When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) everyone is always watching to see what the next big update will be and how that’s going to change things. While Panda was the first cuddly animal name to be used with a major update, it was the following Google update the next year nicknamed “Penguin” that made such a huge difference in many cases.
The Penguin penalty affected a varying amount of total websites and search rankings depending on what source you trust. While many individuals insist the ranking shake up was much larger than Google published, the official numbers have Penguin’s original release as affecting approximately 3% of all English website results and up to 5% in other languages.
However it’s important to note that there were rolling updates to the original Penguin update. Every few months brought another version of the update, including:
– Penguin 1.1 (affecting 0.1% of all results)
– Penguin 2.0 (affecting 2.3% of all results)
– Penguin 3.0 (affecting 0.3% of all results)
– Penguin 4.0 (Up to 2% of all results)
– Penguin 6 (less than 1%)
There is little information on what 5.0 was supposed to have done. The main focus of Penguin was to knock out sites that had manipulated search engine rankings. They looked for signs of intentional link building or link swapping and hammered those sites. A wide variety of user generated content websites also took huge hits.
Not only were many sites found to be link building knocked out of the search engine results, but any links they put out to other sites also became worthless for passing on rankings juice.
This is part of the reason the numbers on how many sites were affected by Penguin. They might have hit 3% directly originally, but all the sites those affected sites linked to were also hit because suddenly those high ranking links weren’t worth much (or anything) anymore.
The various versions of Penguin changed how much links affected rankings, but they also brought a new emphasis to social media links and brand links from contextual sources while discounting mass links, keyword links, and links from unrelated websites or topics.
This caused a massive shift in the SEO world where link building had been a tried and true tactic to getting websites ranked prior to these updates. The Penguin update proved that these old tactics were done forever, and Google isn’t going to allow direct manipulation of their search engine rankings.