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Avoiding the Pitfalls of Penguin


google penguin update

Penguin 3.0

On Friday [17th of October] Google released the latest update to their Penguin algorithm. Dubbed Penguin 3.0, the update is the first released in over a year and it was confirmed by a Google representative over the weekend.

It was reported in various reputable blogs such as Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal that users started noticing major changes within the search engine results pages [SERP’s] late on Friday evening in the US.

As it stands, there are no reported figures detailing how many search queries have been affected but Passion Digital recommends that checks on your rankings have been completed to ensure you haven’t been impacted by the latest update. Thorough back link audits also need to be included as part of any SEO campaign strategy if any negative impact has been witnessed.

Google’s Penguin – A [brief] history & Outdated Tactics

So what is Penguin? Penguin is an algorithm update which was first seen in early 2012 which aimed to target websites which attempted to manipulate Googles search results using links which broke set guidelines.

–          Penguin 1.0 (or Penguin 1): April 24, 2012 (affected 3.1% of queries)

–          Penguin 1.2 (or Penguin 2): May 26, 2012 (affected around 0.1%)

–          Penguin 1.3 (or Penguin 3): Oct. 5, 2012 (affected 0.3%)

–          Penguin 2.0 (or Penguin 4): May 22, 2013 (affected 2.3%)

–          Penguin 2.1 (or Penguin 5): Oct. 4, 2013 (affected 1%)

There have been various iterations of this update, with all focussing on negating any positive impact webmasters have experienced by using poor quality link building methods.

Tactics which have seen a website penalised since the original penguin update included; over-optimised anchor text, non-contextual links and links from ‘bad’ website sources.  Additionally, there was a large focus placed upon penalising links coming from link networks and guest blogging sites such as PostJoint and My Blog Guest, which invited people to post content which publishers could then bid for.

Other methods which were targeted were:

  1. Spam directory links
  2. Paid and editorial links
  3. Do-follow blog links
  4. Blog comment signature spam
  5. Forum bio spam

How to avoid a penguin penalty

The first piece of advice we would give is not to build links, but create great pieces of shareable content which EARN them. With the Penguin [and Panda] updates there is a very clear directive Google has; to clean up their search results from spammers and manipulators and to include websites which contain lots of useful content created for people – not search engine robots!

So with this in mind, building links with repetitive anchor text and churning out guest blogging articles with links pointing back to the site you are attempting to rank will eventually lead to trouble down the road.  Create video, white papers, games etc. and provide your users with something which is useful and people will share based on the strength of content.

Passion Digital highly recommends being proactive when evaluating your back link profile. Use tools such as Ahrefs, Majestic SEO and NetPeak to evaluate your back links. Are you using more generic anchor text than brand [your customers linking to you should know you by name, not a phrase!]? Where are the links coming from? If you own a UK based company website, should you have links pointing to you from Russia, Brazil or India? It doesn’t look natural if you have nothing at all to do with these countries!

The health of a link is essential to avoiding any form of a Penguin penalty. Key things to look for on a reputable site are quality content and an absence of spam signals. These signals come in the form of regular exact match links to poor quality sites or thin on-page content. By ensuring you build only healthy links, you can have confidence that the site’s link profile will stand up to scrutiny.


In Summary – Stay educated and tread the right path

The search landscape has changed heavily in such a short period of time. Accepted techniques which were done by hosts of webmasters and SEO’s in the past have long since gone and we must adapt to avoid any penguin or panda pitfalls in the future.  Google wants good quality content within its index so this has to be the future of digital marketing.

We have to create and earn links and visibility by creating content which people will enjoy and which is relevant to them.  We must evaluate and remove links which aren’t acceptable any longer and replace these with high quality and contextually relevant links. These should contain a varied range of anchor text which will create a natural looking back link profile, thus preventing any red flags.

Google will continually look to evolve and as an SEO agency we must learn to evolve too and create opportunities to ensure continued success for our clients in the future.