It has been over a year since Google rolled out an update to their Penguin algorithm, and they’ve been hinting at the possibility of a new one for quite some time. We’ve been around long enough to know that a Google hint is something to be taken seriously. As of October 17, the update is live and gradually being rolled out to websites over the coming weeks. If you’ve noticed a change in rankings and organic search traffic, Penguin is most likely to blame (for better or worse). Needless to say, it’s important to be proactive in diagnosing and correcting the problems you are being penalized for so that you can recover and protect your site from future updates.

What is Penguin?

There has been a lot of chatter over Panda and its recent update, so you may need a refresh on what Penguin is. The Penguin algorithm was initially launched in 2012 with the intention of identifying websites that were using webspam as a means to help them rank higher in search results. Poor sites were penalized by reducing their visibility in search, while good sites were rewarded with better placement. The biggest ranking factor that Penguin covers is external links. As with any Penguin update, there’s a chance that any website can be affected by 3.0.

What Makes 3.0 Different?

In order to be proactive against Penguin updates, the best you can do for your site involves building natural, valuable and authoritative links while providing good content. There are some unique qualities to 3.0, though. Like other Penguin updates, the goal is to cut down on spammy websites and improve overall search results for users. The algorithms continue to get more sophisticated, so we can expect to see more accuracy and intuitiveness with this update.

Right now, it’s anybody’s guess as to how many sites will be affected, but it’s believed that the update affects a limited number of sites significantly rather than affecting a large number of sites on a smaller scale. If this is true, this means that the worst offenders of spam will see a significant drop in rankings, while sites that are building natural links may see a small improvement.

Should You Be Worried?

Most impactful updates only affect between 1-4 percent of all search queries, so unless you are a serious offender of poor quality links, you probably won’t be hit. Still, it’s important to look at your rankings and your organic search traffic and note if/how they’ve changed over the days. If you notice a sharp drop in rankings that occurred over the weekend, chances are good that you were hit by Penguin. If everything looks the same, you’re probably safe, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be hit by a rebound of the update. Of course, there’s always a possibility that Google could roll out a refresh in the coming weeks or months.

What If You Were Hit?

If your rankings did drop, then it’s time to take action. First, identify bad links and onsite spam. When you find them, remove them if possible. Contact the webmasters in charge of the source sites and ask them to remove the link. If they refuse or ignore your request, use the disavow tool in Google Webmaster Tools to signify to Google that you wish to have your site disassociated from any spam links pointing to it. Finally, reassess your strategy going forward. Make an effort to build a better content strategy that attracts natural links around the web.