Google Penguin Update 2.1 Is Bigger Than Your Average Penguin Refresh

Chris CrumSearch

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Google's Matt Cutts announced late on Friday that Penguin 2.1 was launching, affecting roughly 1% of searches "to a noticeable degree."

Did you notice? Has the update had any impact on your own rankings (positive or negative)? Let us know in the comments.

This is the first official Penguin announcement we've seen since Google revealed its initial Penguin revamp, with 2.0 in May.

Penguin 2.0 was the biggest tweak to Penguin since the update initially launched in April of last year, which was why it was called 2.0 despite the update getting several refreshes in between.

Cutts said this about Penguin 2.0 back when it rolled out: "So this one is a little more comprehensive than Penguin 1.0, and we expect it to go a little bit deeper, and have a little bit more of an impact than the original version of Penguin."

Penguin 2.0 was said to affect 2.3% of queries with previous data refreshes only impacting 0.1% and 0.3%. The initial Penguin update affected 3.1%. While this latest version (2.1) may not be as big as 2.0 or the original, the 1% of queries affected still represents a significantly larger query set than the other past minor refreshes.

Hat tip to Danny Sullivan for the numbers. The folks over at Search Engine Land, by the way, have been keeping a list of version numbers for these updates, which differs from Google's actual numbers, so if you've been going by those, Danny sorts out the confusion for you.

Penguin, of course, is designed to attack webspam. Here's what Google said about it in the initial launch:

The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can't divulge specific signals because we don't want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.

Word is that Penguin 2.1 has had a big impact on webmasters.

"We have threads at WebmasterWorld, Black Hat Forums, tons at Google Webmaster Help, Threadwatch and many others," forum watcher Barry Scwhartz said on Monday. "Keep in mind, this was announced late Friday afternoon and the threads are just going to get worse when more people check their analytics after the weekend is over, sometime this morning."

"I've seen screen shots of Google Analytics showing websites completely destroyed by this update," he added. "I've also seen screen shots of Google Analytics showing websites that recovered in a major way from previous Penguin updates. This had huge swings both ways for webmasters and SEOs. Some recovered and are back in business, while others are about to lose their businesses."

On figuring out if your site was affected by Penguin 2.1, Kristi Kellogg from global Internet marketing firm Bruce Clay, Inc. says, "BCI recommends monitoring your organic traffic in Google Analytics over the next two weeks, looking for a dip. A dip in traffic occurring on this date may indicate that your site has been hit by this update. In some cases, you might see an increase in traffic, which would indicate an outranking competitor took a blow from Penguin 2.1."

On combating Penguin 2.1, she says to clean up your backlink profile, adding, "Going forward, move away from a 'link building' mindset. Over and over, Cutts has warned that links should not be your main focus. The main focus should be the user experience. Focus on creating and promotion quality content, that is useful, has value — in short, create something compelling that people will want to share. If you do succeed, natural links will be a byproduct of your efforts."

And remember, Cutts and co. are paying attention to what people in the "black hat" forums are saying.

As you can see, Penguin is still part of Google's Hummingbird algorithm. That was an overhaul of Google's larger algorithm, which still includes various pieces, such as Penguin and Panda. So if you were expecting those pieces to go away for some reason, let Penguin 2.1 be your wake-up call.

More of our past Penguin coverage here.

Have you seen any noticeable effects of Penguin? Hummingbird? Let us know in the comments.

Image: Batman: Arkham City

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.