Is it just me, or has the SEO world felt like Penguins on Parade recently? Penguin 3.0 was released in mid-October, and we heard it would be rolling out for a few weeks. But eight weeks later, it’s still rolling. The SEO community is tacking on dots and digits, even though many of the refreshes that we’re noticing are still unconfirmed by Google.
So what’s going on with Penguin? What does it mean for the big picture of SEO, and — more urgently — what does it mean for next week’s To Do list?
@Bessian Actually, we try to minimize major updates right before the holidays.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) December 18, 2013
(Unless it was meant to be some strange holiday gift. I know all the stock imagery of penguins I saw that weekend really got me in the Christmas spirit …)
A quick timeline for the uninitiated:
I imagine it looked something like this:
Google has only confirmed the first two, but the SEO community is monitoring progress pretty closely.
SEL inquired about the Thanksgiving updates, to which Google replied:
That last big update is still rolling out — though really there won’t be a particularly distinct end-point to the activity, since Penguin is shifting to more continuous updates. The idea is to keep optimizing as we go now.
That means no more big data pushes for Penguin as Google starts rolling out updates and refreshes within their live ranking processes.
— Nate Dame (@seonate) December 17, 2014
There are encouraging and frustrating implications in the idea of continual Penguin updates/refreshes.
Anyone still engaged in black hat SEO practices will bear the brunt of the frustrations. Continuous updates mean spammy links won’t be able to hide for very long. There also may be some minor frustrations for those sites actually affected, as Google keeps trying to slip live updates into Penguin unannounced.
On the other hand, continuous updates will mean shorter sentences for those penalized for bad links, who take the time to fix them. Penalties will probably be removed faster, and rankings fixed sooner.
For those whose SEO has been built on a solid strategy of natural links, the infinite Penguin shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Otherwise, a backlink audit should be pretty near the top of the 2015 To Do list.
If you’re ready for a really in-depth link audit, Moz has some very thorough instructions. And does earning “natural links” sound impossible or just relentlessly frustrating? It’s quite possible, but it takes work!
We’re keeping a close eye on Penguin, with everyone else, but in the long run it’s important to remember that Google’s end game still hasn’t changed. They’re working out how to do it better, and while it’s annoying that the Penguin updates are changing so quickly, there really isn’t much anyone can do about it.
Moral of the story: Penguin’s attack on spammy links will continue.
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