Why the Google Penguin Update is Good For SEO

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If you’re not familiar with Google’s latest algorithm update codenamed Penguin, you might be perplexed by falling search rankings for your websites. Every now and then, Google changes up their search ranking algorithms to cut down on spam, penalise duplicate content and generally eliminate weak websites from the first page. It’s an ongoing arms struggle between Black Hat SEO artists and Google, one which will probably never be resolved. The general idea behind Penguin is to crack down on underhanded backlinking techniques and reward strong sites by focusing more on content and less on SEO tricks. Here are a few reasons why Penguin is actually a good thing for quality SEO in general.

Authority Matters More Than Ever

The major focus of Penguin is on backlinks and the manner in which websites garner “link juice” to increase PageRank. Specifically, Penguin places more of an emphasis on the reputation and quality of a site that’s linking to your specific domain rather than the sheer number of links that point in your direction. Basically, this means that SEO technicians won’t be rewarded anymore for taking shortcuts when it comes to link building. Those $10/mth for 2000 back link offers are now not only pointless, but they’re also quite dangerous.

Content is Still King

You’re well within your rights to roll your eyes at the cliché, but content is the lifeblood of the web. If you don’t put out a quality information product, you can’t expect visitors to stick around to be bombarded with irrelevant ads and annoying popups. Penguin incorporates Google’s latest research on Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI deeper into its indexing recipe, which means it’s getting harder and harder to fool the search engine with generic, badly spun articles. The main takeaway with Penguin is clear when it comes to content: if you don’t have time to write something decent, hire somebody who does.

Penguin Rewards Natural Backlinks

Ultimately, there are no real shortcuts when it comes to building solid, all-natural organic backlinks. Reputable SEO experts know this to be one of the primary truisms of the industry. Penguin rewards positive, honest linking practices like mixed anchor text and on-page optimisation at the expense of sneaky tactics like Javascript redirects and cloaking. That’s a good thing both for clients and SEO experts alike. It levels the playing field and gives the good guys a fighting chance against spammers and fly by night marketers that aren’t above resorting to temporary gimmicks to pull in traffic.

It Brings Stability to SEO

Anyone that works in SEO full-time knows that keeping up with the latest changes in Google’s algorithms and endlessly modifying web pages is a drag on productivity. It takes focus away from the real goal of SEO, which should be to help quality websites and businesses attract more eyeballs online. Though the collateral damage that comes with any Google update can be disheartening in the near term, Penguin is ultimately a good thing for ethical SEO professionals. By punishing the many ne’er-do-wells that inhabit the world of online marketing, Google makes life easier for people who play by the rules.

The Breakdown

There’s always going to be a few hiccups that come with any major update to Google’s highly secretive and proprietary ranking system. For the SEO industry in general, all the Penguin update really means is that SEO experts, copywriters, webmasters and marketers will have to step up their game and deliver quality if they want to succeed. If you’ve already been doing that from the start, then you don’t really have anything to worry about. The entire business model of Google is predicated on the goal of serving up only the most relevant results to the end user, and their algorithm changes will invariably pursue this objective. You can either swim with the tide, or get washed up on the shore by not modifying your SEO practices to reflect the current reality of Google’s search algorithms.

Matt Beswick
Matt Beswick is the co-founder of Aira - a UK based web agency with a strong background in running SEO and Social Media campaigns for... Read Full Bio
Matt Beswick
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  • Mahesh Mohan

    I agree 100%. And yeah I like the panda and penguin and I want more of them coming…

  • Nonar

    ( Content is Still King )
    You have it your website saved from all google updates, but don’t you think an error comes out
    and some high quality sites will be hit !
    How long it will take to come back to the same ranking.

  • Ketan Patel


    I think you covered the good stuff but the threat of negative SEO persists because of this update. What are your thoughts on that?

    • Karen

      According to Matt Cutts (via SearchEngineLand), negative SEO is “rare and hard.” http://searchengineland.com/google-talks-penguin-update-recover-negative-seo-120463

    • Matt Beswick

      I think that’s a very real risk, but the mitigation for site owners would be to look at their webmaster tools, filter out the spammy links, and file a reinclusion request specifying which ones were built by someone trying to take them down. Yes, it’s a real pain, but I’d be surprised if Google didn’t react favourably in this kind of situation.

  • Mike

    The penguin update is an ordeal to site owners who do black hat techniques to rank high in the search results.

  • Wyatt D

    Great content, I totally agree and hope to see more updates like this in the future from Google.

  • Philip Nowak


    Thanks for referencing our Firmology post!

    In the end, it’s all about quality content. That’s it. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

    Instead of hiring an SEO expert or traditional marketer, small businesses should hire an integrated marketer that understands the importance of generating high quality original content. Better yet, just hire a blogger or even a copywriter. Even better yet, make it a job requirement and train your entire staff to write content.


    • Matt Beswick


      That’s a great point, although one thing to bear in mind is that even though content is king it still needs an army. I wrote a post earlier in the year (www.searchenginejournal.com/why-great-content-doesnt-guarantee-you-links/38441/) that goes through the need to promote your content effectively. Without doing so, most people will struggle to gain traction.


  • Astro

    Yeah, we keep hearing how ‘Content is King’, but the fact of the matter is Google doesn’t directly reward you for good content. Google expects other people to link to your ‘Google Content’ from their websites and after you have a sufficient number of such backlinks, Google will reward you with rankings.

    What a long and arduous route! In a world (that Google has created), which places such a premium on links, why should someone link to your content, even if it is good? In the end you’re only likely to get links from a few low quality sites, with no PR, exactly the type of links that Pengin is b***h slapping people for.

    • Matt Beswick

      Completely untrue – if you’re creating great content and marketing it properly people will link to you. Infographics, although a bit old-school in the SEO world, still work amazingly well and creating great content shouldn’t just focus on your own site.

      Putting together posts, graphics, etc. specifically for other sites is a great way to get links from high quality sites. Yes, it’s arduous, but so it should be – a great link, just like a great woman, should never be easy to get! 😉


  • Simon

    Do you not think there is an element, of google knowing the updates are going to change SERPS, so encouraging companies to spend on adwords to regain position?

    • Matt Beswick

      Hi Simon,

      The conspiracy theorist in me says yes… but I think the answer is probably a ‘no’. No real justification for that argument – just a ‘gut feel’.


      • Adam


        Are you for real?
        They’re a business which relies on adwords to make money.
        Your “gut feeling” sounds a little naive.


  • Denny

    Quality content on webpages maintaining SEO standards along with high quality would certainly bear fruit and success to the website through SEO, the penguin and panda update are as like instructions to be followed.

  • Karl Ribas

    Good article. I tend to agree with you, but like Ketan (a comment above) I fear what this all might mean in terms of negative SEO. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. BTW, I like how you referred to Black Hats as “artists”.

  • Bob

    Article spinning is not inherently bad, is it? There should be no reason that a quality written article could not be rewritten by the same author and re-purposed.

    In fact I see author’s do that all the time. I see authors write an article for one blog, and then essentially completely rewrite the article from scratch for a completely different blog, hitting all the same topics and points, but using different words and often different layout, making bullet points for one article that were not in the original.

    That is one author creating unique content. So why not allow that author to use spinning software so that they can create many different versions of the article, and then put that article up for other sites that want it to publish?

    When I hear people reference spinning as black hat, well, I have certainly see my share of machine spun content that makes no sense. In fact I have seen our carefully spun articles picked up by others and put in a machine spun hopper. I agree that technique is black hat, but why can’t someone create quality spun content? Why would that be black hat?

    • Matt Beswick


      Nope, it isn’t inherently bad, but in general machine-based article spinning just leads to crappy content that makes no sense. I’d rather hire a great copywriter than spend a load of time trying to get software to do what I think it should.

      Also, article spinners aren’t great at putting across emotion (i.e. conveying an opinion about something) which is usually the basis for great content.


  • william

    I so disagree
    Amazon ranks #1 for “sex toys” are you saying it was because of great content and they are building content

    as a matter of fact they have displaced “jewelry boxes” “candles” and every other product

    Niche small businesses were destroyed by this PENGUIN update – look at thew 1000’s of posts online.

    People who have built great content and ect all got wiped out and Google pushed big business


    listen to the crowd – they are screaming

    • Matt Beswick

      Amazon win because they do have great content (and a load of affiliate links) with their product images, videos, reviews and sheer volume of product. They delivery quickly. They’re cheap. In the mind of a consumer all those things go together to make them great.

      The update hasn’t destroyed small businesses – they’ve done that to themselves. Hiring $10/hr consultants on elance, adding your site to 2000 crappy directories and submitting the same badly spun article to 200 content farms isn’t an SEO strategy – it’s trying to take the easy route.

      The complaints have come because people can’t look at SEO just as a load of links any more – they have to think about what will actually be good for their business. If you take all this offline, what would you rather – a business card in a phone box or an article in a regional newspaper about your business? It’s the same thing online – you can take the easy route and get links that mean nothing or you can take your time and get great links that also bring you customers.


  • Nick Stamoulis

    “Though the collateral damage that comes with any Google update can be disheartening in the near term, Penguin is ultimately a good thing for ethical SEO professionals.”

    I agree with you on that one 100%. I have yet to come across a site that was 100% clean that was hurt by Penguin. I think a lot of the outcry comes from people that don’t know why they were affected and now are kind of in the dark about how to fix things. SEO professionals can look at a site and probably identify where it went wrong, but the average small business owner isn’t going to have that kind of insight.

    • Matt Beswick

      Nick – that’s so true, and one of my concerns (although it’s great for SEO consultants!). A lot of businesses will have been hit by this because of naivety, which isn’t an excuse but I can sympathise with them.

      All of the sites I work on have seen a boost since Penguin except one page… which is my own fault as I tried to take shortcuts to hit a high value retail term. Lesson learned!


  • Ashley Balstad

    I am so glad my firm is strictly into white-hat tactics. None of my clients where hit by Penguin; in fact, I saw improvement in their ranks after the update.
    I have to agree with Wyatt D in hopes for more updates that benefit “ethical SEO professionals”.
    Thanks for the great article Matt!

  • Derek Maak

    I do think Penguin is a good thing in the long run, but I definitely think Google has a ways to go to truly clean up the search results. Google does definitely NOT have a handle on redirects and cloaking right now.

    Just do a search for just about any “get your ex back” type term. For example, how to get your ex girlfriend back.

    At any given time 4-5 of the top 10 for that keyword are redirects going to a CPA leads website (although whoever controls this changes this from time to time to point to affiliate offers and other stuff). And there’s a restaurant site in the top 10 as well which has no business being ranked for that term.

    First pages for similar terms are also absolutely chock full of pages using sneaky redirects.

    The worst (or best?) Google has done to put a stop to it is to put a “this site may be compromised” warning on a few of the sites. I don’t know anyone who wants to see that junk in the results, so I don’t know why they don’t get rid of it.

    You’d think this type of thing would be a priority to get on top of because it’s a very blatant hacking/spamming technique far worse than someone who has a few low quality links pointing to their website.

  • Jenny Stradling

    Content may still be king, but it’s nothing without marketing behind it. If you want to gain authority and visibility in the Google SERPS you still need a properly optimized website to host that content and an off site SEO (yes links) strategy to get that content seen. Nothing has really changed – the needs are the same… Google still wants two main things: content and links. You just have to be more creative with how you do things.
    Oh and BTW, these algo updates weren’t to improve the quality of the results – they were to identify website owners with deep pockets. Hey, if you can afford to buy 100’s or 1,000’s of links to rank organically – then when you lose that organic traffic due to those links, you are forced to use that money to get traffic another way…. so, what do you do? Give it to Google for paid ads. It’s pretty clear to me what is really going on here. Google has no problem serving up a site that lost rankings in the PAID ad spots. Just sayin.

  • kevin redman

    I am not sure what to make of the update as a lot of my pages ranking went up but when I look at some of the sites above me a lot of them are product placement sites with very little content. So either google loves sites full of adsence or another animal is on its way

  • Ed

    With the latest updated google has crippled many small ecommerce sites. Most of these sites are not blogs and will by the nature of their products have a lot of pages that look like duplicate content.

    Sad day for many small businesses

  • Ajith Kumar

    i wonder how many genuine webmasters are affected from this update……….. actually its easy to kill a competitor just by taking backlinks and now its become easier specially with tools like xrumer etc

  • Sebastian

    lol,, now i love penguin hahhaa

  • MD

    Google will always be a work in progress. The internet is a changing environment.
    I think this update is a good step in the direction of creating an even better user experience.

  • Magnon International

    These updates have underlined the fact that a website is not for the search engine crawlers, it is for the readers instead. Anything which reduces the stickiness of the website for the readers will automatically reduce its rankings with Google.

  • Mark Bleasdale

    Although we are focusing purely on Content now we still believe that we do need to build our link juice up and backlinks will always be an ongoing push for us.

  • Mark Cody

    I still cant see how the Penguin updates are good for SEO!!! Everyone I have met are still trying to get over the last update!!!

  • Jan Harrison

    The internet is meant to be free and not governed by any organisation!! I think Google are slowly becoming the owners of the internet

  • manish

    I think, this update is good for the websites that have original and rich content

  • Mark

    I truely believe that the last penguin updates have now settled and there seems to be a more positive response and we are now getting better results in our SERPS.

  • Douglas Mills

    This is a great article on GOOGLE penguin update, I think this update is for the best! This is how GOOGLE shoulkd have been all along, quality is now required but I’m sure there are already black hat tricks around this update as well.

  • Richard Gilbert

    I agree with all the above i’m glad Google is putting a stop to people who cheat the search engines. The way i look at it if your lazy and can’t be bothered to write fresh content and build links the proper way then don’t bother at all.