Editorial: Google Penguin. Fin.

We take a look at how the long delays of the next Penguin Update may have caused havoc to small businesses.

Imagine this...


"Heck." "That meeting did not go well at all," Catt Mutts said ominously. "We've really got to teach all those spammers a lesson, or I'll be forced to take a sabbatical, and you will have to take over. Management is serious about this. They are getting so many complaints about spammers dominating the search results."

"I know Mutts, I know," said Mohn Jueller. "I may have an idea."

Chapter 1.

Emma strolled confidently into the meeting. It was a warm sunny September day. Things were good. Really good.

"First order of business," said Emma. "Looks like we are going to have to take on more staff soon. Online sales are through the roof."

The online store had been doing extremely well recently. Ever since Emma hired the SEO company that contacted them via email a few months ago. Initial doubts soon passed as traffic to the website increased fairly sharply over the last few months. Initially, Emma was dubious about paying $50 per month for search engine optimization services, but they guaranteed page one or she could get her money back. It seemed to could to be true.

Emma continued, "To think, just a few months ago our business was really struggling. Thank you all for working hard to make this a success."

A month goes by.

####. ####.

Arrrgh. Emma woke in a sweat. Something was wrong. They haven't had any sales all week. Her SEO company had vanished. She tried to contact them a hundred times, but nothing.

She logs into Google Analytics. Disbelief. There was hardly anyone visiting the website.

She doesn't know it yet, but no matter she does for the next 18 months or so. She is screwed.

She scours the internet for answers. Eventually, she speaks to a new SEO company, who says not to worry.

You see, your old SEO company used black hat techniques to spam hundreds of low-quality backlinks at your website. While they worked very well for a short time, Google specifically introduced the Penguin algorithm to counter this strategy. In fact, any links created solely to manipulate the search results are bad. Your drop in traffic coincides perfectly with the recent Penguin update.

The new SEO company continued to lecture Emma on what the old company had done. There were many hundreds of forum, footer, and comment links among a variety of other types. All worthless, and toxic. They had to be removed or disavowed.

The new SEO company said that they can easily fix it within months, and for only $5000. They will run a detailed link audit and disavow all the bad links.

Emma stutters, "f, f, f, five thousand?" She doesn't know where she will find the money, but she will have to. She does.

A month goes by. The problem is fixed. The disavow file has been submitted. It is now a matter of waiting. She is told that Google won’t recognize the problem is fixed until they refresh the algorithm. It should be fairly soon.

Each month she is told the same.

Soon. Six months go by.

Nine months.

A year.


She doesn't know if her business will survive. What can she do? All the SEO news websites are reporting that Google says Penguin will be updated soon. She tries to hold on, after all, how much longer can Google make her wait. She has one chance to survive this.

Fifteen months go by.

Too late. That is it. It’s over. Emma was lucky to last this long. A combination of Social Media and AdWords kept her alive, but it wasn’t enough. The money has run out.

Fin. The end.


John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst at Google, said Friday,

We don’t have a specific date on the update for the Penguin algorithm but in talking to the team, they feel they are getting closer and closer, and I am hoping that it is not too far in the future.


We have been following all the Penguin related news for the last year.  It now almost seems cruel to report any positive signs of an update to our readers. We feel that any credibility Google has over the timing of the Penguin update is almost worthless. Of course, eventually, we will be wrong about that.

Even Gary Illyes, webmaster trends analyst at Google, realizes their credibility is suffering. Illyes said back in March 2016 at SMX, that “he’s not going to give dates for Penguin anymore because he’s been wrong too many times and it’s bad for business.”

Really, how long do people have to wait? Is this fair? Is it becoming of a major company like Google to treat its users in this way, even if it is just a moral obligation?

We understand the need to keep spammers at bay, but it almost feels like they have had a field day over the last 18 months, while some legitimate businesses have suffered through no fault of their own.

We desperately need the promised “real-time” version of Penguin.  That way, legitimate businesses who have made errors in their SEO strategy can recover in a reasonable period while at the same time keeping those spammers at bay.

Further reading:

Disclaimer: Our story is made up.

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