In order for Google to continue providing relevant and useful search results, they have to maintain the way that their search results ranking algorithm works by making periodic adjustments or tweaks through a series of updates.

One such update, codenamed Penguin, was released back in April 2012 and affected about 3% of all global search queries made by users in all languages.

According to Google, the purpose of this particular update was to target offending websites which employed black hat SEO (also known as webspam) techniques on their pages for the sole purpose of ranking highly for certain search terms or phrases in order to drive traffic to their websites. The Penguin update was rolled out for all language searches, not just English language specific searches like with some other previous updates such as Panda.

How does Google identify which sites contain webspam?

Historically, Google does not reveal exactly how it targets webspam. They state that they do not want to give people a way to game their search results and worsen the experience for users. However, in one of their “Webmaster Central” blog posts they do say that the Penguin update targets those violating their quality guidelines, so we can safely assume it targets websites with the following content:

  • Automatically generated content – text translated or scraped by automated tools without human review.
  • Link schemes – links inserted into text with little coherence or relevance to the page, excessive link exchanges or building partner sites just for the sake of cross-linking.
  • Cloaking – the practice of displaying different content to human visitors and search engines, for example text pages to search engines, and interactive pages to visitors.
  • Redirects – sending a visitor to a page that is different to the one they originally requested in a similar way to the cloaking examples above.
  • Hidden text or links – using text (keywords) written in the same color as the background, locating text behind images or using CSS to position text off the screen.
  • Doorway pages – large sets of poor-quality pages specifically optimized for specific keywords or phrases, template pages made solely for affiliate linking.
  • Pages with malicious behavior – pages that install malware on a user’s computer or changing a browser home or search page without the user’s consent.


Webspam in blogs and forums

The Penguin update also targets spam found on blogs and forums:

  • Comment spam – scripts or other automated software are used by spammers to generate and post comment spam on blogs.
  • Post spam – similar to comment spam, but this is where spammers automatically create fake accounts on forums and then publish spam posts/links.


How to create a Penguin-friendly website

In addition to ensuring that your website does not contain the above types of content which violate their quality guidelines, Google recommend regularly monitoring your website for any hacks such as injected content (malicious code that is injected into existing pages), added content due to web host security flaws, or even hidden content where hackers try to subtly manipulate existing pages on your website.

At Boost Your Website we keep up to date with any new Google updates, so our client’s don’t have to worry about them.