Launched in April 2012, the Google Penguin Update was first known as the ‘webspam algorithm update’ and was developed to target websites who may have been using poor quality or spam-like backlinks to try and manipulate the SERPs.
Before the update, link volume played a huge role in determining a webpage’s score through Google’s process of analysis, crawling and indexing. However, this meant that some low-quality websites were gaining better ranking results than they should have been.
Initially, Penguin only worked on a rollout basis but has been real-time since 2016.
The Google Update was necessary to continue the crackdown on low-quality and was considered an extension of the previous Panda algorithm. The aim was to gain more control over black hat spamming techniques and to encourage organic, authoritative and relevant links.
Google worked to understand, process and analyse the kind of links websites were gaining, in order to make decisions regarding quality and what links are deemed appropriate. Complying websites were rewarded with better ranking positions and others using poor links were downgraded in terms of ‘quality score’ which therefore ranking position and the amount of traffic directed to the website.
When assessing the quality of a link you should avoid making judgements based solely on the type of domain or presumed high-quality sites. Unfortunately, not all .edu domains are guaranteed to be a good source for backlinks. Webmasters should assess each link on an individual basis to avoid being on the wrong side of the Penguin Update.
The algorithm only deals with inbound links to the website in question and does not concern itself with outbound links. Since the original launch of the Google Penguin Update in 2012, there has been a number of updates and tweaks to the algorithm which has resulted in the algorithm affecting an increased percentage of queries.
It is in the best interest of webmasters affected by the Penguin update to carry out a link audit in order to remove or disavow any unwanted links. SEO technicians often rely on disavowing links that may be considered low quality. This tool can still prove effective despite the introduction of the Penguin update into the core algorithm. However, Google recommends the disavow tool is used sparsely and ideally, as a last resort when handling spam links and you should first contact the source and ask for it to be removed.
Google Search Console is an excellent way of viewing the backlinks or inbound links that your site has. A no-followed link does not carry any weight when it comes to the crawling process although you should be aware that links may be changed to follow in the future.
It is possible to recover from the Google Penguin Update but perhaps the most constructive way is to focus on gaining new, organic, quality links rather than attempting to ‘fix’ all previous links.