Google’s Penguin Update will be here very soon which means that you have a limited amount of time to review and clean up any links which are in violation. Here’s a summary of what it will bring and some tips on how to reduce the risk against of future penalties.

Google are well known for keeping their algorithm updates a secret as they are never announced until they have landed, Google penguin seems to be an exception to the rule.

Gary Illes (a Webmaster Analyst from Google) tweeted back in October that the next Penguin update would roll out during 2015.

Gary Illes tweet 2

There has also been some speculation as to whether the next update would run in real-time or now. On the 23rd November Gary confirmed our suspicions and announced that the next update will run in real-time.

Gary Illes tweet

What Does this Mean?

The Penguin update was created to combat artificial link growth, and penalise websites who used non-white-hat link building tactics for SEO gains. Google Penguin is historically updated every 12 months and the risk to using old school SEO tactics became greater. If you were ever unfortunate enough to be penalised by Google Penguin, you would need to wait until the next algorithm update before your site was re-evaluated and the penalty was lifted (after a thorough link removal program and reinclusion request).

With the new update rolling out, Google will be able to penalise websites in real-time, and prevent black hat SEO tactics from delivering short-term results.

Website which are affected by a penalty will commonly see one of the following:

  • Sudden drop in organic visibility for a specific search term
  • Sudden drop in organic visibility for a range of related search terms
  • Key landing pages have dropped 30+ positions in Google
  • Homepage or website does not rank for brand term (worse case scenario)

How to Reduce the Risk of a Google Penalty?

Even if you have been using white hat methods to build links, your site may still be at risk if your backlink profile contains enough links to trip a quality filter.

Using tools such as MajesticSEO, Ahrefs or CognitiveSEO (other tools are available), a thorough review of the back link profile is essential to understand what activity has taken place and remove any suspicious links that put the site at risk from future updates.

There are a number of elements to look out for, here are the most common traits of unnatural link building:

  • High proportion of links using commercially valuable search terms in the link text
  • High proportion of links pointing to commercially valuable landing pages
  • Link growth to the site appears “spikey” and is not backed up by high trust signals such as PR style links or social engagement
  • High number of links originate for irrelevant websites

By removing links which contain the above traits, this will reduce the risk of future penalties. However, it is recommended that further work from an experienced SEO consultant is undertaken to reduce the risk further.

Round Up

Google are taking another step forwards to clean up the search results, and penalise websites who Google Penguin Updateare still using tactics which deliver short-term results. Google’s Penguin Update will be here in the next 5 weeks which means that you have a limited amount of time to review and clean up any links which are in violation of Google’s quality guidelines.  If you have ever engaged with an SEO agency or freelancer you should make sure that the back link profile is reviewed and any risky links removed.