What's The Difference Between Google Penguin vs Unnatural Links?

Jun 25, 2012 • 8:44 am | comments (25) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google PenguinThere is still a huge amount of confusion in the SEO space around how the Google Penguin update differs from the unnatural link penalties being sent out.

I don't blame anyone for being confused, I am confused.

We know that Penguin is automated and the unnatural link notifications are manual. So the clear distinction is if you receive a warning in webmaster tools for unnatural links, then it is that. If you saw a drop in rankings when Penguin launched or refreshed then it was Penguin.

But if you didn't have any of those details, how can you tell if a site was hit by Penguin vs unnatural links by just looking at the linkage data?

If I had to guess, I'd say:

  • Unnatural links is more about link networks, paid links, blog networks and unnatural link patterns.
  • Penguin is more about low quality links with weird looking anchor text, plus other SEO related link building techniques.

What do you think?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Previous story: Poll: Google's Page Layout Algorithm Recoveries?


Lyndon NA

06/25/2012 12:55 pm

I cannot believe the SEOs out there are confused over this!

Praveen Sharma

06/25/2012 12:58 pm

So does it mean that you will not be notified, if you are hit by Penguin? or in other way, you will be notified if your rankings get dropped (not because of Penguin) due to links from unnatural link building activities.

Oleg Korneitchouk

06/25/2012 03:17 pm

I have to agree. Penguin is more about overoptimization and low quality sites while the manual penalty is for links from 'false authority' sites like spun blog articles on networks and empty profile links on high pr domains. I'd also add that there is a high correlation between getting hit by penguin and receiving the manual penalty.

Tony Emerson

06/25/2012 03:45 pm

Yeah, you don't get notified if you're hit by Penguin.

Mark Sadler

06/25/2012 05:09 pm

That seems a very simple explanation. My website was hit hard on 23rd Feb, and then again but not so hard on 21st March, 24th April and 22nd May. I've been through webmaster tools and requested that certain sites stop linking to me. Sadly i've only had one reply to say that links have been removed. I'm now waiting for the new "Ignore this link" tool to be added to webmaster tools. I've had no letter, just a 60% drop in traffic. I do have 600 links from a website about horses, and my website is about care homes!!! The horse website does not have any contact details (even on whois) so I'm stuffed. Feeling frustrated with Google at the minute ;-(


06/25/2012 05:23 pm

I see no difference between unatural links and low-quality links (penguin).

apollo seo

06/25/2012 05:40 pm

Seriously i am too confused on this thing as We know that Penguin "www.savegreentech.com " is automated and the unnatural link notifications are manual. This is the same thing but i think they are moreover the same thing .

Michael Martinez

06/25/2012 07:17 pm

AND Penguin is about on-page keyword stuffing. Too many people are neglecting that side of the bird.

josh bachynski (SEO)

06/25/2012 10:53 pm

just watch my video it explains it all based on my research - penguin is an onpage keyword stuffing algo that ALSO hits backlink pages: https://vimeo.com/42939368


06/25/2012 11:43 pm

LOL Amazing how a blackhat product seller who's product specifically concentrates on building spammy links has "worked out" that Penguin is an on page penalty! That is akin to Burglar telling you your security is bad because you keep the door closed. You are about as credible as Bernie Madoff.

Gabriel Machuret

06/26/2012 12:53 am

Hi Barry, if someone like you, that is an authority in the industry, has "to guess" , what Google expect the normal - humble webmaster to know about the updates. You have direct communication with the Google gods , and you ARE STILL confused... so it's a bit scary how messy this whole game now is.


06/26/2012 05:17 am

Isn't that what panda is all about?

Avinash r

06/26/2012 06:52 am

Hi Barry, i have a question, how Google know or track this is a paid link or how to differentiate between paid or natural link?

Inbound Marketing Expert

06/26/2012 09:09 am

Well, I say Google had made penguin update only to hit white hat people, because Google don't want to people click on search, they just want to people click on advertisement they serve. I have found many black hat website which is ranking for biggest keywords like "website designing", "Website Development". This kind of website's have massive paid links. Can anyone say. Which is better Black Hat or White Hat. As i seen the data, I guess We should try black hat and see.

Richard Merry

06/26/2012 11:15 am

My understanding is Panda is more about measuring on-page metrics and using to help rank sites in the SERPs. Penguin is more about keyword stuffing on both on-page and in anchor text.

Ed Watkinson

06/26/2012 11:24 am

Pretty Good explanation Barry. My thoughts in summary are that the unnatural link message is looking more at the actual sites you have links on (ie. are they spammy blogs, link networks etc) and Penguin is looking more at the actual links coming to your site (regardless of the host site) and looking more at patterns, anchor text variations, % brand anchor text etc).

Ed Watkinson

06/26/2012 11:25 am

Penguin is trying to catch overly optimised sites essentially from more a technical perspective, Panda was more content (text and images) focused..

Faisal Qureshi

06/26/2012 05:57 pm

I think penguin is a bot or algorithm which collects suspicious anchor texts, links of blog rolls and sends to the indexer and indexer then evaluates and decides the penalty. Meanwhile the data in the indexer is reviewed by human eye and then alerts are sent to the respective websites.


07/01/2012 01:27 pm

the unnatural link messages began to appear around the 7th of March, penguin was released only on 24.4.2012


07/02/2012 01:34 pm

I find www.generateanchors.com a useful little tool to generate a huge list of natural anchor texts. You guys should find it useful as well.


07/04/2012 01:11 pm

Don't wait for their tool, send another letter via GMT and add a list of sites you want ignored (and cant be reached by you).

Rahman Mehraby

07/09/2012 04:21 pm

I think if this is the way you get penalized, Google has got such a stupid system, because any competitor can damage you by sending such links. This is something out of your control and doesn't prove that you've been involved in this scam. It simply doesn't make any sense to me. Probably you should look for another reason. Rahman Mehraby TRAVELIST.BIZ


07/17/2012 07:40 pm

Nice of you to clarify this Barry. When do you think the next Penguin data refresh will be? Presuming you cannot recover from Penguin before this time?


07/25/2012 09:18 am

Unnatural links has always been the primary target for the Penguin. It was updated by the Google against the websites which use spammy or black hat seo techniques to manipulate the results of search engines.

Spook SEO

01/31/2014 03:21 am

@Baryy: TLA or Text Links Ads (paid) too.

blog comments powered by Disqus