On October 17, Google rolled out the third update to its Penguin algorithm. Pratik Dholakiya, a contributor for Entrepreneur, explains how the algorithm will affect your website, and also suggests steps you can take. Chel Wolverton also offers helpful tips for not falling victim to Google's Webmaster Guidelines in her article for Business 2 Community.

The overriding goals Google had with Penguin were to clean up web content and provide users with the highest-quality search engine results. Penguin seeks to crack down on sites that use "spammy or black hat techniques to game the system," such as paying for links or keyword stuffing, Dholakiya explains. 

Initially launched in April 2012, Penguin penalizes any practices that do not follow Google's Webmaster Guidelines. More than three percent of all queries were affected when Penguin 1.0 first came out, whereas Penguin 2.0 affected 2.3 percent of queries. While those percentages may seem small, Google gets approximately 3.5 billion searches each day, demonstrating the extent and proportion of queries that were impacted by Penguin. 

What is new about Penguin 3.0? The Data Refresh.

"The most awaited change is the data refresh that comes with every Penguin update. A Penguin update is more like a spike than an ongoing change. So if the update finds that you've been using black-hat SEO techniques and de-ranks it, you'll have to wait till the next update or refresh to be re-evaluated," Dholakiya explains. 

October 2013 marks the last time a data refresh happened. Then, it affected about 1 percent of all queries, amounting to millions of pages which Google removed from search rankings. Having your pages removed has devastating effects for businesses—and many of them have been waiting a year for this new data refresh. Those businesses that have cleaned up their sites are hoping that Penguin 3.0 will re-evaluate them and upgrade their rankings.

However, keep in mind that rises in ranks happen gradually, not immediately. Dholakiya advises that you check your rankings and search traffic regularly for changes. This may take up to a few weeks.  In addition, recent efforts to clean your site won't benefit from this data refresh. 

Do not use the following practices to avoid being penalized by Google's Webmaster Guidelines:

  • Paid links
  • Blog networks
  • Over-optimized anchors
  • Low-quality backlinks

What else can businesses do? 

Businesses can also take other steps, including setting up Google Webmaster Tools. Business 2 Community offers a helpful picture, directing you on how to use this tool. 

Like Dholakiya, Wolverton of Business 2 Community tells organizations to check their site at least once a week to see how different changes impact keywords, impressions and clicks for those keywords.

All of this information can be found on Webmaster Tools' sidebar menu. Go to the umbrella category, "Search Traffic," then go to "Search Queries." Be sure to check the number of impressions vs. the number of clicks. If you notice a sharp downward trend following an algorithm update, make sure you determine the specific problem and clean up your content, ensuring that your website offers relevant information and is easily navigable. 

Wolverton also advises companies to disavow harmful links. Taking this measure effectively signals to Google that you're aware that the quality of certain links is low. In turn, you don't want to be associated with these sites, and you also don't want them to count against your rankings. "This gives you a useful tool if someone's tactics outside of your control are having an effect on your rank," she explains.

The trick to Penguin-proofing your website is simpler than you may think: Don't use spammy practices, such as manufacturing links and keyword stuffing, and put your efforts into producing high-quality, relevant content for your target audience.

KeyMedia Solutions can help you navigate Google's Penguin algorithm and this most recent update. We offer targeted internet marketing as well as search engine marketing for small businesses.