Penguin 3.0, Google’s Latest Algorithm Update, Rolls Out

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the work that goes into making a site more crawlable and making individual pages more accessible and easier to find. Below, we’ll discuss how Google’s latest algorithm update will affect sites and SEO practices, and what you need to know about the history of updates.

Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO

There are two types of SEO, the good kind (“white hat”) and the bad kind (“black hat”). Google labels black hat SEO as “webspam.” Black hat SEO uses various techniques to manipulate search engine algorithms in the hope of getting a website to rank higher for target search queries. Google has been battling webspam for the pst years, through various updates to its algorithm. The first major update was called Panda, the second Penguin – each tackled different areas of webspam. Both are the names of black-and-white animals in a nod to the white hat vs. black hat themes in SEO.

When Google first released the Penguin algorithm update in April 2012

The first Penguin update was released in April 2012. At that time Google announced their reasons on their blog:

“This change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.”

Google Penguin 3.0

Google announced that a new version of its algorithm change, version 3 of Penguin, went live on Friday. John Mueller, one of their engineers, confirmed in a video hangout on Monday that the roll out was happening. Pierre Far, another engineer, issued the following statement on his Google+ profile:

[row][column size=10 centered=1]Google engineer Pierre Far's statement on Penguin 3.0[/column][/row]

This is the first Penguin algorithm update in over a year. Apart from the social media posts from Google’s engineers, there has not been an official blog post about Penguin 3 through the usual channels e.g. Google’s Webmaster Central blog just yet, although SEO blogs were busy speculating on the effects and the “winners” and “losers” – websites that benefitted and ones that saw a penalty. The main significance of this latest update is that it is the first one in over a year. Websites that were hit by a Penguin penalty last year would not have seen any improvement in visibility until now, if their websites were in fact hit by a previous version of Penguin. That in itself is one of the main issues facing SEOs and those webmasters working in the SEO industry — trying to figure out if a site has been penalized by a specific algorithm update and how to go about fixing it.

Is your site affected by Penguin 3.0?

Websites affected by such changes don’t get an official email or notification stating, “Your site has been hit by the Penguin update.” Instead, webmasters might get a cryptic notification message in Google Webmaster Tools and/or notice a drop in organic traffic and a decrease in impressions and average keyword positions in their Search Queries report. There may or may not be a notification in the Manual Actions section. Presuming a website has been affected by an update, trying to fix it can take a lot of work and a lot of time. The big complaint within the SEO community is that the results of all this work takes a long time to come into fruition.

[row][column size=10 centered=1]Google Webmaster Tools[/column][/row]

What to do

At the end of the day, focusing on quality content and making sure your site complies with SEO best practices from a technical, content and usability perspective means you won’t have to worry about black and white animals attacking your website. Time will reveal how many websites have been hit by 3.0, and we should start hearing news stories about high-profile websites being exposed for questionable SEO techniques.

If you’ve noticed any drops in rankings (such as average position in the Search Queries report) since Friday night, there’s a good chance that your site was hit by Penguin 3.0; you may have a long road ahead trying to rectify the problem. On the other hand, if you’ve been working hard over the past year to try to correct your SEO from a Penguin 2 or 2.1 update, then you should hopefully see some improvements in your visibility. If by chance you notice an improvement in rankings and have not done any work to reverse a previous penalty, your website may have benefited from a competitor’s website getting penalized.


Curious about the dates of previous Penguin updates? Here’s a timeline to reference.

  • Penguin 1.0 on April 24, 2012
  • Penguin 1.1 on May 26, 2012
  • Penguin 1.2 on October 5, 2012
  • Penguin 2.0 on May 22, 2013
  • Penguin 2.1 on October 4, 2013
  • Penguin 3.0 on October 17, 2014

If you’ve got a pressing Penguin question, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.

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