Google Penguin is codename for a Google algorithm that was first introduced in April 2012. The purpose of the update was to crack down on sites using ‘black hat’ SEO techniques by way of paying for links and keyword stuffing to boost their position in Google rankings.
As a result of the update, a massive 3.1% of all search queries were affected. Though that doesn’t sound like much, when you consider the amount of search queries Google receives on a daily basis, that’s a huge number (Google now processes over 400,000 search queries on average per second!). Sites found to be challenging the rules were suddenly boycotted from the search results pages and many of them received manual actions.
Just over a year later in May 2013, Google released the next generation of the algorithm; Penguin 2.0. New signals were added to penalise any practices deemed to violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines that hadn’t already been caught in the previous update. This time an additional 2.3% of search queries were affected. Further updates have been released and refreshed over the past few years, each time making significant changes to the way the search results look. For the most part, these updates bring positive changes for website owners marketing their businesses in the proper way, and are major detractions for those trying to cheat the system.
Until now, each Penguin update has been more like a spike than an ongoing change. So, if your website had been found guilty of using black hat SEO techniques during the update and was de-ranked as a result, you’d have to wait for the next update or refresh to be re-evaluated. Now though, we’re staring in the face of Penguin 4.0, which is rumoured to be a real-time update to the algorithm. That means this portion of the algorithm will always be ‘on’ and updating, and implies the affects of the algorithm will happen much faster than in the past. With Penguin going real-time, webmasters will be able to recover their sites much faster, while spammy link profiles will be penalised on an ongoing basis.
Though no one is sure yet about when exactly the update is due to be released, Google announced early in December “with the holidays among us, it looks like the penguins won’t march again until next year”. This was followed by very high SERP volatility throughout January – the highest spike was reported by Algoroo on 10th January. So for now, most website administrators such as Cheltenham web design agency MA Design will recommend absolutely staying away from the following tactics to try to Penguin-proof your website:
- Paid links – paying external sites to link back to your own
- Blog networks – buying ‘guest blogging’ opportunities
- Over-optimised anchors – too many occurrences of the same anchor text on your website
- Low-quality backlinks – back links from high-quality websites are an up vote from Google, while back links from low quality websites are a down vote. If spammy sites are linking to you it signals to Google that your site may be spammy too.