According to Matt Cutts there was a data refresh and update to Penguin which Google is now internally referring to as Penguin 2.0.
This new iteration Google admitted in a February webmaster hangout video that Penguin runs more regularly than stated, I believe it runs every one to two months judging by some of the videos from Google and events they speak at. You can find Matt Cutts post here.
So what does this mean for SEO?
Well first we should look at the results of Penguin 2.0. Google stated that 2.3% of queries had been affected which is a large chunk of the internet.
This table represents eighteen sites, all of which engage in Blackhat SEO tactics such as automated spam of spun content, blog networks, directories, SAPE links, buying links, 301 redirection and more. I used an extremely accurate keyword tracking service called Rank Ranger to document changes in SERPs on a daily basis. Click here for a free trial of Rank Ranger, its certainly one of my most essential tools.
|Change||Number of sites|
|No dramatic change||3|
|Hit by Penguin 2.0||5|
Negative PageRank domino effect
In the past year Google has hinted that negative PageRank exists. When a website is identified as spam, its PageRank may be devalued in such a way that any sites it links to now lose some power from their own sites as negative PageRank is passed. Two years ago the idea of negative PageRank would be ridiculous, but we now know the aggressive stance Google has taken, so would it be so much of a surprise really?
With this in mind it makes reasonable sense to conclude that all sites to some degree may have some negative PageRank flowing into their site. This means that there is in essence a penalty of sorts on nearly every site which has spam pointing at it, because some of those links will be negative pumping PageRank. If this is true, then there is a huge domino effect occurring on each update which makes ranking changes very difficult to make sense of and sites which didn’t appear to have any penalty are making huge gains in the SERPs.
Blackhat is alive and kicking
My most blackhat site, an experiment which involves hundreds of thousands of the lowest quality links has been close to the top of Google for six weeks now. It has never experienced any drops indicating a penalty, but yesterday with the launch of Penguin 2.0 it was catapulted even further onto the first page. Yet, a site which engages in occasional minimal spam has been hit. Google’s updates do not make logical sense, but this is because it is an imperfect system. There does not seem to be a single technique to recover sites and no blackhat techniques seem to have stopped working.
You have to start thinking of every site as an individual rather than label it as “using X link technique and still ranking”, as the table shows, you can use the same techniques on all of your sites and still experience an almost illogical and random fluctuation.
Green shoots for Penalized sites?
Now for the good stuff, for me the most interesting part of this update has been an obvious removal of penalties to some of the sites I work with. Several had been hit by Penguin and Panda at some point in the past two years and I worked extremely hard to fix some of them but data refreshes flew past and months went by without any movement. Yesterday several sites gained hundreds of positions across a range of keywords resulting in what for me is the first time i’ve observed a full reversal of a penalty. Could it be that the algorithms have been tweaked to be more relaxed? We already know that Matt Cutts stated Panda will be relaxed and we could be seeing these effects now. I think we can start taking penalized sites a little more seriously if we now have more opportunity to fix any problems according to Google.
What about SAPE?
As a network, it seems SAPE has not been hit. As individual sites in the network, yes some have been hit. I don’t believe Google can hit the SAPE network in one big swipe, but what they will do is continue to chip away at it and pick off individual sites continuously. SAPE is a large network, but it is the same as any other network in the fact that it lists websites to rent links from. The day that Google takes SAPE out as a whole is the day all blog networks die as a link source, which is likely never.
So we should not be worrying about SAPE being hit, but what you should be asking yourself is if the site you use it on is worth taking the risk for. At some point nearly every link farm blog gets hit by a manual rater. Its not a case of “if” it gets hit, it is case of “when”.
What do you think of Penguin 2.0? Were you hit by it? Post your comment below.