Google rolled out version three of its Penguin algorithm a few weeks back, and SEO folk everywhere took note. The original Penguin was released in April, and targeted sites that Google considers spam. (In contrast to last year’s Panda, which went after low-quality sites, Penguin is built to weed out violators of Google’s anti-spam guidelines.)

What’s new with Penguin 3

Victims of Penguin’s wrath include keyword-stuffed sites, link schemes (manipulation of links to or from a site), “cloaking” (showing search engines and users different content), and content that’s purposefully duplicated from other pages.

With each update, Penguin has gotten smarter. The first version of the algorithm affected 3.1 percent of sites across the web; the latest update affected just 0.3 percent, as most sneaky sites have already been sorted out.

Who cares? You might be wondering. If you’re not one of the sad content creators still trying to boost rankings the shady way, you’ve got nothing to worry about, right? Well, yes and no. If you’re following Google’s quality guidelines and aren’t doing anything clearly unethical, you shouldn’t get hit too hard. On the other hand, you could be racking up penalties unintentionally.

For example, maybe you haven’t updated your site in a while, and some of your outbound links are now defunct. Or maybe you have just one more keyword per paragraph than Penguin likes. You may not notice a huge ranking change, but you’ll pay the price.

How to fight back

What’s an upstanding SEO manager to do? Stay informed on updates like Penguin. There are plenty of plugins and software you can download to make sure you’re in the clear (I use free plugin SEOquake). Also, check out SEO news sites, blogs, and head Google spam-slayer Matt Cutts’ infamous Twitter feed.

At Atomic, we keep our clients’ websites search-friendly by running a checkup every few months using a checklist of SEO guidelines. Staying current and updating regularly saves us time in the long run—and ensures that we’re prepared for what’s ahead. That way, when the SEO gods at Google unleash their next beast (Platypus? Prairie Dog?), we’ll be ready for it.

SEO still a total mystery? Contact Atomic and we’ll help you fight off Penguin and Panda alike.

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