A Guide To The Penguin Update

Over its time, Google has released many necessary algorithm updates. These updates help the user find the most relevant content about what they are searching for and ensuring that the most relevant and high quality appear at the top of the search rankings.

The first in our Google Algorithm series will be Google Penguin.

Google Penguin cracks down on webmasters that use spammy black hat techniques such as keyword stuffing, unnatural links and writing content primarily to get your highest ranking keywords within the body of the text. Google’s aim is to get the most high quality and relevant webpages in front of the user.

Google Penguin has been updated many times since it was first launched. Take a look at the Google Penguin timeline to see when it was updated and what changes were made:

Google 4.0 Phase 2 (6th October 2016): The final phase of the new Penguin update was the reversal of all previous penalities caused by the old Penguin algorithm.

Google 4.0 Phase 1 (27th September 2016): The first phase of Google 4.0 was the initial role out of a softer Penguin algorithm now in the core algorithm; it was during this phase that Google Penguin now devalues bad links rather than penalises them.

Google Penguin 4.0 (23rd September 2016): Google officially announces a major Penguin update and confirms that Penguin is now centralised into the core algorithm. Initially no major effects were seen however it is now clear that Penguin 4.0 was a multi phase process.

Google Penguin Everflux (around 10th December 2014): Google announces that they are moving from irregular major Penguin changes to continuous updates

Google Penguin 3.0 (around 17th October 2014): Penguin 3.0, the most recent Penguin update so far, was released in October 2014. For many who had spent the previous year analysing their backlinks and content to ensure they did not get caught by Penguin again were rewarded with a SERP increase. Google rewards those who do good!

Google Penguin 2.1 (around 4th October 2013): Penguin 2.1 was launched in October 2013 and it targeted the low quality backlinks of sites. The main categories that were targeted were forum spam and do-follow blogs.

Google Penguin 2.0 (around 22nd May 2013): Penguin 2.0 was launched in May 2013 and it was rumoured that this update meant that Google would be looking deeper into websites to look for spam on internal pages instead of focusing primarily on their homepages.

Google Penguin 1.2 (around 5th October 2012): Penguin 1.2 was released over a year later which again updated the search rankings, meaning that any page that was ranked at position 10 that contained a lot of spammy content would be replaced with a better and more relevant site.

Google Penguin 1.1 (around 25th May 2012): Penguin 1.1 was released just a month after the first Penguin algorithm, it is more commonly known now as a data refresh as it only effected 0.1% of queries.

Google Penguin 1.0 (around 24th April 2012): The first Penguin algorithm was launched in April 2012, nicknamed the ‘Webspam Update’, which took many webmasters by surprise when their rankings took a sudden decrease due to their negative SEO techniques.

Google Penguin: Overview & Impact

  • Whilst pre-Penguin sites used negative link building techniques to rank highly and get traffic, once Penguin was launched it meant that content was key and those with great content would be recognised
  • SEO was a very much different place before Penguin was rolled out. Since a large amount of spammy sites were penalized in the early days of Penguin, it enticed webmasters to do their research on Google-friendly techniques and enforce these white hat techniques throughout their sites. The overall behaviour of webmasters changed as they weren’t trying to trick the system anymore, instead they were dedicated to create great content for their users and for search engines
  • Penguin now entices webmasters to go by the books and use white hat techniques which overall benefits the user as they will see the most relevant content on page 1 of the SERPS instead of low value sites that rank well because of spammy backlinks.
  • Small-medium businesses saw a significant loss of traffic and therefore income after they were dropped from the rankings. With Google Search being essential to the economy and a businesses’ outreach, being dropped from the SERPS can be highly damaging.
  • When webmasters discovered that having low value backlinks is potentially dangerous and can get you removed from the SERPS, negative SEO was created and they started using these black hat techniques to drop their competitors off the radar by putting their site on poor quality forums and directories.
  • Sites who had comfortably ranked on page 1 long term now found themselves out of the search results and starting the long journey of recovery.
  • The Penguin update can lead to penalties that take time and dedication to come back from. In Front Digital have a 100% success rate of removing Google penalties!

As Google gets more and more strict on what makes your site rank above your competitors, any update launch could prove critical to your site if you do not have a SEO agency in place who knows how to prevent you being hit.