Google Penguin Update (Penguin Algorithm Details & SEO Guide)

This guide explains everything you need to know about the Google Penguin algorithm.

Below, you’ll get the background and history of the Google Penguin Update as well as details on how the algorithm works today. There’s also a set of Penguin SEO guidelines you can follow to conduct an objective analysis of your website to help recover from a Google Penguin penalty and to make sure it meets the Penguin algorithm quality standards for off-page search engine optimization.

Consider this your ultimate guide to Google Penguin, which is an important algorithm to understand for digital marketing and SEO campaigns.

Google Penguin

What Is Google Penguin?

Google Penguin is a site-wide algorithm that targets manipulative link building practices and keyword stuffing used to increase search engine rankings. The Google Penguin Update was first introduced in 2012 to reduce web spam and penalize websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

What Did the Google Penguin Update Target?

The Google Penguin Update targeted link spam and keyword stuffing to better optimize Google’s search engine results for users. Google’s Penguin algorithm assesses the number of low-quality links pointing to a website as a way to target manipulative link building practices and decrease the site’s rankings in the SERPs.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of loading a web page with specific keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. A common example of keyword stuffing that Google Penguin targets is repeating the same words or phrases so often in the content that it sounds unnatural.

Link Spam

Link spam refers to any links intended to manipulate the PageRank of a website to help improve its rankings in Google’s search results. This includes link schemes that include links coming to your site or outgoing links from your site to another website. Common examples of link spam that Google Penguin targets are buying and selling links, excessive link exchanges, and large-scale guest posting or article marketing campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.

Google Penguin Update

When Was Google Penguin Released?

The Google Penguin Update was released on April 24, 2012. Over the next four years, Google made several updates to the Penguin algorithm, and then on September 23, 2016, Google announced that Penguin signals had been incorporated into the core ranking algorithm.

During its initial rollout, the Google Penguin Update made a significant algorithmic improvement to the search engine index. According to Google, Penguin had an impact on 3.1% of search queries in English. Below is a timeline for various Penguin Updates. You can also visit the main Google Algorithm Updates page to see how Penguin changes have fit without the other algorithm updates throughout the years.

Penguin Update Timeline

  • April 24, 2012: Initial Penguin Update
  • May 25, 2012: Penguin Update 2
  • October 5, 2012: Penguin Update 3
  • May 22, 2013: Penguin 2.0 Update
  • October 4, 2014: Penguin 2.1 Update
  • October 15, 2014: Penguin 3 Update
  • December 10, 2014: Penguin Everflux Update
  • September 23, 2016: Final Penguin 4.0 Update
Google Penguin Algorithm

How Does the Google Penguin Algorithm Work?

Google Penguin works on a URL basis to look for signals that indicate link spam or keyword stuffing to manipulate search results and rankings. The Google Penguin algorithm then assigns a classifier to the page URL so it can be processed correctly by the core ranking algorithm.

Penguin is a granular algorithm that devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals detected at the URL level of a website, rather than affecting the ranking of the entire site. This means webmasters will not suffer a site-wide ranking drop if a single or group of URLs have been impacted by the Google Penguin algorithm. It also means site owners can improve the rankings for a web page by removing the spam signals because the algorithm operates in real time.

Does Google Still Use the Penguin Algorithm?

Google stills uses the Penguin algorithm and it has been a part of the core algorithm since 2016. Google incorporated the Penguin algorithm as a core ranking signal that works in real-time to devalue spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting the ranking of the whole site.

As Google announced on the Search Central Blog, “Penguin’s data is refreshed in real-time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page. It also means we’re not going to comment on future refreshes.”

Google Penguin SEO Guidelines

Google Penguin guidelines consist of two actions for SEO:

  • Do not participate in link schemes.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing.

If you follow those basic guidelines, then you can keep your website safe from a Google Penguin penalty.

How to Recover from a Penguin Penalty

  • Remove unnatural links you built and control on third-party websites.
  • Run a link audit and contact webmasters with spammy links to your site and ask for link removal.
  • Use Google’s Disavow Tool to remove low-quality backlinks you don’t control or cannot get removed by other webmasters.
  • Create high-quality content and distribute it through social media and to industry contacts to attract natural backlinks without asking for the links.
  • Remove keyword stuffing from pages affected by a Penguin penalty.
  • Follow on-page SEO best practices for optimizing your content in a natural way. See this related guide on how to put keywords in an article for SEO.

Google Penguin Update & Algorithm Summary

I hope you enjoyed this guide on the Google Penguin algorithm.

As you discovered, Google Penguin is an algorithm that targets manipulative link building practices and keyword stuffing used to increase search engine rankings. The Google Penguin Update had a history of changes with each iteration helping to better optimize Google’s search engine results for users. Penguin is now part of the Google core ranking algorithm that works in real-time to assess common web spam signals.