Google Penguin 3.0, the search engine’s latest significant algorithm update, is still rolling out across the festive period–over 7 weeks since the original launch. It’s clear that the search engine rankings of a variety of businesses continue to be affected, with traffic lost at a key time of the year. In this article, I will guide you through diagnosis and speedy recovery.

If your website has experienced a significant change in traffic, or fall in enquiries since October, it could be attributed to Google’s latest significant algorithm update: Penguin 3.0. It’s important to be proactive to achieve an easy recovery: gain a brief understanding of how Google’s algorithms work, before analysing how aspects of your digital strategy could have resulted in a penalty.

What Is the Penguin Algorithm?

The Google search engine searches and presents the answers to users’ queries by using algorithms. This is a written logic created and updated by their developers, which sifts through millions of webpages to display ones that are as relevant and useful as possible to users. The best pages’ ranks are increased relative to others, by analysing a variety of factors such as links from reputable sources.

The Google Penguin algorithm first influenced websites’ search engine rankings back in April 2012, where it pushed down websites that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This algorithm particularly targets websites that are over optimised and have poor backlink profiles. The end result of not satisfying Google Penguin’s terms and conditions is being issued with penalties, which decreases websites’ visibility on SERPs (search engine results pages).

What Does Penguin 3.0 Do?

In mid-October 2014, Google began the Penguin 3.0 rollout worldwide. Like its predecessors, Penguin 3.0 penalises and eliminates websites that have poor backlink profiles. In a nutshell, this update is more of a ‘refresh’, as no new signals have been added to track penalties. Version 3.0 aims to achieve two things:

    1. Free fixed websites from penalties issued (against spam) by previous rollouts of the Penguin algorithm.
    2. Penalise websites that have either not picked up on previous issues, or have since developed new ones. It particularly targets with unnatural, link-infested backlink profiles: the technical term for the profile of links pointing back to your domain.

If the first applies to your website, congratulations - you’re free from the Penguin! Just ensure you maintain as healthy a backlink profile as you can, and you’ll continue to swim against penalties from this algorithm.

If the latter applies, you’ve got a bit more work to do...

Diagnosis of Penguin 3.0

To see if you have been hit by the Penguin 3.0 update, follow the steps below:

    1. Observe your search engine rankings (for crucial keywords) and organic search traffic, by month since the update.
    2. Analyse whether both of these have changed significantly since the algorithm update in October.
    3. If there is no substantial difference, continue to monitor your traffic over the coming weeks (as the update is still rolling) and carry on with your previous SEO work.
    4. If you’ve noticed a substantial difference, it’s likely you’ve been affected by a penalty in some way – so continue reading through to achieve full recovery.

Recovering from Penguin 3.0

This can be a long-term process, so do not be dismayed if it seems that a quick-fix is proving to be near impossible for now. There are several things that you can do to fix your penalty and get back on track with your rankings for crucial keywords, as simplified in the following steps.

Step 1: Identify your bad links

  • Examples of bad links: paid links (excluding advertising), links from irrelevant websites and non-industry specific directories
  • Identifying bad links: Tools which can assist you with this task include Google Webmaster Tools or Link Detox

Step 2: Remove bad links

  • Contact the administrators of the websites hosting these ‘bad links’, and ask for removal.
  • If this isn’t possible, you can turn to Google’s Disavow Tool. This lets them know you wish to disavow (or remove) the relationship between your website and the bad source of links.

Step 3: Content strategy

  • A refined, achievable content strategy is the key to building better links on higher-quality, more reputable websites: you must earn those links!
  • So what’s a content strategy? In a nutshell, it is a strategic plan of creating, delivering and managing customer information in all the possible places, whether on print or online, that they can be searched in. The strategy must be created so that information is always at hand for the consumer in every stage of the buying process.
  • A great content marketing strategy guide from the Content Marketing Institute can set you off on the right path.

Step 4: What else could cause this penalty?

  • Monitor anchor text diversity: Anchor text is the copy used to point a link back to your domain. Google has cracked down on companies that constantly use keyword-targeted anchor text on other sites, issuing penalties. You can still create some links using keyword terms, but the majority should use your brand name.
  • No follow links: These are links that do not pass on any value in terms of SEO. For example, the no-follow code is often implemented on free comment systems, integrated into news sites or blogs, where anything could be posted! Even if you have a link placed on the BBC website, if they have ‘no-follow’ implemented, you will not receive SEO value from that link. However, Google realises it’s natural to have a few of these (and they can have some benefits!). Monitor these to ensure that Google’s spiders will detect your backlinks as relevant, natural and coming from a linking source that Google deems as having ‘high authority’.
  • Deep link ratio: Deep link ratio is the percentage of your website’s inbound links that land on pages other than your homepage. This provides better user experience by sending users to a deeper page within your website that will be more likely to be relevant to the information they are after.
  • We created a similar article after Google released Penguin 2.0 back in May 2013, so I recommend you have a read of this as well. It will help you develop a great SEO strategy, and all the content is still relevant for removing Penguin penalties issued by this refresh.


In mid-December, a Google spokesperson stated they aim to continuously update and optimise the Penguin algorithm. Therefore, you must constantly revisit and build on your SEO and content strategy not just to help you find (and win) prospects for your business, but to better position yourself when Google rolls out future updates of the Penguin algorithm. Remember, fixing penalties can take a long time, so make sure that you diagnose and begin taking steps toward recovery as soon as possible.

On a lighter note, this particular Penguin update may well be a blessing in disguise for some businesses. If you make a strong effort to clean up your backlink profile, your businesses could attain much higher rankings for crucial keywords than before being issued a penalty!

If you would like to receive more information or need help with refreshing your SEO or content strategy, please get in touch.