The history of Penguin – where are we now?

Published on 13th April 2018

Google changes its search algorithms a lot. Although most of these changes are minor, once in a while we are introduced to new, industry changing, algorithm updates such as Google Penguin.

In fact, according to Search Engine Watch, Google’s Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird search algorithms affect around 90% of online searches today.

These algorithms significantly affect search results and have a major impact in deciding which websites are worthy of becoming visible to users during a search.

A Penguin’s History

You can expect to be left out in the cold if your website doesn’t comply with the Penguin algorithm.

penguins on thin ice

The history of Penguin began just four short years ago (although four years is a long time in SEO). On April 24, 2014, Google introduced their new member to the algorithm family: Google Penguin.

Penguin was a response to the increasing practice of manipulating search results and rankings through “black-hat” link building techniques. It was designed to tackle low-quality content and stripping out “bad searches” (e.g., link farms).

Simply put, the Penguin algorithm is designed to detect the websites using shady backlink strategies.

Since Google’s initial release of Penguin, it has undergone a number of updates: from updates including data refresh to changing the actual algorithm itself. In September 2016, Google announced the release of Penguin 4.0: the game changer. They said:

After a period of development and testing, we are now rolling out an update to the Penguin algorithm in all languages…The web has significantly changed over the years, but as we said in our original post, webmasters should be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling websites. It’s also important to remember that updates like Penguin are just one of more than 200 signals we use to determine rank.’

Whereas previous Penguin updates targeted and penalised entire website, Penguin 4.0 became part of Google’s core algorithm.

This means that the Penguin filter updates in real time, rather than taking weeks. Also, any changes become visible much faster. This is a good thing, right?

The Implications of Penguin

As with every update, there are implications. For instance, the effects of Penguin may include being penalised and losing ranks. The question then becomes, how can you best avoid being damaged?

Technical SEO at Freshegg, Stephen Jones, proposes that there should be full audit and classification of a website’s external backlinks, and any backlinks identified as violating Google guidelines should be removed. Further, one should avoid using black-hat SEO techniques (because Penguin will find out if you have been using it anyway) and spammy content. Put simply – just follow Google’s guidelines!

Other steps to avoid (future) damage is to educate your content and PR teams on the value of good content, and good content marketing. For instance, Surya Ram explains that a well-informed team can come together and prevent a potential penalty.

Perhaps then, the best way to ensure successful SEO is by focusing on quality content and user experience such as creating compelling websites and high quality pieces. A no-brainer, really! Also, it’s important to remember to distribute your work on social media to gain attention and great links.

As emphasised by Google, Penguin-like algorithms are just one of more than 200 signals used to determine rank. Indeed, if you know the dates of these Google updates, it can really help to explain the changes in rankings and organic website traffic that your website might experience over time.