Penguin 3.1 follow-up

Few days ago I wrote about Penguin 3.1 being released. Forums, blogs and social media are buzzing; however, due to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, there is still not too much data out there, neither has Google confirmed it officially.

Penguin 3.1 = recovery only?
I have been working on quite a lot of websites hit by Penguin 3.0. I am shocked to see that 100% of my Penguin 3.0 clients with audits done have recovered. The last update was a huge disappointment for me and for many other webmasters. Dan Petrovic wrote even a separate post about his disappointment in Penguin 3.0. With Penguin 3.1, it is definitely not the case we are looking at! Recoveries are spectacular and very difficult not to notice.

One more thing that Barry Schwartz noticed in his post here, was that:

Virtually all these guys are seeing recoveries on their Penguin sites. I don't see many complaining about being hit by Penguin as a negative hit but mostly recoveries. So this would be a nice Thanksgiving treat for those who were hit but for all those who rank higher now, someone must rank lower.

I agree, I also didn't see any Penguin related drops in the last few days. It seems that my theory that Penguin 3.1 could be a recovery algorithm might be right after all.

Thanksgiving made it really difficult to diagnose traffic spikes as most of my customers in the US had really good traffic. Therefore, I was mostly looking at organic rankings in Google to confirm my findings.

Let me show you one case that I got a green light from my client to publish. It explains recent happenings quite well.

I have been working on this website for quite a while now and it was one of my biggest disappointments with Penguin 3.0. The owner of this website spent months cleaning spammy links only to see ~5% increase in traffic after Penguin 3.0.

When I saw a few recoveries in Google position checker, ExtremeTacticalDynamics came to my mind. I rushed to their dashboard to check the rankings, and the results were outstanding. What I saw was beyond my greatest expectations.

Stats before the recovery:

before Penguin 3.1 recovery

Stats on November 27th 2014.

Penguin 3.1 recovery

300 more keywords ranking in top 10 and 45 extra keywords in top 3.

Is the position checker OK? 

Believe me, those were my concerns too. Even though I saw the spikes only on Penguin websites  (I tracked rankings for ~160 websites of my customers). Fortunately, I have got added to SearchMetrics Suite as well, so I compared the data from both trackers.

position tracking SearchMetrics Suite

As you can see above, since July there has been no major ranking shifts or market share shifts. The average project visibility for this website was fluctuating between 45 and 60. On November 27th, the project visibility reached 87, and on November 28th it reached an all time high of 112! Visibility increased by 224%!

Are rankings visible in Google when searched manually?

The answer is simple - usually YES, but not in 100% of all searches. Let me show one of the most important keywords for this project: "police lights" on US market (

The screenshot below taken from a computer located in the US state of Missouri today (December 1st, 2014, 1:27 PM).

extremetacticaldynanics rankings

As you can see, while searching for "police lights", I see on position 6. So the data from Stat4SEO (my position tracker), SearchMetrics and manual search adds up. Recovery is 100% real.

How about Google Analytics traffic?

I chose to ignore this factor in most cases.


For customers in the US looking for traffic spikes during Thanksgiving. Most of the websites I work with (US market) had huge spikes during this time (black friday).

For the EU market - I noticed a 10-30% traffic increase across the Penguin sites I work with. In most cases, it could also be related to seasonal swings (black friday) as I observed spikes for non-penguin sites as well.

Are recoveries permanent?

This is the most popular question I have been getting from my customers in the last few days. I would really like to be able to answer this question with a simple "yes" or "no". However, I have no knowledge about future (and even present) Penguin - related actions from Google. Rankings are still far from stable, and just to give you an idea of how unpredictable Google has been in the last few days, please take a look at the SEO visibility for today"

Extreme - SEO visibility

extremetacticaldynamics drops

At the same time, while searching for "looser keywords", some of those are still ranking well, as presented on the screenshot below.

extremetacticaldynanics rankings

Right about now as I finish this post, I can see this keyword ranking from a computer located in Missouri (remote server - never used with gmail, incognito mode, no cookies etc.). At the same time, checking from another server in California with the same setup, I don't see ranking anywhere in the top 100.

What now?

Since Thursday, we've been waiting for Googlers to confirm that it was in fact a Penguin algorithm which I observed on Thursday, November 27th 2014. Barry Schwartz was able to squeeze a confirmation from an "unnamed Googler" saying that:

The Penguin rollout is ongoing, and this is just the effect of that.

To be honest, it didn't answer too many questions. Still, I am happy that my diagnosis was right :)

I can only guess that all the ranking fluctuations and different results for each search, can be caused by updates from different Google Centers.

So there are few questions left for us:

  1. Are recoveries permanent?
  2. When will Penguin 3.1 complete its roll-out?
  3. When is it going to roll-out across all data-centers?
  4. Why was I the only one to blog about Penguin 3.1? Are recoveries not that clear for other SEOs?

I've emailed Barry and he is working hard on getting some more information from the "unnamed Googler" and knowing him, I am pretty sure he will eventually succeed. All that is left for you now is to subscribe to my newsletter and wait. I promise, you will be the first one to hear from me once we know something more about Penguin 3.1.

Bartosz Góralewicz

Bartosz Góralewicz is the CEO at Elephate, an SEO agency that specializes in preventing and curing technical SEO issues for businesses of all sizes, including renowned international corporations. He is passionate about sharing his expertise and frequently publishes thorough case studies. In his off time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two young baby girls.

bartosz góralewicz