Released in 2012, Google Penguin is an algorithm update that focuses on reducing the impact of link schemes or unnatural linking patterns on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Like with the Google Panda update that was rolled out in 2011, Penguin algorithm changes were made public and discussed by Google, and this seems to be part of an effort to help webmasters make good choices about how they use and try to attract links to their websites.
The overall goal of Google Penguin is to penalise websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines in order to achieve high rankings. With a particular emphasis on links, Penguin looks for a number of ‘unnatural looking’ web page and linking characteristics.
Announced as a “step to reward high-quality” websites, it looks for links placed in a manner that seems to be purely for SEO purposes and have little or no contextual relevance or visitor benefit.
One type of potential webspam of this nature is the use of ‘anchor text’, which is the words used as the text within a link. As part of an SEO campaign, it was commonplace to use key phrases within links pointing to a target website and when this was done frequently and / or in a high proportion of links to a site, it would often help to improve rankings. Many webmasters manipulated this fact and created links in this way purely for SEO, but in a way that was not necessarily in the best interest of human visitors or in a way that showed any genuine reason for the links.
Overuse of this tactic is now a key trigger for a Penguin related penalty.
Another target for the Google Penguin algorithm appears to be excessive use of keywords in anchor text. When you produce high quality content that is appreciated by your visitors and attracts links organically, people will link to your web page or site in a range of ways – as the individual sees fit. This may be in the form of an image link, a ‘click here’ or ‘learn more’ the url OR using a relevant phrase. When the relevant phrase is used again and again, and looks to be a target key phrase for the destination website, then this can be seen as an SEO tactic, rather than something to help visitors.
This could trigger a Google Penguin penalty even if the links appear to be in context, used seemingly naturally with content, and come from high quality, relevant websites.
How to Avoid a Google Penguin Penalty
Your goal should be to look after human visitors first and foremost. If you concentrate your efforts on producing high quality content and communicating your work through PR and social interactions as if SEO did not exist, then you should attract links in a natural manner.
You should then not need to worry about avoiding a Google Penguin penalty or indeed any other type of slap from search engines.