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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Google’s Penguin Update: The New “Webspam” Algorithm Update Gets a Name

Posted by @ 9:45 pm

Google has released an official name for their latest webspam algorithm update, calling the latest change the “Penguin” update. See our coverage on the latest Google “Penguin” update.

The Penguin update follows Google’s latest string of “Panda” updates which date back to early 2011.

Google’s Matt Cutts tweeted this playful image of some stuffed toys from their office which seems to confirm the name.

In a more recent update, he also posted a link to a webform, where users can provide feedback on sites they don’t think should be affected by the update.

If you want to provide feedback the link is here.

Update 5th May – The dust is beginning to settle after the Penguin update and one of the most common themes amongst impacted sites seems to be unnatural link profiles.

We mentioned in our original post on the update that Google was specifically targeting link schemes using spun content,

Here’s an example of a site with unusual linking patterns that is also affected by this change. Notice that if you try to read the text aloud you’ll discover that the outgoing links are completely unrelated to the actual content, and in fact the page text has been “spun” beyond recognition:

It looks like this has been one of the major targets of the Penguin update. Research suggests that there have been five common issues that impacted sites are facing:

  1. Paid text links using exact match anchor text: For companies that want to rank for a certain term (such as “red widgets”) one way to accomplish this is by buying links from other websites with that exact matching anchor text. This is against Google’s guidelines, as Google would consider this a paid link that exists solely to manipulate PageRank, rather than to provide any value to visitors.
  2. Comment spam: Two things proved problematic for websites trying to unnaturally rank for specific keywords: signatures in comments that contained exact match anchor text; and people who used a spammy user name (e.g., Best India SEO Company) as exact match text.
  3. Guest posts on questionable sites: Although guest posts are a legitimate way to earn links to your site, sites dinged by the Penguin had links pointing to their website from sites filled with low-quality articles where the focus was on the anchor text rather than the content.
  4. Article marketing sites: Thin content featuring links with exact match anchor text were another common factor among affected sites.
  5. Links from dangerous sites: Do you have inbound links from sites that have been flagged for malware, numerous pop-ups, or other spammy issues? This was another factor that caused websites to lose their Google rankings, so links to and from web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” are a danger.

As I’ve mentioned before, this update has not introduced any new ranking factors, it’s more of a refresh on their spam detection methods, designed to fix loopholes where this type of spam still worked.

If you’ve been impacted by the changes now is the time to clean up your website and do a proper, careful evaluation of your inbound link profile. If you’ve been involved in any questionable link schemes, try to get these links removed and diversify your link profile with some more legitimate sites.

Finally, if your website has been impacted but you don’t think it should be, you can provide feedback to Google.

Matthew Elshaw Matt is a marketing professional at, an international search marketing firm. Matt's passion for online marketing began at university and has proved invaluable in steering product development and marketing initiatives at the company. Matt is a regular contributor to the ineedhits search marketing blog.

View Matthew Elshaw's profile

Discussion (3 - comments)

[...] might recall that April saw the release of Penguin, Google’s latest ranking algorithm update (not to be confused with Panda). More spelling corrections are to be added globally to the search [...]

By Google Announces 50 New Search Quality Changes | ineedhits - May 10, 2012

[...] might recall that April saw the release of Penguin, Google’s latest ranking algorithm update (not to be confused with [...]

By Google Announces 50 New Search Quality Changes | RM2 Project - May 10, 2012

[...] might recall that April saw the release of Penguin, Google’s latest ranking algorithm update (not to be confused with [...]

By Google Announces 50 New Search Quality Changes « Miami Beach Web Designer - May 10, 2012

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