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The Great Penguin Attack of ’14 That Wasn’t

Written by Kurt Steinbrueck

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Rock Hopper PenguinThe Penguin.  The mighty and ferocious beast created in a horrible experiment-that-went-wrong in a secret Google lab which strikes terror in the hearts of all webmasters everywhere.  Rumors were flying that this frightening aquatic fowl was on the prowl once again, looking to devour it’s next victims.  Webmasters ran for cover and hid in their homes hoping not to run afoul of this monster.  But now it’s here and it looks less like a monster and more like your standard, run of the mill, harmless Antarctic bird.

The Build Up:
It’s been over a year since Google released their last Penguin update.  (Penguin is Google’s algorithm that looks for spammy link building.  You can read more about it here.)


A lot of people were getting antsy, especially those whose websites were hurt by the last Penguin update, had fixed the issues with their links, and were waiting for an update so they could regain their rankings.


Then a few weeks ago Google engineer said at a conference that the next Penguin update would come out in a week or so after some final testing and it was going to be a complete re-write not just a refresh of the same algorithm.  (Hear the collective gasp of horror).


Finally, last Friday the rankings started moving around…a little and the SEO’s went nuts (cause that’s what we do).

And then…

The Reality:
DSCN0068Google confirmed over the weekend that they had finally released the next Penguin update.  Unlike the warning from the engineer, it wasn’t a complete re-write, it was just a refresh.  In fact, even though it’s still being rolled out (and will be for a couple weeks), it’s only expected to affect about 1% of searches in the U.S.  To put it another way, 99% of searches won’t see any difference at all.  In fact, there may be more sites which are seeing recovery from fixing their link issues than sites swallowing the bitter pill from having done a bunch of spammy link building.

And so another week passes.  I have to wonder, though…

  • If all Google was going to do is roll our a refresh using the same old algorithm, why wait an entire year?
  • Was the Google engineer mistaken or is it possible that Google was going to roll out a complete re-write, but the tests went poorly and they went with plan B?
  • If so, is the real Penguin update, the complete re-write, just a month or two away once they fix the issues that came up in testing?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Share Your Thoughts:

  • What do you think about all this Penguin update hubbub?  Does it worry you?  Do you care?
  • Have you changed your link building strategies because of Penguin?
  • Do you have a link building strategy?
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About the author

Kurt Steinbrueck

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .


  • We've had a few people contact us recently and ask us to remove links that are perfectly legitimate. It makes me wonder if Google wasn't trying to scare site owners into removing or nofollow'ing links they think may be in a gray area for fear of a penalty. Sometimes dramatic warnings can be more effective in changing behavior than enforcement.

    • It could be. We really don't know. What we do know is that what Google is trying to do is extremely difficult and there are tons of ways they can not only fail to accomplish what they want (removing spammy link value), but also make things worse both for their results and by destroying people's online businesses by mistake. So, if they can get webmasters to fix the links for them by giving the appearance of a threat, I'm sure they'd be happy to do it.

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