Penguin: The Webspam Algorithm Update

One of the more prominent updates that continues to be relevant today is Penguin. It rolled out on April 24, 2012, and mainly served to combat the issue of webspam; specifically, black hat SEO techniques. These tactics attempt to manipulate the search engine and get high rankings without providing valuable information to users.

What’s It For

Some websites utilize black hat webspam techniques to get top spots in the SERPs and more organic traffic without benefitting users. Site operators who use these tactics look for shortcuts and loopholes in Google’s system to rank their pages higher than what they deserve. A well-known example is keyword stuffing where a page is overloaded with keywords or numbers to game its ranking. Another one is link schemes which involve buying backlinks to manipulate the perceived authority of a website.

The overarching goal of Google’s ranking changes is to help users discover sites with a great user experience by giving them the information they need. The team also confirmed that they want to reward the good guys of the web who are making valuable content with higher places in the SERPs.

Penguin works with the Panda updates and the page layout algorithm changes that rolled out before it to display high-quality sites in the results pages. It will devalue websites that are detected to have violated Google’s existing quality guidelines. This algorithmic update was developed to reduce webspam and promote high-quality content.

What Were Its Effects

The Penguin update affected approximately 3.1 percent of English queries which is relatively noticeable to regular users. For other languages such as German, Chinese, and Arabic, the algorithmic change impacted about 3 percent of searches. The team also noted that the update has a higher impact on more heavily-spammed languages like Polish with 5 percent.

What It Means for You

As mentioned at the start of this post, Penguin continues to be relevant today; with some websites still recovering from the penalty imposed on them from way back. While Google might not be in the habit of revealing specific signals, the underlying premise is that you should avoid black hat techniques altogether and work toward providing remarkable content for users.

These are a few tactics that will get your site penalized by Penguin:

  • Anchor Text Over-Optimization – This method involves placing too many targeted anchors and links that they take away the value from your content. Don’t use keyword-heavy anchor texts for your backlinks when writing a guest post.
  • Low-Quality Backlinks – Your backlinks should be from authoritative websites with anchor texts that are relevant to your page that’s being linked to. Otherwise, Google will be suspicious that the links weren’t acquired naturally.
  • Link Pyramid – Buying backlinks from link pyramids have long been discouraged by Google because it manipulates the system. Moreover, it doesn’t benefit site operators at all since most of the profiles that post these backlinks are created merely to host links; they don’t provide value to users independently.
  • Hidden Content – One outdated practice is to stuff a page with keywords and links then use a font color that blends in the background so that human readers won’t see it. Google has measures in place to detect this type of tactic.

Here are ways to rank your website without fearing Penguin’s penalty:

  • Prioritize On-Page SEO – On-page elements include your page title, meta description, content, links, and design. You should optimize these factors to maximize their power and boost your rank on Google. Incorporate your primary keywords in the sections with text like titles, snippets, headers, and content while considering how it sounds when read by human users. The design should be intuitive where visitors can easily explore other parts of your website.
  • Use Short, Readable URLs – As opposed to long URLs that feature a combination of numbers and special characters, you should opt for short ones that form what the page is all about. For example, is way better than regarding readability.
  • Improve Your Site Speed – A slow-loading page will only put off visitors especially in today’s world where users want information instantaneously. Having fast site speed boosts user experience for your website which will lead to an improvement in rankings once you’ve established the convenience you provide readers. Compressing your images, reducing redirects, and taking advantage of browser caching are some ways to enhance your site speed.
  • Focus on High-Quality Links – Internal and external linking is beneficial to your rankings. Incorporating links to previous posts you’ve published can help you introduce more material to readers while linking out to authoritative sites shows that you do your research and ensure that you only upload factual content.