Google Penguin: So How Is Google Identifying Spam?

Working with so many companies we often come across link profiles and domains that have developed quite a lot of ‘spam’ links over the years. Often this can be because a company has outsourced to a low quality SEO company and has inadvertently gained a poor link profile.

Quick Recap On What Penguin Is

The Google Penguin Update is an update that came out early 2012 as one of Google’s algorithm changes and is designed to target manipulation patterns in domain link Penguin Updateprofiles. In layman’s terms the update targets websites where people have tried to ‘game’ Google search results.

The reason this was such a big deal is because some link building techniques that were not deemed as ‘black hat’ actually were also affected in this update.  The message was very clear from Google and that was they are now going to really crack down on poor link building techniques and it is essential for webmasters and SEO companies to honour their guidelines when it comes to link building.

Spam Defined  

An issue many website owners have when it comes to link building is knowing what a good link is and what a bad link (or spam link) is.

There are some very obvious spam link examples, which include:

– Blog networks (blogs set-up for the simple purpose of giving backlinks)

– Article Marketing Spam (sites such as Ezine articles etc)

– Single Post Blogs (blogs with just one post with lots of poor quality links pointing to it)

– Site Wide Links

– Bulk paid links

– Link Wheels

– Low quality press releases

– Poor quality Directories (directories set-up for the simple purpose of giving backlinks)

– Low quality social bookmarking website links

– Forum spam

– Blog spam

Going Deeper

It doesn’t take an SEO expert to know that getting links from the above techniques are ‘black hat’ link building or the difference between a good directory ( – high quality design, global, free) and a bad directory ( – poor design, wants money, not regulated).

So beyond the obvious ‘spam’ links, what else is Google looking at and defining as spam?

After some research and a few tests we can see that Google looks at quite a broad picture when it comes to spam links.

Getting Links From Virus and Malware Websites: This makes sense from Google’s point of view because Google does not want to be actively promoting websites that can impact their user’s PC’s.  Obviously links from sites with viruses can’t be helped, however if Google spots a large quantity of them (often can happen through outsourcing your link building to India) then a penalty could be coming your way.

Suspicious Domain Hosting or Ownership: Building links from domains that are not registered correctly can also give you spam issues. A domain not registered above board, could include traits such as hosting from a low quality host, a hosting company that is outside the country, not have Webmasters Tools verified and websites that get hacked or have a large amount of down time. These are all ‘tell-tale’ signs of poor quality domains and so links from these domains, can be classed as spam.

Poor Engagement and Social Signals: Google will look at the engagement a website receives and if it detects a very poor engagement level, next to no social signals but a large amount of links coming from the site, then this definitely will generate red flags.



Understanding how Google detects spam is a very interesting subject and it is something that can help you avoid penalization by understanding it more. You don’t have to be an expert in this however as much of the key information revolves around adhering to Google’s fundamental rules and guidelines.

Google will continue to develop their algorithm to spot new patterns that are designed to manipulate them, and we of course will continue to report on them. The good news for our clients is Bang understands how spam is detected and as a result we avoid any poor ‘black hat’ link building techniques for our clients. This translates to long term success and happy customers!