The Differences Between Google Panda and Penguin

It is strange to think that names like “Penguin” and “Panda” can send a shiver up even the most experienced SEO expert’s spine. Google’s cuddly sounding updates swept across the results pages in 2011 and 2012, destroying previously profitable businesses in a few merciless strikes. Fast forward to today’s SEO landscape and the two have become something of a boogeyman in SEO and are mentioned with little context necessary. Internet marketers who weren’t around to experience them firsthand, however, may not understand the updates, the differences between them and how they continue to shape SEO today.


The original Panda update was released on Feb. 24, 2011 and immediately forced webmasters to take notice. It targets “thin” content that offers little information, is spun or is hosted simply for back-linking. Before, Google had only gone after obvious thieves and spammers, but Panda brought new sophistication to distinguishing content quality.


The reason Panda sent so many into a panic is that it punishes a whole website. In other aspects of SEO, a poorly designed page may not perform well, but its effect on the rest of its domain is minimal. If Panda detects enough pages with bad content, the whole site goes down. It was nicknamed the Farmer update because of the devastating damage it did to content farms, many of which never returned to their former rankings. Panda has been updated regularly ever since its release, including in 2013, and has expanded to almost every major language.


Google refrained from making further major changes for over a year, until the Penguin update debuted on April 24, 2012. Penguin caused less havoc than Panda, but it has fundamentally changed the way websites build authority and handle SEO.

If Panda can be simplified down to policing content, Penguin could be considered the SEO crackdown. The most important area it covers is back-links, which have been used for decades to determine a page’s reputation and usefulness within its community. Penguin also looks for keyword stuffing and other black-hat SEO practices that Google had expressly forbidden in the past.

In some ways, Penguin acted as an equalizer within SEO. There will always be some individuals finding ways around the rules, but reducing their numbers has cleared the way for legitimate businesses to rise to the top without first sinking to their level.

Preparing for Future Updates

No one should have been surprised by Panda and Penguin after the repeated warnings given by Google. The question now is whether another big slap will appear in 2013, and if so, how to avoid it. We’ve already seen the unannounced Google changes that occurred on January 17th that sent the SEO industry into another mini tailspin trying to figure out what the implications of the latest algorithm updates.

The best solution is to steer clear of black-hat strategies that may pay off in the short run but invariably cause trouble down the road. A patient and honest SEO plan offers the greatest rewards, and you will be able to rest easy at night knowing that your site is safe from Google’s dangerous disapproval. Now more than ever, on page optimization and a good content strategy is absolutely necessary to succeed. If your website has been hit by either of these updates, be sure to check out: for more information on how an SEO consultant can help you recover and succeed going forward!

About the Author

Paul Teitelman - SEO Consultant

Paul is a well-respected Canadian SEO consultant and link-building expert with over 15 years of experience helping hundreds of companies rank for competitive keywords on Google. He is a Toronto-based SEO consultant who is passionate about search engine optimization and link building. Over the years, he has made a reputation for himself as a leader in the industry by consistently delivering phenomenal results to his growing client base.