Google Penguin 1.1 algorithm update advice

Wed 30th of May 2012, filed under SEO

Updated 30 May 2012

Penguin 1.1 is official

It has been officially confirmed by Google's Matt Cutts that the Penguin 1.1 algorithm update is now live.

The Distinguished Engineer took to Twitter late on Friday night to announce: "Minor weather report: We pushed 1st Penguin algo data refresh an hour ago. Affects <0.1% of English searches." The original Penguin algorithm change on 24 April 2012 was said to affect 3.1 per cent of English search queries, while last year's major Panda algorithm update affected closer to 12 per cent, so in comparison the Penguin 1.1 update is minor.

Fighting webspam

Like its predecessor Google Panda, the Penguin algorithm change is intended to curb webspam by penalising sites that violate Google's quality guidelines, including those that are over-optimised and use black hat SEO techniques. Although Google has not revealed any of the specific aspects that are penalised by the Penguin update, the official blog post stated:

"Our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics."

Richard Frost, managing editor at theEword, commented: "While major algorithm updates such as Panda and Penguin 1.0 have caused noticeable fluctuations in SERPs, it's unlikely we'll see Penguin 1.1 making much of an impact. However, a large number of sites are still trying to recover from the original Penguin algorithm update and figure out where they went wrong. Our advice is to look at unnatural linking and low quality content, and although some high quality websites have been affected, our research has shown that most of the sites affected by the update have done something wrong with regards to either link building or content."

How to fix the Penguin problem

Cutts has stated that those affected by the algorithm need to "clean things up" to improve their rankings. Here are some Penguin recovery tips that could get sites back on track:

  1. Review your Google Webmaster Tools account to see if there is any feedback from Google; they will sometimes highlight problems that they've found with your site and linking strategy. There won't be specific messages relating to Penguin 1.0 or 1.1 but you can use any feedback from Google to determine how you've been affected.
  2. Carry out a content audit of your site, checking pages for duplicate content and making sure that all your key pages are rich and full. Under-nourished pages don't help your site.
  3. Go back and look at your link building strategy - is this a natural approach, or have you been pushing too far into grey or black hat link building? The Penguin update has hit poor quality link builders hard, so now is the time to reassess how you gain links into your site.
  4. Know that you're in for the long haul as there is rarely a quick or easy recovery from Penguin (or from last year's Panda update). If you've been affected by the algorithm change then it's likely that you're going to have to reassess your strategy, which is akin to turning a very large and heavy ship around.

Speaking to Search Engine Land on 10 May about the original Penguin algorithm change, Cutts said the update had been "a success". However, the 1.1 update proves there were still tweaks to be made, and it's likely to be updated again in future. As for white hat sites being adversely affected, Cutts commented:

"We've seen a few cases where we might want to investigate more, but this change hasn't had the same impact as Panda or Florida."

This suggests the onus is predominantly on webmasters to clean up their sites and see if things change. Check out the video below for more information from Cutts on recovering from algorithm changes:

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