Investigation: How the Penguin 4.0 impacts the optimization of the backlink profile?

At 23th of September 2016, after the appearance of the Penguin algorithm version 4.0, the website optimization changed.

While many webmasters were happy that a policeman capable of punishing disobedient competitors 24/7 has come, others fell under the blow of the changes, which have not necessarily been good.

Originally, the Penguin was created to help eliminate spam by identifying the off-site natural optimization signal. More precisely:- Anchor distribution that attaches to this page should look natural.
– The quality of resources, where the link is placed, must be high.

The interesting thing about the Penguin – before the ultimate release it had been executed periodically.

  • Penguin 1.0 – April 24, 2012
  • Penguin 1.1 – May 25, 2012
  • Penguin 1.2 – October 5, 2012
  • Penguin 2.0 – May 22, 2013
  • Penguin 2.1 – 4th October 2013
  • Penguin 3.0 – October 17, 2014
  • Penguin 4.0 (the current version) – September 23, year 2016

Essentially, there were huge gaps (lasting over a year), when Penguin wasn’t functioning, and when webmasters could use overly aggressive text links, and also low-quality links. Until the moment when the next Penguin version was published.

The biggest time interval occurred between the current version and the previous version – 4.0 and 3.0 – almost 2 years of silence. And what really happened during these two years?

Niche Anchor

Essential external optimization consists of making the anchor of the incoming link for a particular page look as much natural as possible, remaining optimized for the search.

Many experts are trying to determine how to optimize anchor text using some “golden rules” based on how they view the average anchor distribution.

Usually, it looks like this:

  • Anchorages in the form of keywords: 10%
  • Synonyms: 10%
  • Links: 25%
  • Brand: 25%
  • Subject: 20%
  • Others: 10%

These factors are hypothetical and often do not reflect the distribution of the anchor text of theoretical competitors, which have already led them to top positions.

So instead of playing riddles, you need to look at the top websites and determine the average of your industry.

Several months have passed since Penguin 4.0 was launched, and now you can see how the external optimization anchors have been changed. We did a 5 step study and we will show you how the distribution of anchors has changed after the algorithm was started. The test includes both large sites (over 1,000 pages) as well as smaller regional sites.

Methodology: identification of target anchors for a niche

A comparison of the average distribution of anchor text before and after Penguin 4.0 has been made.

The methodology can be summarized in the following sequence:

Step 1. Download the anchor data for the site in the 1st position (for example, through the Ahrefs SiteExplorer service)

Step 2. Order each anchor according to the reference number of domains and types.

Step 3. Create a circular chart of the distribution of the anchors according to their types.

Step 4. Repeat the same operation for sites in positions from 2 to 5. Sites that hide their reverse links are omitted.

Step 5. Calculate the mediocre value of all sites to determine the average distribution of the anchoring recess, and then compare the relationship before and after the release of the latest Penguin update.

Case №1: Highly competitive marketing niche in the field of interior design.

Reaction after the appearance of the Penguin

The appearance of the Penguin, which took place on October 29, 2016, has shocked this niche.

2 months before the start of the Penguin our site was in position 1, and immediately afterward fell quickly to position 6, where it remained for a few weeks until the cause has been found.

The new site, which has replaced ours, until then was in position 5. The sites in 3 and 4 positions have disappeared from the first page of search results.

Comparing the distribution of anchor text before and after the release of the new version of the algorithm, you can see a specific logic:

  • A significant reduction in the average number of anchors in the form of keywords: -15%.
  • A slight increase in synonyms: + 4%.
  • The proportion of anchorage + high-quality bonds has increased significantly: + 8%.
  • A slight increase in thematic anchors: + 3%.


Sites, including ours, have avoided punishment for the aggressive distribution of anchor text in the form of keywords (52%) for over a year. The sites that previously occupied the 3rd and 4th place, fell definitively from the 1 page because their use of anchorages in the form of keywords represented 62% and 68% respectively.

We have removed the aggressive text with links to which we had access, and have replaced them with new synonyms, branded anchors or just links with URL anchors.

Case №2: Foreign affiliate marketing (Brazil) in the field of health

Reaction after the appearance of the Penguin

Penguin found this niche later – to November 13, 2016.

We have been very surprised when nothing has happened with this niche, because here the distribution of the anchor was always good, including the time before the appearance of the algorithm.

But once Penguin intervened, our site had shifted from position 2 to 4, and the sites that had grown up had a great common resemblance – a large number of citations and references.


Finally, we understood that the problem consisted of the interaction of two algorithms. system had increased the need for relevant regional domains. Specifically, the expansion of TLD domains in Portuguese.

Beginners in the top 5 had a very good portion of the quotes in the profile of their home pages. These quotations at the same time gave relevance: both regional and linguistic.

One company had 13 references, the other 19, both indicators are quite high for Brazil.

As a result, the average niche distribution showed an increase in the proportion of anchors in the form of references by 15% (the type of anchoring that is most frequently used in business directories).

Our actions: copy whatever that works. Our team has created 20 quotes from our site and quickly began to grow in position sense.

Case # 3: Niche affiliate marketers in the beauty industry with an average level of competition

Reaction after the appearance of the Penguin

As soon as it arrived, the position of our website has improved.

The main page of our site with the PMD (partly coinciding domain) on the subject of female beauty was in 6th position in the main application. After the upgrade, it was moved to the 2nd position.

It was very surprising since we had thought that our web page is too optimized for this niche, with the anchor stake in the form of keywords at 6%, while other niches demanded 3%.


As mentioned above, the Penguin is the two-part algorithm.

The first part examines the distribution of profile anchors in possible anomalies. The second part examines the quality of links.

In this niche, we have noticed that the top 2-4 had a large number of backlinks, made from low-quality comments on blogs. Many of the referral URLs had more than 50 related links in the form of comments with the words “ugg”, “Louis Vuitton handbags” and other typical spam features.

Once Penguin has changed positions to websites in 2nd and 4th position and threw them to the third page, we have stayed with new sites in top 5 with the profile of clean links.

This new top 5 significantly reduced the category with unknown anchorage rates (-22%), which may be related to the loss of links in the “author’s name” field that is usually filled in blog comments.

Case №4: Niche affiliate marketing in the beauty industry with an average level of competence (internal pages of case №3).

Reaction after the appearance of the Penguin

An interesting feature of the Penguin 4.0 algorithm is that it goes page by page.

These results include internal pages of case №3, and at the same time, the distribution of anchor text here is completely different compared to the results of the main page.

In fact, Penguin came to analyze internal pages much later than to the main one (October 27 of 2016 and October 2 of 2016 respectively).

Right now we are talking about the typical Amazon affiliate program query: “overview <product>.” We were in position 3, and then, after the algorithm visited us, we fell to 7.

It has also discovered 3 new players in the top 5:


If you had used affiliate links promotion, there was bad news for you. Obviously, it is very difficult to overcome sites with such high authority.


As we have seen previously, the anchor categories which been punished the most were:

  • Anchorages in the form of keywords: – 19%
  • Brand: + 23%

This is a very typical distribution when you have such high authority sites in your niche. People make links on Amazon with branded anchorages “Amazon”, “on Amazon.”

Since we have used a PM (partial match) domain it is difficult to get a brand anchor. The best we can do is to try to simulate the 23% increase using empty anchors links.

Case №5: Regional search in the field of health

Reaction after the appearance of the Penguin

In this case, the situation is similar to case number 1, only taking into account the fact that this niche has a regional focus.

Before the appearance of the Penguin 4.0, we were in the 2nd place, and after, in November 2016, we have fallen to position 10.

Key changes:

  • A large decrease of anchors in the form of keywords: – 36%.
  • The slight increase of anchor with synonyms: + 8%.
  • Brand queries and links increased significantly: + 14%.


While our site was drowning after the upgrade, we were able to find answers to some questions about the parameters of a niche optimization.

The site that we are trying to classify is a yoga studio. We will call it “Prana Yoga.” We have tried to get results for the keywords «<city> yoga”.

Many websites in our niche, including ours, have mainly used brand anchors:

  • “Prana Yoga”
  • “Study of Prana Yoga”
  • “Visit Prana Yoga”

Sites that have not used the word “yoga” in their brand anchor have managed to get good results after the renovation, and the rest (like us) have been kicked out of the top 5.

Now we see that the previous anchors should be analyzed anchors in the form of a keyword since they contain the word “yoga” and are long-tail queries.

Our plan is to remove the anchors and dilute the text of the remaining anchors with “Prana”.


After editing the anchor assignment for each of our sites, we received 80% (4 out of 5) of successful distributions for each niche.

We have also stretched removal and anchor substitution – from 2 to 6 weeks (depending on how many anchors it was necessary to replace), and we found that the average response time of a search engine is 16.4 days after the last adjustment of the anchorage.

We are still working with the website of the №4 case, which we have not been able to recover. The only suggestion that put a “checkmate”, since we can not meet the needs of a niche in more searches since we are the average domain overlap.

We are looking at a possible brand domain redirection to our link in this particular niche, but it is a risky process, and it is likely that the effort is not worth it.

What should be done, if Penguin 4.0 is lowering the positions of your website?

  1. Find the “why” of that position is lost.
  2. Low-quality links. Perform a full audit of your link profile. Are all links coming from trusted sources? From relevant sites? If it is not, you have to reject them.
  3. Non-natural anchors. If you have a trusted resource link, the more likely it is that the text is guilty of these links. In this case, it is necessary to determine what the average distribution of anchor text is in place in the key demands.
  4. Use special services (eg, top analysis) for anchor analysis competitors. Sort the anchors according to their categories and determine the average value of the niche.
  5. Once you see the complete image, you can begin to modify the distributions. It may be necessary to dilute it, in order to gain more anchors in the form of bonds. If this is the case, a small citation job can save time. If you want to reduce the density of anchors in the form of keywords, I recommend you remove them by contacting owners of referral domains. Do not bother anyone about replacing text links within existing articles.

As you can see, this update of the Penguin algorithm focuses on the anchors. Based on the half indicator of the five cases, the use of anchors in the form of keywords decreased by 15%, while brand/ links/topic / other have increased.

The best of the algorithm that works in real time – is the possibility to quickly correct the situation, if a deep diagnosis of the anchors has already been made.