On October 4th, Matt Cutts announced that Google was rolling out a new Penguin update. Dubbed Penguin 2.1, this change was expected to affect about 1% of searches. That number may sound small, but this update has had devastating consequences for many webmasters.
Penguin 2.1 is actually the fifth Penguin update in the last two years. Google is labeling this update as 2.1 instead of 3 presumably to underscore that it isn’t a major change. When Penguin 2 was released in May, it was heralded as a whole new generation of Penguin technology, but this update seems to be more of a minor adjustment to the existing algorithm.
How Bad Is It?
Even though Penguin 2.1 only hit a small percentage of searches, a large number of SEOs and webmasters were stunned with the destruction created by the update. Many sites were completely obliterated by the new algorithm. In many cases, the damage may be permanent.
In Matt Cutts’ announcement on Twitter, he directed webmasters to visit a link to learn more about Penguin. Unfortunately, this link is simply an explanation of the purpose of Penguin and doesn’t actually provide details on the new update. SEOs still have to figure out the changes for themselves!
Since Penguin 2.1 is designed to target certain small areas of spammy practices, many of the sites that were hit had actually survived the previous Penguin updates. Low quality links that haven’t attracted the attention of the Penguin algorithm before are no longer safe. Of course, hopefully you aren’t using low quality link building tactics anyway!
The Goal of Penguin
The ultimate purpose of Penguin is to get rid of sites that are full of spammy links. Google continues to emphasize the importance of high quality links by issuing harsh penalties to sites that contain bad links. Penguin seems particularly intent on targeting sites with paid links.
Understanding this basic goal allows the SEO community to adjust their strategies in order to avoid Penguin penalties. The absolute best thing you can do for your site is to remove any links that Google might deem spammy. Especially if you get hit with a penalty, it’s important to take these down immediately. This is the time to make sure that your link profile is spotless!
Even though links can be dangerous, they’re still a key factor in good SEO. The point is to focus on high quality, reputable links from respected sources. By building one high quality link at a time, you can make sure to avoid any troublesome links that might hurt your site.
How are you protecting your site from a Penguin 2.1 penalty?