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Google Search: Penguin Update or Core Algorithm Change?

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Over the past two weeks search experts and site owners have noticed out of the ordinary changes in the SERPs. Results are dancing back and forth between their original ranking and higher/lower positions, seemingly at random. Unfortunately this type of variable change does not lend any sufficient clues as to what Google is currently up to. Search forums have been abuzz with discussion that the fluctuations are signs of the eminent Penguin update set to officially make its appearance in early 2016. Google has confirmed these changes are not part of the Penguin update rather a core algorithm change.

What is a Penguin Algorithm?

Google Penguin in natural habitat

Let’s deal with Penguin first. Google released Penguin in 2012 to penalize sites that were gaining rankings through link buying (i.e. black hat SEO). An important check and balance in Google’s core algorithm is a website’s backlink count and quality. Among many other important variables, the more high quality links that link back to a website the more legitimate a website appears and therefore the higher the site will potentially rank.

This process is commonly referred to as link building. Before Penguin, SEOs had the ability to game the system by buying large amounts of fake “high quality” links. As the internet world progressed so did the demand for accurate search results – users are no longer landing on pages with the most backlinks (quality or not), rather landing on pages catered to their actual intended search. Google regularly updates its algorithms to ensure sites are up-to-date and not bending any core Google guidelines.

Site Changes to Expect, Core Algorithm vs. Penguin

For both updates, the predicted changes would affect a site’s overall rankings from pages 1-2 and/or keyword rankings associated with any landing pages. Regardless of any current or upcoming changes, links should always be earned not bought. Updating a website’s backlinks effectively will always improve rankings.

Without over-complicating the lives of business owners, the best plan of action is to keep any website looking as clean and easy-to-navigate as possible. Following Google’s guidelines and dedicating an allotted amount of time each week to reading articles from industry thought leaders will ensure entrepreneurs are always on the cusp of any breaking algorithms.  

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