At the end of April, Google updated it’s search algorithm with code name Penguin. This should not be confused with other updates around the same time , including Panda 3.5 and the over 300 small changes made to the Google algorithm (with a focus on local search).
While Panda and the other little tweaks were focussed, as Google updates usually are, on improving search results for users, the Penguin update is actually thought to be the update Matt Cutts had previously alluded to as the overoptimisation penalty.
This means that the Penguin update made changes to rankings, not based on which sites are most relevant for users, but rather based on what their link profiles look like. If the link profiles look like they have been significantly manipulated, then the Penguin update aims to either;
a) Penalise them, making them drop or
b) Devalue the dodgy links they have coming in to them – thus making the sites drop
Either way you look at it – a penalty or a devaluation – the result is that sites with manipulated link profiles should be less visible in search rankings. In theory – this should be a great results for White hat SEO’s, removing the power that manipulated backlinks had given their rivals. However, in the short term it seems that a mix of sites have been hit – some with crazy link profiles, and some not, while some obviously spammy sites are now sitting at high positions in Google.
In the long term, this will undoubtedly be better for users, we just have to get past the collateral damage that has occurred.
The thing we should be slightly worried about now, is how to protect your site from malicious link building against your site.