Penguin 2.0

May. 28, 2013 | by Richard James

After weeks of speculation, Google rolled out their latest Penguin update last week. Matt Cutts announced on his blog that the update will noticeably affect 2.3% of English language, US based search queries. Exact figures surrounding UK based queries have not been released, but we can use the US as rule of thumb.

This update, the fourth refresh of Penguin since the initial launch in April 2012, is being referred to as Penguin 2.0 because the data refresh comes with a significant algorithmic change.

Data Refresh vs. Algorithmic Change

A data refresh means that the algorithm has remained the same, but the dataset that the algorithm works with has been updated.

An algorithm change means that the way that Google are looking at the data has altered.

This point is important. This update is both a data refresh and algorithm change. Google has new data and is looking at it differently.

At its heart, Penguin is all about links. Its aim is to pinpoint poor quality links and devalue or, in some cases, penalise them.

The Google Gap

For years there was a significant gap between what Google told websites to do and what their algorithm actually rewarded.

They told us to “think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging” and “make your website stand out from others in your field”.

They rewarded manipulative link building. For years, if you weren’t engaging in some kind of link manipulation, you were often left behind by your competition.

But this has changed and the type of links Google has rewarded has decreased over time:

  • Generic Directory links – devalued
  • Site wide links – potentially dangerous
  • Article site links – devalued
  • Infographic Links – much less effective than they once were

Infographics were once seen as the poster child for link building; creative, shareable and organic. But they have been so over used that an infographic link now holds less value than it previously did.

The lesson is – any form of link building that can be scaled can and will be devalued.

And this leads us onto the main take away from the most recent round of Google updates. Quality beats quantity. A single genuine link from a high authority source beats 1,000 poor quality links from multiple sources.

What makes your business unique?

Remember, Google tells us to “think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging”. The future of link building lies in isolating what makes you unique and capitalising on that. Where can you get a link from that none of your competitors can get?

  • Brand assets
  • Industry events
  • Behind the scenes content
  • Business practices – green, ethical, youth development etc.
  • Relationships

Link building needs to sit at the heart of your business. All the stakeholders – the business, the PR team, the SEO team – need to work together to ensure that quality links are being built where appropriate.


Penguin 2.0 doesn’t throw a spanner in the works. It simply reinforces the direction that SEO has been taking over the last year or so. Unnatural link building is declining; influencer and consumer engagement is increasing.

  • Quality beats quantity
  • Service lines need to work together to maximise SEO
  • Ensure your site is not too reliant on organic search traffic

Some sites will be hit by this update, but on the other hand, other sites will benefit. Where one site drops off, another site has to climb up the rankings to replace it.

For further information around what Penguin 2.0 means to your brand or if you have any questions regarding this POV please contact


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    Comment (1)

    • Adam Lee

      I completely agree with what you are saying.
      The issue I have with this whole update is that it massively favours the brand/bigger business.

      The major points of benefit I see as being a brand benefit - eg PR, brand assets, natural links, good content, etc.
      Small businesses don't have the time or money to create a crap load of content, they don't have a 'brand', they don't have natural links etc etc.

      So Google is basically saying the most relevant result to your search is a brand. I don't like or agree with that.May 28, 2013 01:40 pm

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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