20 October 2016 | admin

Zoogle: Google’s Algrorithm Menagerie #5 Penguin

Welcome to Zoogle, your five-part guide designed to help you navigate Google’s algorithm. We’re going to be taking you through the details of a few of Google’s major algorithm updates; from their purpose and use to their impact on SEO practices.

Fifth in the zoo of Google’s algorithm updates is Penguin. We’ll be telling you everything you need to know about the use and objective of the update.

Penguin as an algorithm is concerned with flagging websites that have unnatural link profiles. The algorithm means that websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines around link acquisition will be penalised and therefore rank lower. Such tactics are commonly described as black-hat or link schemes and often result in a penalty by Google which will significantly drop your websites visibility.

Penguin’s impact can be profound and dramatic on your website’s organic search traffic, therefore it is crucial to be aware of all the aspects and below are some of the key points.

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Types of penalty

There are two main types of penalty that are directly connected with the Penguin update.

  • Manual action: This is when someone from the Google spam team will directly contact you. The message will also be flagged up within the ‘search traffic’ segment of the search console.


If you are slapped with a manual action the penalty recovery process requires you to submit a reconsideration request along with a disavow file. This is essentially a method to acknowledge your mistakes in link building and a way to provide evidence that you have done your best to rectify the issue. Manual actions can be site-wide or affect only specific pages.

  • Algorithmic penalty: This is when you have not received a specific message from the Google spam team, yet you start noticing your keywords disappearing from the search results and your traffic starting to dip; usually after a period of heavy link building. If this happens then it triggers the need to carry out a link clean up and submitting a disavow file. A key difference in algorithmic penalty is that you don’t have to submit a reconsideration request via the search console.


What does real time mean?

The Penguin update was first rolled out in April 2012.  Initially, it was called ‘over-optimisation’ penalty and later dubbed as Penguin. Since then Google has confirmed at least seven further updates to it with the latest one (real-time) being the last in September 2016.

Essentially it means that the Penguin code has been permanently embedded in the core algorithm code and Google does not have to run a data refresh every few months. Real-time also means that if you get caught out by the algorithm and have since fixed the problems, you don’t have to wait for Google to refresh its data- which could have been months. You simply have to remove the faulty links, submit the disavow file and wait for Google to recrawl the site. Therefore, the time involved of you coming out of a penalty has been significantly shortened.

Penalty inducing factors

There are many factors that can flag your website for a Penguin penalty including:

  • Acquiring links from a link network
  • Carrying out excessive link exchanges i.e. reciprocal links
  • Article submissions with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Using automatic submission software to create links to your site
  • Placing banner ads that pass PageRank
  • Large number of links with exact-match anchor
  • Irrelevant SEO directory submissions
  • Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites
  • Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites
  • Irrelevant forum and blog commenting with keyword optimised links in the post or signature

What should brands do

Penguin as a penalty can have a profound impact on a brand’s visibility and cause your rankings and traffic to simply disappear overnight. Therefore it is critical that as a brand you should:

  1. Be aware of the rules of the game yourself.
  2. Conduct regular audits on your backlink profiles. We recommend at least twice a year.
  3. Be quick to react should you get caught by the algorithm. Allocate an emergency budget towards a link clean-up project, and continue to investing in a creative content-led campaigns that will help attract high-quality links naturally.


The period of 2011 to 2015 was key for the SEO industry in terms of Google’s relentless war against spam. Penguin was a key warrior that has helped Google win many battles. With Penguin moving into the core algorithm, Google has confirmed that this battle is not going anywhere and times ahead will be made even more interesting when artificial intelligence and machine learning will be introduced as tactics by the search giant.