Google Penguin Evolved – Do we need to be concerned?

Google Penguin Evolved – Do we need to be concerned?

14th May 2013

It could be an interesting couple of weeks if recent tweets from Matt Cutts are anything to by. The first Penguin had a significant effect on many SERPs, and if early indications are anything to go by then this one could far exceed that

Talk of this update is not new. I was talking over in Barcelona back in late 2012, and Bronco’s David Naylor had mentioned that many of the engineers had expressed to him that there was a mass update in the offing, whose impact would significantly usurp that of previous Penguin and Panda updates. Rumour has it that this has been held back due to the potential impact of these updates -and the early rhetoric from Matt Cutts and indeed Google would tend to back this up.

Matt Cutt’s video from last night suggests a couple of areas where the latest update is particularly focused on. Taken from the transcript was the following:

We have also been looking at advertorials that is sort of native advertising and those sorts of things that violate our quality guidelines. So again, if someone pays for coverage or pays for an ad or something like that, those ads should not flow PageRank. We’ve seen a few sites in the US and around the world that take money and then do link to websites and pass PageRank.

So we’ll be looking at some efforts to be a little bit stronger on our enforcement as far as advertorials that violate our quality guidelines. Now there’s nothing wrong inherently with advertorials or native advertising, but they should not flow PageRank and there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure so that users realize that something is paid, not organic or editorial.

It’s kind of interesting. We get a lot of great feedback from outside of Google. For example, there were people complaining about searches like “payday loans” on So we have two different changes that try to tackle those kinds of queries in a couple different ways. We can’t get into too much detail about exactly how they work, but I’m kind of excited that we’re going from having just general queries be a little more cleaned to going to some of these areas that have traditionally been a little more spammy including, for example, some more pornographic queries. And some of these changes might have a little bit more of an impact in those kinds of areas that are a little more contested by various spammers and that sort of thing.

Theres no doubting, Google have a lot to do to tidy up some of the crap that is working at the minute. One only has to take a look at the serps below to get a feel for the ease at which many spammers are utilising some of the short term “exploits” that exist in the current framework – and making a lot of money at the same time on big money SERPs such as “online blackjack” and “payday loans”

Whilst one may argue this exploits may not solely be down to links – theres no doubting its a big part (read Irish Wonders post here on how it works). One would thus hope that Google focus time on getting this part of things right – and the lower end of the exploitation factor as one would argue that this is where much of the “anti-guideline” activity often occurs in the form of low quality spun content, automated content and link systems etc – and “native advertising” is likely a very small factor in comparison.

With reference to whether or not Penguin 2 is something to be worried about, to a certain extent yes. If we look at simple maths, Penguin 2.0 is likely to be massive, but don’t take my work for it

  • Penguin 1.0 – 3.1% of English searches, 3.0% of Arabic, German and Chinese
  • Penguin 1.1 – > 0.1%
  • Penguin 1.2 – 0.3%

If one uses the 2011 statistic, Penguin 1 would have affected around circa 53384201000 queries (based on the Comscore figure of 1,722,071,000,000 queries during that year). Thats a phenominal amount of queries – and the fact is Penguin 2 will impact more of those – and where this may likely affect are the “money terms” – ie those terms with commercial intent.

The fact is – I would suggest its not just the blackhats that potentially need to be worried. Simply not paying for the link is not likely to keep you safe. My personal suggestion is we are going to need to think far more strategically in future. Simply keeping to a “its a content link on a relevant site” is not going to cut the mustard. Made for content sites and the like without the support of secondary signals are likely to increasingly fall at the mercy of these updates.

In the industry I am seeing a lot of people in the process of cleaning up their profiles even in some heavily competitive verticals such as gaming and finance. For those in the process of cleaning these profiles up – the time is nearly upon us. One things for certain, its going to be an interesting couple of months – and I am interested to see just how far this latest update goes

Barcelona suggested this was going to be a big one, everything we have heard since would tend to back this up. Only time now will tell….


Written By
Peter has been around the industry for a while now, having previously headed up both search and SEO operations at Connectpoint (now Amaze), Mediavest, Brilliant Media and now Search & Social Director for Mediacom.
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