In an effort to make web a better place for users, something that started in September 2002, Google is continuously changing their algorithm and making it smarter. They have some clear webmaster guidelines that makes it difficult for SEOs to practice specific activities in order to make websites rank in SERPs.
In this article I will walk you through the updates that Google made to their algo for fighting with unnatural link-building techniques and tricks by smart SEO practitioners.
Penguin: (Webspam Update) – April 2012
Sure, many of you have not heard the name “Webspam Update”, but this is what it was called when Google rolled it out for first time to check over-optimized links to websites, eventually penalizing them.
Soon after the update was rolled, it was named “Penguin” – known to the world today. First release of Penguin was rolled on English queries – it made an impact on nearly 3.1% of total web pages – and checked a number of factors that violates webmaster guidelines, mainly focused on websites with lots of keyword stuffed anchor. It was rolled out on English queries first and made.
Penguin 1.1 – May 2012
After a month of Penguin release, Google released a data refresh in May. It didn’t affected many sites but proved that Penguin data is processed outside of Google’s main search index, something similar to Panda update.
Webmaster Link Warning – July 2012
After running Penguin twice in the year 2012, Google sent messages to webmasters who were found to be involved in unnatural link-building tactics through WMT tool. People panicked and later Google announced that these messages are not that serious a problem. They just need to clean-up website backlink profiles and not practice the same tactics that they used to.
Penguin 1.x (#3) – October 2012
Third refresh of Penguin was released in the month of October in the same year when Penguin first released. Google said that the next update will be big and will affect a lot of websites, but they released a small data refresh. This update was not given any version and affected only 0.3% of total English queries.
Penguin 2.0 (#4) – May 2013
After a year and a half Google released the advanced version of Penguin. It didn’t affect many websites but it was rather more targeted to page level. Fourth in succession, this Penguin update was named 2.0 by Google.
SEOs who cleaned up their backlink profile after being affected by Penguin emerged as winners and those who didn’t do much about it lost traffic.
Penguin 2.1 (#5) – October 2013
The fifth Penguin update was made after four months and was named 2.1. This was basically a data refresh, and not any big changes were monitored in SERP but some websites were hit hard by this update.
More webmasters got to understand the nature of Penguin updates and at the same time Google stopped refreshing Penguin index. It has been more than an year now that Google has not rolled any updates.
As John Mueller said on Hangout, “if hit by Penguin update, you do not only have to clean up and disavow your bad backlinks, but you also need a complete rerun of Penguin for visibility and traffic recovery.”
If you wish to know that your site is hit by Penguin then this tool will help you analyze. The tool fetches your traffic trends from SEMrush and marks when exactly Penguin was rolled.
Google is working hard these days to roll their next version of Penguin, supposedly called 3.0, which is supposed to check unnatural link building to the next level. It is supposed to refresh at a higher pace, may be on a monthly basis as Panda rolled back in the year 2011 and 2012.
Penguin 3.0 (#6) – October 2014
Google released sixth in succession, Penguin 3.0, after break of an year. The update started rolling on Friday Oct 17th and confirmed by Google on Sunday Oct 19th. Lot of webmasters noticed drop in their rankings while many of them recovered. The nature of this update is not clear yet but this update looks big.