Penguin 2.1 / Penguin 5 Launched Affecting ~1% of Searches


It would appear it’s all systems go at Google at the moment, even more so than usual! Just days after announcing the launch of the newly formed Hummingbird algorithm, Google have officially announced the roll-out of Penguin 2.1.

It’s been just over 4 months since Google unveiled Penguin 2.0 which was dubbed the second generation of Penguin webspam-fighting algorithms. Now in an announcement via Twitter Matt Cutts (Head of the Search Quality Team at Google) introduced Penguin 2.1 and told the webmaster community that the expected noticeably impact would be ~1% of all search queries.

Exactly what Google deems a ‘noticeable impact’ is obviously still up for debate.

Penguin 2.1, otherwise known as Penguin 5 due to it being the fifth confirmed update of its kind, is the first new algorithm update to Google’s second-generation webspam fighting algorithm designed to tackle unnatural linking patterns and off-site tactics designed to manipulate organic search rankings.

How Penguin 2.1 Relates to Hummingbird

Over the weekend I was asked on a couple of occasions how Penguin 2.1 relates to Hummingbird, whether Penguin is a Hummingbird replacement, and if/how the two operate together. Google are not particularly clear when unveiling updates so it’s easy to see why people may assume Penguin 2.1 is a replacement for Hummingbird but that’s certainly not the case.

To put it simply, Penguin is one cog in the massive Hummingbird engine. Penguin is one particular part of the parent algorithm which specialises in the identification and handling of certain types of webspam, an area which Google often tweak and otherwise modify to battle evolving spam techniques.

Penguin Release History

  • Penguin 1.0 (Penguin 1) - April 24, 2022
  • Penguin 1.1 (Penguin 2) - May 26, 2022
  • Penguin 1.2 (Penguin 3) - October 5, 2022
  • Penguin 2.0 (Penguin 4) - May 22, 2022
  • Penguin 2.1 (Penguin 5) - Oct. 4, 2013

How Do You Know If You’ve Been Penguin’d?

Identifying whether you’ve been hit by a Penguin algorithm update is not always clear-cut. If you are aware of participation in potentially risky link building practices which either bend or break Google’s Link Scheme guidelines then there’s obviously a strong possibility that you could have triggered a Penguin filter. Risky link building tactics include:

  • Paid links - buying or selling
  • Excessive link exchange
  • Article marketing
  • Social bookmarking
  • Low quality directories
  • Text advertisements
  • Advertorials
  • Excessive exact-match anchors
  • Unnatural anchor text within anchors
  • Links embedded in widgets
  • Excessive external footer links
  • Optimised links in forum comments
  • Hidden links

Not all link building practices will be perceived in the same manner therefore it is often difficult to assess which links in particular may contribute towards a Penguin penalty; nevertheless if you participate in any of the above you are treading on thin ice.

Often the first step to assessing whether you have been hit by Penguin is to review organic search traffic statistics. If the visitor statistics show a sudden decline in traffic following a Penguin update then you may have been hit. Also reviewing keyword visibility for any notable drop in ranking may provide an indication as to whether you’ve been hit. Make sure you use both your Google Analytics and your Google Webmaster Tools data to analyse the situation before jumping to any conclusions.

If you’ve run through these processes and believe you’ve been hit and you’re not sure what to do next, contact an expert. You’ll no doubt read varying opinions on the effect of disavowing links and probably hear about techniques to clear up your backlink profile and recover from Penguin but the likelihood is that if you’re not careful you could do more harm than good.

Will There Be a Penguin 2.2 / Penguin 6?

There will undoubtedly be further generations of Penguin over time but when and how they affect the SERPs remains to be seen. Back in March Google announce that the on-going Panda data refreshes which were manually pushed out would move to rolling-updates as part of the core algorithm. Eventually, we expect Penguin to operate in a similar manner, with no formal announcement of individual Penguin releases, but for now exactly what the future holds remains to be seen.


2 thoughts on “Penguin 2.1 / Penguin 5 Launched Affecting ~1% of Searches

  1. Chris,

    Although early days we have been massively affected by Penguin 2.1. The problem is we do not understand how to repair our site. Last Friday we were between numbers 1-3 on all searches below ads, throughout our sector - now I can’t find us on the first 16 pages where I got bored searching.

    In summary - we are in deep trouble as a small business with this job is used to pay the mortgage. How do we go about sourcing the right methods to fix these issues?



    • Hi Paul,

      Sorry to hear you’ve been so badly affected by Penguin 2.1 but you’re certainly not alone! There are many businesses in the same predicament often left wondering what to do next.

      I think it would make sense for you to have a conversation with our team to discuss the extent of the decline and see if there’s anything we can do to help you out of this situation.

      If you’ve got some time on Monday we’d like to have a quick chat with you if that’s OK?


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