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Why the 2015 Google Penguin Update is Great News for Webmasters

SEOs rarely get any good news about algorithms, especially when it comes to Penguin. But here’s some: this next Penguin Update might be your chance at a fresh start.

Gary Illyes, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, announced at SMX East that the next Penguin Update is coming up as soon as the end of the year. One of the features of this iteration is that Google will process removed or disavowed links in real time so that Webmasters can recover from penalties of negative SEO. Before, it took weeks (if not, months) along with manual verification on Google’s part for any changes to its indexed results.

The History of the Google Penguin Update

Penguin was first brought to public attention on April 24, 2012 and was created as an algorithm to devalue a site that did not adhere to Google Webmaster Guidelines. The sites affected by the update were perceived as using spammy, black-hat techniques to outrank their competitors.

Unfortunately, a huge number of businesses that followed industry standards without black hat techniques were affected by the algorithm as well.

Pre-penguin: Google rewarded sites with a high quantity of links.
Post-penguin: Google rewarded high quality backlinks and punished sites with large quantities of low quality backlinks.

One month after its initial launch, Google put out an update that claimed to have fixed many of the penalties to the wrongly penalized sites, but drastic changes were not seen for a majority of websites. It was not until the disavow tool was introduced in October 2013 that users were able to go through Google Webmaster Tools to mark the links they didn’t want pointing to their sites.

According to Search Engine Watch, here is the history of Penguin Releases and Updates so far:

  • April 24, 2012: Initial launch of Penguin
  • May 25, 2102: Penguin Update
  • October 5, 2012: Penguin Update
  • May 22, 2013: Penguin Update
  • October 4, 2013: Penguin Update
  • October 17, 2014: Penguin Refresh

How to Recover from Penguin

If you’re responsible for a website’s health, you’re probably in one of three positions right now:

    1. You’re following Google’s Guidelines and staying on the correct side of the line.
    2. You haven’t had a penalty but you’re worried that this one will hit you.
    3. You’ve already been notified by Google that you have a manual penalty through Webmaster Tools (correcting those red flags will improve your search presence).

At the end of the day, Google is using a blanket algorithm to crawl every website it can find, so there will be many mistakes on Google’s part.

If you believe that Penguin hit you but you receive no messages, or you think Google is at fault, there is a Reconsideration Request you can submit. But, since this is an algorithmic penalty, you might have to give clues to the search engine rather than have it manually fixed by a Google employee (i.e. Remove Spam, Disavow links, etc.).

How to Prepare for Penguin

Low Quality Backlinks are defined by their domain trust. These values can be checked by Searchlight. Build a list of domains with low trust and submit it through here on the Google Disavow Tool.

google-disavow-tool

Another great step for future manual penalty prevention is to educate your content and PR teams on the value of good content and the links that are coming to it. As SEOs, sometimes we can only make reactive recommendations but a well-informed team can be proactive in preventing these issues.

Look at our past Google algorithm update post to see how algorithms change rankings and then normalize with recovery.

Some simple things to remember:

Want to stay updated on any upcoming algorithm updates or industry news? Sign up for our monthly 30|30 webinar: 30 minutes on the last 30 days in search, social, and content.

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