Following the footsteps of Panda Update, the Penguin update was announced by Google as a new endeavor to reward high content quality websites and lessen the search engine result page (SERP) presence of websites that engaged in manipulative link-building tactics and keyword stuffing.

Penguin update was officially launched by Google in the year 2012 as a “website algorithm” in order to fight the link spam and manipulative link building practices. The Penguin update is the update to Google’s ranking algorithm. The update’s rollout has massively affected many websites.

The fundamental purpose of this update was to deal with websites that had acquired links unnaturally in order to boost their rankings. Prior to the Penguin update, many websites were using wrong practices of acquisition or purchasing of backlinks and from low-quality or unrelated websites, creating an artificial scenario of popularity and relevance in an attempt to manipulate Google into offering high rankings. Many websites were using the channel of unnatural links in order to falsely inflate their relevance of appearance on Google ranking.

Keyword Stuffing was another inferior practice popularly used by many websites to boost their ranking. Populating a webpage with large numbers of keywords or iteration of keywords in an attempt to manipulate rank via the appearance of relevance to specific search phrases.

Need for Penguin Update

Google’s quest to eliminate the low content quality websites started with the Panda update, further to which the Penguin update was taken into account as an extension and addition to this warfare. The Penguin update was Google’s acknowledgment of the rising practice of manipulating search results (and rankings) through black hat link-building techniques.

Matt Cutts, then head of the Google webspam team, speaking at the SMX Advanced 2012 conference, said:

We look at it as something designed to tackle low-quality content. It started out with Panda, and then we noticed that there was still a lot of spam, and Penguin was designed to tackle that.

The algorithm’s principal objective was to gain greater control over these related subjects and substantially reduce the effectiveness of the number of black hat spamming techniques.

The Penguin update worked toward ensuring that natural, authoritative, and relevant links rewarded the websites they linked to, while manipulative and spammy links were downgraded.
Penguin only deals with the site’s incoming links and Google only works on its outgoing links from that site.

When Google launched its Penguin update in April 2021, 3.1 percent of queries were affected through it, and plenty of websites were subjected to a Google penalty and dropped out of search as a result.

History of Penguin Updates

Google Penguin 1.0 – April 2012
The first Google Penguin 1.0 update was rolled out on 24th April 2012. Later that year 2 data refreshes took place. Here it was not the change in the algorithm but the first refresh of the data within it.
Google Penguin 2.0 – May 2013
In May 2013 the second Penguin update took place in the name of Penguin 2.0. This was technically the more advanced version of the Penguin algorithm and changed how the algorithm impacted search results. 2.3 percent of English queries were impacted by this Penguin 2.0 update.
Google Penguin 2.1: October 2013
The only refresh to Penguin 2.0 (2.1) came on the 4th of October 2013. It affected about 1 percent of queries.
Google Penguin 3.0: October 2014
On October 17, 2014, Google started the Penguin 3.0 update. Until then all updates were manually executed. This was named as a major update and affected less than 1 percent of English search queries.
Google Penguin 4.0: September 2016
Almost after 3 years of 3.0 data refresh, Google launched its final Penguin algorithm update. As of early 2017, Penguin now became a part of the so-called Google’s core algorithm and not as a separate filter.
Now running concurrently with the core, Penguin evaluates websites and links in real-time. This means that you can now reasonably see the instant impacts of your link building or remediation work.

Downgrades of Google Penguin Algorithmic

Shortly after the Penguin algorithm was introduced, webmasters and brands who had used manipulative link-building techniques or filled their backlink profiles with extensive amounts of low-quality links began to see a decline in their organic traffic and rankings.
Not all Penguin downgrades were site-wide – some were partial and only affected certain keyword groups that had been profoundly spammed and over-optimized, such as key products and in some cases even brand.
Many types of research and experiments show that using a 301 & 302 redirect won’t remove the Penguin effect. There would be complications while using a meta refresh from one domain to a new one.
John Muller in Google Webmasters Forum said :
In general, we recommend not using meta-refresh type redirects, as this can cause confusion with users (and search engine crawlers, who might mistake that for an attempted redirect).

Consequences of the Penguin Algorithm Adjustment for Webmasters

Websites that do not adhere to the webmaster guidelines of Google were hit by the Penguin update (for example, buy buying backlinks or manipulate links in some other way). In the earlier versions, the Google Penguin update devalued the entire domain if the webspam was identified. This site penalty could ultimately lead to suspension from the index. Nowadays the Penguin filter works on a URL basis; if the filter comes across webspam, this can lead to a loss in the ranking of the individual subpages.

With the introduction of these continuous algorithm updates, there is, however, always the chance of quickly lifting up the punishment from the affected websites.

The Penguin update has had a notably far-reaching impact on the SEO world. Due to this link building technique has become much harder.

Forms of Webspam

According to the quality guidelines of Google, the webspam exists in many different forms.
Below are the features or techniques which are considered as a webspam:

Unnatural links: These backlinks, for example, can be generated by purchasing links or link rent from link farms.

Artificial linking: If largely the keyword links are set on a website, it is often a case of a webspam.

Quick link growth: If a website supports many incoming links instantly, Google may flag it as a webspam.

Solutions for webmasters and SEOs to Revive from the Penguin update?

Those who find their website is affected by Penguin should directly start evaluating and analyzing the link structure. Devaluation can be a factor if incoming links are received from link farms and bad neighborhood practices. A significant sign or pointer will be indicated that the Penguin filter has been activated as a warning of “unnatural links” that Google sends via the Google Search Console to the webmasters.

In this case, prior link-building attempts should be scrutinized and analyzed so that the consequences of Google Penguin are minimized for the affected websites.

Panda Vs Penguin – is there still a difference?

The Panda update is a filter that is designed to penalize “thin” or poor content from ranking high on SERP. Whereas Penguin is a filter that is designed to penalize websites that have bad link-building methods and keyword stuffing.

Since both these updates directed towards the elimination of low content quality sites and web spams are now a part of Google’s core algorithm update, webmasters and SEOs are now barely able to precisely and accurately tell which element has just been updated. It’s no longer profitable for webmasters and SEOs to rely on techniques that worked even just a few years ago.

Google has exercised Penguin and Panda to come to a point where webmasters and SEOs focus on user interests and optimization no longer solely takes place for search engines. Website operators are now more than ever motivated to create high-quality content and technically flawless websites. Short-term SEO measures or black hat techniques are becoming less and less effective or have already become ineffective.