Google’s Penguin algorithm has cleaned up the internet, there’s no mistaking that—but have they gone too far? Has Google possibly lost control over their own system? Why is it that Penguin hasn’t refreshed since October 2013 (as of date written)?
While the Penguin algorithm has certainly cleaned the web of spammy sites that used black-hat SEO to get ahead, it’s hit some victims of negative SEO hard, as well. Many of the websites in both groups have spent a lot of time—not to mention, money—rectifying their situation, only to be left hanging in limbo, waiting for the Penguin algorithm to update.
How Does the Penguin Algorithm Work?
In 2012, Google set the Penguin algorithm loose on the internet, aiming to seek out and punish sites that had spammy backlinks—links from totally unrelated websites and blogs. If you were a plumber, and had backlinks from an art gallery website, Penguin would bury you in the SERP (search engine results page).
Formerly an effective, if dishonest, way to boost search results, these links, and other black-hat SEO techniques, now have Google penalties that some companies have found it difficult to come back from.
How Can the Penguin Algorithm be a Bad Thing?
In theory, Penguin is a great idea. There are millions of companies on the internet that have spent money on genuine, white-hat SEO, and these companies have benefitted greatly. Unfortunately, however, there’s another group of less honest companies that have also found a way to benefit from the Penguin algorithm, in a way that Google likely didn’t expect.
Penguin has been taken advantage of by several companies on the internet that claim to be experts in “negative SEO”.
What is Negative SEO?
An underhanded, dishonest way of boosting your own search engine results, negative SEO was made possible, by Google, with Penguin.
Negative SEO requires locating your main competition in the SERPs, and using this new form of corporate espionage to take them out. It involves doing anything and everything to lower your competition’s SERP ratings, by causing Google to penalize them. Since Penguin, the easiest way to do this is with spammy backlinks to your competitors’ sites.
Negative SEO being the online equivalent to smear campaigns, one can only hope that Google finds a way to differentiate between the sites using black-hat web-spam, and victims of negative SEO.
Stuck in Limbo
The last time that Google refreshed was in October 2013. Any sites that had been penalized then, are still being penalized, regardless of how much they’ve done to get back on Google’s good side. There are very good reasons why Google doesn’t tell the public when they will be refreshing again, but 10 months of being punished for something you haven’t even done, is harsh.
Rest assured though, that if you’ve been trapped in Penguin’s limbo, you likely don’t have long to wait—Google’s longest break before this one was 7 months, and it’s already been 10.