Why Does It Take So Long for Google to Release a Penguin Update?
Google's Penguin algorithm update is one of the most contentious aspects of the search engine. Many website owners fear the Penguin because of its seeming ability to crush businesses. SEO experts around the world debate whether Penguin is a sign of Google's overarching evil.
But aren't penguins kind of cute? How can something that seems so harmless cause such problems?
Okay, maybe some clarification is in order. Of all the website owners in the world, only a very small portion are afraid of Penguin. Only a tiny fraction of websites are ever negatively affected by Penguin. And the vast majority of true SEO experts don't believe Google is evil, nor do they believe Penguin is a horrible plague upon the world's businesses. Yet Penguin continues to get a bad rap.
For those who don't know the history of Google's Penguin, here's the briefest of summaries (in handy bullet point format):
- Penguin is an algorithm update targeting websites that attempt to use unnatural or spammy link profiles to "game" the search results
- It's widely believed that a site can only recover from a Penguin demotion when the algorithm updates again
- Google typically goes a LONG time in between Penguin updates
The last official Penguin update occurred in October 2014. Since then, there have been many rumors about new Penguin updates. These rumors are typically based on the constant fluctuations of the search results. The fact that various Google employees often vaguely discuss plans for the next Penguin release only adds fuel to these rumors. It's important to understand that Google does not officially announce when a Penguin update will occur. Or at least it hasn't in the past. Rather, the search engine typically only confirms a release after the fact.
The biggest problem most people have with Penguin isn't the fact that it exists. It's the fact that it takes so long for Google to update the thing. There's this misguided notion that Google is supposed to bend over backwards to cater to all webmasters, including those who have violated Google's guidelines in the past.
It makes sense that we expect so much of Google. After all, it is the most powerful search engine in the world. But it goes way beyond that. Google is so much more than a search engine. In a certain sense, Google runs the world. In a more accurate sense, Google has a huge influence on the world. Especially the business world. How many businesses have made a fortune because of Google? And how many have lost a fortune because they relied too much on Google?
So how can something so powerful take so long to do something as simple as update an algorithm that has such a strong impact on businesses? Here are a few things to consider:
1. Google Wants to Get It Right
As the world's most popular search engine, Google wants to provide the best search results possible. Penguin is one aspect of this. It's a small piece of a much larger algorithm. If Google released a Penguin update that wasn't ready or didn't produce the desired impact, then the search results could suffer. Searchers may have a harder time finding what they really need. A new Penguin update isn't designed to "un-penalize" websites. It's designed to further improve the way web spam is detected and cleaned up, and consequently further improve the results for any given search query.
2. Google Wants to Make It Better
Google has no intention of being a static thing. This is a company constantly on the cutting edge of technology. As Google pursues AI and self-driving cars, a Penguin update might seem like child's play. But the opposite is actually true. Releasing a Penguin update that isn't a vast improvement over the current Penguin does no good for Google. The next Penguin must be better. It must be a leap beyond the Penguin of yesterday. It must catch web spam the previous Penguin didn't, and it must avoid hurting those websites that aren't guilty. This is no easy task, especially when we've been told the next Penguin will be a real-time algorithm. It's supposed to be a lot better, but it's vital for Google to make sure it actually is a lot better before launching it into the world.
3. Google doesn't owe us Penguin
We seem to take Google for granted. If our website doesn't rank number one in the search results, we blame Google. We make statements about how Google is ruining our businesses. If we get hit by Penguin, we demand that Google fix it. But Google doesn't owe us anything. Google as a search engine intends to deliver the search results that will help searchers find the most relevant and appropriate results. It's not a free advertising service. It's not a phone book. We are not entitled to a top ranking on Google. If we want to get there, we have to work hard—and within Google's guidelines. We have to provide the content and experience that satisfies the needs of searchers. If we do this, we should do well in Google. But Google never promised us anything. Although Google wants to release Penguin, it's not the company's top priority. It's not even close. And it shouldn't be.
If your website has been hit by Penguin, it may feel good to point the finger at Google. It's easy to blame someone else. It's easy to demand the search engine cater to our every need. But that's not Google's job. And our job is to cater to the needs of our customers. It's hard to do that if we're constantly sitting around griping about Google and the next Penguin.
While we're waiting, we may want to identify problems in our own businesses. If we deliver the best possible product or service and meet all the needs of our customers, then no Penguin can hurt us.