The Difference Between Google’s Panda & Penguin Updates

August 11th, 2015 / Jessica

If you live in the 21st century (we will explain everything to our guests visiting from 1777), then you should be aware of Google as a cultural, technological, and economic phenomenon. The search engine can offer the answer to almost any question, and is pretty accurate at providing quality information.

But, how does Google repeatedly find that quality information? Well, it has not been an easy task. Google continuously modifies and improves upon the way it ranks sites based on complicated algorithms. As algorithms are launched, some people learn to “cheat” the system in order to get to the top. However, most of those efforts (referred to as black hat methods) never work for too long.

Since 2010, Google has stepped up its updates from one every few weeks, to several a day, averaging around 600 updates every year. Most of these are fairly minor and go largely unreported. The larger updates, however, are given names. These are the ones that SEO professionals scramble to stay up to date with. Panda and Penguin are the names of the two most significant updates that Google have made as of late – and their impact on the world of SEO has been colossal. This article is an overview of these two updates. We’ll take a look at what Google has changed and how they have affected SEO.

difference between google panda penguin updates


The Panda update was named after one of its creators, Navneet Panda, and not after the friendly creatures in China. It’s also been nicknamed the “Farmer” update by a lot of people in the SEO community, because it was focused mostly on curtailing content farms. Content farms are companies who hire freelance writers to produce large amounts of text based content or gather content from other sources and then consolidate the data into a single page. Their main goal is to generate advertising revenue by attracting page views. They effectively combine the highest keyword search results, for a variety of different search terms, onto a single website in order to appear in more search engine results pages.

Panda hit a lot of these sites pretty hard by targeting “unnatural” backlogs. Part of Panda’s methodology was to target entire sites rather than just pages – so, if a site seemed to have bad or copied content, the entire site would suffer, not just the “bad” page. Google’s official response on how to recover from Panda was a laundry list of suggestions that really boiled down to one directive: make your own content and make it good.


The Penguin update has been around since April of 2012. It’s quite similar to the Panda update, except that instead of focusing on content, it focuses on links. To a large degree, links are what SEOs actively seek, as they increase search traffic and essentially serve as a vote of confidence for the quality of a website, from a peer-to-peer standpoint. However, it quickly became obvious that, in terms of overall SEO quality, a link from a high-quality website was being treated the same as a link from a low-quality website. This lead to a practice known as link-spamming (as opposed to the more white-hat method of link-building), which essentially rewarded websites that had as many links as possible.

In the same way that Panda punished entire sites for having dodgy content, Penguin lowered the search result ratings of websites that engaged in link-spamming. Once again, Google’s response on how to work with Penguin was fairly simple: fewer high-quality links are better than a lot of low-quality ones.


Although they deal with significantly different topics in SEO, Panda and Penguin are actually quite similar, and function in similar ways too. They’re focused on unique content and quality links, respectively, but both of them target entire sites rather than pages individually, and they both also reward white-hat methods of SEO over the scummier workaround methods that were popular in the early to mid 2000s.


Google has made it clear that they will continuously strive to deliver the best search results possible. This is sure to become more and more fine-tuned, weeding out the short cuts and black-hat attempts to cheat the way to the top. In the end, high quality content, when combined with high quality and relevant links, will win.


Why, out of all the animals they could have chosen, did Google choose two that started with the same letter? If you ever wondered what the difference between the two types of updates were, now is your chance.

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