POLL: Does Google Have a Responsibility to Refresh Its Penguin Algorithm?
And so we wait. . .In the past 2 years we’ve had an increase in clients that come to our firm beca...
Published on: Mar 6, 2016
Transcripts - POLL: Does Google Have a Responsibility to Refresh Its Penguin Algorithm?
POLL: Does Google Have a Responsibility to Refresh Its
And so we wait. . .
In the past 2 years weÃ¢ÂÂve had an increase in clients that come to our firm because they have
been affected by an algorithmic or manual penalty. We offer many of these clients what we call
Penalty Assessments, which are a series of deep-dive engineering documents that identify the type of
penalty that the site is suffering from, offer a road map for recovery from the penalty as well as
actionable recommendations for mitigating future risk. We work with penalized sites of all sizes,
some attached to large corporations, others belonging to small to mid-sized businesses.
WeÃ¢ÂÂve become really good at tasks like penalty identification and backlink profile clean up.
WeÃ¢ÂÂve gotten a number of clients out from under the revenue depressing weight of
algorithmic and manual penalties alike. But lately, a number of our penalized clients are becoming
impatient. ItÃ¢ÂÂs not anything weÃ¢ÂÂve done, and itÃ¢ÂÂs not due to anything we can do.
We, along with the rest of the SEO industry, have been waiting 10 months for the next Google
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As professionals in the search marketing field are aware, in order to truly recover from a Penguin
penalty, Google needs to refresh the specific elements that manage that portion of their algorithm.
Google has refreshed the Penguin algorithm twice yearly, approximately every 6 months:
Penguin 1.0 Ã¢ÂÂ April 24, 2012
Penguin 1.1 Ã¢ÂÂ May 26, 2012
Penguin 1.2 Ã¢ÂÂ October 5, 2012
Penguin 2.0 Ã¢ÂÂ May 22, 2013
Penguin 2.1 Ã¢ÂÂ Oct. 4, 2013
Typically Penguin refreshes have stuck to a general May/October refresh schedule. However, the
last refresh occurred more than 10 months ago. Reactions from vocal contingents in the SEO
industry have run the gamut, with many expressing frustration on behalf of their penalized clients,
while others defend GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs right as a private company to tweak their product as they see
Add your voice to the debate throughÃÂ the poll above.
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility
There are a number of very opinionated and strong arguments to support a position that Google
owes the webmaster community a refresh, and soon. To say that Google dominates online search
share is an understatement. At last check, GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs reported search market share was near
68% but most industry pundits believe GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs true search market share is north of 80%
Ã¢ÂÂ 90% in some verticals.
There are also many who believe that Google aims to make cheaters pay for their crimes with an
unforgettable punishment, and that this delay does just that, especially if there is no update until
2015. Google is essentially the only game in town when it comes to online marketing. Some argue
that diversifying your online income funnels is the key to removing yourself from under
GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs thumb, but I see no viable second option to the visibility that Google can offer a
Even more frustratingly, Google has seemingly passed judgment on webmasters everywhere by
framing their algorithmic changes in an ethical light. While Ã¢ÂÂethicsÃ¢ÂÂ and
Ã¢ÂÂmoralsÃ¢ÂÂ both relate to right and wrong, ethics are the guiding principles enforced on
an individual by an external source (think religion, government or in this case, Google). For that
external source to enforce an ethical standard on a community, it needs power. In this case, that
power is being given to Google by its widespread use. Whether fair or intentional or not, the
profitability of too many businesses and the livelihoods of too many individuals hinge on the
fluctuations of GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs search algorithms.
Google seemingly embraces this role by using language like that which appeared in Matt Cutts
article announcing the original Penguin update in April 2012 entitled Ã¢ÂÂAnother step to reward
high-quality sites.Ã¢ÂÂ In the article, Cutts explained that Google is interested in rewarding the
Ã¢ÂÂgood guysÃ¢ÂÂ on the Internet:
Ã¢ÂÂThe goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great
user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also want the Ã¢ÂÂgood guysÃ¢ÂÂ
making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded.Ã¢ÂÂ
Clearly, here Google has framed the conversation regarding their algorithmic updates in black and
white. Do good and be rewarded; try to cheat GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs algorithm and youÃ¢ÂÂll be
singled-out and punished. GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs corporate motto Ã¢ÂÂDonÃ¢ÂÂt be evilÃ¢ÂÂ
aspires to be more than a mission statement and instead serves as a moral code which they have
placed at the heart of all they do. Indeed, Google even offers the penalized webmasters an avenue
for confessing their sins and receiving penance, having outlined the process for recovery in their
However, if Google is going to offer this remedy, then donÃ¢ÂÂt they have a responsibility to hold
up their end of the bargain and reward the contrition of the offending websites?
How many businesses, anticipating a refresh in May, have done their due diligence in scrubbing
their link profiles spotless, doing Google the huge favor of helping to clean the Internet of inorganic
links in the process, only to still be under penalty after nearly a yearÃ¢ÂÂs time, their
businessÃ¢ÂÂ profits decimated in the interim?
The Dark Unknown of a Refresh
I would speculate that GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs inability to refresh its Penguin algorithm is not based on
intentional malice. It is much more likely that as they incorporate the data from the hundreds of
thousands (millions?) of disavow files that theyÃ¢ÂÂve acquired over the past year, that trial
SERPs are getting markedly worse, not better. This is an almost predictable result of the blind
disavowing that many webmasters (and SEOs) engaged in after being penalized. If itÃ¢ÂÂs
GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs intent to use the disavow data to identify low-value sites and improve SERPs, they
have quite a task ahead of them. ÃÂ Google now has the unenviable task of sorting through this
mess, trying to return the best search results possible in a post-Penguin world.
It should also be noted that even worse than this current climate of frustration is the possibility of
the unknown. Those who expect to see a benefit from their link pruning efforts are eager for the
algorithmic refresh, but itÃ¢ÂÂs possible weÃ¢ÂÂll see another unexpected outcome
altogether. What if when Google hits reset on its backlink calculations it makes a number of other
changes at the same time? With each Penguin iteration GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs webspam classifier becomes
more restrictive. ThereÃ¢ÂÂs a good chance it will happen in the next refresh, with Google
moving the line and lowering its tolerance for what is an acceptable backlink profile.
If this happened along with a refresh, would everyone who hopes to see gains be satisfied? And if it
were to happen now, just as the holiday marketing season is set to begin, what kind of panic and
chaos would we witness? Perhaps the devil we know is better than the devil we donÃ¢ÂÂt know.
Predictions and speculation aside, all we can do is wait for Google, who first allowed sites to be
rewarded for building links, but later penalized those same links (and sites) for being a bit too
effective at influencing rankings. And we have thousands upon thousands of businesses who have
had their profits decimated by Penguin penalties, either through ignorance of the guidelines or
through their intentional manipulation, devoting substantial time, effort and resources to link
pruning in the hopes of lifting the penalty and returning to GoogleÃ¢ÂÂs good graces. We can
only hope that when we do one day see the payoff of our link pruning work, our sites are deemed the
better for it.
Ã¢ÂÂDo no evilÃ¢ÂÂ implies the power to forgive when a website Ã¢ÂÂrepentsÃ¢ÂÂ for
their sins. Sites have worked hard to repent. They have learned their lessons. They want and need to
And so we wait. . .