If you keep hearing about the “Penguin” and don’t’ know what it is all about, keep reading. This article will give you a basic understanding of what it is all about – the Penguin Algorithm.
Penguin is the name given to a particular algorithmic filter (basically a piece of software that scans Google’s database of websites looking for certain patterns) that Google runs to filter out low quality sites from their search results. This one specifically looks for sites with low quality links and punishes them accordingly (I say accordingly as determined by Google – some website owners would disagree).
The Penguin Algorithm is also generally associated with the more severe penalties that can be received from Google, with the largest drops in rankings and traffic.
It was first introduced in April 2012 and has had a number of updates to it up until now. The updates are where the Algorithm is changed / upgraded and also run to find infringing sites.
If your site has enough unnatural links to trigger the Algorithm, you will likely see a drop in traffic on or around the date of an update.
What are spam or unnatural links?
Spam / unnatural links are basically any links that have been created specifically to manipulate the search results. Having said that, there are certains types of links that are scrutinised much more than others when it comes to this Algorithm.
Some of the types of links that are particularly likely to be seen as unnatural (either by Penguin or other means) are:
- Blog comment links
- Forum profile links
- Links in guest posts
- Paid links
- Links in widgets
- Any link schemes as explained by Google here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en
While many of these links may actually be legitimate, when used enmass to manipulate search rankings, they become spam / unnatural – and Google is getting better every day at detecting this type of behaviour.
What are good links?
“Good links” are links that have occurred naturally, usually by someone recognising your site or good content as relevant to their site users, and then linking linking to it.
Any link that occurs naturally as part of the normal interactions on the internet are fine – it’s when they are abused to manipulate the rankings is when they are not.
Why all the fuss?
There is so much talk around the Penguin Algorithm because of the damage it can do to a site’s traffic if it happens to be triggered by that site’s link profile.
The drops in traffic are usually significant – up to 98% (yes 98%). And it is quite difficult to get back to where you were once you clean up your act – often because where you were (the rankings and traffic) was enhanced by unnatural links.
I’ve heard it described quite well as “the easiest to find, but the hardest to fix”.
The easiest to find because a Penguin penalty can be identified quite easily by checking drops in rankings and traffic against the known updates.
Then by checking the site’s link profile for bad links. Unnatural links are actually quite easy to spot.
The hardest to fix because removing links on other people’s sites can be difficult and time consuming. Also, the Google Webmaster tool for disavowing links often takes a long time to work.
Then you have to wait for the next update to see if you have done a good enough job at cleaning up your links. Updates on this algorithm can be few and far between. As of writing this article there hasn’t been an update for nearly a year.
I hope that has given a basic understanding of the Penguin Algorithm. For a more in depth understanding, check out the SearchEngineWatch.com article here.
I will also be posting more about identifying and recovering from Penguin related penalties in coming weeks.