What Is Penguin Update? Explain The Background of the Introduction and The Impact On SEO

What is Penguin Update

“What changed in Google’s penguin update?”

Google updates regularly, but not many people know exactly what has changed.

The Penguin update was penalized primarily for spammy behavior and low-quality backlinks. The Penguin update caused many malicious sites to drop in search rankings.

This time, we will explain in detail the outline of the Penguin update, the background of the introduction, and the impact on SEO so that you will not be unwillingly penalized when the update is performed again in the future.

What is Penguin Update?

The Penguin Update is an algorithm update designed to improve the quality of search results by removing sites that build links or spam for ranking manipulation.

It is the same as the Panda update in that it is intended to lower the ranking of low-quality sites that are not useful to users for the purpose of ranking manipulation and to display high-quality sites that are useful to users.

The origin of the name of the penguin update is said to be the same as the panda update, meaning “to make the quality of the site clear in black and white”, and the name of the penguin, which has an impressive black and white color scheme.

Penalties were imposed for “spam” prohibited by Google guidelines, and the site was lowered in search ranking or removed from search results.

This Penguin update was also incorporated into Google’s “core algorithm,” which continues to crack down on sites that violate the rules.

When and why was the Penguin update introduced?

The Penguin Update was introduced in April 2012.

It was introduced to overcome the situation where even low-quality sites that are not useful to users were displayed at the top of search results if the number of links was large.

In fact, until around 2012, the mainstream of SEO measures was “measures that emphasized the number of links rather than the quality of content”, so low-quality sites that collected links unnecessarily monopolized the top rankings, making it useful for users. search results could not be displayed.

In the Penguin Update, we’re reviewing our “link quality ratings” and lowering the ranking of sites that receive poor quality links. This specification still exists today, and it is said that the quality of links greatly affects search results.

Target of penalty is different from Panda update

The penguin update has different penalties than the panda update. The Penguin update targeted “SEO spam and low-quality backlinks,” while the Panda update targeted “low-quality content.”

The Panda update targeted and penalized low-quality content, such as content that was copied without permission or had no content.

Both the Penguin Update and the Panda Update are the same as updates made to sites for ranking manipulation purposes that do not consider user convenience.

Conversely, if both updates are high-quality sites that are useful to users, they will be evaluated accordingly and will lead to higher search rankings.

Specific contents of the Penguin update

The Penguin Update specifically penalized sites that:

  • Participation in the link program
  • Links from auto-generated content
  • cloaking
  • unauthorized direct
  • hidden text or hidden links
  • Stuffing pages with keywords that are irrelevant to the content
  • Abusing rich snippet markup

“Spam behavior and low quality backlinks” like the above are written as violations of Google guidelines.

Participation in the link program

Sites participating in the link program were subject to penalties. This is because link programs are intentionally used to manipulate search rankings.

For example, sites such as:

  • Increase backlinks by trading links and exchanging rewards for setting links
  • Excessive reciprocal linking (getting others to link to you instead of linking) or creating partner pages for reciprocal linking purposes
  • Get a large number of links, including the keywords you want to be displayed higher in the text links
  • Use automated programs or services to create links to your site

Google considers all of the above acts to be link programs and takes strict action against them.

Links from auto-generated content

The act of linking from automatically generated content is also under strict scrutiny. Because auto-generated content is considered unhelpful to users, linking to such sites can also be perceived as an attempt to manipulate rankings.

In fact, automatically generated content is often content that combines meaningless sentences using word salad. Such user-unhelpful, low-quality content was targeted by the Panda Update.

With the Penguin update, the scope of this has expanded, and even if there is no problem with the content of the site itself, sites that are linked to low-quality sites as described above are also subject to penalties.

Read Also: Explaining The Relationship Between SEO and The Number of Keywords


Sites that “cloak”, presenting different content or URLs to users (humans) and search engines, were also included in the Penguin Update.

The main methods of cloaking include:

  • Display pages of HTML text to search engines and pages of images to users
  • Insert text or keywords into pages only if the user requesting the page is a search engine, not a person

As mentioned above, cloaking displays text and images that are irrelevant to the user’s search intent. When something like this happens in the search results, instead of solving the user’s troubles, they feel distrustful of search engines.

Bad Redirect

Unauthorized redirects are impersonations because they do something the user doesn’t expect. A redirect is when a user trying to access your site is sent to a different URL than the one they originally accessed.

Sometimes it’s done for good reasons, like when you change a site’s URL or merge multiple sites into one page.

However, fraudulent redirects that unintentionally lead users to other sites are malicious methods aimed at manipulating rankings. Similar to cloaking, unauthorized redirects are seen as disrespectful spamming and can significantly lower your search rankings.

Hidden Text/Hidden Links

“Hidden links” and “hidden text”, which are intended to be read only by search engines without being noticed by users, were penalized as deception.

Hidden text and hidden links are inserted in a way that is not visible to the user.

  • White text on white background
  • put the text behind the image
  • Position text off screen using CSS
  • set font size to 0
  • Link only small characters (such as hyphens in paragraphs)

As mentioned above, keywords and links are inserted so that they can be understood only by search engines, so there is a possibility that pages that are completely unrelated to the search keyword will be displayed.

Such behavior of deceiving users is contrary to Google’s philosophy and is subject to severe penalties.

Stuffing pages with keywords that are irrelevant to the content

The practice of stuffing pages with keywords irrelevant to the content is also subject to penalties. Overstuffing keywords in your content can have a negative impact on your rankings.

The practice of stuffing web pages with keywords and numbers for the purpose of manipulating Google’s search rankings is called “keyword abuse.” Keyword abuse tends to force keywords into unnatural sentences. In other words, it is not a useful article for users.

Abusing rich snippet markup

In the Penguin update, the technique of abusing rich snippet markup was subject to penalties. This is also a malicious act to deceive users.

A rich snippet is a page description written below the title of a web page on the search results screen. Many people read this rich snippet and use it as a criterion for choosing a site to visit, saying, “Let’s read this article.”

Abuse of rich snippet markup means putting a description in this rich snippet that is different from the actual page content. It can be said that it is an act of deceiving users who made them think “I want to read this article”.

Such user impersonation has disappeared with the Penguin update.

Adherence to Google guidelines is important for SEO

Adherence to Google’s guidelines is essential for SEO. This is because doing white SEO and working on “content SEO” is a shortcut to being displayed at the top of search results.

As we have seen in this article, the Penguin update has put Black Hat SEO into decline.

If you do not create content SEO, that is, high-quality content that meets the user’s search intent, it will not be displayed at the top of the search results.

In addition, it is necessary to make it easy to read not only for users but also for search engine crawlers, such as increasing quality backlinks and setting up an XML sitemap.


I explained the outline of the penguin update, the background of its introduction, and the specific contents of the update.

Spamming and low-quality backlinks are strictly enforced by the Penguin Update. In other words, black hat SEO, which uses tricks and tricks, is no longer effective, and now it is the era of content SEO.

From now on, it will be important to create user-first content in line with Google’s philosophy, emphasizing “how to make content useful to users.”