Google Launches “Penguin Update” Targeting Webspam In Search Results

Google has announced that it is releasing a new search algorithm that it hopes will better catch people who spam its search results or purposely do things to rank better that are against Google’s publishers guidelines. Going live today, Google says the “Penguin Update” will impact about 3% of search queries.

From the company’s posts on the Inside Search and Google Webmaster Central blogs:

In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s quality guidelines. This algorithm represents another step in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.

Fighting Web Spam

What’s “webspam,” as Google calls it, or search spam? Pages that try to gain better rankings through things like:

Our search engine spam penalties page explains more about these types of common spam.

Did Google Already Fight Spam? Yes, But…

The web spam techniques above aren’t new. Some of them are more than 10 years old and date back to before Google even operated as a search engine. So why is Google only now going after such methods?

It’s not, even though the blog post might give some newcomers that impression. Google’s warned about and fought against such techniques for ages. Rather, what’s really happening is that Google is rolling out better ways that it hopes to detect such abuses.

Despite warning against such spam techniques, it’s easy to find cases where they still work. It’s enough to make some long-time “white hat” SEOs feel foolish arguing that people should avoid spamming Google when it seems to pay-off, as I wrote about recently.

“We’ve heard a lot of solid feedback from SEOs who are trying to do the right thing and who don’t want to see webspam techniques rewarded, and we feel the same way,” said Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team.

How’s Google improved its spam filters? No surprise here, Google’s not saying.

Targeting Spam, Not “Over-Optimization”

Somewhat related, is this the “over-optimization” penalty that Cutts warned was coming last month? Yes and no. It is the update he was talking about, but Cutts is clarifying that now somewhat infamous over-optimization statement.

“I think ‘over-optimization’ wasn’t the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO, and we tried to make that fact more clear in the blog post,” Cutts told me.

By the way, if you’re looking for a catchy name for this update as Google has sometimes given other ones like the Panda Update, bad news. Officially, Google is calling it the “webspam algorithm update,” the company told me.

Postscript: Google has now released a name, so we’ve updated the story headline. See our follow-up post, The Penguin Update: Google’s Webspam Algorithm Gets Official Name

SEO Continues To Be Encouraged

Indeed, today’s post makes a point of contrasting “white hat SEO” against “black hat webspam” and encourages people to continue with SEO best practices:

Our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics….

Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings….

We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.

3% Of Queries Impacted

Is this update the reason behind ranking drops that many reported last week? Google had already said the cause of that was due to a problem with a parked domains classifier and reconfirms that today’s new spam fighting algorithm update was not part of last week’s changes.

Google says the new update will impact about 3.1% of queries in English; 3% in German, Chinese and Arabic. The percentage might be higher for languages where spam has been slipping through even more, such as in Polish, where 5% of queries are expected to change.

Postscript: See our follow-up stories:

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Penguin Update | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | SEO: Spamming | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Jaiser Abbas

    thank GOD, was saved from the Google punishment, luckily all optimization about natural ways which always helps to get quality stuff from other resources. well i have seen many websites which get penalized because over optimizations and extra pages which never used & just created, so its negatively impact at Penguin. well sites administrator should need to use ethical way to get quality links and internal pages should be complete.

  • mehfuz badhon

    I’ll follow this for my
    May be, this post will help me.
    Thanks admin

  • generationx4u

    I read your blog it’s very useful for us,I think too you are right, there are mistakes in google, google itself ranks high a website and then same site is deranked,I also became prey of this update, one of my websites was not in my seo focus and it also went down with the optimized website,anyway thanks for sharing the information. 
    Evdo Wireless Internet

  • Shawn Olson

    Sounds like keyword stuffing to me. Also, the “keywords” meta tag has not been used for years. That could also be hurting you. I would try to thin out the use of “coffee machine” a little bit more.

    SEO4 Inc.

  • Shawn Olson

    Performing a site: search will find all the pages in Googles index for that particular domain. However many results show up are the pages of that domain that Google knows about. Make sense?

  • Shawn Olson

    I can totally relate to you man. I own and operate an SEO firm and had a few clients slip. I was able to get them back up in about a week or so, by doing a re-inclusion request with Google, and really gearing up their local search by incorporating Google+ into their website. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

  • Shawn Olson

    You would not know where to begin. You now have to reverse SEO to get results. Its a bit trickier now. Not as easy as you would think.

    SEO4 Inc.

  • Mark

    If you know how Google works then you MUST REALIZE that Google Analytics is your “Achilles Heal”. Using Google Analytics leaves you open to Google knowing your visitors, link structure, referrals, content from other sites, etc.

    Don’t use Google Analytics and your problems will disappear.
    If you need to know where your visitors come from, use the visitor tools on the webserver you already use and it is usually free!!!!

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