[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Penguins are coming!"][/caption]
It all started when Matt Cutts (the head of spam at Google) was speaking at the SES San Francisco event on August 15th. When pressed for information on when the next Penguin update be coming, Matt said something to the effect that "Webmasters don't want the next Penguin update" . This led to a bunch of blog posts and tweets on Matt's statement that have had a doomsday tone.
The first Penguin update happened this past April 24th (Penguin 1.0) and had major repercussions in terms of how links were valued in Google's Algorithm. A second Penguin update (Penguin 1.1) happened shortly after that which was a minor tweak to the original Penguin update.
Have I already been hit?
There is a cool new tool called "Panguin" (Panda/Penguin, Get it?) that plots the annotated dates of the Panda/Penguin updates on the organic traffic pulled from your Google Analytics account. All you have to do is allow access to your Google Analytics account and choose which profile you want to use.
Here is an example of what the Panda updates would look like superimposed over your analytics data. As you can see, there was a steep traffic drop after the last Panda update in August in this example.
Should I be scared of Penguins?
The original Penguin update hit a lot of private link networks and anchor text over optimization tactics. There are other private link networks out there that didn't get hit and still work. If you are currently still using private link networks for your link building and getting away with it, I'd be worried.
Similarly, if you are using any of the big text link broker companies to purchase links (not going to name names), I'd be worried as well. Although these companies have done a decent job of covering their footprints, Google has gotten much much better at figuring them out.
Right now all we have are rumors and speculation but nobody really knows when and what the next Penguin update will have in store. Based on Matt Cutts's comments, my opinion is the first wave of the update was the one with the most impact, and the next wave is going to be adding layers on top of what has already been rolled out. If you haven't been backlink spamming since the last update and you haven't been hit yet, the worst is likely behind you, but if you have still been focusing on paid links, private link networks, blog commenting and other frowned upon link building tactics, the worst might not be over for you yet.
It's also important to note that Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Round Table was the first to break the news about Matt's statement on his blog and he wasn't even at the event, which leads me to wonder if he was trying to sensationalize Matt's comments to get more traffic to his site. Later, Matt emailed Barry to clarify his statements and said the following:
"Hey Barry, I wasn't saying that people needed to overly stress out about the next Penguin update, but I'm happy to give more details. I was giving context on the fact that lots of people were asking me when the next Penguin update would happen, as if they expected Penguin updates to happen on a monthly basis and as if Penguin would only involve data refreshes."
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Can't sleep with "Panguins" in your bed? (Photo credit: Nick J Webb)"][/caption]
What can I do to prevent a penalty?
Penguin is not a manual penalty, it's an algo change so if you get hit by it, you can't fill out a reinclusion request to try and "remove the penalty". You'll need to get new links to supplement the old ones that have been discounted.
Have you been taking shortcuts when it comes to your link building? Here at DTC, we made significant changes to our link building tactics after the first Penguin update hit. We invested heavily in creating content for our clients and showing them the value that content can bring in getting higher quality links. It's important to keep in mind, when an update happens there are winners and losers. Some sites will go up and some will go down.
- Google's Cutts: The Next Penguin Update Will Be Big (seroundtable.com)
- Google Update Still Brewing: Penguin? Panda? (seroundtable.com)
- Google Penguin - 2.0 or 1.2? (stateofsearch.com)
- Google: Further Penguin Update "Jolts" To Come; Panda Is Smoother & Monthly (searchengineland.com)
George Zlatin is the Director of Operations at Digital Third Coast, a digital marketing company based in Chicago. George has an amazing capacity to digest information about SEO and fried chicken. You can find George on Twitter and Google+. Connect with Digital Third Coast on Google+.