During the last several years, SEO professionals and site owners learned to dread this word. For them, it had nothing to do with that cute little animal trying to run around down there on the South Pole - it had everything to do with site penalties and ranking drops.
Well, Google recently announced that Penguin is now a part of its core algorithm. The change came into effect on September 23rd. Up until that point, Google would unleash Penguin every couple of months. The algorithm would make its way around the web, penalizing offending pages and then it would disappear. All penalties incurred would stick until Google decided to let Penguin out for another walk.
Penguin might be the most dreaded algorithm but Google doesn’t rely only on it. If you need a brush-up course on various birds Google is using to better the user experience, check out John Lincoln’s explanation of Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon.
What’s the Deal With Penguin?
Penguin was rolled out back in 2012 to deal with a lot of suspicious Black Hat SEO techniques. These included, but were not limited to:
The list goes on of course. A lot of sites owed their Google page #1 ranking to such techniques. Penguin was especially designed to recognize those pages and bury them in the SERPs. A lot of sites that ranked great would find themselves dropping to page 20 over night. Of course, Penguin in its earlier versions also had its fair share of problems.
Some good sites would get axed as well and it would take months for them to recover. That’s because Penguin would get run infrequently, as I already pointed out. You could only get penalized during one of those runs. Also, your penalty could only be lifted after Penguin’s next crawl.
This meant that even if the site owner or resident SEO expert corrected all offences the day after the crawl, the penalties would stick at least until Penguin’s next run.
How is Penguin 4 Different?
The biggest difference with Penguin 4 is that it’s now part of Google’s core algorithm. That means that whenever a site gets crawled, the Penguin’s subroutines are there doing their thing. Sites get penalized on a daily basis if they spam or use fishy ranking techniques but they also get the penalties lifted when corrective measure is taken and the site is re-crawled again - the effects of penalties are no longer several months long.
Also, the old Penguin would massacre your rankings site-wide if only one of the pages was offensive. This meant that a small mistake could sneak in - a few links you didn’t disavow, a paragraph of duplicate text - and you would be screwed!
Penguin 4 takes a more lenient approach to your site. Basically, it’s going to take a look at all your pages and penalize the ones that raise red flags. This means that your overall ranking may or may not change - your domain can still potentially rank great.
Will Penguin 4 Affect My Rankings?
It probably will.
How much it’s going to affect you is going to depend whether or not you’re using dubious methods of ranking. If you’re not then you should probably be fine. If you were penalized in the past but managed to sort out all the issues, you will probably start a slow climb back up through the SERPs.
If your main focus is good, quality content then you will most likely be benefited by Penguin 4 and you should even see some improvement when it comes to site rank. Remember - Penguin was created to combat spammy sites and to ensure that good sites come to the top. Focusing on good content and keeping an eye on inbound links is usually more than enough to stay under the radar.
Most SEO experts, including Rand Fishkin and Marie Heynes, are fairly optimistic, though. They say that most sites should be seeing some improvement when it comes to rank, provided they did what was needed to clean up their mess when they were first hit with Penguin.
Resolving Those Penguin Issues
If you’re hit with Penguin 4 anytime soon, the good thing is that you will be able to get the penalties lifted relatively fast - if you know what you’re doing. Of course, the penalties will stick as long as your issues remain unsolved so here are a few things you need to keep an eye on.
Watch the Links
You can’t really control who links to your content but you can keep tabs on it. If you detect a harmful link contact the webmaster and ask for it to be removed. If that fails, disavow the link by using Google’s Disavow tool.
Avoid Common Pitfalls
There quite a few of these but common sense dictates that you stay clear of Black Hat SEO techniques - those can really get you in trouble. Things I would avoid include: short and duplicate content, links from sites that have nothing to do with your niche, links from PBNs, keyword stuffing, hidden text, automatic redirects, and so on.
Put Out Quality Content
When you focus on quality content, good links usually follow. Write about things that interest your audience, try to solve their problems, and dig a bit deeper to uncover what truly needs to be addressed - you will get some great material for your content and your unique angles will make your posts and texts linkable and valuable.
This Penguin 4 integration with Google's core algorithm is a great news for savvy SEOers. Make sure you're keeping tabs on everything and if something gets by you it's going to be an easy and fast fix this time around - no need to wait for months to get a penalty lifted!