The march of the Penguin

In April 2012, after weeks of speculation Google announced a major update to its algorithm that affected many SEO agencies, which became known as the Penguin update. This was all about Google making a conscious effort to reward high quality websites and discourage some of the black hat SEO practices being adopted by some webmasters and search marketing agencies.

The effect was instant. For some websites this Google update was particularly damaging and the recovery has been long and hard. For the search marketing industry, the lesson has been clear. Google is smart and only getting smarter, and while the desire to succeed as quickly as possible wins through what Google sets out as bad SEO practice may be hugely tempting, the question has to be, is it worth the risk? 

The first Penguin update really shook things up for a lot people and businesses which, for us as a professional digital marketing agency, was a good thing. It made us adapt and get better at what we do, which ultimately benefits our clients and web users as a whole.

Since the original Penguin release there have been a range of further Penguin updates, re-indexing and reinforcing the same principles, however with the latest Penguin update, the key difference is that it is now part of the core algorithm and works in real-time, as described by Google’s search blog: - 

“Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the internet, many of Google's algorithms would take that into consideration very fast, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed. With this change, Penguin's data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we re-crawl and re-index a page.”

Another interesting aspect of this latest Panda update is that Google describes it as more granular. So, in the past if your website was penalised it would be a site-wide penalty. Now however, with the latest update, it appears that this may no longer be the case. There may still be whole websites which are penalised if required by Google, but we may now see more examples of specific pages or sections of a website being penalised.

So, the march of Google’s Penguin continues. But what wider conclusions can be drawn from this? What does this say about where Google is heading and what should we as leading performance SEO company be thinking about?

The wider conclusion here is that Google is getting smart. Very smart. They have been investing heavily in machine learning and artificial intelligence in recent years and are set to continue in this fashion because of how effective it is in improving their products and us, the users.


As a digital marketing agency, the latest round of Google updates shows us that there are no SEO shortcuts and that anybody who tells you there is should be ignored. Google has put the user at the heart of everything and so should any business that uses the internet needs to do the same. Focus on the user and serving them the very best and technically sound content, build backlinks the right way with the right people and use Social Media effectively.


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