The Penguin 3 Crisis
On Friday October 17th Google released what people are calling Penguin 3. The algo had a strong but muted signal – many of the listening stations around the web did not even pick it up.
Early Saturday morning, I did a Penguin 3 live report, CNN style, of the ongoing crisis where industry experts around the globe reported on what they saw emerging in this release, and argued as to what the future might hold for destroyed webmasters.
But they also noticed something FAR more sinister. Many sites, both blackhat and "white hat" were hit by negative SEO that penguin 3 picked up. Links made by other people in the last few months, killed their rankings.
Penguin 3 Facts:
Initial Roll-out Oct 17th (global)
On Oct 21 JM and PF did (finally) post that Penguin was released friday. That it affected ~1% US queries. And that it was a "multi-week" rollout, which is a way of saying they are still tweaking and testing.
On Oct 24 JM announced (in HOA) it was an "update." No other info. Would not confirm for sure whether it would be a faster refresh cycle or not, as was previously promised by Gary Illyes at SMX East. -- This is all after much prodding and direct questioning
On Oct 24 Barry reported big SERP shifts w/ previous penguin sites, so likely penguin tweaks going on.
Many white hat and black hat sites have complained of negative seo in this update. JM has asked me to send any negative SEO sites in this update directly to him.
Nov 3 - JM mentioned today that P3 was still "rolling out as far as he knows" and that the recent disavow data is not being used. This does not add up. Ignoring that this makes it impossible to know when you were hit by penguin (b/c panda and other algos rollout during this time) penguin is an "on/off" thing. And it would use the disavow data (if that data was used at all - or did anything - see next point). So either way this is more misinformation. Intentional. Or otherwise.
Fix? NO cases of a pure disavow recovery can yet be confirmed after testing 12+ sites -- thus, the only confirmed fix is link deletion of all the over optimized anchor text links and wait for refresh -- or 2-3 penguin "hacks", which I cannot disclose publicly (email me)
After coming back (early?) from his vacation on Sunday October 19th, Barry Schwartz (of seroundtable.com) was finally able to get Google Public Relations to admit begrudgingly that yes, they had released a version of penguin.
They would provide no more information.
On Monday October 20th John Mueller, Google Web Master Trends Analyst, had a regular hangout on air (HOA). He was asked repeatedly about penguin.
He refused to answer any questions about it at that time.
He had none of the regular information they normally provide. Percentage of queries affected, when they released it, etc.
When I asked if they planned on getting us that information in the future, John said he didn't know.... (?!?!?!)
He refused to either confirm or deny whether they were going to get us any information at any time.
The Immorality of Misinformation
Information is control.
That Google chooses to purposely disenfranchise small to medium size businesses is undemocratic, it is unethical, it is the action of a Machiavellian global business, made all the more painful that their motto is (was):
"Don't Be Evil"
But that they also now refrain from telling us when these algorithms even run, so that we can properly diagnose what algo hit what site – thus making cost-effective our crisis clean-up attempts is simply unacceptable.
This Penguin release, and the misinformation surrounding it, is nothing short of a digital 9/11 attack on webmasters.
The SEOs who try to clean it up and literally save businesses are heroes.
I strongly urge Google to have the moral fortitude it claims to have, and announce, at the very least when Penguin is released.
Penguin can kill businesses as surely as cancer can kill people.
We need to know when it was released, and any other information we can gather from them, in order to fix it in a timely fashion.
Maybe Cutts Was Our Ally?
Matt Cutts (former) head of Webspam at Google, went on "indefinite leave" 4 months ago. He was to return from his "vacation" in October. This month. At the time of this writing (Oct 20th) he has yet to return.
I had a private conversation with Matt a couple months before he went on "vacation." You can read about that discussion here.
And although he told me many things I found unethical, never, NEVER, would Matt not announce when a major algorithm like this was released.
Matt, in the end, may have been SEOs greatest ally at Google. In fact, he did tell me in that convo that yes he did try to be as good to SEOs as he could. He intimated, in fact, he was a strong voice for webmasters and SEOs in those meetings.
He almost pleaded with me to believe him.
Maybe he saw this coming? Maybe he stood against this trend of Google deciding to be even more unethical and not announce when algos are released, to hamper our clean up efforts?
Or maybe he was given the golden handshake.
The Devil You Know
In the end, if this is going to be Google's new modus operandi, "Tell them nothing. Hit them hard. Screw the edge cases" then I don't see much difference between their method of operation, and any other totalitarian regime.
Google's conduct in this crisis to this date is entirely hurtful, and unacceptable.
They should be ashamed of themselves.
They should take Matt back if he will go.
And they should not be sleeping so well at night.