In April 2012, Google launched the Penguin update to weed out sites purportedly spamming search results, particularly those using links that were either bought or obtained through link networks, with the sole purpose of boosting a site in Google rankings. Whenever a new Penguin update comes out, sites that have removed links and spam, correcting past bad behaviour, may start to rank in Google again. On the other hand, new sites and those not previously caught by Penguin may get trapped by an update, whilst sites mistakenly caught by a ‘false positive’ result could escape.
Some SEOs are currently experiencing dramatic changes in their sites’ Google rankings, arousing much curiosity about Penguin’s role in all of this. In a Google Hangout on 11th February with Mark Traphagen and Eric Enge, Web Trends Analyst Gary Illyes from Google was asked to explain the changes Penguin would bring for SEOs. Although he did pass comment in the hour-long virtual keynote, he issued a verbal disclaimer, as agreement hasn’t yet been reached within Google about communicating the Penguin changes.
Real-time Penguin should mean that any pages affected can be identified, giving SEOs a heads-up on their sites’ falling rankings. They can then review any recent changes they may have made, with a view to undoing them to see if problems are resolved. However, when asked to clarify the nature of Penguin’s real-time feedback, Illyes could only say that whilst recrawling the affected pages would have happen, it would take some time.
Eric Enge summed things up succinctly by saying that the Penguin process was real-time, based on the data available, but data wasn’t necessarily available until a recrawl took place, uncovering new data! Therefore, a certain amount of natural latency would prevail. Illyes agreed to Enge’s summary and added that ‘bad’ actions by SEOs were causing many of the Penguin issues. He said he’d seen evidence of sites affected by Penguin and SEO’s actions extended beyond innocent mistakes. Shocking as it may sound, there appears to be a tranche of ‘bad SEOs’ out there who are deliberately trying to manipulate search rankings and committing Penguin felonies!
So, real-time Penguin is upon us, albeit with a certain amount of latency whilst sites hosting links are recrawled. SEOs should see this as a positive change, because being able to put a finger on links causing a sudden loss in search rankings could now become a more straightforward process.