Penguin News Update

Penguin News Update

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Penguin News Update

Penguin Recovery News Update

Article by Steve Mapúa
November 1, 2013

For Current News on Penguin Instant Recovery »

During the last 12 years the biggest weighted ranking factor has been Exact Match Keyword Phrase links. Google was so heavily skewed toward this type of linking that it was possible to rank a site purely on Link Popularity alone, even though the site content bore no relevance whatsoever. As Google's algorithm matured more factors came in to play such as the Age of the Domain (Domain Trust) and the Size of the website (Domain Authority). PageRank, the original core ranking factor, became less and less important as newer updates began to shift focus towards Page Relevance.

Based on this information, and the accepted Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices of the time, this is exactly what the majority of SEOs did to rank your site(s). Search Optimization was practiced with the accepted rules of the times. It was successful and was common practice. Over the course of 12 years it became apparently clear that "relevant" links were a myth. Many websites had a good run. But now we need to change this tack and this News Update addresses that.

Sites were ranked by the Search Engine Optimization principles that worked for 12 years. The rules have changed and we need to change with them. Think of it like Lead Pipes. When they first came out, they were the hottest thing since sliced bread, until we learned they were affecting our health. Who knows about copper and PVC, maybe that may change again.

Changes to the Algorithm

Google has had Quality Guidelines for years. Despite having these guidelines, violating them did not appear to have any negative effect on a website's rankings. In many cases, over-optimization, word stuffing, excessive linking, all resulted in higher rankings. To try to enforce them, Google has had many updates, starting with the crippling Florida update in October 2003. Then the huge Jagger update in October 2005. Most recently we have seen the Panda, and Penguin updates along with the core engine re-write called Hummingbird create such an upheaval or the search results. The latest updates have been putting teeth to the Quality Guidelines.


The goals of the Panda updates was to rid the Google Main Index (database) of the garbage created by the emerging RSS technology fueled by WordPress websites. It fostered article generation by mostly non-native US English speakers that proliferated the search results. A single submitted article turned into 1,000 replicated articles. Additionally these articles were spun and re-submitted. The quality of search results suffered due to the proliferation of these mostly nonsensical articles. Sites participating in this link acquisition model were severely punished.

Luckily, because we believed strongly on Unique Content, we did not participate in this article hysteria and sailed through Panda mostly unscathed except for some clients that did their own article submissions.

Panda penalized sites can recover only when Panda Data Refreshes are pushed. Articles and all the replicants need to be taken down or Disavowed. (more on the disavowal tool below). Luckily, Panda is refreshed monthly as an effort to rid Google's Main Index of duplicate content.


First and foremost: Penguin is not a Penalty (as per Matt Cutts) it is an algorithmic demotion. Penguin is an Algorithmic Add-on scrubber that is run "regularly" at Google's discretion. The algorithm is page specific and demotions are keyword phrase specific. The algorithm takes into account synonyms and semantics (the meaning of phrases). Just like Panda penalties, Penguin demotions are removed only when Penguin data refreshes are pushed. When is always the mystery. The key is to be ready

Penguin 1.0 - This Penguin update was not so straightforward. It was initially release right after a Panda update. What was initially clear was that it penalized over-optimization. This resulted in people de-optimizing pages to the point of losing all relevance to what they were ranking for. As a result, search results became dismal. To combat this, Google updated the core engine with Hummingbird (more on Hummingbird below). The initial assumptions of the SEO world was that Penguin may have some link elements to its logic, but this was not clear until the Penguin 2.0 update.

Penguin 2.0 - When Google pushed Penguin 2.0 it became crystal clear that Link Source Diversity was a major issue. What this meant was that having a lot of links from the same domain for the same keyword phrases resulted in demotions. We immediately began a program of making sure that we no longer got links from the same sources and worked very hard to find new sources of links to improve Link Source Diversity.

Penguin 2.1 - Although Google claims this affected 1% of search results, the general feedback is that it hit a large swath of websites. After studying website after websites, we have gone over a 100 sites, what is clearly apparent along with Link Source Diversity is that there needs to be Keyword Phrase Diversity.

Mitigation and Adjustments

Link Divestment

As a result of years of ranking sites using time tested practices, links now have to be divested or shed. There is no way around this. One way or the other, it has to be done for a site to rank again. Whether we do it for you, or you use another service (we don't recommend this), this painful piece must be done. This is not a slash and burn divestment. It must be skillfully done retaining high value links while shedding links of low value. There are certain types of domains such as Link Directories which were once great, that now have to be disavowed.

Additionally, we need to get you new links from diverse sources with diverse "long-tail" keyword phrases as well as links that say: For more info..., Websites, Click Here, etc... This keyword diversity will be modified monthly to ensure you get the most diverse keyword phrases which is the new hallmark for Search Engine Optimization going forward.

Page Optimization

Page optimization is now more critical than ever. If we have not optimized your home page, then it is absolutely imperative we do so. There is a $300 charge for page optimization. This is limited to 2 keyword phrases. Trying to stuff more keywords will only be detrimental for both optimization as well as being penalized for keyword stuffing. It is also mathematically impossible to optimize a page for more than 2 or 3 phrases.

Create New Pages for Each of your Keyword Phrases & Use Keyword Rich Navigation

The new Hummingbird Algorithm is Relevance Sensitive. This means that it looks for Keywords in the Title Tags, URLs and Page optimization. It is no longer possible to rank for keywords by sheer linking as in the past. New pages, optimized for specific keyword phrases must be created. Internal link navigation within a site needs to be keyword rich as well. An HTML Site Map and/or the use of Breadcrumb Navigation will greatly help creating keyword rich navigation and improve the rankings of these new pages. Another technique is the use of Mega-Menu Drop Down Navigation. See this for an example »

Penguin Recovery Time Frame

Initially, when the Google disavow tool became available, everyone was made to believe that it was automatic. This led us to believe that you upload the disavow and in a couple of weeks, you are golden. Now with more folks from Google, particularly John Mueller, speaking about Panda and Penguin, has made it clear that this process can take upwards of 2 months. The reason being, disavowed links will be flagged as virtual "nofollow" links. This takes time. Google does not update your backlinks weekly as formerly believed. So getting this process started right away is important.

Once your site goes through the link shedding, and you have new diverse keyword links, it will rebound only when the particular algorithm's data is refreshed. So if you suffered from Panda penalties, it recovers when the Panda data is refreshed. Panda is refreshed monthly. If you got hit by Penguin, then your site will rebound once the Penguin data is refreshed. As per John Mueller, Penguin is refreshed "regularly." What that means is anyone's guess.

The goal is to have all your ducks lined up and ready for the data refreshes. So realistically, if it takes about 2 months to shed all the demoting artifacts, and the data refreshes are "regular." then we can reasonably expect a 2 to 3 month recovery time. At which point, you will have diverse link sources and diverse keyword phrases.

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