What is Google Penguin?
In 2012, Google got serious about certain tactics companies were using to drive traffic to their websites. Up until that time, SEO strategists had utilised a number of link building methods to manipulate the popularity of their pages in the search results. This meant that pages filled with irrelevant or low-quality content could still crawl to a high position for popular search terms. With the launch of Penguin it radically lowered the search engine ranking of any website that was operating in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Given its impact, the launch of Google Penguin has to be considered one of the most influential moments in the history and development of search engines.
How does Google Penguin work?
Google has always put a very high value on links. Every link directing from one website to another website is considered an implicit endorsement of the latter site’s content. Therefore, it will reward a site that is being linked to with a higher spot in its rankings.
Before Penguin was launched it was relatively easy to rank a website without making a single change to the website itself. Common ways of doing this included creating links on article, press release and bookmarking sites etc. Penguin identified such tactics and heavily penalised websites that had adopted this strategy.
Google keeps its cards pretty close to its chest when it comes to how its algorithms work and it’s easy to see why. After all, the fewer people know about Penguin’s processes, the less opportunity they have to outsmart it. What is certain, however, is that it knows how to spot a low-quality link.
What are the Penguin updates?
There have been seven Penguin updates in total since Google surprised the web by launching Penguin 1 back in 2012. After two updated versions of Penguin 1 later that year, Penguin 2.0 arrived in May 2013, focusing on all of a site’s backlinks rather than only the links sending users to its homepage and impacting 2.3% of web queries. Version 2.1 followed later that year.
2014’s Penguin 3.0 was seen more as a slightly refreshed version of 2.0 rather than a new algorithm in its own right. The year wait between 2.0 and 3.0 was considered contentious, however, as, at this time, sites negatively affected by Penguin had to delete all the ‘black hat’ links and wait until the next update before they could fully repair their ranking.
This issue was remedied with Penguin 4.0, launched in September 2016. With 4.0, Penguin has become part of Google’s core algorithm, meaning websites are evaluated in real-time, moving up and down the rankings without having to wait for an update.
Though it has sometimes proved controversial, there is simply no doubt that Google Penguin has improved the web searching and web browsing experience for the vast majority of users. SEO is a fast moving industry and as such there will always be game changing events such as Penguin.
For those of you who are interested in learning more, take a look at Brucie’s guide to manual link removal. This blog outlines part of the process in which you can follow to clean a websites link profile and subsequently recover from a Penguin penalty.