Google’s Penguin Update is Increasingly Strict – Study

Research completed by Portent, an SEO and online marketing firm, reveals Google’s tolerance for low-grade links has steadily declined since the introduction of Google’s Penguin update last year.

Overall tolerance for these ‘spam’ links since Penguin’s appearance has dropped by 30 percent, causing websites that exhibit these poor quality inbound links to drop in Google’s search rankings.

The study shows that for the 50,000 links sampled, Google had been continuously reducing its tolerance for bad quality. Currently, Google will probably penalise sites with as few as 50 percent of suspicious links in their overall inbound link profiles. That figure was up around the 80 percent mark when the update first came into force.

In order to complete this research, Portent analysed around 10,000 links pointing at each of the top 50 sites on the 2012 Inc. 5000 listSearch Engine Land reports. The researchers then used data captured via SEOMOZ and Majestic SEO for each inbound link. After that, a custom design ‘crawler’ was utilised to score the link as spam based on a comparison the page the link was coming from, versus the one it was linking to.

Portent was then able to collect data from more than 250,000 links pointing at Google-penalised sites and the same number of links pointing at unscathed sites.

Study Highlights (of the top 50 websites on the Inc. 5000 list):

  • 36/50 sites had ‘clean’ profiles, exhibiting less than 10% of suspect links
  • 1/5 sites were found to have 11-39% of suspect links
  • Four sites were at severe risk of being penalised with 40% or more of their links coming from suspicious webpages.

Remember, link spam can be viewed as an inbound link coming from an irrelevant website/webpage, or from a page that exhibits unnatural keyword ‘stuffing’. As Google continues to scrutinise these links – having already warned of a “significant” update to its Penguin algorithm, due later this year – it will pay for even the most scrupulous website managers to reexamine their link profiles.

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