Penguin algorithm updates drastically changed SEO since Google targeted webspam and manipulative link-building tactics. Click here for more information.

The “webspam algorithm update” launched by Google in 2012 specifically targeted link spam and manipulative link-building practices. In response to a tweet from Matt Cutts, who was then the head of Google’s webspam team, the webspam algorithm became known as the Penguin algorithm update. Although Google has named its algorithm Penguin, the origin of this name is unknown.

The Panda algorithm name came from one of the engineers who worked on it, and Penguin is likely derived from a similar source. I believe one of the reasons for the Penguin’s name is to pay tribute to The Penguin from DC’s Batman.

When Google crawled, indexed, and analyzed a webpage before the Penguin algorithm was introduced, link volume played a larger role in determining its ranking.

As a consequence, when ranking websites according to these scores for search results pages, some low-quality websites and pieces of content appeared more prominently than they should have.

Google Penguin: Why Was It Necessary

The Panda algorithm was the beginning of Google’s war against low-quality content, and Penguin was an extension and addition to this arsenal to defeat it.

Google Penguin was its response to black hat link building, which was increasingly manipulated in search results (and rankings). At the SMX Advanced 2012 conference, Cutts said:

Our goal is to deal with low-quality content. In the beginning, Panda was used, and then we noticed there was still a lot of spam, so Penguin was produced.

A number of black hats spamming techniques were the target of the algorithm, which was designed to control and reduce their effectiveness.

Penguin was designed to ensure that natural, authoritative, and relevant links rewarded the websites they pointed to, while manipulative and spammy links were downgraded.

The Penguin algorithm only considers incoming links to a site. There are no outgoing links from the site in question that Google looks at, so it only analyzes the links that point to it.

Penguin Updates & Refreshes by Google

There have been several updates and updates to the Penguin algorithm since it was first launched in 2012, and possibly a number of other tweaks which have gone down in history as unknown algorithm updates.

  1. Google Penguin 1.1: March 26, 2012

The data within the algorithm was refreshed for the first time, not the algorithm itself. In this case, websites that were initially affected by Penguin were able to recover after clearing up their link profiles, while websites that weren’t affected the first time saw some consequences.

  1. Google Penguin 1.2: October 5, 2012

A new data refresh was performed. In addition to queries in English, it affected queries conducted internationally.

  1. Google Penguin 2.0: May 22, 2013

This was a more technically advanced version of the Penguin algorithm that altered how searches were impacted. Around 2.3 percent of English queries were impacted by Penguin 2.0 and queries in other languages.

The Penguin update was also the first to look beyond the homepage and top-level category pages for evidence of link spam directed to the website.

  1. Google Penguin 2.1: October 4, 2013

Penguin 2.0 (2.1) was only updated on October 4 of that year. A small percentage of queries were affected.

Google did not provide an official explanation of the 2.1 updates. However, data suggests that Panda 2.1 also improved how deep Penguin looked into a website, crawled deeper, and conducted further analysis regarding spammy links.

  1. Google Penguin 3.0: October 17, 2014

This was not a major update but rather a data refresh that allowed the people affected by previous updates to emerge and recover, while those who had continued to use spammy link practices and had escaped the previous effects saw a negative impact.

Pierre Far, a Googler, confirmed this via a post on his Google+ profile, saying it would take a few weeks for the update to roll out fully. According to Far, less than 1 percent of English search queries were affected by the update.