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Google Penguin changed the SEO game forever. Here’s why it’s still relevant today

Google is the most popular search engine in the world.

It captured over 86% of internet searches in 2017, and processed a whopping 7 billion searches per day!

When people search for information, Google evaluates the pages returned and ranks them based on their relevance.  The overwhelming majority of visitors trust Google’s top results because they know those websites rank high because they provide excellent content.

How does Google keep the quality of its top results high?

In 2012, Google introduced Google Penguin – a complex algorithm that detects and penalizes websites for cheating by selling links or keyword stuffing.


Google Penguin is a Google algorithm update designed to weed out websites that were, in essence, stealing traffic from other sites. This was done by using deceptive link-building tactics and/or manipulating user reviews through spam comments.

The penalty works by lowering your site’s ranking priority to influence how high a page ranks in search engine results [SERPS].

The goal is to make it so the page doesn’t rank well at all.

# The consequences of a Google Penguin penalty can be dire for websites that rely on website traffic to generate revenue, but they’re especially bad for small business owners and startups.

Since its release in 2012, Google has updated Penguin multiple times over the span of 6 years. Webmasters had ample opportunity to clean up their link profiles following each update—or face further penalties from future updates.

Google urges websites to follow its set of webmaster guidelines. Websites that follow these guidelines have a higher chance of ranking well in Google search results.

How Update 4.0 Changed Google Penguin

In March 2016, Google released a new update to their search algorithm that made the company’s previous Penguin updates almost unnecessary.

Called “Google Penguin 4.0”, this most recent change simply incorporated the spam-detecting system within the core algorithm for tracking website rankings and lowering them or removing them if they violate any rules.

No changes were actually made to the formula outside of this announcement as well; sites only saw impacts on their ranking in real-time because of it being a part of an overall effort by Google against spam forgeries and clones on its platforms.

The 5 Steps of Google’s Search Algorithm Today

1. Interprets a Person’s Meaning and Searches for the Best Match

Google’s first step in understanding a search query is to decipher what the user really meant. The algorithm then searches all of its data sources (think: Wikipedia, news stories, images, and dozens of other sites that build up Google’s knowledge base) to find the best possible match.

2. Finds the Most Relevant Results with keywords

A keyword is a term, phrase or question that people may ask online. Repeating keywords on your page helps Google understand what you’re talking about and to rank your site higher in their search result.

Keyword targeting is an important part of any content marketing strategy, but all keywords can’t benefit from the same degree of attention.

Over 92% of keywords only get ten or fewer monthly searches. That’s because people who don’t explicitly search for your target keyword never see that organic rank-boosting content.

To understand what keywords are searched most often, you can use a keyword planner or Google Trends. Both allow you to examine the search volume and overall popularity of keywords over time, but Trends also lets you see how many people are searching for that phrase right now!

3. Assesses the Quality of Websites to determine its value

Google has a formula to determine the quality of every website that ranks for a search term. That means the number of backlinks they have, their reputation through social media and other factors are blended together on Google’s own scale. This is how Google determines not just who ranks in top 10 positions but also what the page should look like, and how fast it should load.

Google looks at inbound and outbound links with greater weight being allocated to inbound links. This weighting is based on Google’s assessment of the quality of your site and the value of the content you’re providing to other sites. To achieve high search engine rankings, then your site needs to be seen as a valuable resource. Google’s algorithm now reflects that inbound links are not just important but essential.

“The first Penguin update had a profound effect on SEOs and web marketers. It shook the foundations of link building …”

4. Weeds out Unusable Content

Google now penalizes sites that do not perform well on mobile browsers. Mobile-friendliness is very important in Google’s own search results so it makes sense for them to want their users to be able to access content easily.

The importance of good usability and User Experience (UX) should not be underestimated. Poorly designed sites with poorly written, difficult-to-follow copy will not perform well in search engines or social media.

5. Analyzes Personal Preferences

Whatever you do online or in proximity to a smart device is probably being recorded somewhere. While the fear of Big Brother is very real, it can also be a positive as Google can use your own personal wants and needs in its ad strategies.

While Google doesn’t take an extremely hands-on approach to personalization, it does use the information it has on individuals in order to make more relevant ads that target your specific needs.

Google can also monitor how you interact with websites and alter its ad strategies accordingly. This is why after visiting a website and engaging with something–like clicking on a picture or excerpt–you might see an ad for that product pop up somewhere else on the web.


No matter how you look at it, “Google Penguin” is the gift that keeps on giving. While it might have been an update designed to combat link schemes and spammy backlinks, many SEOs also see it as a huge algorithm update that changed the entire web marketing landscape forever.

Google has more than 200 factors that affect ranking. Especially with its recent Penguin update, it can be difficult to remember them all while avoiding Google penalties.

And as always, there are pros and cons to everything. Some experts will say Penguin is not being used nearly enough by Google. Others will say it is an essential part of modern SEO techniques.

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