Google Penguin 4.0: The Flightless Bird That Can Take Your Rankings Sky High

penguin takes a dive into ocean

What exactly is Google Penguin and what it means for you as a website owner? Google adapts its Core Algorithm in final Penguin update.

Grab your hat, gloves, and jacket: We’re searching for penguins. Not just any penguin, mind you, but a very specific penguin — Google Penguin 4.0.

On September 23rd, Google released their most recent — and final — update to their Penguin algorithm, making it an official part of their Core Algorithm. I know what you’re thinking: “We’re only three sentences into this blog post and we’re already ankle-deep in technobabble and Antarctic birds.” But before you set down your snow shoes, let’s keep this expedition moving right along and answer the big questions of what exactly Google Penguin is and what it means for you as a website owner.

What Is Google Penguin?

Google Penguin was released in April of 2012 to help penalize sites that were attempting to increase their Google rankings by using methods that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.  Essentially, it was Google’s way of trying to cut down on people using underhanded techniques to make their sites rank higher than they actually should have been. A large area of focus for Penguin was finding websites that were buying links or obtaining them through link farms.

What Is a Link Farm?

Link farms are networks of sites that are simply set up to all link back to each other: Site A has a link that leads to Site B and C; Site B has a link that leads to Site A and C; and Site C has a link that leads back to site A and B. With a small number of sites, this isn’t an issue, but when the number of sites in these link farms reaches the hundreds or thousands, the web of overlapping links spams the search engine (Google in this case) and starts making all of those sites seem to be more prominent than they actually are within the World Wide Web. This, in turn, starts bumping those sites up through the ranks and puts them in spots that they really shouldn’t be in.

Why Does Google Care?

People searching with Google typically expect to find websites that actually have relevant information to what they’re searching for, and most of the time, people expect those websites to be high up on the list of search results. If those websites haven’t made it to the top of the list honestly and the quality of those sites is subpar, then the quality of Google’s search results goes down and that’s bad for business.

With Penguin, Google set out to make websites have relevant links that were more organic, rather than something a network of people were trying to manipulate. They also wanted to push websites to have much higher quality content to help achieve their ranking, opposed to using cheap tricks to force their way up higher on the list.

What Does This Mean for You?

One of the biggest changes in Penguin 4.0 is that the update is real-time, meaning that sites will be demoted much more quickly than previously. That means that if your site is happening to use questionable tactics to increase your search ranking, you’ll very quickly start to see your site fall off “Page 1” of Google search results. This also works in reverse though. If your site is penalized, you can recover quicker than before.

What Can You Do?

  • Check Your Links:
    Make sure that all of your links are relevant. Make sure that any links in your content, sidebar, comments, footer, etc. all link to websites and pages that contain relevant material. If the link is questionable, then it might be better to remove it.
  • Don’t Overdo the Links:
    Is your content full of lists of keywords, all linking out to various sites? Not only could this be considered “keyword stuffing” (which is another way to manipulate Google’s search rankings), but you may also be creating unnecessary and unrelated links. It might be worth taking a second look to make sure your content not only has actual substance but isn’t just a list of meaningless keywords.
  • Check the Quality of Your Content:
    The main reason Google is constantly updating their algorithms is to help keep the internet a place that people can find what they need, when they need it, and as quickly as possible. All of this is content-driven. If a site has good content that is laid out well, then that makes the internet a better place, it makes Google happy, and makes your site rankings happy.

Over the years, Google has worked and reworked their algorithms to focus more on user experience, and they want their users to do the same. So if you want to stay ahead of the curve and as high up in the world of Google, make sure your content comes first and keep an eye out for unneeded links.

a smiling man in a plaid shirt

Jonathan started his career in print design, but he quickly saw the potential of website design. Always looking for a new challenge, Jonathan taught himself development so he could bring his own designs to life; now he’s one of our most talented programmers. He loves board games, card games, and pranking coworkers (not necessarily in that order). Voted Infomedian Most Likely to Write Fantasy Novels, he’s serious about storytelling and is always eager to discuss the plot holes in about whatever popular book/movie/TV show everyone’s talking about. When not at work, Jonathan’s usually hanging out with his wife, Chandra, and their son.


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