Today, Google's Pierre Far, cleared up some of the confusion in regards to what is happening with the latest Penguin rerun. He said that it was a refresh that was designed to help sites who had cleaned up and also demote sites with newly found spam. A lot of people are confused about the difference between a Penguin refresh and and update so I thought I would write a quick post to explain this.
A refresh of one of Google's algorithms simply means that they ran the algorithm again without changing any of the signals. An update means the factors and calculations that the algorithm uses have changed. Both are similar and here is why...
An analogy would be to look at the engine of a car. A refresh of the car's engine would occur when you turn it on. But, an update means that you've changed some parts of the engine, or perhaps tinkered with the way that it processes gasoline and oil and then turned it on.
What does this mean in terms of Penguin?
A refresh of the Penguin algorithm means that the exact same signals have been used as in the last update which was October 4, 2013. This is why we are seeing fewer reports of hits and why those sites that are getting hit are ones with fresh links that are horrendously unnatural. So far, all of the requests for help that I have had for sites that took a hit with Penguin are from sites with really, really unnatural links. At some point, when Google does run an update of the Penguin algorithm, it is going to look quite different. The update will likely find ways to find other types of unnatural links that previously went undetected by Penguin. Perhaps the update will be able to detect guest posts made solely for the purpose of gaining links or perhaps it will get better at detecting links that come from private blog networks.
This refresh will take a few weeks to roll out. I'm not sure why it will take so long. Sites that have worked hard to clean up their link profiles should see some improvement. The reason why Google pushed this refresh now is likely because of the public outcry from site owners who have done everything that Google suggests and yet their business is still suffering because of Penguin. The real question I have is why it took over a year for this to happen.
When will Penguin update?
John Mueller hinted in a hangout yesterday that it will take a few more months before an update happens. He said, "The holiday season is coming soon and I don't think we want to cause too much fuss there." So, look for an update perhaps in the new year.
What if you didn't recover?
If you have done a thorough cleanup and you're still not seeing your rankings increase then there are two possible reasons for this:
1. The rollout is not yet complete - Pierre Farr from Google said it will take a few weeks for this rollout to completely finish.
2. You need to be more thorough - If the rollout completes and you still aren't seeing improvement then you may need to be even more thorough at finding and removing or disavowing your unnatural links and then wait for the next refresh or update.
Hopefully that clears up some of the confusion. But, I'm happy to answer questions if you have any.
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