Last year, Google launched the Panda update, and wreaked havoc across the web on sites doing little to contribute to the quality of content appearing throughout Google's search engine. This year, it's been the Penguin update doing the wreaking (with Panda continuing to do its job at the same time). There has been plenty of panic among webmasters caused by the Penguin update, primarily in the inbound links department, and from the sound of it, that's really just getting started.
Is Google's Penguin update making the web better? Is it making Google better? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Now, some would say that an update like Penguin is good for Google and for the web at large. It's hard to argue that an algorithm update designed to get rid of spam is truly a bad thing. At the same time, many webmasters feel they are being unjustly punished by Google, and are essentially bringing a rocket launcher to a knife fight in the battle to get back into Google's good graces. By doing so, they're trying to exterminate links, which they may even find valuable, if not for fear of Google.
Based on recent comments from Google's Matt Cutts, I would not expect this mentality to change anytime soon.
Inevitably, the subject of the Penguin update came up. According to a paraphrased account of Cutts' talk, he said webmasters could expect updates to be "jarring" for a while.
Matt Cutts commented on a Search Engine Roundtable blog post about it, saying:
Hey Barry, I wasn't saying that people needed to overly stress out about the next Penguin update, but I'm happy to give more details. I was giving context on the fact that lots of people were asking me when the next Penguin update would happen, as if they expected Penguin updates to happen on a monthly basis and as if Penguin would only involve data refreshes.
If you remember, in the early days of Panda, it took several months for us to iterate on the algorithm, and the Panda impact tended to be somewhat larger (e.g. the April 2011 update incorporated new signals like sites that users block). Later on, the Panda updates had less impact over time as we stabilized the signals/algorithm and Panda moved closer to near-monthly updates. Likewise, we're still in the early stages of Penguin where the engineers are incorporating new signals and iterating to improve the algorithm. Because of that, expect that the next few Penguin updates will take longer, incorporate additional signals, and as a result will have more noticeable impact. It's not the case that people should just expect data refreshes for Penguin quite yet. Emphasis added.
Still in the early stages. Will have a more noticeable impact. In other words, Google is just getting started with Penguin, and you ain't seen nothing yet.
Reader Josh Bachynski, responding to Cutts' comment, said, "Matt, can you please tell us exactly what to fix now then so we are not caught off guard? Don't give us the secret sauce, just be transparent and say 'watch your linking text' or 'check your HTML for inadvertent alt attributes with keywords in them' or 'delete all your old links on 'put-it-there-yourself' pages (or nofollow them)' or whatever this new penguin eats 🙂 That would be awesome transparency that does not give anything new away, just focuses our efforts."
Cutts responded to him on Twitter, saying:
@joshbachynski saw your comment on Barry's post. Certainly links are a primary area to monitor. Been true all this year; expect to continue.
So, I don't expect the mad rush by webmasters to have links removed anytime soon. I don't expect to see less instances where people are charging to remove links. Yep, this is what the web has come to.
Of course, webmasters are still waiting on that tool that allows them to tell Google what links to ignore. That is supposedly still coming, and hopefully the next time the Penguin terrorizes its targets, the tool will be available. It would not only make things easier on the webmasters who are trying to clean up their link profiles, but for all the sites that have to deal with webmasters freaking out because they're afraid of links.
Are you ready for more Penguin? How do you expect it to change Google results? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Image: Batman Returns (Warner Bros.)