Published on January 21st, 2013 | by Justin Revell
The History of Google Penguin
If you work in SEO or a related web marketing field, it may seem like roughly 50% of your time is spent tracking Google algorithm changes and trying to figure out how they affect the big picture. In recent years, Google has formalized its approach to algorithm roll-outs by releasing expansive, game-changing updates and gradually refining them thereafter. The Penguin update is the most recent and most relevant sea change to hit the web marketing game, one which will be felt for years to come. To truly master contemporary SEO, understanding where Penguin came from and why it was necessary is absolutely critical.
What is Google Penguin?
The Heart of the Problem
To grasp the intent of Penguin, one must understand what prompted it in the first place. Though Panda did a number on thin content sites, there still remained the problem of Black Hat SEO artists who used more clever techniques to juke the stats. Article marketing sites, comment spam, exact match anchor text and more still allowed content to be ranked highly even if it didn’t deserve to be. Mostly, the focus of Penguin boils down to linking. With ever greater emphasis being put on the relationships between content rather than the actual content itself, Penguin aims to make shady linking practices less effective overall.
Penguin By the Numbers & the Damage Done
Upon its release into the wild, Penguin more or less achieved its primary goals instantaneously by whacking sites that relied more on link volume than link quality to boost their organic rankings. Though not as destructive as Panda, it still affected 3.1% of English language sites when it debuted on April 24th, 2012. Who specifically was affected by the algorithm change? Basically, any site trying to manipulate the SERPs through keyword matching tomfoolery and extensive cross-linking was nicked. Those hurt the most included lower-level sites that thought that they could link their way to success despite a glaring lack of quality content.
Impact on SEO & How to Cope
More important than individual site rankings is the impact that Penguin has had on the broader field of SEO. Affecting only 3.1% of English language search results as opposed to Panda’s 12%, you’d think it’s not that consequential. However, Penguin has been largely responsible for a noticeable up-tick in web content quality and a reduced emphasis on quantity. The surest path to SEO and online marketing success in a Penguin-dominated world is through solid content and relevant linking that enhances the value of said content. When in doubt, only link to sites that really matter and make it natural when you do it.
What It All Means
Taking the long view, a Google algorithm update is nothing new. Sounding like a broken record is inevitable, so here’s the moral of the story anyway: each Google algorithm update is ultimately about delivering the most relevant SERPs to any given user in the end. You can avoid Penguin penalties by making your content as natural as possible, avoiding the use of low-quality inbound links and eliminating duplicate content. When in doubt, rely on Google Webmaster Tools for guidance. In the post-Penguin SEO world, connections are just as important as content when it comes to getting found online.