Erin Everhart / Digital Marketing / April 24th, 2013

Happy Anniversary Penguin Update: It’s Been a Wild Ride

One year ago, SEO changed forever. Traditionally, the one-year anniversary gift is something made of paper – a poem, or a love note. But ain’t nobody got time for that, so on the first anniversary between SEOs and Penguin, I’d just like to remember the ups and downs of our rocky relationship with Google’s algorithm update.

Let’s Look Back

April 24, 2012 – Penguin 1, Web Spam Update:Google unveiled the Penguin Algorithm Update. Originally speculated to be an “over optimization,” Penguin aimed to reward higher quality sites by targeting web spam, including:

It only affected 3% of search queries, but coupled with the original Panda update a year prior that affected 12% of queries, sites everywhere went into panic mode after seeing results like this:

Google has since rolled out with two data updates to Penguin on May 25, 2012 and October 5, 2012. Combined, they only affected about 1% of search queries.

How It Changed SEO and Your Business

SEO has always been fighting an uphill battle in regards to web spam. There are enough people out there who just want to manipulate the system that they’ll implement whatever tactics necessary to do it. Penguin was Google’s attempt to quell that, and for the most part, it worked.

For businesses, it meant that they needed to put a better filter on when engaging SEO companies. Relying on companies that would build you 1,000 one-way backlinks each month was the fast track to your website getting hurt — badly.

Instead, you needed to look for someone who was going to put more emphasis on digital marketing as a whole. After Penguin (and Panda), SEO became more about knowing your users and delivering relevant quality content that speaks to your users.

Sure it’s about the link, but Penguin was the first step in Google legitimizing SEO as a tactic in your overall digital marketing plan.

So What’s Next?

We haven’t seen the last of Penguin. Last month at SMX West, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, announced they were “working on the next generation of Penguin,” and it’ll be “big.” Cutts confirmed it will happen sometime in 2013, which is just enough ambiguity to leave SEO professionals teetering on the edge of paranoia.

It’s unlikely the future Penguin update will be just another refresh of the existing algorithm changes. Given that Penguin has historically been about fighting the unnatural tactics simply used to manipulate Google’s algorithm, future Penguin could put in tighter guidelines of over-optimization of your anchor text in your links. Or, it could be a way to fight the less-than-ethical guest blogging tactics that have swept the industry.

Either way, we’ll keep you posted.