A Large Penguin Update Coming in 2013

Talking at SMX West, Matt Cutts has announced there will be a ‘Large Penguin Update’ in 2013. This will actually be the third penguin update since it first hit last April. I thought I would take this opportunity, to take a look at what Google may be aiming at.

Since the use of link networks got hit in 2012, people have had to think differently when it comes to link building. In many cases, people will go for the easy links that take the least amount of work to build. It should come as no surprise that Google is releasing another Penguin update, the surprise for me, is that they have announced it early.

Since the fateful night in April last year, people have been link building with other methods; I believe this next update will hit any poor quality alternative people have been using since Penguin first struck.

Every link building technique can be seen as spam!

Directory Submissions

Historically, people used to do directory submissions on mass; it wasn’t hard to submit to 1000 directories with the click of a button. Google did take action on directory submissions in the first update; companies built networks of directories so they could provide a directory submission service.

Directory submissions do still have a place however. Not the 1000 submission for $1 type submissions, but good quality niche or localised directories. Google still places emphasis on finding websites data to collaborate their Google places listings.

Google may be widening the net on what it sees as poor quality directories

Social Bookmarks

Something I feel offers very little unless it’s completely natural. The social bookmarking scene has some amazing websites, when your story, article or infographic gets picked up, it can drive great traffic and build natural links.

The dark side to social bookmarking appears when the bookmarking sites have a default template design, they probably have very little traffic and many of the pages don’t have a purpose.

Google may be clamping down further on poor bookmarking websites

Blog Commenting

Not something I have ever done myself, but I’ve seen it work for good and evil. I’ve seen websites get to the top of search for competitive terms with a long standing blog comment strategy; the key is to make the comments worth wile, Make sure your commenting on real stories and adding value to the thread.

The dark side is 10,000 blog comments for $15 of eBay. People still do this! Awful comments appearing on pages with 1000’s of other awful comments. I believe this is an area that Google needs to work on. I’ve seen a website drop and get a links message. After finding these blog comments, I disavowed the domains with the comments on. The all clear message came through and the rankings came back 15 positions below the previous positions. That means the 10’000 blog comments were providing a gain of 15 positions in the search results.

I think the next update could include some tougher action on blog comment spam. Extremely large amounts of comment spam can trigger messages, I think the thresh hold will be lowered as it is still working in some cases.


Big in the news recently, an example made of Interflora for over egging their use of advertorials. The big issue for Google, an advertorial is a paid link which can pass PageRank.

There is still a place for advertorials. In places such as local business pages or larger publications where people may actually read the advert. Make sure the link is no followed and you shouldn’t have an issue with them from that angle.

It’s possible that Google’s action on Interflora was a testing ground for part of the algorithm update. The first time Google rolled out Penguin, it was a very manual update, they manually needed to verify the algorithm was correct, hence lots of messages and reinclusions with lots of link data in them.

Press Releases

Something that has brought some great results over the last few months. Press releases can give good gains in the search results, especially for the smaller, localised websites.

Can Google penalise press releases? Sure they can, a press release will go out and you will get a base level of websites that will publish it, they publish everything that comes through. If you’re not producing a newsworthy press release, then you will never get the better links they can provide, do this to often, and you are left with article bank type links.

Guest Blogging

Now to the popular one, everybody has been talking a lot about guest blogging, Matt Cutts has commented on it in his webmaster videos. It’s not ground breaking advice, if it’s done in a spammy way, then it’s not good.

There are a few guest blogging services out there that are used by many agencies at the moment, they are quite good in the fact that, if they don’t believe your guest post is good enough they will take it down and tell you it’s not good enough, after all, they are not running a spam service, they want to connect people with great content which isnt a bad thing.

One thing they don’t do is stop the same websites from bidding and publishing every bit of content they can. Yes, it’s down to the person giving over the content, but there are a lot of bloggers that simply populate their blogs with content from blogging services, there is little value in the blog itself, and almost all live blogs have outbound links in them. Again, they are almost identical to article bank websites that got hit 10 months ago.

I think guest blogging will be a big part of Google’s update as its one of the big tactics being used at the moment. I don’t think the quality of the content will be the main issue, I believe it will be the quality of the website your content is appearing on. I do believe this will feature in Google’s update though.


Google is updating its Penguin algorithm and it is probably being updated to target the low quality link building methods people have moved onto since networks stopped working.

Individually, all the methods of link building above can and do still work. If you do any type of link building to excess though, then you are putting yourself in a position that Google may not like.

3 Responses to A Large Penguin Update Coming in 2013

  1. Rob Bromilow

    Hi Gary, yeah I agree with you on a lot of what Google could be about to clamp down on – especially the Guest blogging.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the companies who’ve done guest blogging for quantity and purely links purposes are affected, compared to those that have gone for quality links and relevant domains.

  2. Gary

    Hiya Rob, yeah, like i mention, i think quality Guest blogs will be ok, its the guest bloggers that only publish guest blogs that i think will be effected.

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