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The Google Penguin Algorithm: Resource Guide

Welcome to the Google Penguin Algorithm Resource Guide.  We have compiled what we feel is the best, most informative content around the web regarding Google’s Penguin algorithm.

Google rose to power as a search engine because they consistently returned better results than their competitors. These better results came from a unique signal Google used in their initial algorithm: links. The founders of Google understood links were endorsements and a signal of trust. No other search engine at the time used links as a primary ranking signal.

Because of the high value Google places on links, webmasters and SEOs devised ways to manipulate the system. Specifically, they created fake or low quality links to rank well for competitive queries, which really hindered the Internet experience. This was NOT what Google had in mind.

Over the course of a decade, Google found several ways to combat the link spam, but the problem was continued. April 2012 marked a turning point when Google released the Penguin algorithm.

The Penguin algorithm demotes sites that use link spam tactics in order to game search. Google is in the business of advertising, which requires them to provide the best search results in order to keep people coming back and clicking their ads. People would stop using Google if they noticed junk sites consistently ranking for top queries. 

If you think we missed anything valuable for this guide we would love your feedback! Please email Cory Collins: [email protected] We hope you enjoy and learn something new.

Understanding the Penguin Algorithm

Understanding the Penguin Algorithm
What is Penguin’s influence on the web?

Penguin is one of the most impactful algorithms Google has created in the history of search. It is often cited as Google’s most aggressive move in their longstanding war against spam and black hat SEO. The primary goal of Penguin is to devalue or even punish sites with manipulative backlink profiles.

Understanding Google’s Penguin algorithm is difficult: Google is notoriously tight-lipped about any information that spammers may be able to use against them. Luckily plenty of experts have dedicated time, energy, and experience to better explaining the Penguin update.

This section is all about highlighting articles which will better help you understand the Penguin update itself - not a single iteration, but the entire algorithm.
 
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Penguin Algorithm 1.0

Penguin Algorithm 1.0
The original Penguin algorithm launched on April 24, 2012, and blindsided the SEO community, causing perhaps the most frantic period in our history.

When Penguin launched, no one outside of Google knew it was coming. Many webmasters and SEOs were surprised to detect such a shakeup in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It was SEO’s black Tuesday. Designed to punish low quality, manipulative links, many sites that depended on search traffic for revenue saw disastrous decreases. On the day of the update, Google made a formal announcement on their blog regarding their intentions.

In the wake of Penguin link quality became much more important than link quantity.
 
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Penguin Algorithm 2.0

Penguin Algorithm 2.0
Penguin 2.0 was launched on May 22, 2013, and it was Google’s first major update to the Penguin algorithm.

As with all of their search algorithms, Google continues to update, tweak, and rewrite Penguin to increase the performance of search.

It is also important to note is that sites affected by the original Penguin couldn’t recover without a rewrite of the algorithm.

The most notable difference between Penguin 1.0 and Penguin 2.0 is the fact that 2.0 focused more on a site’s entire backlink profile, not just the links pointing to the home page. This proved to be an important move for the future of Penguin.
 
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Penguin Algorithm 2.1

Penguin Algorithm 2.1
On October 4, 2013 Google formally announced Penguin 2.1. The update was known as 2.1 because it was a data refresh as opposed to any sort of rewrite. This means that Google didn’t add any major components to the standing algorithm.

Even if there was nothing new to add to the algorithm, it is important for Google to refresh the data to accommodate present circumstances. Sites that have cleaned up their link profile cannot regain rankings without a data refresh. It had been over four months since Penguin 2.0.

Whereas Penguin 2.0 impacted around 2% of queries, update 2.1 impacted less than 1%.
 
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Penguin Algorithm 3.0

Penguin Algorithm 3.0
Unofficially launched on October 17, 2014, Penguin 3.0 has proven a very controversial update to the Penguin algorithm.

With Google’s admittance that a site cannot recover from the algorithm without an update, the online community felt an entire year without an update was unnecessarily punitive. Since it had been an entire year since Penguin 2.1, many SEOs expected a large impact by any new update. This, however, proved to be a false expectation.

Although publicly referred to as 3.0, many SEOs have stated 2.2 would be closer to the truth.

Although there was definitely volatility in the SERPs, and a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google announced the update as 3.0, parts of his statement were quickly contradicted by another Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google. The second analyst referred to the new iteration of Penguin as a refresh. Overall, only less than 1% of search queries were impacted. So it remains clear unclear whether this was a rewrite or a refresh.

Regardless of which number is more apt to describe the Penguin update, it’s clear that the new iteration of Penguin allowed many webmasters to recover. It’s also clear that in it’s wake, many sites have been punished. This is to be expected with any update or refresh. However, there were many reports of ranking decreases as well, as would be the case of any update/refresh.
 
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Penguin Algorithm Recovery

Penguin Algorithm Recovery
Many, many websites have been affected by the Penguin algorithm. This naturally means many guides, articles, and resources have been created to help websites recover.

We’ve combed through the web selecting the best and most accurate information we can find, all designed to help you remove any negative impact Penguin has had on your site. There’s no official blueprint regarding Penguin recovery, but we can learn from the success stories.

Recovering from Penguin primarily focuses on link cleanup. This can mean either manually removing your toxic inbound links, using Google’s disavow tool, or both.

Just remember, you can’t recover from Penguin without a data refresh or update to the algorithm.
 
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The Ethics of Google's Penguin Algorithm

The Ethics of Google's Penguin Algorithm
Google is the most influential website online. In 2013 Google services crashing resulted in a 40% drop of total internet traffic (http://www.cnet.com/news/google-goes-down-for-5-minutes-internet-traffic-drops-40/).

Because of Penguin’s impact on Google’s search results, the algorithm is incredibly controversial. Although Google maintains that Penguin has improved search results, many webmasters/SEOs feel there is simply too much collateral damage to innocent sites. Entire businesses have been unfairly maligned.

Whether or not Google punishes sites unfairly is a source of contentious debate. What frustrates SEOs even more is the fact that Google has only updated/refreshed Penguin sparingly since the original implementation. Sites that are demoted in the SERPs thanks to Penguin can only gain their rankings back if Penguin is either refreshed or updated.

This has led many to ask if Google has a moral responsibility to update Penguin on a far more regular basis. Indeed, many question if Penguin is the best way to war against spam in the first place, considering its often punitive nature.

Penguin has also led to a rise in negative SEO. Negative SEO is the practice of deliberately building hundreds or even thousands of spammy/irrelevant links to your competitor's website, with the hopes of triggering the Penguin algorithm and thereby decreasing their performance in search. Although negative SEO existed before Penguin, Google inadvertently made it more powerful and lucrative.

Despite the presence of negative SEO, Google has done little to mitigate the problem outside of introducing the disavow tool. Yet even with the disavow tool, the burden of proof and work is on the victim of the negative SEO attack.

Does Google have a responsibility to do more to prevent negative SEO? Should they be responsible to the entire Internet? Do they have an obligation to websites formerly featured in their SERPs?

All of these articles detail in some way the ethical dilemma Penguin has spawned.
 
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