Avoid the Penguin Slap! – How Google’s Penguin Algorithm Could Affect Your Business

2016 will be remembered by many web marketers as the year google updated it’s penguin algorithm. What does that even mean? I hear you ask. It has to do with how google ranks your website. In particular the backlinks that point to your website – which is a huge factor in determining where your website ranks in the search results. The Penguin changes don’t have to alarm you. In fact understanding how the penguin algorithm works presents a great opportunity that business owners can take advantage of. But first, a bit of a Penguin backstory:

What’s With the Penguin?

Google frequently updates its search engine algorithm to provide its searchers with information they require, keeping the results as relevant as possible. Since 2010, in fact, it makes approximately 600 changes each year. The minor updates usually do not get any names or press attention; the major ones do. Google names its algorithm update after animals or other common things. The Google Penguin Update is one such major algorithm alteration that happened in April 2012.

Before Penguin

Back in the day (before 2012) it was quite easy to rank your website.

  1. Step 1: insert keyword into webpage as much as possible.
  2. Step 2: Spam every website on the planet with a link to your site using the keyword you want to rank for as anchor text (the word that people click on to link to your site).

Then Google introduced Penguin. Penguin is about your website’s backlink profile – that’s all the links out there on the web that point to your site. If your website had too many backlinks from poor, low quality sites and / or with the same phrase pointing to your site, then your backlink profile would be deemed unnatural by the penguin algorithm and you would get a penguin smack. Many websites suffered an overnight rankings plummet when penguin was first introduced.

How Does Penguin Affect Websites?

Penguin targeted web spam. The intention behind this was to penalise sites that didn’t adhere to expected quality standards, in the eyes of Google. In the real-world scenario, this means the affected site dropped down in search results. If your site was ranking on the first page of Google for a particular set of keywords, thanks to the spammy links, it would lose that positioning after the Penguin hit. Some sites may be pushed back by a few pages and a few other sites may be kicked into oblivion.

Recovering from a Penguin Penalty

To recover from Google Penguin, you should detect the unnatural backlinks heading to your website. Post that, you can either get rid of them or request Google to not count them as valid links. You can do so using Google’s disavow tool. Penguin constantly refreshes or updates itself. If you’ve done the housecleaning well, your site won’t get negatively impacted and Google would once again start trusting your site. At times, a couple or more Penguin refreshes could be required for a website to recover from Penguin completely, since the disavow file of a site could take six months (in some cases) to be processed completely.

Locating unnatural links isn’t straightforward and not all can manage to differentiate the natural links from the unnatural links. Moreover, the disavow tool must be used only if you know how it works, as disavowing the wrong links could turn out counter-productive. Also, a clean chit from Penguin doesn’t mean your site would successfully restore its original rankings or search engine positioning, since the backlinks that were responsible for your site’s erstwhile supremacy with the search engines don’t exist anymore.

2016 Penguin Algorithm – Main Changes

Penguin is currently a real-time Google algorithm component. Till recently, it ran separately outside of Google’s core algorithm. This recent development means both negative and positive changes to a site would occur quickly. Also, the 2016 update now counters spam by affecting individual page rankings and not taking down the whole website’s ranking.

Best Penguin Safe Practices

  1. Don’t build a high volume, low quality backlinks to your website, especially from paid networks
  2. Find industry relevant websites with a lot of organic traffic (use the SEM Rush analysis tool to see how much traffic a website is getting) to get backlinks from
  3. Use mainly domain or branded anchor texts in your backlink anchor text rather than keyword phrases
  4. Get a variety of Follow and no Follow links to your website as this appears most natural
  5. Use a tool like ahrefs to analyse your backlink profile and keep it natural.


Part of our ongoing monthly SEO packages is ensuring your backlink profile remains natural and penguin friendly. We know the optimal blend of keyword vs branded anchor text ratios and follow vs no follow backlinks to ensure your backlinks appear natural.

We seek to build backlinks through natural outreach and promotion. We have come across sites with an ugly backlink profile as a result of poor SEO practices in the past. Don’t buy cheap backlinks because they will do more harm than good. If you want help or analysis of your websites backlink profile talk to Business Web Marketing Australia today. We have a backlink analysis tool which will determine how healthy your backlink profile is.

James Alviani

James Alviani

James is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Halo Digital. For over 10 years, he has been working with Perth businesses, organisations and companies to generate leads through online search. His specialty is formulating strategic digital solutions from website design, messaging, keyword optimisation, content creation, and link building. He lives with his wife, Briony and four children South of Perth in Western Australia.

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