Happy Birthday Google's Penguin Update

Apr 24, 2013 • 9:02 am | comments (87) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

penguin birthdayToday is the one year birthday/anniversary of the release of Google's Penguin update - it was released on April 24, 2012.

Since then, we've had two additional updates of it on May 24, 2012 and then on October 5, 2012. Now we await the fourth update which is expected to be really big sometime this year.

This update was felt by more SEOs than the Panda update. In fact, our polls (very scientific ones) said 65% of SEOs were impacted by the update. And our polls also show that 94% didn't fully recover from the Penguin update. So this update is serious business for SEOs, webmasters, businesses and of course, Google.

Now that it has been a year, let me ask you if you recovered yet. Take my poll below:

Here is a birthday video one webmaster made for the Penguin update:

Now, I know joking about this update is insulting to many SEOs and webmasters. But sometimes, we need a smile. I hope anyone impacted by Penguin or any Google update finds their way back to making a lot of money via Google.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Image credit to BigStock Photo for birthday penguins

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04/24/2013 01:09 pm

you are saying 2 updates till now.., and awaiting for 4th upcoming? how come.., when and where is the 3rd update?

Barry Schwartz

04/24/2013 01:10 pm

1st was on April 24th, then two updates after, version 2 and 3. We are waiting on the fourth.

Pawel Gontarek

04/24/2013 01:25 pm

Recovered but not fully... still working on it.


04/24/2013 01:26 pm

looks like its hitting Google UK results...


04/24/2013 01:29 pm

Just a suggestion: For these polls on whether or not someone has recovered it should ask specifically, "Have you recovered your traffic?" or "Have you recovered your original KW rankings?". There's a big difference.


04/24/2013 01:47 pm

more details please..

Martin Oxby

04/24/2013 02:38 pm

We weren't hit nor any of our existing clients. However we worked on a client's link profile who came to us with a penalty and despite clearing out and disavowing hundreds of links, Google still said that Penguin said no, but they are *never* helpful in advising where additional bad link vibe could come from and as a result that client still has a penalty. Another one who came to us had a Penguin algo 'penalty' and again, despite the cleanup they didn't recover - and annoyingly their competition had really spammy link profiles and yet seemed to get away scot-free. Doesn't seem equitable to me.

Martin Oxby

04/24/2013 02:53 pm

Any tips on how you approached the recovery, or is it a slow, manual link clean-up process still?


04/24/2013 02:57 pm

Hopefully they run the refresh soon, we revoked our manual penalty in November and still do not rank in Top 100. Hopefully they will refresh b/c this is a year of no income for us.... I m hoping for a big recovery but I will also expect the worst ---


04/24/2013 03:44 pm

You removed/disavowed the spammy links that were acting as the step ladder for the clients sites and now they don't rank as well as pre-penalty... ...natbe they are ranking where they would be if they hadn't used spammy links to manipulate the SERPs in the first place. Penalty with links seems to usually mean, "these links were helping you, and now they are not; rankings are now where they should have been without the attempted gaming of the system". My comment works off the assumption that your definition of 'penalty' is that the rankings dropped and not that the site was actually delisted from the index.

kizi friv

04/24/2013 04:06 pm

I hate google. it made ​​me miserable relegation. can anyone give me advice

Martin Oxby

04/24/2013 04:22 pm

Well, one of the sites was an algo issues - the links they already had when they came to us needed cleaning up, so yes, manipulative, so rankings dropped with Penguin algo (not a strict 'penalty', granted). The other one was a penalty (Google issued it) on one area of their website so listings fell then they came to us. Both were their own fault/responsibility and I'm not denying that, the issue for me is when you clean up a whole load of stuff to try to clear a manual penalty and get no assistance from Google as to what they still consider to be bad links, even when you've used several sources (and GWT) of link data. They don't *help* you find the answer to clean up your act, you're supposed to be able to work out all the answers to know what Google are thinking...


04/24/2013 04:24 pm

there should be some kind of gov control everytime Google decides to screw people massively, just imagine the number of people who lost entire business because of the update, it's gotta have an impact on the economy


04/24/2013 04:28 pm

The day when google devil was born and when this company from most respected become greedy for all peoples in the world. google - shame!


04/24/2013 04:37 pm

So, they spammed Google's index and then they/you expect assistance from Google ? Are you serious ? ))


04/24/2013 04:39 pm

Yup, also government should pay you cash monthly ... or do you prefer weekly ?

Martin Oxby

04/24/2013 04:40 pm

In the same way that ex-drug addicts or convicted criminals need help to rehabilitate themselves, yes. If someone turns from spamming and wants to clean up their act, then why should they not get help? I don't understand your attitude on this one, I'm afraid.


04/24/2013 04:41 pm


Marie Haynes

04/24/2013 05:16 pm

The two updates were May 25 and October 5.

kizi friv

04/24/2013 05:32 pm

oki . i trying


04/24/2013 05:37 pm

They do. It's called Welfare. God bless.


04/24/2013 05:39 pm

PPC profits on the rise!


04/24/2013 05:49 pm

Your examples are totally unrelated. Drug addicts are sick people. Sick people need help. Convicted criminals prove their conviction in many ways before apply for the help. Did your clients convict ? Where is it possible to see ? Did your clients prove they will not spam in the future ? How ? Attitude is simple. Did you find the way to spam ? Then find the way to clean up your s**t. By yourself. Your victims (Google and honest web developers) have more interesting things to do, than clean up your s**t with you.

Pawel Reszka

04/24/2013 05:56 pm

That's not true. Google takes manual action against sites that have a lot of spam links pointing to them which means you are being pushed down even though you could rank higher naturally without those spammy links. There are sites that ranked good before the spam appeared and once penalized they completely vanished. Some recovered when penalty was lifted some didn't. When you get hit with manual penalty you could have a link from WhiteHouse.gov and still not be seen anywhere.

Pawel Reszka

04/24/2013 06:00 pm

WTF, your examples are totally unrelated as well. Since when it's ok to compare SEOs with convicted criminals?


04/24/2013 06:04 pm

LOL. You really are full of it :) Google themselves have caused most of the spam on the internet. It is their rules and guidelines and pseudo laws that drive the spam. Free money for everyone suited them fine when they were looking for a foothold. Now they have their world domination, you need to pay for the money :) What other morally corrupt business operates in the same way? DRUG DEALER! Come try my candy little guy. Oh, you love my candy. Go have loads. Get as much as you can. Feed all your family on my free candy. Then... BAM... The free candy gone boy. You need to pay now or you and your family can go live by the bins with the hobos. Ah, I love this do no evil approach. I think the drug dealers should try to rebrand themselves. Google learned so much from their business model but I bet Google have screwed over more people than drug dealers ever have :)


04/24/2013 06:27 pm

Did Google cause spam or did people take advantage over the loopholes in the Google's algo ?


04/24/2013 06:36 pm

Well, I think since SEOs started barely legal activity like link spam. Then since SEOs started to crack the Google's algo. Then since SEOs started to sell questionable services to moms&pops. But probably you should ask Martin Oxby, since it was his example of ... something.


04/24/2013 07:06 pm

search results are worse than before panda and penguin. I wish they hurt spammers but the only thing I see more today in SERPs is scrapers. They rule the search and outrank original sources like never before...

chaudhary amir

04/24/2013 08:02 pm

web advertising are rather more serious when compared with previous to panda as well as penguin. My spouse and i hope they hurt spammers nevertheless the simply idea My spouse and i observe additional nowadays inside Serps will be scrapers. They procedure the search as well as outrank first places just like in no way previous to

Martin Oxby

04/24/2013 09:26 pm

For a start I wasn't calling SEO's criminals... I was attempting to show that people who do wrong (which going against Google's guidelines if you want to get ranked by Google is) should have a chance to redeem themselves. Do you not agree with that. What annoys me most about the *way* you put things, not necessarily *what* you're saying is it wasn't even MY spam! All I think is if people turn around and begin behaving properly they should be helped to clean up after themselves. Maybe I'm too caring for you?


04/24/2013 10:16 pm

Google caused spam of course, they never value content - only values links. This is result of problem created by google at first step. Penguin and Panda is kids of that marasm. But google keep stealing 'not-spammers' images and display hq versions of this images on google image search. So, quick look into future. Coming soon google KnowAll+ which will scrape all sites, reviews, will adapt it to one design and display it in G KnowAll+ search results. At bottom of content - very small link to webmaster site. Also all ads on site automatically replaced to adsense (with text, sorry but by our terms we unable to display other ad networks. So if you not particulate in adwords, we are sorry, but please wait when user will click on your site link at bottom of your article (at G KnowAll+ search results).

Craig Hamilton-Parker

04/24/2013 10:17 pm

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always. Mahatma Gandhi Happy Birthday!


04/24/2013 10:23 pm

google still continues their spam activity with promoting of their google chrome, stealing hq images, etc. You don't know it???

Iulian Ghisoiu

04/24/2013 10:36 pm

Well, I'm not sure if all users make the difference between Google Penguin Update and Unnatural Links notifications .


04/24/2013 10:55 pm

I don't say you're the spammer. You're talking on behalf of your clients and I'm talking to them via you. "they should be helped to clean up" Yup, they pay you, you clean up for them. Fine. But you said "and get no assistance from Google". And here is my question : why victims of their spam should participate in their clean up ?

RentalLease Agreement

04/24/2013 10:56 pm

took me a year to recover.. ended up having to give my forms away for free and collect adsense as I have given up on making my own links and decided if they're good enough (which they are) people will link to me (and they are believe it or not!). I am grateful to have been able to join the light side of the force. "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." -Charles Darwin

Pawel Reszka

04/24/2013 11:01 pm

So what if you are victim of Negative SEO? I know what...you are guilty until proven innocent right?


04/24/2013 11:03 pm

Not sure what do you mean. I never saw unsolicited links related to Google in my comments form. I never received unsolicited emails related to Google. I never saw comments on other websites spammed by Google.


04/24/2013 11:24 pm

use bing to search latest news. But even at seroundtable you can find lot of news about google sponsored blogs posts.


04/24/2013 11:31 pm

they even ban themself for 1 day or two after this situation was discussed everywhere. They told about 3 weeks, but I checked few times - chrome was at top of their organic serp. Big gaming. And how many things we still don't know? Also how many adwords spam in google search results now? How many peoples looking for organic site but mistakenly click on adwords? How many peoples unable to find what they looking for and forced to click on adwords (MFA effect). It bad user experience, but good for google. spam? yes, may be. but it near it.


04/24/2013 11:40 pm

It's been a year already? Well, happy birthday Penguin!


04/25/2013 01:29 am

So, what is your problem ? Ban Google. Don't use its search and other services. Erase it from your memory. Stick with Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, Yandex, Blekko, Samuru, Baidu, etc etc etc ... It's simple. What is the problem ?


04/25/2013 02:42 am

are you doctor? Seo, Anti-Seo, - all it clinic now because of evil google.


04/25/2013 04:17 am

I totally agree with you...! Sometimes we recover in traffic but not in KW rankings. And sometimes recover in KW ranking but not in traffic.


04/25/2013 04:26 am

Yes, today is Penguin first birthday... but its not thing to be happy as most of us have not recovered yet from first Penguin update and and the second in on the way :( We are not only loosing ranking but also traffic of our websites. May be Google is doing all these updates for Adwords...

Soni Sharma

04/25/2013 04:48 am

Penguin is a good update for bad link networks.

avinash rana

04/25/2013 05:24 am

ha ha .. Nice Video , Happy Birthday Penguin Update , hope your impact will b low in future and in favorable for SEO's and search.


04/25/2013 06:55 am

Well here's hoping that everybody recovers who cleaned up their act.

Scatman Joe

04/25/2013 09:22 am

That is the best analogy ever!

SEO Expert | SEO

04/25/2013 11:23 am

Shall we have to celebrate this ? :)

Chetan Tawale

04/25/2013 11:27 am

yes,its realy true

John Britsios

04/25/2013 12:01 pm

No worries Barry. As an SEO consultant I do not feel insulted. I am happy that such an algorithm exists. Penguin made my life much easier! Happy Birthday Penguin!


04/25/2013 12:02 pm

Negative SEO is myth. 100000+ spam links were pointed to my website. No probs. Links disappeared in three months.

Peter Watson

04/25/2013 12:11 pm

Penguin not only destroyed spammers, but it destroyed legitimate businesses as well. The big lesson learned was 'pay more attention to your link profiles'.

John Britsios

04/25/2013 12:13 pm

You mean Google also destroyed legitimate businesses who abused Google's algorithms tolerance. Correct?

Peter Watson

04/25/2013 12:14 pm

The difference being spammers intentionally tried to cheat Google, while many legitimate online businesses did not.

John Britsios

04/25/2013 12:15 pm

What is the big deal having a link from the White House? Or are you talking about a political, federal or government related site being linked from it?

Faizaan Khan

04/25/2013 12:16 pm

Reminds off the Doom day, when SEO company where i used to work was on "Fire" and my job as a content writer too :P lol They used to use BMR the popular link network and Penguin caught them and punished badly. Business lost and i lost my job as well. It the day when i actually came to know what SEO is all about and what Google can cause to the big Bizness around Glob. !! But, i highly regard the Penguin with respect to destroying link networks.... Had if it not destroyed a legitimate businesses, i would have been giving 10/10 to this update.

John Britsios

04/25/2013 12:23 pm

If you would kill someone but not intentionally, you should not be found guilty? Or did I miss your point? And to clarify here, an algorithm does not understand if the legitimate business owners spammed intentionally or not. And why should it? Spam is spam. If a legitimate business is not an SEO related business, they should let an SEO do their job, and they should do their work. How about if every SEO would do the business of everyone else too. That said, can you explain why does the SEO profession exist? Or should we all SEOs go unemployed? I am confused. That sounds to me like a very weird or even an unfair business model.


04/25/2013 12:27 pm

f you're site isn't listed in the Search Engines, how can people find you to buy ... Furthermore, in order to deliver their messages, the people who send spam .... It took us more than two weeks to clean up from the incident. ... Victims find that the vacation accommodations aren't deluxe--unless they're willing to pay to upgrade.

Peter Watson

04/25/2013 12:30 pm

Actually John, there are thousands of cases where a person has accidentally killed someone and been found not guilty. There are many grey areas to this analogy and I'm not saying the guilty website (or person) should walk away scott free, I'm simply saying that the algos have destroyed a lot of businesses that didn't know they were spamming, etc.

John Britsios

04/25/2013 12:38 pm

Well if the algos destroyed a lot of business that did not know they were spamming, I agree that they deserve a second chance which Google never denied that. "If I do a mistake for a first time, the shame fall on my nature. If I do the same mistake twice, the shame falls on me." So what can we learn from that? Concentrate on your business which you know best, and hire a professional who knows SEO to do the SEO job for you. And at last I see you have a "business for sale" company". How would you like if SEOs would start a business related to yours and compete you. Would you like that? If you answer you would not, why would you do the SEO work yourself? If I missed something, please clarify. I am like everyone else here to learn and to share.

Peter Watson

04/25/2013 12:44 pm

The statistics say that over 60% never recovered. Not sure if Google has given too many second chances. I guess we won't know for sure until the next Penguin rolls out. John, the Penguin was targeting a lot of SEO's and hiring an SEO is just as risky as doing it yourself. How can someone tell a good SEO from a bad SEO? Too many webmasters have been burned. It is unfortunate, but true. And in the event you do find a reputable SEO, their fees are usually out of reach for small businesses, hence the reason webmasters try to do SEO themselves.

John Britsios

04/25/2013 01:01 pm

The Google Penguin algorithm never targeted professional SEOs. If you mean with SEOs, crap hat SEOs or businesses who want to play SEOs, at an extent I agree that you are right, but not 100%. But to be 100% accurate, the Penguin was and is targeting SPAM! If the spammer is a grandma, a priest, a criminal, a hard worker or a self pro-claimed SEO, the algorithm does not make any exceptions. And about the small business excuse - sorry, but I know that excuse, since I am dealing with that almost every day. For example a related company to your industry was earning $20K-$30K a month and they did not want to invest $3K a month. They prefered to shoot themselves in their own foot, playing with a game called SEO. Well if they were smashed, that is what they deserved. Do you want to bet that they will do again the same mistake? I can tell you in advance: YES! You know why? Because God was not fair when he was giving to every individual an amount of IQ. Some got less and some got more. At last, like in every business or product: WYPIWYG = What You Pay Is What You Get. Want to over-ride that? If yes, then don't blame no one about that. It will be your mistake if you fail. So lets stop blaming Google or the low revenues of small businesses.


04/25/2013 01:04 pm

Yes. I think everyone agrees that you can create new pages/content and gain your total traffic back, but for people like me who lost 60% of their long tail keyword rankings(but kept rankings for head terms) to a specific page gaining back those specific rankings is the hard part.

Martin Oxby

04/25/2013 01:14 pm

Right, I see your point. And from a moral perspective there's no moral obligation on Google to help people who spam to clean up their mess. What I have found, usually where clients themselves don't 'do' the SEO, but have crappy spammers do it and they don't know the level of spam or necessarily which crappy links have got them penalised so they don't *know* what to clean up and those companies don't always disclose which links they created. So a website owner needs to clean up their act and is only told they have 'unnatural links' and don't know where to start looking. THAT's the case where I think Google should, in the interests of a cleaner Internet, be more helpful in pointing out WHERE the bad links are so the website owner can take action. Whether you agree or not, I don't mind, but hope I explained myself clearly enough :-)

Peter Watson

04/25/2013 01:46 pm

Professional SEO's, crap hat SEO's??? Maybe you know the difference, but the average website owner does not. That's why it's hard for a web owner to put their trust in SEO's. There are too many 'snake oil' sales men out there and web owners are too scared to hand over their money (if they can afford the very expansive prices of a Good SEO). Yes Penguin was designed to tackle spam, and getting to my original point, it wiped out online businesses who were victims of poor SEO's who participated in spammy link building tactics. Innocent victims in one sense, but guilty in another. I have no interest in your example case study. Not relevant to my point.

John Britsios

04/25/2013 01:51 pm

I have 3 last questions: 1. Have you been abused from a snake oil SEO? 2. Can you explain why my as you called case study is irrelevant to your point? I am confused... 3. Do you know a good SEO and you are willing to hand out money?

Peter Watson

04/25/2013 01:56 pm

1. No 2. Because my original post is talking about innocent victims of Penguin. People who hired SEO firms to build links for them and got screwed! I was not referring to webmasters who did their own SEO. 3. Yes I do know a good SEO, but I do not have the budget (just like most small businesses)

John Britsios

04/25/2013 01:59 pm

Peter if you know a way a small business can survive in this huge competition war, please be so kind and explain me how that can work. I would be very interested to learn how that can work. Thanks man.

Peter Watson

04/25/2013 02:01 pm

Small businesses need huge budgets. If you don't have the budget, you cannot compete.


04/25/2013 02:32 pm

They lost juice from spam links. They lost "business" they couldn't run. Internet became cleaner. Google do their part of job in the interests of a cleaner Internet. Happy Peng ........ Festiv ....... whatever )

Pawel Reszka

04/25/2013 03:33 pm

It was just an example. What I was trying to say is that if you get a manual penalty it's not just links that get discounted but you also get pushed down even though you should rank higher without those unnatural links that appeared.

Pawel Reszka

04/25/2013 03:34 pm

Myth? Maybe you just don't look in the right places: http://www.affhelper.com/interview-with-aaron-wall-from-seobook/

Y8 Games

04/25/2013 04:24 pm

today my website is top 20 google :( very sad


04/25/2013 04:30 pm

There isnt anything to celebrate. 5 straight years on first page for keywords related to our services until Penguin arrived last year. 75% of traffic lost. This last year has been the most hard-working following all the guidelines and nothing works and now on first page for my keywords I see Facebook pages, search results pages from Ask.com, pages with '0' results or no content, unrelated sites, repeated serps from same site up to 8 times on same page, anyway, I have a bunch of examples that proof that SERPs have gotten WORSE after Penguin and Panda. There is nothing to celebrate.


04/25/2013 05:54 pm

)) And why do I need to look elsewhere ? I have my own statistic to look ... Furthermore, if you would search for the prove that 2+2=5, then no doubt you would find it ) Does it mean, that 2+2=5 ?


04/25/2013 05:59 pm

Oh, just discovered, that this "affhelper" is your website. No doubt this is the best place to read proves of your thoughts )) Not interested in further conversation with you.

Pawel Reszka

04/25/2013 10:25 pm

and what statistic would that be?


04/26/2013 12:06 pm

Definitely. The bad spammy networks have been hit. On the other hand I feel that marketplaces for blogs & backlinks are on the rise, as these have proven to be a great source of quality links.


05/01/2013 08:08 am

The way Google is going they are missing the very basic points: 1) SERP and links: When the dependency is on links (bad or good does not matter) A site with more resources will always win. In fact good link will need more resources. And any webmaster knows that whatever we say, the very very natural links are not only the ones which make a difference. And I am not talking about paid link but paid in kindness or friendship or whatever. The bottom line is that a site with smaller resources but better contents can not win. So sorry, it's not just about the contents. 2) Concepts like Google News, another sword against good search results: If a site gets the News status, they automatically generate 100s or 1000s or more links because of News aggregating sites. Now let's take a hypothetical example of 2 weather sites. One site has shows the weather forecast for nest 24 hours and then the old forecasts which are not relevant are gone. The other sites keep all the old forecasts on separate pages stored. The second one will meet one of the requirements of Google news while the first one will simply fail. The second gets the fast train to success as they will beat the shit out of the first one in the ranking. And why do we forget unnecessary server spaces and all which are surely against green revolution. Please note that the example I have taken is hypothetical but I have some really good examples of these things where you will find some funny results and good sites with good contents getting hit against big sites where you find one week old weather forecast coming into the searches ((weather just an example and not the real things for which I can give examples). Overall Google needs to sit back and thing. How can Google say that they are best when today's results show complete different results from 5 month back when Google would have again said that they were the best... and then the results at that time would have been again completely different than the results which might have been there 1 year back. So one day Google say this is the best, second day they say that they made a mistake and next month they say that they had again made a mistake!!! Come on!


05/02/2013 12:35 pm

I find it amusing that John Britsios thinks that any machine learning algorithm is 100% infallible.

Kizi Juegos

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