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An insight to the penguin algorithm

Many websites complain that they were penalized by the Penguin algorithm even though they recently carried out a link clean up. However, due to the infrequency of the updates of this algorithm, the benefits of link clean ups may take a long time to register.

Let’s understand this concept by first looking at the history of the Penguin algorithm, then observing its present status, and finally discussing the future.

The History

The difficulty of website ranking increased significantly after the launch of the Penguin algorithm on 24th April, 2012. Previously, webmasters focused on creating links wherever it was possible.

After the launch, these websites saw a massive drop in rankings. In fact many businesses who hired third party help to improve online presence were not even aware that they were breaking quality guidelines of Google. Websites that ranked first place with the help of low quality links went beyond page ten on search engines without any idea why! As a result many businesses had to close down or lay off staff to break even.

Within the next few years, the Penguin algorithm was updated and refreshed several times. Update is a change in the criteria used by the algorithm. Refresh is when the same criteria are used but the algorithm is simply rerun.

The Present

From 2012 to 2014, Penguin was updated four times and refreshed officially just once in October 2014. Furthermore, there is proof that the algorithm was refreshed a few times later in 2014 as well. However, the last update to the algorithm was in October 2013, which is almost two years ago. This is a long time that Google has kept the criteria for determining spam links untouched.

In October 2014, when the last official rerun of Penguin took place, many sites were affected. Those sites who had worked hard to clean up spam links and yet not seen any improved rankings since a long time finally saw a change. Those sites with newly discovered spam were negatively affected. On the other hand, some sites did not see any improvement in rankings despite conducting thorough link cleanups. Possible reasons include:

  • Cleanups not being thorough enough
  • Issues with other algorithms may be holding the site down.
  • Previously good rankings were probably due to links that are now in the ‘unnatural’ category. Hence the site doesn’t deserve good rankings.

Even after clearing the above explanations, sites are still clueless as to why they rank low. The most likely explanation now would be that the existing framework of Penguin simply makes recovery difficult for selected few sites. If your site is one of those selected few, don’t give up hope. Google is aware of the struggle faced by many small businesses and is working towards liberating them.

The Future

Considering the fact that the last penguin update was two years ago and the last official refresh was almost a year ago, it is highly likely that it may never update again. Two main reasons for this could be:

  1. Running a corrective algorithm without accounting for negative SEO is difficult.
  2. Many well known brands would be penalized and search results would suffer if Google launched a penguin update targeting an excess number of guest blogs for example. If every site with guest blogs were to be penalized, search results would probably become less useful.

Maybe Google is taking their time to properly design an update for the overall betterment of search results as well as those sites who are actually taking an effort to do positive SEO. If yours is one of those sites, be patient and hopefully you will be rewarded.

Written by

I’m an SEO consultant and a web developer. I’m extremely passionate about search engine optimisation, web development and social media marketing. With more than 8 years experience in the internet industry, I have dealt with a range of various exciting clients from all over the world. My key strength is developing clean, semantic and cross-browser compatible websites utilising latest trends and technologies by following Google webmaster guidelines to construct them search engine friendly.

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