Google has announced that Penguin 3.0 – its new Penguin algorithm update - is likely to be released in the next few weeks. So, what can we expect from this latest update and what does it mean for brands?
While Google is currently testing the new update they have said that they expect to "delight searchers and make life a bit easier for webmasters". This means that at this moment in time we can only speculate what the new update will be able to do.
What we do know is that Penguin focuses on manipulative and unnatural links leaving Panda to target low quality content. The last Penguin refresh took place about a year ago so we can safely assume that Google has spent the last 12 months developing an algorithm that can tackle some of the big challenges that still exist.
First up is the user experience for searchers. To improve this, we expect that Google has been working hard to crack down on manipulative links from low quality blogs, often targeting specific commercial keywords. This is something that Google has not yet resolved but an area that continues to be widely abused.
If this is the case, we can safely assume that websites and brands that have not updated their SEO strategy and tactics will lose organic visibility for keywords that they don't deserve to rank for naturally. And because the new update is believed to be more thorough in terms of cutting into deep pages and long tail keywords, brands will have even fewer places to hide.
But one of the big issues webmasters face at the moment and one that has been making their lives miserable is negative SEO. Negative SEO is where a company purposefully builds unnatural links to another brand's website – usually a competitor - to 'trick' Google into penalising that site.
If the new Penguin release is able to deal quickly and effectively with large amounts of unnatural links intentionally built to damage a site's rankings, it will certainly make a lot of webmasters very happy. If this doesn't become part of the new Penguin, hopefully this will come separately.
Google has said that it will now update Penguin more frequently, which will be a very welcome improvement as it will give brands a chance to recover from Penguin updates much quicker.
At present it can take a long time for this recovery to happen. Indeed, to date, very few websites hit by the last Penguin update (4th October 2013) have actually recovered a year later. The main reason for this is that brands can only recover from their Penguin penalty when Penguin refreshes. As Penguin has not been updated in the last 12 months, brands penalised by the last update are still suffering.
Monitoring your organic traffic is the best and quickest way to identify if you have been hit by the new Penguin. The impact should be noticeable within a few days following the update release. However, it is important to look out for any additional algorithm tweaks that can be released one to four weeks later before making a full assessment following the release of the new Penguin update.
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