What is Google Penguin?
Google Penguin was launched on April 24, 2012, with an aim to downgrade the search engine rankings for the pages engaging in unethical SEO practices.
The update followed the footsteps of Panda and filtered the websites taking help of manipulative link schemes for jumping up in the search engine ladder. The initial launch impacted 3.1% of search engine queries.
For the past 5 years, the update has gone as many as 10 documented changes. It has been continually evolving just like other Google updates and has been influencing SERPs. The update has succeeded in restricting different problematic practices such as keyword stuffing, Spamdexing, and manipulative linking. Since early 2017, Google Penguin has become a part of core algorithm of Google.
Why Did Google Need To Introduce Penguin Update?
The webmasters and SEO professionals have been inventing new ways to cut short the struggle and boost the search engine rankings of their pages. Accredited to this, the sites with less relevant content were gaining momentum in the rankings whereas sites offering user-relevant content were lagging behind. While Panda targeted the quality of content, Penguin was launched to address a different issue. In order to understand the purpose of Penguin, let’s gather an idea of its triggers.
Natural and Unnatural Links
Before getting into new findings, let’s understand what natural and unnatural links are. The search algorithm of Google depends on links.
Whenever a user types a query in the search bar, links are used to redirect him to the website relevant to that query. The entire navigation on Google relies on links. Beyond this, people trust links to take them to relevant pages. If these pages are not what the users were looking for, their trust gets violated.
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Therefore, Google carefully scrutinizes the quality, relevance, and quantity of the websites linking to your website. It analyzes the kind of websites linking to yours, how quickly these links were acquired and anchor text used to redirect to your site. Whenever there is a discrepancy in data, it calls for a red flag.
Links play an important role in determining the ranking of your website. When your website is quoted by another website, it provides credibility, authority, and value to your site. In addition to the quantity, the quality of links also matter. If a highly credible and popular site is using your link, it not only provides an addendum in the organic traffic but also enhances the reputation of your website.
Sites looking for a quick fix to gain better rankings indulge in unnatural linking practices which entail buying links from other websites.
This is where we will discuss the triggers that invite Penguin hit.
What Invites The Penguin Algorithm To Affect Your Site?
There are numerous triggers for the Penguin algorithm to downgrade a site. Most of these are associated with unethical SEO practices and violation of Google Webmaster guidelines. A website lacking natural links can invite a Penguin hit. Some of the issues that invite this penalty are:
1) Paid Links Using Anchor Text:-
Certain companies want to rank in specific terms. One of the easy ways of doing this is buying the links from low-quality sites that have the exact anchor text.
As per Webmaster’s guidelines, any anchor text redirecting the users to a website not providing relevant information is a paid link.
Google discourages this practice and therefore, levy a Penguin penalty on the sites using the same.
Some websites try to improve their rankings unnaturally by hiring writers at low wages to create a comment spam. Such comments entail specific keywords matching the exact anchor text. Generally, these users have a name matching the anchor text such as ‘best packer and mover’.
3) Guest Posts On Low-Quality Sites:-
Guest posts are a natural way of earning links and rankings. When the website uses a sub-standard site to publish and guest posts and bring traffic, Google discourages such sites and do not consider the ranks brought by such linking.
If you have been using such sites publishing the content with no relevance then you are inviting a Penguin hit.
4) Links from Unsafe Sites:-
The sites that get red-flagged due to spam issues, pop-ups or malware are considered unsafe and dangerous. Websites using these sites for linking purposes are dinged by Penguin and lose their ranking.
In conclusion, practices violating Google’s Webmaster guidelines by manipulating links from your site or from other sites to yours are discouraged by Penguin algorithm.
How to Know If You Have Been Hit By Penguin?
In order to determine whether you have been hit by Penguin, it is imperative to understand the difference between a manual penalty for unnatural linking and Penguin algorithm effect. If Google thinks that the sites are violating Webmaster guidelines by creating links then a manual penalty is levied on that site. It generally happens when a website gets reported for the spam or unnatural link. The adversaries among themselves can file such reports and employee Webmaster may act upon it. On the other hand, Penguin does not affect a single site. It programmatically detects the sites engaging in manipulative linking and downranks them. There is no human involvement in your website being penalized. Moreover, Penguin can affect the entire site or few pages. If it determines that the site has been engaging in spam or unnatural linking then it red flags the site.
For knowing whether your website has been hit by Penguin or not, you need to login to your Google Analytics account. If you see a drop in rankings on dates associated with the release of Penguin and its subsequent upgrades, then it might have been a Penguin hit.
You need to eliminate all other fluctuations and possibilities that could have downranked your website. You need to take effective measures for a quick recovery.
If a site takes a manual penalty hit it needs to file a reconsideration request with Google, after making the necessary changes. In case of an algorithmic downgrade, you just take the remedial actions and wait for the Googlebot to show you some mercy next time, it crawls your site.
These are some of the remedial measures you can take
1) Removing any unnatural links that are visible and you have control over:-
This can also entail links that you have cautiously built and placed on third-party websites. In addition to this, you need to check the quality of your links on a regular basis. If you find any low-quality links, remove them immediately.
2) Using Disavow Tool for informing Google about your disavowal of unnatural links pointing to your website.
3) Revising the website thoroughly and making sure that keywords are optimized skillfully:-
There should be a relation between the content and keywords which should be natural and not robotic.
Content should be unique entailing user-relevant information.
In order to prevent the site from suffering Google devaluation, make sure your content is premium quality and link practices are deemed safe.
Important Facts to Know
Google Penguin received its final update in 2016. Known as Penguin 4.0, it is finally a part of Google’s core algorithm.
Prior to Penguin 4.0, it was served as a filter which operated on a periodic basis.
Penguin 3.0 devalued a lot of websites; these websites had to wait for 2 years to recover their rankings.
Since Penguin became real-time, the pages are crawled and re-indexed constantly. So in case, the page is affected by this algorithm, it gains the original ranking by shunning the manipulative link practices.
The update has also become more granular. Instead of affecting the ranking of an entire site, it devalues the spam and adjusts the rankings.
Earlier the penalty was levied site wide but now only a few pages or selective sections get affected.
To gain a clear perspective, here is a timeline for Google Penguin:-
• Penguin 1 on April 24, 2012- Impact -3.1% of queries
• Penguin 2 on May 26, 2012- Impact- less than 0.1%
• Penguin 3 on October 5, 2012- Impact- 0.3% of queries
• Penguin 4 (Penguin 2.0) on May 22, 2013- Impact- 2.3% of queries
• Penguin 5 (Penguin 2.1) on October 4, 2013- Impact-1% of queries
• Penguin 6 (Penguin 3.0) on October 17, 2014- Impact- less than 1% English queries
• Penguin 7 (Penguin 4.0) on September 23, 2016
Just like all other Google updates, Penguin made the search results more relevant and reliable. The SEO community was pushed to use ethical link practices and more user relevant content to achieve better rankings.