Penguin 4 Is Part of Google's Core Algorithm

Last Edited September 11, 2023 by Garenne Bigby in Search Engine Optimization


Driving Internet traffic to your site can be a constant battle. Thousands and thousands of sites exist out in cyberspace, and in any given Google search, hundreds of sites will show up in search results as potentially relevant to your key word search. If you want to be successful and draw people to your site, you have to know the system. Users will only go through so many different pages of search results. At some point the user will feel that he or she has looked through as many relevant search results as needed to make a good choice. As a web developer, you want your page to be at the top or at least close to the top of that search result list. However, countless other sites want the same exact thing. The problem is the methods of achieving this goal have not always been on the up-and-up, and it is for these reasons programs, such as the Penguin Algorithm, were created.

What is Penguin?

When entering in search terms into Google, the site’s algorithms rely on 200 plus signals to help you find what you are looking for. These signals include finding specific keywords on specific web sites, analyzing how current the content is in the page, examining the region from where you are doing your search and determining page rank. That is where Penguin comes in. Google developers found that they needed to improve the algorithm updates that were run through their search engine. Too many sites were getting away with practices that were not legitimate, and this was due to a fault in the actual search filters themselves. Three of the biggest changes in algorithm updates have been the creation of the panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm and Hummingbird. Penguin originally rolled out on April 24, 2012. It came out on April 24, 2012, with the goal of improving the reliability of sites found through Google searches.

Links are important, whether this practice is fair or not fair. Essentially links can lead to site popularity. The more sites link to your content, the better you will be ranked. However, certain links carry more weight than others. If you are fortunate enough to be linked by a very well-respected site, this linkage can result in a rather large bump in ranking when it comes to search results. If you are linked by a smaller, lesser known site, you still benefit, but you may not be “bumped up” as much as you would with a more popular site.

Anchor text plays an important part in the Google algorithm. You can recognize anchor text as it is the text that is underlined in a link. Click on the text, and you will be redirected to the site linked to in that anchor text. The reason for anchor text playing such an important part is the fact that Google will recognize that if a specific site is linked to other sites through anchor text and will realize that the site to which the anchor text links is one that is something people searching on that topic would like to see.

It was for this reason that many sites would try to get as many links as possible for any source. Credibility of the source was disregarded because all that mattered was the more links, the better. Sure, it is great to get a link from a well-respected, bigger site, but if you got numerous links from smaller, lesser known sites, that result would be the same. Therefore, SEOs would make it their goal to get as many links as possible from any given source. It was a matter of quantity over quality.

Looking at all of the factors that played an important part in ranking sites, one could easily see how the Google algorithm was manipulated. The savvy web developer would use these tricks as a way to work through the algorithm into thinking that their site(s) should be ranked higher on a Google search due to the numerous links that existed out in cyberspace, linking back to their site. Many developers would create links from directory listings, self-made articles, links in comments and links included in forum posts.

What’s changed?

Traditionally, the Google algorithm would rarely change. This lack of change would mean if your site was already highly ranked for a certain key word, it would stay there until the next update. However, if your site was knocked down or eliminated by an algorithm update, you could be waiting for quite some time for a later update to eliminate the issues that caused your site to be flagged in the first place. We could be talking months, years before that would happen. That process alone could cause a large amount of frustration for web developers attempting to rectify an unfair situation.

The Google algorithm is immensely complicated. It gets more complicated by the day because Google is continuously working to provide searchers with the best and most accurate information they need. They want searchers to get quality researches, and filters like Penguin assist them in getting these types of results.

Throughout the years, changes and improvements have been made to the Penguin algorithm. Penguin works in real-time. Previously, Penguins updates needed to be refreshed, meaning that once a web developer improved their site and Web presence, Penguin would need to be refreshed to implement these changes. You were at the mercy of when the Google developers decided to update the algorithm manually. However, now that Penguin is real-time, the algorithm takes these changes and data into consideration right away. Changes will therefore be visible much faster than in the past.

Penguin now works in real-time

Previously, Penguin updates needed to be refreshed, meaning that once a web developer improved their site and Web presence, Penguin would need to be refreshed to implement these changes. You were at the mercy of when the Google developers decided to update the algorithm. However, now that Penguin is real-time, the algorithm takes these changes and data into consideration right away. Changes will therefore be visible much faster than in the past.

Penguin is more granular

Penguin is more granular these days and filters out less credible sites by devaluing based on spam factors instead of affecting the ranking of the entire site. Changes are always being implemented, and it is hoped that these tweaks and modifications can help smooth out the kinks that caused issues with Penguin in the first place.

How to Rebound from Penguin

The Penguin program works like a filter. The bad content gets weeded out through the filter. The sites that do not pass their set of criteria will be taken off through the filter. An unfortunate side effect of Penguin is that some sites may be eliminated that should not be eliminated. If you are an unsuspecting owner of a site that is being used for unnatural links to other sites, you may not be aware that your site is in the danger zone. This ignorance could easily result in being blind-sided by Penguin. However, it is not impossible to recover from a Penguin hit.

First, do a Google search for the topic on which your piece or site covers. It is important you identify the unnatural links that could be out there pointing users to your site through Google searches. If you do find your site has been linked to unnatural sites, try first to remove yourself from the site. Not all of us are savvy web developers, and many of us may not know how to identify an unnatural link. Do some research on this topic before attempting to handle it yourself, and if the tasks look too large to tackle, seek the assistance of professionals. According to Google’s Quality Guidelines, “creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.” What types of links should you be considering as unnatural? Any link that is irrelevant to your business would be considered unnatural. If the link looks like it could be spam or related to spam, consider that a red flag, as well. If the site looks like a directory or page that has obviously been bought, consider that site as an unnatural link.

Do not just examine the links themselves. Review the anchor text. Exact-match anchor text should be avoided. Contact the external webmaster for the site or have your webmaster handle the issue, and request that the site change the anchor text to a branded hyperlink.

This option is not always possible, however, and if that is the case, you can request Google no longer counts them by using the disavow tool. By “disavowing” your site’s link, you should be able to remove it from any future algorithm updates. The purpose is to regain Google’s trust. It may not be fair in terms of why you do have to regain their trust, but the fact of the matter is, if you want your site to be viewed as credible and to survive the Penguin algorithm, it is necessary. It can take up to six months for all of a site’s disavowed files to be processed by Google. That part of the process can be extremely frustrating, but again, it is necessary in order to regain Google’s trust and be viewed as credible in the future. Try not to lose hope. It is possible. When it comes to algorithm functions, time is of the essence, and there is very little room for error. Given the fact it can take up to six months to recover from a Penguin hit, and recovery does not even guarantee you will be boosted back to where you once were in a Google search, it might be best to have an outside company monitor your site and resolve any issues as they arise. The money you spend might very well be worth the hassle and extra work that you could with Penguin's update.

When your site is “recovering” from being weeded out by Penguin, you should not only keep in mind that the process is now in real-time, but your site will also not jump back up to the top rankings or to the ranking where it previously was. You may not have been aware of the fact, but your site might actually have been ranked higher than it should have been due to unnatural links. Therefore, it is quite possible the ranking you previously had was not legitimately earned. Be patient as you go through the process. You will get back to where you need to be eventually.

Disavowing your connection to an unnatural link is another option for recovering from Penguin. While the disavow tool may be easy to access and use, it is something that should be handled with great care. Before you go and attempt to disavow all sites you believe are unnatural links, you should be aware of what the effects of disavowing can have on your site. You could be doing more harm than good if you attempt to disavow the wrong links. That is where the use of professionals could benefit you in protecting yourself.

Working With the System

Work with Penguin, not against it. If you run a quality site with legitimate, accurate content, you have nothing to be worried about. Be aware of the links on your page as well as the links to your page, and monitor the types of links involved. Weed out the bad and increase the good. If this means you need to seek the assistance of a professional SEO, find someone who can monitor your site and where it appears in a Google search. If you find your site becoming included with unnatural links or suspect directory or site, research the ways you can remove yourself before Penguin removes you first. Lastly, do not consider a Penguin hit to be the death of your site. While the process may be longer than you desire or even deserve, you can take the necessary steps to regain the trust and approval of the Google search engine.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite:
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Former Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.


Related Articles

Create Visual Sitemaps

Create, edit, customize, and share visual sitemaps integrated with Google Analytics for easy discovery, planning, and collaboration.


Popular Tags

Search Engine Optimization SEO Accessibility Testing Create Sitemaps Sitemaps UX User Experience Sitemap Generator Content Audit Visual Sitemap Generator
Create Interactive Visual Sitemaps

Discovery has never been easier.

Sign up today!