Google has launched their latest version of the Penguin algorithm. Termed Google Penguin 2.1, it is really the fifth edition of Google Penguin (we explain why below). Matt Cutts confirmed the roll out of Google Penguin 2.1 on Friday, October 4, via his Twitter account late in the evening, stating that it would affect 1% of searches “to a noticeable degree.”
Google Penguin first rolled out on 24th April 2012, and it was pre-empted by this entry on the Google Webmaster Central blog. The initial Google Penguin algorithm affected around 3.1% of queries. There were two subsequent updates in 2012. The first, in May, one month after the initial roll out, affected less than 0.1% of queries, while an October update affected around 0.3%.
The fourth update, confusingly called Penguin 2.0 by Google themselves, rolled out in May of this year, affecting 2.3%, before this fifth update, “Penguin 2.1.”
Google termed the fourth Penguin update 2.0 because they wanted to be clear that it wasn’t just any regular update, and that it was something of revamp and a step change in what they were doing, both in the way they were targeting ‘bad’ websites and in the software they were using to do this.
Cutts saying that this update will affect only 1% of queries therefore makes sense. The 2.1 element indicates it is a reasonably small update, therefore you wouldn’t expect to see major changes. If there were, it’d be Google Penguin 3.0.
You can read a summary of Google Penguin in this resource post and find Google Penalty recovery tips in this blog, but we’ll also explain it here.
Google Penguin isn’t a standalone algorithm. Penguin instead fits into Google’s regular algorithm, and is designed to look for sites that are deemed to be spamming the search engines yet still ranking highly. Google Penguin predominantly targets websites that appear to have many paid inbound links, although sites that have been participating in black hat SEO techniques, including keyword stuffing, cloaking, and others. While the punishment of low quality websites guilty of following these practices grabbed the headlines, when launching Penguin Google preferred to focus on the positives. This was their aim to reward higher quality sites for the good work they do, and to give their customers – the search engine user – the best possible online experience by pointing them to the most relevant sites for their query.
Websites affected by a Google Penguin update noticed the same day or the day after. If Google Penguin 2.1 has affected your site, you’ll have seen significant traffic drops over the weekend and into today.
You can do several things to start recovering from Google Penguin 2.1 if you’ve been affected. The first is to use the Google disavow tool to disassociate your site with bad links, although Google wants you to contact the webmaster first and ask for the links to be removed or set to nofollow. Note that a reconsideration request only works with manual penalties and not algorithmic updates, so taking this course of action is pointless. What you can do however is take positive action and hope it makes a difference.
If your website has previously been ‘a victim’ of Google Penguin, then Penguin 2.1 is a great opportunity to see if the work you have (hopefully) been doing to get your site back to where it should be has worked. Much like a drop in traffic will show you’ve been hit, an increase over the weekend and into this week will show that your previous hard work has been rewarded.
Don’t worry; you’re not the only one asking why Google has rolled out Penguin 2.1 when Hummingbird was officially announced less than two weeks ago.
The answer to any questions is a simple one: Hummingbird is the name for Google’s overall algorithm. As we mentioned earlier, Google Penguin is part of the algorithm, so although they are different aspects of search, they continue to work alongside each other.
If you’re still coming to terms with any impact felt by Google Hummingbird, this set of FAQs from Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan will tell you everything you need to know.
Website owners worried they have been affected by Google Penguin 2.1 can check their Google Webmaster Tools platform to confirm or discredit any suspicions they may have. If you need assistance dealing with Google Penguin 2.1 and want your website back to the high quality platform it should be, Bough Digital provides both analysis and a range of SEO activities to help your recovery and minimise the risk of your site being hit in the future.