Recently, we took an in-depth look into the Google Panda algorithm update what it targets (low-quality content) and how it affects a website’s search visibility. Low-quality content, however, is not the only thing that Google is looking to banish from search results. In this guide, we’re going to dive into another one of Google’s major algorithm updates, Google Penguin. google algorithm

What is the Google Penguin Algorithm Update?

The Google Penguin algorithm update targets websites that participate in practices against Google Webmaster Guidelines to increase their rankings in search. It aims for those that use blackhat SEO techniques, and particular those that have been taking part in spammy practices such as keyword stuffing and unusual/unnatural link building. You can see specific examples of both shared by Google on the Inside Search blog.

So far, Google Penguin has been updated five times.

Update Date More Info
Penguin April 24, 2012 Google, SEL, SEW
Penguin 1.1 May 25, 2012 SEL, SEW
Penguin #3 October 5, 2012 SEL
Penguin 2.0 May 2013 SEL, Moz, SEW
Penguin 2.1 October 4, 2013 SEL, SEW
Penguin 3.0 October 17, 2013 SEW

The Types of Websites Affected by Google Penguin

Google Penguin can affect any website that has participated in blackhat or spammy SEO strategies. Searchmetrics shared a list of losers for the first Google Penguin updated that included Comcast, Consumer Affairs, Digg, Dictionary.com, HTC, HalloweenCostume.com, SongLyrics.com, and many more. Their list of losers when Google Penguin 2.0 arrived included Daily Dot, Salvation Army, and several adult websites.

Unlike Google Panda, where the common denominator for affected websites was content hubs, Google Penguin takes on websites in a wide variety of categories. Effectively, no one, including big name brands are safe if Google detects unnatural SEO practices.

Recovery for websites that are hit by Google Penguin vary. Websites like Digg never managed to recover, as shown in this graph from SEMrush.

Penguin Guide graph 1

SongLyrics.com, on the other hand, has managed to not only regain their lost rankings, but also to further boost their search visibility over the past two years.

Penguin Gude Graph 2

How to Check Whether Google Penguin Has Affected Your Website

There are a few ways to check to see whether Google Penguin has had an impact on your website. The first is to view your organic search traffic in Google Analytics. Use the history of Penguin chart from earlier to compare any major increases or decreases to the dates Google released a new Penguin update.

Penguin Guide Graph 3

 

You can also use Website Penalty Indicator to look up your website along with others to see if they have been affected by Google Penguin. This tool puts a marker on dates when major updates to Google Penguin have been released and pulls traffic details from SEMrush.

Penguin Guide Graph 4

Both methods can help you determine if a Google Penguin update has led to an increase or decrease in search visibility and traffic. This can be an especially useful tool when you are researching the backlinks of your competitors. The last thing you would want to do is try to emulate the link profile of a site that has been negatively affected by Google Penguin.

How to Recover from a Google Penguin Update

The road to recovery from Google Penguin depends on what offense led to your website’s decrease in search rankings. If your website has been over-optimized using keyword stuffing, then the simple solution is to optimize your website’s pages correctly. Focus on one or two keyword phrases per page used in a natural way throughout the content.

If you have been engaging in spammy or unnatural link building, then you have a long journey ahead. You (or your agency) will have to search for webmaster contact information, send link removal requests, follow up on those removal requests, and disavow those links that cannot be removed. Depending on the number of links you have built, it could take a while to complete the process.

Fortunately, there are tools that can make the process easier. Cognitive SEO allows you to find your lowest quality links and export them to disavow. Pitchbox allows you to manage communications sent to webmasters in an attempt to have links removed. Google Webmaster Tools offers on-site optimization suggestions that you can use to optimize pages properly.

After you perform the tasks necessary to recover from Penguin, you may not see results immediately. In some cases, you will need to wait for a Penguin refresh to take place so the algorithm can take into account the cleaner link profile and on-site optimization.

Unlike Panda, Penguin has not been updated in a year. If you suspect you have been affected by Penguin, find out as soon as possible and get things cleaned up so your website is ready for the refresh that is imminent.

How to Protect Your Website from Google Penguin

If you haven’t yet felt the effects of Google Penguin, then you will want to ensure that you never do by adhering to Google Webmaster Guidelines when it comes to SEO practices. Key guidelines include the following:

– Avoid keyword stuffing, paid links, link exchanges, spammy links, and link schemes.

Create websites and webpages for people, not for search engines or for search benefit.

– Don’t try to get links on websites that are obviously built for search engines.

Be wary of cheap SEO services. Bulk link building packages that offer to build links through commenting, forums, article directories, social bookmarking sites, etc. should be avoided.

If you have done any of the above-mentioned items, you may want to consider taking measures to remove evidence of the worst tactics you’ve employed. Try to have the lowest quality links you’ve built in the past removed, and optimize your website with proper keyword usage. A good rule of thumb is if a link blatantly goes against Google Webmaster Guidelines, is on a website not relevant to yours, and isn’t driving traffic to your website, you likely won’t miss it.