Google Releases Penguin 3.0 — First Penguin Update In Over A Year

Barry Schwartz on
  • Categories: Channel: SEO, Google: Penguin Update, Google: SEO
  • Google has confirmed to Search Engine Land that it updated its Penguin filter on Friday. Penguin targets sites deemed to be spammy, especially those found in violation of Google’s guidelines about linking.

    Some noticed major changes in Google search results beginning late Friday night US time and speculated that this was due to the long-awaited Penguin Update that Google had said to expect this month.

    Google verified to us today that this has happened, when we asked about it. Google hasn’t yet given more details on the percentage of search results the latest version of Penguin has impacted or if there were any major changes made to it since the last release. We’ll update if we get these details.

    Penguin Releases Over Time

    This is the sixth release of Penguin. Google itself hasn’t given it a number, but we’re calling it Penguin 3.0 because it’s been so long since the last release of Penguin that it’s worth counting as a major release.

    Here are dates of all Penguin releases:

    Note that Penguin 1.1 and Penguin 1.2 were previously reported by us as Penguin 2 and Penguin 3, because Google itself hadn’t given them numbers, so we did. But when the fourth release happened, Google declared that to be Penguin 2.0. We’ve renumbered to fit in with Google’s belated numbering sequence.

    The latest Penguin release is one of the most anticipated algorithm updates in Google’s history. Some publishers have been desperately waiting for the refresh that arrives just over a year since the last.

    Getting Caught & Freed By Penguin

    The publishers have been anxious because of the way Penguin works. If you’re hit by it, even if you make changes, you have to wait until the next release to see if your changes have done what Google wanted.

    Publishers hit by the last version of Penguin — back in October 2013 — have been waiting until now to see if actions they’re tried such as removing spammy links have worked. If so, they’re likely seeing some improvement in traffic this weekend. If not, they have to try making more changes and then waiting until however long it takes for Google to release Penguin again.

    By the way, for those who tried disavowing bad links, if you did that within the last three weeks, that was too late for this Penguin update. Our article from a talk Google gave at our SMX conference earlier this month explains more.

    Do keep in mind that some people may see ranking drops but not actually be hit by Penguin. That’s because if Penguin causes a wide range of links to be discounted, those links will no longer pass along the credit or act as “votes” as they once might have.

    Sites that gained from these fake votes — as Google would consider them — lose that credit and thus potentially visibility, even though they weren’t penalized by Google directly.

    Google has suggested that with the latest version of Penguin, it also would have a new system allowing for refreshes to happen more frequently. Time will tell on that — the count starts now.

    Postscript: Google has confirmed that the Penguin roll out is complete as of Monday morning, October 20th.

    Postscript #2: Google has finally shared more details with us on this Penguin update including it is still rolling out, impacting 1% of queries. Learn more over here.


    About The Author

    Barry Schwartz
    Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.