Late Friday, heading into the long weekend, Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts announced a Penguin data refresh now known as Penguin 1.1. Every so often, Cutts throws webmasters a bone via tweets framing algorithm updates or data refreshes as weather events, such as this:
As he said, the update is to impact less than 0.1 percent of English searches. The update is not an actual change to the Penguin algorithm, but a data refresh, meaning data was refreshed within the existing algorithm. Cutts explained the difference between an algorithm update and a data refresh back in 2006 on his personal blog.
Penguin Recovery: It Is Possible
Ross Hudgens wrote up an excellent case study for the SEOMoz blog on WPMU.org and their successful Penguin recovery strategy. He cites the most influential factor in its recovery as the removal of a large quantity of footer links, saying WPMU.org “instantly shut off almost 15,000 ‘iffy’ sitewide, footer LRDs to their profile, dramatically improving their anchor text ratios, sitewide link volume, and more.”
Hudgens notes that several other changes may have contributed to the site’s recovery, including an overall SEO clean-up, Penguin review form submissions, and more. I pinged him on Twitter to see what it is was he had specifically recommended to the site by way of first steps for Penguin clean up and he responded:
A) Remove all of the crap sitewide links, weird anchors first, B) continue building good links and C) take advantage of press by pinging Danny Sullivan to try and get it featured on SEL to get in front of Google. Obviously A) was not going to be completely possible so I was going for “remove most of your crappy links.”
Penguin Isn’t Indiscriminately Targeting Sites
WPMU.org was just one of the many sites reportedly hit by Penguin. Last week, Danny Goodwin wrote about sites profiled in a WSJ.com article, such as The Internet Hockey Database and Oh My Dog Supplies LLC. Like WPMU, they had issues that might have taken a bit of digging, but do explain why they succumbed to the evil Penguin.
It may seem at times that Google’s updates are indiscriminate, raping and pillaging swaths of small business sites and leaving a wake of destruction in their path. However, Penguin in particular seems to have a very narrow focus and an objective site review can help highlight the specific issues dragging the site down.
Right after Penguin came out in April, Goodwin wrote about five types of link issues harming affected sites:
- paid links with exact match anchor text
- comment spam
- guest posts on questionable sites
- article marketing sites
- links from dangerous sites
SEW author Pierre Zarokian later added links from irrelevant sites, footer links, consecutive sponsored links with no text between, and sitewide links as other potential culprits.
Penguin Recovery Resources
It’s refreshing (and promising) to see an actual step-by-step report from Hudgens. You can find tips for Penguin clean up here at SEW from Bruce Clay, Simon Penson, and Guillaume Bouchard.
In addition, Lisa Buyer and Jeff Slipko offer alternative strategies to help marketers diversify, to lessen the effects of algorithm updates like Panda.
Have you undertaken a Penguin recovery effort? Let us know whether you’ve seen results in the comments!