Google confirms first Penguin update for over a year

By James Riches topicIcon SEO, Google

Google has verified rumours that the Penguin algorithm was updated over the weekend. On Friday night, discussion forums were inundated with gossip from people reporting significant changes in their search results, and on Sunday Penguin 3.0 was officially verified.

This is big news for site owners, as it marks the first Penguin update since October 4 last year. Many will now be waiting expectantly to see if all their hard work cleaning up backlink profiles and tackling potentially spammy elements of their site during that time has paid off.

While Google has confirmed the update, it has not yet revealed the impact it will have on search queries. The first version of Penguin in April 2012 was thought to have affected around 3.1 per cent of search queries, with 2.3 per cent hit by the second major update in May 2013. Whether a similar amount will be influenced this time around will likely become apparent in the coming days.

October does seem to be a good month for Penguin updates. Last year’s October 4 refresh hit around one per cent of queries with Penguin 2.1, while on 5 October 2012 approximately 0.3 per cent experienced changes following Penguin 1.2.

What happens next?

The length of time since the last Penguin update has ensured this is one of the most eagerly awaited Google algorithm changes ever.

Indeed, for many sites negatively affected by previous Penguins it has become absolutely vital, and they will now face an anxious wait to see if their year spent tackling all the issues raised by Penguin 2.1 will have a positive result.

Last month, Google webmaster trends analyst John Mueller suggested while sites do not necessarily need to wait for an algorithm update in order to see good work rewarded, a Penguin update would be necessary in order to have an effect on any Penguin-specific problems a site had worked to address. Those sites will be waiting expectantly to see if this assertion is borne out in the coming days and weeks.

Many will be on the lookout for high profile casualties or successes, and it is likely that analysts will have more to say in a few days once the dust has settled. As of Monday morning, there has been no mention of the Penguin update on any Google channel, including its official Twitter account.

When Penguin 2.0 was released last year, Matt Cutts was quick to blog on the subject, but announced an extended break back in July and must be glad he decided not to check his work email during his time away.

The only crumb of additional information thus far is that Google is reportedly set to implement a system that will allow for more frequent Penguin refreshes in future.

It’s still all about content

As ever, high quality content remains an essential component of any successful site, both in engaging readers and avoiding any potential negative impact from algorithm updates such as Penguin 3.0.

Search Engine Journal managing editor Kelsey Jones commented: “Amazing content is the only thing that is Google update-proof. Google will never penalize useful, unique content that the user is actually looking for.”