What it is and how it works

Talking about Google Penguin has become a habit over the years when it comes to web rules. Although the internet allows access to everyone, it doesn’t mean there are no guidelines to follow. This is where one of Google’s algorithm functions comes into play.

Can you imagine a penguin as one of the major threats roaming the internet? Quite a comical scene, isn’t it? Yet, it’s challenging to joke when you realize this cute animal is one of Google’s crucial tools to sanction and penalize millions of sites on the web.

For years, Google has developed various algorithms for different purposes: improving user experience (Google Panda), geolocating searches (Google Pigeon), or even rephrasing search queries (Google Hummingbird). To understand these aspects of Google, which manages millions of web content, more and more companies and professionals are getting trained and updated through SEO Specialist Courses.

And our penguin? What task does it have? As mentioned a few lines before, we are facing a true “guard” of the internet, responsible for identifying every possible infraction.

But how is all this possible? On this page, we will explore what Google Penguin is, how it works, and which elements of websites are penalized by this much-feared algorithm in the SEO world.

What is Google Penguin

Launched in 2012, Google Penguin is an update to Google’s general algorithm. The goal of this update is to identify sites not in line with search engine policies. Considering the importance of being ranked in the top results of Google’s SERP, it’s easy to imagine how many people don’t hesitate to use any means at their disposal to gain this privilege.

How often have you come across sites that seem like a satisfying answer to our search but, once opened, are poor in content or completely unrelated to the topic we are looking for? Well, their “authority” is not the result of valid recognition by Google regarding their content.

When we find a site positioned so well, despite having poor or irrelevant content, it means that it contains “black hat” elements. This term refers to all elements inserted into a site capable of deceiving Google, which will favor it without a genuinely valid reason for the user’s search. Penguin’s task is to identify these improper techniques and, for example, penalize sites using non-organic links.

Fun fact: “black hat” was the element that distinguished the villains in Western movies. This figure was then adopted in the internet world, associating it with unethical practices applied online.

How Google Penguin works

Let’s uncover the mechanisms behind the efficiency of Google Penguin.

seo keyword stuffing penalty

This update was programmed to identify black hat practices on a site, penalizing it and hindering its positioning in search results.

It’s no coincidence that the original name of this update was the “Web Spam Algorithm Update,” as Google itself began to realize how scaling the results in the SERP was becoming easier, thanks to link-building techniques and other SEO strategies aimed at “inflating” page content excessively.

These are the reasons that convinced Big G’s programmers to intervene, creating a tool capable of detecting the false or poor quality of pages online.

Below, we see the elements on which the algorithm acts as a “checker,” namely link spam and keyword stuffing.

Link Spam checker

This technique is linked to the world of link building. Site authority is increased by inserting various types of backlinks, from guest posting to article marketing, to receive additional traffic. So far, all is normal, a widely used SEO strategy for page and blog optimization, nothing new.

When does link building turn into link spam and attract the attention of Google Penguin? The algorithm intervenes when backlinks belong to non-optimal or already penalized sites. You will find links connected to poor content or unrelated to the search in question.

Keyword Stuffing checker

Keyword stuffing involves the constant and exaggerated repetition of a keyword or long-tail keyword, a strategy that will force the Google Penguin Algorithm to favor its position in SERP results.

This black hat is easily detectable even in novice SEO professionals, albeit entirely unintentionally. Creating content is not always easy, especially when it comes to making it relevant to the topic and satisfying for the search engine at the same time.

From this consideration, it follows that good preparation, not only in SEO Copywriting but in the SEO world in general, is necessary if you want to avoid unpleasant inconveniences related to penalties.


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What does the Google Penguin Penalty entail

We’ve explored the reasons why Google Penguin steps in to penalize a website. Now, let’s delve into the effects caused by such a penalty. Being penalized results in a series of significant consequences, not only impacting a page’s positioning but also affecting organic traffic and the structure of the page itself.

google penguin seo

Let’s examine what is lost from an SEO perspective and, if possible, how to remedy the situation.

SEO penalty

An SEO professional fears the effects of Google Penguin as they impact the quality of their website. Besides being indexed by the search engine, the site also experiences a loss in organic traffic. This leads to reduced visibility in search results and an effectiveness decline for various keywords.

These measures represent the anti-spam function that Penguin has on the network, targeting sites that are not suitable and disconnected from truly useful content for users and their searches.

Sometimes, these penalties also come from a lack of attention to small details, which Google considers “indigestible”. In addition to the already mentioned keyword stuffing and link spam, here are other things to avoid:

  • hidden links within text or images solely for manipulating rankings;
  • the so-called “cloaking“, a strategy used to display different content to the search engine than what users see;
  • satellite sites, i.e., sites created specifically to contain links from the main page with related content, only to increase its weight.

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How to remedy a penalty

What to do once you receive a penalty? Let’s start by saying that, fortunately, there are various tools to identify a penalty applied by Google Penguin.

To detect penalized parts of a site, it is necessary to use a link audit, performed through various tools available online (Google Search Console and SemRush, just to name a few). This maneuver will allow you to discover the “incriminated” elements, allowing you to understand the reasons for the penalty.

Once the reason for the report is clarified, you need to regain Google’s “trust”. Avoiding all link spam to your site is one of the first things to do, along with a reconsideration request sent through Google Search Console.

These situations can be prevented with the use of an SEO Audit, a useful tool to check for “damaged” content that needs to be removed. Also, don’t forget to monitor the spam generated on your site by users themselves.

Google Penguin update

Being a program that directly impacts millions of sites on the web, Penguin has undergone many refreshes in less than a decade. To date, the last data update dates back to the Google Penguin Update 2019. Often, these are not just simple data updates but real updates regarding some functions. Below, we go through the history of the algorithm, from its development to version 4.0.

penguin evolution seo

2012: welcome, Google Penguin algorithm

2012 sees the creation of the Google Penguin Algorithm, which will be updated two more times during the year. Its impact is still very modest.

2013: anti-spam becoming more effective

With Google Penguin 2.0, the impact on queries increases exponentially, reaching over 2%, a sign that the anti-spam function gradually acquires a more relevant role on the web.

2014: Everflux

2014 is the year when the algorithm undergoes the most innovative refreshes.

Google Penguin 3.0 has been released, with some really interesting innovations. This version not only limits itself to the usual anti-spam function but also helps sites previously penalized to regain positions in SERP, obviously cleaned up. The “Everflux” version is also developed, which involves a continuous optimization of the algorithm in such a way that the quality of sites can be assessed more quickly.

2016: Google Penguin 4.0

The latest important updates date back to 2016. This year represents an important turning point for the role of Penguin.

In addition to integration with Google Hummingbird (as mentioned earlier, Google’s main algorithm), the real innovation concerns the timing of site evaluations by the algorithm.

If before, in fact, site analysis proceeded at scheduled rates, version 4.0 allows Penguin to evaluate pages in real-time. This is, of course, an additional guarantee regarding placements in SERP since low-quality sites that do not deserve to climb Google’s results will be penalized immediately, without letting time pass.

Google Penguin and Google Panda

Let’s conclude with a comparison between Google Penguin and Google Panda. If we’ve practically covered everything about the former, it’s essential to mention Google Panda, as confusion often arises about their functions.

Penguin deals with incorrect link-building strategies, based on spam and keyword stuffing. Google Panda was born to evaluate page content. We are not facing a simple evaluation dependent on the quantity of information listed.

Panda can analyze a page and assess the communicative and grammatical effectiveness of the texts present, as well as the “weight” of the content itself, which must not negatively impact the loading speed of a site. Both Penguin and Panda, together with Hummingbird, have been present in Google’s general algorithm for almost a decade, which has now integrated updates, such as Core Update.


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