Google's new Penguin 3.0 update
all you need to know to protect and improve your rankings.
If you've been doing SEO for a while, you've probably heard of Google's Penguin algorithm that combats spammy and low-quality backlinks.
Released previously a whole year ago, this update has affected lots of websites. And now, for the first time since October 2013, the update was re-run — giving you a chance to finally recover your rankings or, on the contrary, get de-ranked by Penguin.
So, here's all you need to know about the new Penguin 3.0 update to check:
whether it has affected your website;
how to recover if your rankings were hit;
and what precaution measures will let you protect and improve your rankings over the coming Penguin refreshes.
What you need to know about Penguin 3.0
Google released Penguin 3.0 on October the 17th, but continued rolling it out in the weeks that followed
The update impacts less than 1% of global English queries, but may impact other languages to a greater extent
The Penguin algorithm penalizes sites with spammy backlinks pointing to them
Some sites may drop in the SERPs without being penalized by Penguin, due to the devaluation of unnatural links further down the linking chain (but not directly pointed to these sites).
Penguin updates come in waves, and penalized sites have to wait till the next refresh to recover.
After Penguin 3.0, websites with low-quality link profiles may've seen a drop in rankings and traffic, while the sites that had been penalized in Penguin 2.1 (on October the 4th, 2013) may've seen a boost in rankings and traffic, especially if they'd done their homework and cleaned up their link profiles.
"This refresh helps sites that have already cleaned up the webspam signals discovered in the previous Penguin iteration, and demotes sites with newly-discovered spam."
Pierre Far — Google
Is your site a winner or a loser? Here is how to find out
If your site has been affected by Penguin 3.0, you should see an obvious decline or rise in both rankings and search traffic on or shortly after October the 17th. Use Rank Tracker to quickly see whether there has been a drop:
Also make sure you've got no messages in Google Webmaster Tools in Search Traffics –> Manual Actions.
What to do if you were "penguinized"
If your site was affected by the Penguin 3.0 update, do the following.
1. Audit your backlinks
If you have detected a drop in rankings or search traffic around the time of Penguin 3.0, most likely it's due to low-quality backlinks pointing to your site. So you need to identify these links.
Go to SEO SpyGlass and import your backlinks from Google Webmaster Tools by going to File –> Import –> Google Webmaster Tools CSV.
Then head to the Link penalty risks workspace to evaluate risks associated with your links. You'll find explanations in SEO SpyGlass as to why a certain link is assigned a particular Penalty Risk score — click the round (i) button to see this info.
2. Remove/disavow the bad links
For your site to recover from Penguin, it has to be free from the links that triggered the filter in the first place. If these low-quality links are in you control, remove them. If not, export such links from SEO SpyGlass and submit them to Google's Link Disavow tool.
Disavowing your links in this way sends Google a signal that you don't vouch for these links and would like Google to ignore them while determining your site's rank.
Important: be careful not to disavow any good links, because this action cannot be reversed and the value from these links will be lost forever!
You can disavow links on an individual URL level or on the domain level. Here is the syntax to use in each case:
You can also include comments into your link disavow file. If you're going to do this, start each comment line with the pound sign (#), for example:
# Contacted owner of shadyseo.com on 7/1/2012 to
# ask for link removal but got no response
All in all, your links disavow file should be a plain text file, and should follow the above described rules. If you have many links from an obviously spammy domain, there's no need to submit each link separately — just disavow the entire domain. However, if the domain is nice, but the link is not really relevant or has commercial anchor text, you may want to disavow the individual ULR.
3. Wait for the next Penguin refresh
Unfortunately, the changes your make to your link profile (by removing bad links or by disavowing them) will only take effect after Google refreshes the Penguin algorithm, that is, after the next Penguin update.
The good news is a Google representative recently said Penguin refreshes were to become more frequent, and might even go announced. Hence, stay tuned on the latest SEO news and keep an eye on your rankings/traffic graph for signs of recovery.
What not to do
Don't send reconsideration requests
A reconsideration request should be filed if you have a manual penalty, and it is intended for real humans. The Penguin filter is an algorithm that automatically devalues rankings of websites with spammy link profiles, and hence your reconsideration request will bounce in this case (or may even invite unwanted attention).
Future-proof your site against Penguin
1. Mark Penguin in Events
SEO PowerSuite has a handy Events module you can use to mark different events that happen in the SEO world or your own activities in order to have more insight into your data.
Go to Preferences –> Events and choose the date and the name of the event:
You'll then be able to see it marked on your rankings and traffic graphs:
2. Schedule daily rank checks
In order to always know your search engine rank for a particular date (to be able to diagnose algorithmic penalties with preciseness), set up daily rank checks in Rank Tracker.
Go to Preferences –> Scheduler and choose Check search engine rankings. Then set up the frequency of rank checks to Daily and choose the time convenient for you (for example, when you leave your office).
3. Schedule backlink checks
Google Penguin has opened many an opportunity for negative SEO folks. That is, an unethical competitor may want to build some cheap spammy links to your site in order to take you down in the SERPs. Would you like to get an alert if that happens?
To be able to detect any suspicious links to your site, schedule regular backlink checks in SEO SpyGlass. Go to Preferences –> Scheduler and choose Rebuild project. This option will let you detect new links.
Don't have SEO PowerSuite yet? Grab your license and protect your site from Penguin updates!
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What about your site? Has it been affected by Penguin 3.0?
The new update is said to affect less than 1% of English queries, but what was the true impact of the update? Join the SEO community in the poll below to find out what the scale of the update truly was!
(Please complete it for all the sites you manage and ask your friends and colleagues to join)
Has Penguin 3.0 affected your site?
Total: 2 votes.
And join the comments below to share any thoughts you have!