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The Google Penguin 2.1 Algorithm Update Is Here, And It’s Scarier Than Ever!

Scary Penguin 2.1 algorithm update


All right, so maybe Google’s Penguin 2.1 algorithm update isn’t nearly as scary as the picture above. But with Halloween right around the corner, would you expect anything less?

Go ahead, share it with your friends – you know you want to.

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What Is the Penguin Algorithm, You Ask?

Although Penguin 2.1 doesn’t have glaring red eyes, snarling fangs, and a tattoo on its upper right shoulder, I know many webmasters would rather tango with the beast portrayed above rather than Google’s infamous Penguin algorithm. Matt Cutts, the head of the Google Web Spam team (a.k.a. the Search Quality team) announced via Twitter the launch of the Penguin 2.1 update. And of course, it wasn’t long before the story was covered by Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land.

Google first released the Penguin algorithm on April 24, 2012. At the time, many SEO’s largely considered it to be the beginning of the end of search engine optimization. And for many website owners that indulged in paid, spamming or low quality link building or black hat onsite tactics, it was just that. In fact, Matt Cutts reported that the first Penguin algorithm impacted 3.1% of English search queries. Fortunately, Penguin 2.1 only “affects less than 1% of searches to noticeable degree”, again, as reported by Matt Cutts.

Since the inception of Penguin in 2012, there have been four other modifications to the algorithm, with Penguin 2.1 being the fifth and most recent change made to the algorithm. Keep in mind, Google only upgrades the point system a full number when they feel a significant enough amount of modifications have been made to the algorithm for them to consider it to be a full algorithm update. In instances where there were only minor modifications made to the previous algorithm, like with Penguin 2.1, they tend to only change the increments by decimal points; similar to how WordPress categorizes their installation updates.

What Does Penguin 2.1 Look for?

It’s likely that Penguin 2.1 looks for everything that the preceding Penguin algorithms have looked for, but it’s hard to say at this point in time. To give you some history: when the first Penguin algorithm was released, no one knew what to expect. As the months passed, certain characteristics emerged that were synonymous with someone who was negatively affected by a Penguin update being released. But what no one had anticipated was that the first Penguin algorithm likely only analyzed and took action on back links pointing to the homepage (or at the very least, only top level pages of a site). This of course wasn’t discovered until Penguin 2 was announced, and Matt Cutts hinted at the fact that Penguin 2 went much deeper into a website than the original Penguin algorithm.

My personal understanding of the Penguin algorithm, based on my own research and personal experiences, is that it largely targets the following:

  • Low quality links
  • Spammy links
  • Paid links that are not marked as nofollow
  • Spammy or black hat SEO techniques
  • Article syndication links
  • Forum or blog posting abuse (such as planting links within forum signatures, or creating really low quality blog posts on 3rd party sites, like Blogger, for the sole sake of acquiring backlinks)
  • Large amounts of exact match keywords used within external links
  • Large amounts of backlinks coming from one website (usually referred to as site wide links)
  • Widget links
  • Aggressive link exchanges
  • In fact, pretty much anything listed on the Google Link Schemes page, which is a part of the quality guidelines set forth by Google

Keep in mind the Penguin algorithm is just that – an algorithm. There is no human intervention. It follows a formula that was designed by the engineers working at Google, and adjusts how a website or a specific webpage ranks, based on its analysis of that entity. It is my own personal belief that the Penguin algorithm acts as a flagging system for the Google Search Quality team, alerting them to instances of unnatural linking. I believe this is how they were able to assign so many manual actions (a.k.a. unnatural linking penalties) to websites throughout 2012 – 2013. Granted, Google does claim that every manual action is reviewed manually by an actual human being, but too many websites were penalized for this process to not be somewhat automated.

As a side note: if your website is showing you have a manual action within Google Webmaster Tools and you want to better understand what you can do to remove it, read my blog post to learn how to recover from a Google unnatural linking penalty.

How Can I Keep Track of These Penguin Changes and Other Algorithm Updates?

Besides having to troll through countless SEO blogs, in hopes of keeping up-to-date with all the most recent Google algorithm changes or modifications you have a few more options for staying in the loop.

  1. Subscribe to RSS feeds. Fortunately, there’s no getting around it. SEO sites like and are constantly reporting on all things SEO. In many cases, they’ll learn of an algorithm change or feature introduction far before others in the industry will have. Sites like these I was always have an RSS feed which you can sync to your RSS reader, delivering the stories directly to your computer, email, or mobile phone.
  2. Read our blog. We at iMarket Solutions love to read about SEO to help us stay on top of our game, and we equally enjoy writing about it. As such, we feel it’s in the best interest of our clients and our readers to keep them all up-to-date all of the most important search engine related updates. With that being said, feel free to keep an eye on our blog for all of the latest SEO news and tips.
  3. Bookmark the Google algorithm change history webpage. is one of the most trusted sources in the search engine optimization industry. Originally, they started off as SEO consultants. But their love of SEO and helping people grew so much beyond what they had initially anticipated, that they had change of heart; decidedly choosing to help SEO’s become better at what they do so they can better assist their own clients. One of the ways they help SCO’s is by keeping track of all of the Google algorithm update changes – and now you can too, by bookmarking this page.


In Conclusion

One thing is for certain – Google sure has been busy. With the introduction of the Google Hummingbird algorithm, their LARGEST algorithm release in over a decade, it is most certain that many webmasters will see some sort of fluctuation with their rankings, traffic and leads. The important thing is not to panic. If you are an iMarket Solutions client, chances are slim you will be negatively affected by Penguin 2.1, as we only engage in white hat SEO (also referred to as “best practices” throughout the industry), and only pursue organic link opportunities. If by chance you do experience any dramatic shifts in rankings, traffic or leads, do be sure to give us a call. We can have an SEO specialist look at your website to determine what is affecting your website and come up with an actionable plan to reverse the results.

15 Responses to “The Google Penguin 2.1 Algorithm Update Is Here, And It’s Scarier Than Ever!”

  1. Yogendra Chavda says:

    That Penguin image is really scary, same like results now 🙂

    • Matt Dimock says:

      @yogendrachavda:disqus – did you see a drop in rankings due to Penguin 2.1?

      • Yogendra Chavda says:

        Not yet. I saw improvement on few of my sites actually! but still, i would wait for 1 month for the dust to sattle.

        • Matt Dimock says:

          In my experience, Penguin usually impacts the site immediately. So if you haven’t seen anything happen yet, it likely won’t happen until the next time the Penguin algorithm is refreshed or updated. That is of course assuming that you make further changes to your sites optimization or linking strategy which would encourage Penguin to re-evaluate how it is taking action on your site.

          • Yogendra Chavda says:

            True. I said one month wait because even after penguin 2.1, i can see lots of results on 1st page of google and they are actually dominating results!
            search for “php programming india” in google and you’ll see one website of addontechnologies which seems involved in heavy on-page spam! But still they are dominating for this query (and may be more). So, Penguin might be still in process i guess!

          • Matt Dimock says:

            WOW – that is one of the most disgusting cases of spammy onsite I have ever seen. I cannot believe that website is still ranking after the Penguin 2.1 update. Then again, we all know Google isn’t perfect, nor are their algorithms. 🙂

            I’d recommend you mark that site as spam so it’s at least brought to Google’s attention. I’ve also brought the issues to the attention of some experts in the SEO industry. Curious to see what they uncover. If you care to find out their opinion, you can follow me on Twitter: @Matt_Dimock. You can also see the posts below:


          • Yogendra Chavda says:

            Yeap, even i felt WTF when i saw it ranking on 1st page! that too after penguin 2.1! That was only one example, i have lots more which are quite similar to it and still ranking on 1st page’s top positions!
            Already marked it as spam when i saw it 1st time.
            following you 🙂

  2. Matt Dimock says:

    Yogendra – did you see a drop in rankings due to Penguin 2.1?

  3. Matt Dimock says:

    @disqus_RSz84lzqxi:disqus: Which part of the Webmaster Central website are you referencing?

    • Yogendra Chavda says:

      I guess she’s talking about “Useful Links” widget on right hand side below translate dropdown. right jenny?

  4. Matt Dimock says:

    @4d0d78776224303294caf9f253d85bed:disqus: What kind of website do you have? I’m going to be creating a blog in the next month on ranking recovery, specifically focusing on Google. I would recommend keeping an eye out for that. In the mean time, you can always check out blogs in the industry – here’s one in particular that may help:

  5. Matt Dimock says:

    @disqus_pgG9Ki3XB4:disqus: it does seem like it as times, doesn’t it? Were you negatively affected by Penguin 2.1?

  6. Ed D says:

    So, all a competitor need do is place a large number of bad links to my website and I am shut down by Google? I have a website with good content and no questionable links of my creation but was moved from page 1 to page 13 by the latest Google update!

    • Matt Dimock says:

      Hi Ed! Negative SEO is definitely very real. Matt Cutts has mentioned it for quite a few years now, and in a webmaster video he released on December 18, 2012, he gives details on negative SEO and what you can do about it (you can watch the video at

      What is the URL for your website? If it just barely lost rankings within the past month, it’s most likely due to Google Penguin 2.1. If you share the URL, I might be able to dig a bit deeper and confirm my suspicions for you.

  7. Matt Dimock says:

    Alok: Google confirmed Panda is now a rolling update, meaning the effects happen over a period of time. I cannot confirm Penguin is the same, but I’d imagine they are finding this to be a more effective practice because it makes it harder for SEO’s to narrow down on exactly when an update occurred, and what it impacted.

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