rankings, thousands of backlinks, and millions of new customers for only $99 per month!

Of course, the idea that a friendlier Penguin will make the world a better place is a bit naïve. Furthermore, any “delight” delivered by Penguin will have plenty of limitations. After all, not everyone can enjoy better rankings. Page one of Google is still only going to have 10 results. If your site doesn’t see gains from Penguin, what “delight” can you have?

Ultimately, a release of a new Penguin algorithm should never scare a website owners. As long as you have been doing things the right way—providing quality content and a great experience for your users—then you should expect to keep waddling along without breaking the ice.

First Scribe is now Perrill Why the change?