Search Engine Land's Guide to the Google Penguin Update

What Is The Google Penguin Update?

Google launched the Penguin Update in April 2012 to better catch sites deemed to be spamming its search results, in particular those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings. When a new Penguin Update is released, sites that have taken action to remove bad links (such as through the Google disavow links tool or to remove spam may regain rankings. New sites not previously caught might get trapped by Penguin. “False positives,” sites that were caught by mistake, may escape.

Our Guide To Google Penguin:

Read Search Engine Land’s latest news related to Google Penguin updates:

Penguin: Google’s Punitive Algorithm – And A Call To Google To Fix It

Google's Penguin Devastates Many For many years, a staple of my discussions with people who had been penalized by Google was the following advice: "Don't worry -- at Google, there is a culture of letting you repent of your sins and then be forgiven." Even if you had made some bad choices, if you started doing the right things, you could prosper once again in the search results. Boy, that has changed, and in a big way. Penguin is Google's algorithm for punishing bad SEO link building -- and not letting you get back up. I am not sure what changed internally at Google, but it sure feels like something has. I say this all w [...]

No, Google Says There’s Been No Penguin Update

google-penguin-featured This morning, I noticed a lot of buzz around a possible Google Penguin update. The SEO space was noticing huge changes in the search results from previously penalized sites, many that were impacted by the Google Penguin update. The Google Penguin algorithm targets sites trying to manipulate their search results through link building efforts that they deem as unnatural. This is not the manual actions for unnatural links but rather an algorithm that detects these types of links automatically. A Google spokesperson told us at Search Engine Land, there is no Penguin or other spam efforts goi [...]

Lawyers Sue SEO Firm For Violating Google Guidelines

lawsuit-600 A law firm in Michigan, Seikaly & Stewart, is suing its former SEO provider -- but not for a lack of ranking success. Rather, the firm is getting sued for allegedly using "spammy" techniques violating Google's guidelines. That comes via Eric Goldman. The defendant Rainmaker Institute, which specializes in online marketing services for the legal profession, is accused knowingly violating Google SEO guidelines by building "link farms" on behalf of the plaintiff's several legal domains. It's not clear from the complaint (also embedded below) whether the plaintiff law firm suffered a [...]

Were You Really Hit By A Search Engine Penalty, Or Is It Something Else?

shutterstock_136088975 Often, I'll speak to prospective clients who think they've been hit by an algorithm update or a penalty. They've lost a lot of organic traffic, so they immediately think that a search engine change is to blame. Unfortunately, I've also run into many situations where SEOs are using algorithm updates such as Panda or Penguin as explanations for organic traffic drops. Because clients may not understand the technical nature of SEO, vendors can often hide behind excuses of algorithm updates or past penalties as the reasons for traffic drops. So how can you know what the real problem is? Have Yo [...]

Google’s Penguin Algorithm Comes In Different Levels Of Degrees?

google-penguin-featured It may be the case that some sites impacted by Google's Penguin update may not be as impacted as the next. Meaning, Google's algorithms may apply a different degree of the Penguin update (which may feel like a penalty) to one site over another. Matt Cutts, Google's head of search spam, posted on Twitter a message that implies that Google's Penguin algorithm comes in different levels of degrees. His tweet was related to someone who was impacted by the algorithm and Matt Cutts responded to him saying "you still have a very mild case of Penguin." Here is Matt's tweet: @chipnicodemus I'd re [...]

5 Not-So-Common Reconsideration Request Errors

SEO I've been struggling with a particularly difficult link cleanup project lately. On the occasion of my 100th reconsideration request (4th for this particular client), I thought it might be helpful to share five not-so-common problems that you might run into during your own link cleanup project. [Editor's note: Since this post was originally published, it's received praise from two Googlers: webmaster trends analyst John Mueller and webspam head Matt Cutts! Which just goes to show how important it is that you continue reading!] 1. Don't Block Your Pages With Robots.txt One good solution to [...]

The Brave New World of SEO: Beyond Websites

changes-ahead-exit-sign We hear it regularly -- the death knell tolling for SEO. In the past several years, we've been bombarded by a barrage of change in organic search, from Penguin to Panda to Hummingbird, from inbound link penalties to [not provided]. Let's face it: the only constant in search is change. But I propose that SEO isn't dead by far. In fact, the role of SEOs is expanding rapidly, and the reality is that we now have to look beyond just the company website. Let's review some of the ways search has changed in 2013 and take a look at how those changes have impacted the role of search marketers. Mobi [...]

Penguin 5, With The Penguin 2.1 Spam-Filtering Algorithm, Is Now Live

google-penguin-featured The fifth confirmed release of Google's "Penguin" spam fighting algorithm is live. That makes it Penguin 5 by our count. But since this Penguin update is using a slightly improved version of Google's "Penguin 2" second-generation technology, Google itself is calling it "Penguin 2.1." Don't worry. We'll explain the numbering nonsense below, as well as what this all means for publishers. New Version Of Penguin Live Today The head of Google's web spam team, Matt Cutts, shared the news on Twitter, saying the latest release would impact about 1 percent of all searches: Penguin 2.1 launching toda [...]

Google: SEO Problems, Solutions & Wishlists

google-search-quality-guidelines When I was a little boy, my parents had an effective way of making me behave. They'd warned me that if I was rude, disobedient or messy, the bogeyman would come and get me. I never saw a bogeyman or even knew what one looked like -- but my imagination ran wild over this terrifying phantom that held my fate in its cruel hands and would ruthlessly punish me if I deviated from the straight and narrow path! Well, replace "parents" with "Google" and '"bogeyman" with "Panda" or "Penguin" (or any other fanciful fauna Google-watchers come up with in the future), and you have our SEO universe in a n [...]

Penalized & Sad: When To Abandon The Sinking SEO Ship

Penalized and Sad Sometimes the captain can’t afford to go down with the ship, no matter the temptation or emotional investment. Every few weeks, I receive another hopeless phone call from another desperate webmaster. Since Penguin, I've seen more ships go down than I care to count. Websites that have delved too deeply into black hat SEO and spam tactics of the past have paid a heavy fine -- for many, the ultimate price. So, how do you know when it's time to abandon the sinking ship? Well, let me walk you through it the same way I do on calls. But please, bear in mind that this is only my professi [...]

Demystifying Link Disavowals, Penalties & More

disavow-links-featured [caption id="attachment_169618" align="alignright" width="269"] Google Webmaster Hangout[/caption] Findings from a recent Google Webmaster Hangout on Air (video) demystify link disavowals, penalties and more. Read on for the official word from John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst from Google and friend to webmasters everywhere. First, Some Background Last month, I introduced Five Steps To Clean Up Your Links like A Techie. The commenters on the post had a lot of good questions, and I wanted to begin this month with a few clarifications. First, the development of that list was meant [...]

Big Brand SEO & Penguin 2.0

Matt Lays Down The Law

Taking a broader look at Multinational SEO, though, throws up particular issues for the big brand sites out there, and I though that in light of the upcoming Penguin 2.0 update confirmed by Matt Cutts recently it would be useful to look at particular areas of concern for big site SEO and how to ensure you come out smiling when Google’s planned updates take effect.

Penguin 2.0 Losers: Porn Sites, Game Sites, & Big Brands Like & The Salvation Army

google-penguin-featured Google's fourth Penguin update -- what the company is calling Penguin 2.0 -- hit last night, and less than 24 hours later we're already getting a first chance to look at what sites might be considered "losers" in terms of search visibility. In a nutshell, the list includes: porn sites, game sites and big brands like, the Salvation Army, CheapOair and Educational Testing Service (yes, ETS, the company that makes a lot of those standardized tests you probably took as a child). The SEO software company, SearchMetrics, has just shared its initial look at what sites have been affecte [...]

Still Seeing Post-Penguin Web Spam In Google Results? Let Google Know

disavow links penguin Google's next generation Penguin update is now live, and webmasters and SEOs are carefully assessing how this update has impacted their websites. Google is assessing things as well -- how this has impacted the search results, search quality and searcher satisfaction. Google's head of search spam tweeted, asking that if you still see spammy websites coming up in the Google search results, to let Google know. Matt posted an online Google doc form over here where you can specify the URL of the spam site, the search query you saw it for and any additional comments. Here's a special spam rep [...]

Penguin 4, With Penguin 2.0 Generation Spam-Fighting, Is Now Live

google-penguins-sign-featured The fourth release of Google's spam-fighting "Penguin Update" is now live. But, Penguin 4 has a twist. It contains Penguin 2.0 technology under the hood, which Google says is a new generation of tech that should better stop spam. Matt Cutts, the head of Google's Web spam team, announced the new Penguin 2.0 update during This Week in Google (Episode #199). He referenced the earlier video of himself talking about the next generation Penguin update, and said this is being rolled out "within the next few hours." Webmasters and SEOs: expect major changes to the search results. Matt specifical [...]

Google’s Matt Cutts: Next Generation Of The Penguin Update “Few Weeks” Away

google-penguin-featured In March, Google's chief web spam fighter Matt Cutts promised that the Penguin Update designed to fight spam would get a big refresh later this year. Today, Cutts gave an update -- keep waiting. It's still a few weeks off. Along the way, there's some confusion about whether the next Penguin Update will be Penguin 2 or Penguin 4. It'll be Penguin 4, in how we reckon things. Let's dive in. This Week Wasn't Penguin Publishers have already been wondering if a change in rankings that many have noticed this week was some type of Google update. Google won't say what, if anything happened. Howeve [...]

How Google’s Disavow Links Tool Can Remove Penalties

disavow-links-featured Can using Google's link disavow tool help remove penalties? Yes, the company says. But when it comes to manual penalties, disavowing links alone isn't enough. With algorithmic penalties, there may be a time delay involved. Below, more about how both methods work. Over the past few days, I've encountered a couple of cases where people are confused about how the link disavow tool works to remove penalties. So, I figured a clarification post was in order. Here's the situation, all of which I reverified with Google yesterday. Disavowing Links: "Don't Count These Votes!" If you submit a disavo [...]

Google’s Matt Cutts On Upcoming Penguin, Panda & Link Networks Updates

google-panda-penguin-blame-featured Google's head of search spam, Matt Cutts, announced new updates with Google's Penguin and Panda algorithms and new link network targets in 2013. Matt announced this during the SMX West panel, The Search Police. Significant Penguin Update Matt said that there will be a large Penguin update in 2013 that he thinks will be one of the more talked about Google algorithm updates this year. Google's search quality team is working on a major update to the Penguin algorithm, which Cutts called very significant. The last Penguin update we have on record was Penguin 3 in October 2012. Before that, w [...]

No, Google Hasn’t Released Unannounced Penguin Updates

google-penguin-featured Is Google pushing Penguin Updates without announcing them? A recent Google video might give that suggestion, but the Google tells us this is not the case. Confusion Over Penguin Refreshes The last time Google has confirmed a refresh or update to the Penguin anti-spam filter was back in October 2012, with Penguin Update 3. That was about 4.5 months ago. In a recent Google Webmaster Hangout with Google's John Mueller, one person asked John about these updates. John replied in a manner that may be interpreted as Penguin is updated on a more regular cycle but not always announced. You can li [...]

Why Asking StumbleUpon To Remove Your Links Is Dumb

stumbleupon-featured Turns out, StumbleUpon is getting regular requests each week from people asking for it to remove links to their sites, people who are worried that being linked to from a popular and long-standing social media sharing site is somehow hurting them with Google. The linksanity sadly continues. Every since Google stepped up its attack on bad links last year, in particular with its Penguin Update, there's been panic in some quarters about getting links removed. But it's not about removing all links. It's about removing bad links, and I wouldn't count StumbleUpon as one of the sites you should wor [...]

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