Point of View: Panda & Penguin Updates

Collective Measures
May 17, 2013
At SXSW in March, Matt Cutts alluded to a Google algorithm update within the next couple months. Here's what to expect with Penguin version 2.0.


At SXSW in March, Matt Cutts alluded to a Google algorithm update within the next couple months. Google will not comment on a timeline or the details of the update, but we can expect it will be rolled out within the next few weeks. The purpose of the original Penguin update was to weed out spammers that attempted to find a loop-hole around Google’s algorithm. The 2.0 update is expected to go deeper and have more of an impact than the original version, becoming more strict and penalizing sites that appear spammy.

What can we expect?

A video released by Matt Cutts on May 13th outlines some of the possible changes. Cutts explained that while many of these changes are in the works, he couldn’t confirm that all will be included at this time. All in all, he reminded us that the goal of a Panda or Penguin update is to set uniform expectations that align with Google’s vision to provide search results that have high quality content for users.

Here’s a synopsis of what could be included in the Penguin 2.0 update, according to a YouTube video released by Cutts on May 13, 2013:

  • Further and stricter penalization of spammy sites. Cutts notes that black-hat spamming packages or trading will be punished.
  • Stricter rules for Advertorials. Cutts notes that there is nothing wrong with advertorials or native advertising with clear disclosure. You need to be careful of advertorials that violate quality guidelines.
  • Cleaner queries.
  • Google is going upstream to deny value to link spammers.
  • Changes to Webmaster Tools. Better hack site detection and communication to webmasters. More diagnostic functions, specifically around linking. 
  • Detecting authority in a specific space. Google is working toward identifying authority and rewarding those sites. This especially refers to authorship and incoming links and social mentions.
  • Refined host clustering and host crowding.

What do we think is most important?

Since we do not know the exact algorithm changes, we can’t tell you exactly how it will impact your website. That being said, we pride ourselves in staying current. In doing so, we provide our clients with best practices to provide searchable, high quality content for users, and Google likes that.

Last year, Google created a disavow links tool that allowed webmasters to tell the Google search algorithm that a set of URLs linking to their site might be spam and to ignore them. The disavow links tool was created primarily for sites that were hit by Penguin and gave a webmaster one last avenue to attempt to clean up bad inbound links.

With the disavow tool, Google has essentially asked webmasters to “tattle tail” on suspect websites. This allowed Google to collect information to help them see trends or schemes and allow them to programmatically identify linking practices that break their guidelines. Google also has data from Webmaster tool emails on suspect links. If a webmaster removed the link or disavowed it, they merely solidified Google’s suspicion. If a webmaster responded and justified the link, that also provides useful insight. Couple that with all the complaining, reporting, and feedback from the first release, and Google should have some pretty strong data to “turn up the heat” on spam and paid linking.

Based on the information at this time, here’s our two cents:

  • Google rewarding authority websites in a specific space by ranking them a little more highly. Many of our clients would be considered authorities, or are working toward it, this change could potentially provide a very positive impact to conversions. 
  • Better hacked site detection (over the next couple months) and Google Webmaster Tools being the one-stop shop for additional information. Unfortunately even great websites sometimes get hacked. Luckily, Google’s increased detection will only help in preventing loss of revenue or lead generation.
  • For websites that were affected by Panda, this may be good news. If your website is in the border zone or grey area, where they were impacted but haven’t knowingly engaged in black-hat methods, Google has identified additional quality signals that may be of benefit to those sites. 
  • We’re happy to see Google continuing to enhance Webmaster Tools by providing more information to the webmaster. Everyone with a website should also have a Google Webmaster account! Currently, this is the only way Google notifies a webmaster if they detect an issue.

As of now, this is all the information we can provide.  Our team will continue to monitor our client’s websites closely to identify any issues. We look forward to seeing what Google delivers within the next few weeks and will continue to provide updates.


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