Everything you need to know about Google Penguin

Linkbuilding, SEO

Talking about Google Penguin has become, over the years, a habit when it comes to web rules. The Internet is accessible to everyone and anyone can operate on it, which does not mean that there are no guidelines to follow. This is where one of the functions of Google’s algorithm comes into play.

Penguin 4.0 in real time

Can you imagine a penguin as one of the biggest threats that can roam the web? Quite a comical scene, don’t you think? However, it is difficult to joke when we know that this friendly animal is one of Google’s most important tools for penalizing and penalizing the millions of sites on the web.


For years, Google has devised different algorithms for various purposes: improving the user experience(Google Panda), geolocating searches (Google Pigeon) or even reworking the words of a search performed (Google Hummingbird).
What about our penguin? What is your task? As mentioned above, this is a real“watchdog” of the web, designed to detect any possible infringement.

But how is this possible? In this Rodanet article we want to explain what Google Penguin is, how it works, what elements this algorithm so feared in the SEO world penalizes and how to recover from a penalty, which you can go directly from here.

What is Google Penguin?

Google Penguin is one of the major updates to Google’s general algorithm launched in 2012. It aims to identify sites that do not conform to the search engine’s policies, specifically in off-page techniques.

If we take into account the importance of being positioned in the first results of Google SERPs, it is not difficult to imagine how many people have no problem in using all the means at their disposal to obtain this privilege.

penguinHow many times have you come across sites that seem to have the most satisfactory answer to your search, but that once opened turn out to be poor in content or totally far from the topic you are looking for? In this case, your “authority” is not the result of a valid recognition by Google in terms of content.

When we find a site ranked so well, despite having poor or irrelevant content, it means that black hat is present. This term refers to all those elements placed on a site that are able to trick Google, which will favor it without a really valid reason for the user’s search. Penguin is therefore responsible for detecting these incorrect techniques and, for example, penalizing sites that use non-spontaneous links. Although the term black hat is open to interpretation and there are techniques that are considered black hat, and still work 🤫

How does Google Penguin work?

This update was programmed in such a way that it would detect low-quality link building from a site, penalizing it and making it more difficult to rank in search results.

Penguin Update HostIt is no coincidence that the original name of this update was “Web Spam Algorithm Update“since the Google was beginning to realize that climbing the SERP results was becoming easier and easier and did not represent the quality you wanted for your search engine.thanks to link building techniques and other SEO strategies designed to “inflate” the contents of the pages with links. These are the reasons that convinced the Big G programmers to intervene, creating a tool to deal with it.

Next we see the elements on which the algorithm acts as a “corrector”, i.e. link spam and keyword stuffing.

Link Spam Checker

This technique is linked to the world of link building. You can increase the authority of a site by inserting various types of backlinks, from guest posting to article marketing, in order to receive additional traffic. So far, so normal, a widely used SEO strategy to optimize pages and blogs, nothing new.

When does link building become link spam and attract the attention of Google Penguin? The algorithm intervenes when backlinks belong to suboptimal or already penalized sites. You will encounter links linked to poor content or content that has nothing to do with the search query in question.

Checker Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing consists of theconstant and exaggerated repetition of a keyword or long tail keyword, a strategy that will force the Google Penguin Algorithm to favor your position in the SERP results.

This “black hat” is also easy to find among novice SEO professionals, albeit unintentionally. Creating content is not always easy, especially when we want it to be relevant and new to the topic and, at the same time, satisfy the search engine.

Google Penguin History

Unlike Panda, Penguin didn’t start out running constantly, it evolved until it reached this point, so let’s look at the short, but intense life of the “penguin”:

  • Launch of Penguin 1.0, n.º1 (24 – 04 – 2012): Google officially announces an update aimed at combating spam, which will end up being called Penguin (obviously, it is 1.0). 3.1% of queries in English are affected, and no less than 5% in other languages as well. This first version focuses on link anchor text analysis. An unprecedented blow to a large number of websites that will change the way SEO is done forever.
  • Penguin update no. 2 (26 – 05 – 2012): Affects less than 0.1% of English-language SERPs, but serves to confirm that this Google spam filter is here to stay.
  • Penguin Update No. 3 (05 – 10 – 2012): Great expectations. Many expect a forceful action, with abundant and severe penalties, but it affects a moderate percentage. Specifically, 0.3%.
  • Update to Penguin 2.0 no. 4 (22 – 05 – 2013): It’s been a little over a year since the Penguin launch, and Google is celebrating by rolling out the 2.0 generation of the filter. This time it includes in its list of practical objectives such as cloaking (showing different content to users and bots). It accounts for 2.4% of the queries in English.
  • Penguin 2.1 update no. 5 (04 – 10 – 2013): Matt Cutts officially announces the release of Penguin version 2.1, which affects more or less 1%, but the penalties are harsh. Adult sites and online casinos bear the brunt.
  • Update to Penguin 3.0 no. 6 (17 – 10 – 2014): It is 2014 the year in which the algorithm undergoes the most innovative update. Google Penguin 3.0 is released, with some really interesting innovations. This version is not limited to the usual anti-spam function, but helps previously penalized sites, obviously cleaned up, to recover positions in the SERPs. The “Everflux” version is also being developed, which involves continuous optimization of the algorithm so that the quality of the sites can be seen more quickly.
  • Google Penguin 4.0: (9/23/2016): Almost two years after the 3.0 update, the latest Penguin algorithm update was released. The deployment lasts until October 13. Now Penguin operates in real timeis more “granular”, which means that it allows Google, among other things, better understand what we do with keywords, link anchor text, etc. Finally, it operates at the link and page level, ie, is not limited to devaluing the entire site in the SERPs, but the toxic link or the page affected by it..

Google Penguin 4.0, the one that has lasted until today

What does it mean here, “in real time”?
Well, a Penguin update that penalizes live and in real time. Yes, but how does something like this work?

Google Penguin went from a static activity to a dynamic (or constantly moving) operation. This implies that it is no longer necessary to count and analyze links, and periodically reorder positions in the SERPs. From 2016 to the present day and beyond, Google’s algorithm has the ability to act immediately when it detects a toxic link, without having to wait for the next update.

Until 2016, if you suffered a spam penalty, pretty much the only option was to make things right and wait.

Now, Penguin is always on the move to hunt you down.

Penalization in SEO

Recovering from a Penguin sanction is possibleAn SEO professional fears the effects of Google Penguin because it affects the quality of his site. The latter, in addition to being de-indexed by the search engine, also suffers a loss of organic traffic. This leads to lower visibility in search results and the disappearance, in terms of effectiveness, of several keywords.

These measures represent Penguin’s anti-spam function on the network, targeting all those sites that are inappropriate and not really useful content for users and their searches.

Sometimes, these penalties are also caused by a lack of attention to minuscule details, but which Google considers “indigestible”. In addition to the already mentioned“keyword stuffing” and“link spamming“, here are some others to avoid:

  • Hidden links in parts of the text or images for the sole purpose of manipulating the classification.
  • The so-called “
    “a strategy used to make the search engine display content other than what users actually see.
  • Satellite sites, i.e. sites created specifically to link from the home page to related content.

How to recover from a Google Penguin penalty

Who was it, the penguin, the panda or the Zoo employee?

The first thing to do is to make sure that Penguin is responsible for your website being seriously injured. If your website has suffered a hard hit, the culprits may be:

  • A change in Google’s algorithm
    • Panda.
    • Penguin.
  • A manual sanction

If the smoking gun is not in the hands of the penguin or the panda bear, it is a Zoo employee! 😉 Indeed, sometimes Google staff apply penalties manually.

Knowing where the penalty comes from is essential to know the protocol you should apply next. Don’t worry, it’s very simple: if it’s a manual job, you will receive a message via Google Search Console. If there are no notifications, you should check when the drop in visits on your website started with Google Analytics data, and cross-check the information with the release date of the latest algorithm modifications. Easy, isn’t it?

The consequences of a Google Penguin penalty can be serious or very serious. You may simply lose positions in the search engine, drastically reducing the traffic to your website; or you may be de-indexed, or even your entire domain. For a business, this means ruin, if appropriate measures are not taken.

What can I do to get out of a Google Penguin penalty?

At a minimum, you should perform the following steps:

  • Analyze your link profile. You can download it from Google Search Console.
  • Locate links that Google Penguin might identify as spam.
  • Request that they be deleted (if they do not belong to satellite blogs created by you, in which case, you can delete them yourself).
  • Use Google’s Disavow tool to disavow the remaining ones.

And then what? The procedure we propose requires the use of LinkResearchTools, which is a paid tool. There are other applications and alternative software products, but the ones we will use are very effective. If it’s about refloating a website, think about it, because it can be very worthwhile.

The method basically consists of redirecting all the content of the web page to a new domain. But, of course, it is far from simple. A series of steps must be applied to clean up the old domain and make the new one gain a good reputation with Google Penguin.

How to save your website

The process is complex, but we will try to make it as easy to understand as possible.

1. Perform a link audit

It consists of detecting problems in your link profile. For this we will use the Link Detox tool.

To perform this step you can use other tools that allow you to perform link audits, but by using Link Detox and other LinkResearchTools you can speed up the recovery process. In addition, you can connect your account with Google Search Console.

If you choose to audit your link profile with Link Detox, you will have to fill out a checklist with several options. You must check the following:

  • Activating the follow evaluation.
  • Remove Dropped Links.

If you are fluent in English, you will have seen that the second point is to remove the downed links.

Next we will use another utility called Link Detox Screener, which will allow us to manually check each of the links (yes… it is necessary). This tool includes important information about each backlink and incorporates an assessment of the risk involved in retaining the link (DetoxRisk). You will also find a screenshot of the page you linked to. You must decide which links you want to preserve and which you would prefer to remove. A good clue is that the text “LinkNotFound” appears in the link information.

2. Upload Disavow file to Google Disavow Tool

Link Detox allows you to download the Disavow file, an XLSX or CSV document with all the links you have disavowed, to upload it to Google Disavow Tool, which you will find in your GSC account.

3. Make Googlebot crawl again the links that point to us.

To take this step we are going to use the Link Detox Boost tool, whose purpose is to accelerate the recovery process. Before redirecting the old domain to the new one, it is necessary to get the Google robot to re-crawl the links that we have disavowed. We can do this by exporting the Link Detox report, copying the link URLs and pasting it into the “Disavowed url’s” section of Link Detox Boost.

This process should be performed 24 to 48 hours after uploading the Disavow file to Google Search Console.

After activating Link Detox Boost, you will have access to the latest Google bot crawl date for each link. You have to wait until you have proof that all links have been crawled again.

4. Prepare and perform 301 redirects.

When we talk about 301 redirects after a Google Penguin Penalty, everything gets more complicated. For this reason, it is necessary to take a preliminary step that will make the difference between success and failure of the recovery.

You need to upload the Disavow file to your Google Search Console account, again?! No, no. Now you must do it to the account of your new domain. If this step is omitted, redirection attempts will probably be futile.

Making a redirect is easy, either through your CMS functionalities or by uploading them to the htaccess file. But it can get complicated. It is very important that you check everything, and make sure there are no errors.

5. Escrape the remains of the old domain so that Google deindexes them.

After performing the redirects we have a problem: Google may take months to remove the old URLs from its index, and therefore the indexing of the new domain will also be slower. To reduce this time span from a few months to just a few days, we can use the ScrapeBox tool or other similar tools.

ScrapeBox will allow us to associate a list of keywords to the old domain (or rather, to the site:tudomino.com command). As a result, ScrapeBox automates the search for URLs that Google still has indexed. To get this list of keywords we will use the data from GSC or Google Analytics.

After getting the list and cleaning it from, for example, duplicate URLs, we will upload it to Link Detox Boost to speed up Google’s indexing of 301 redirects.

What? Too complex? Rather… simple in its complexity. The problem is that there are several things that can go wrong. If, for example, we disavow all slightly suspicious links, we may be making the situation even worse. The same applies to redirects.

If you have solid SEO knowledge and are looking for the most effective way to get out of a Google Penguin penalty, go ahead! If you don’t feel up to it, ask for help! We are your SEO company and we are here to lend you a hand 😉

Sin asignación particular. Artículos redactados por el el equipo de Rodanet. Varias personas del equipo participan en crear los mejores artículos en cooperación y equipo 💪 Porque nos encanta trabajar en equipo 🔝

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