The Custard Blog

Words of wisdom from our team of online marketing experts

Google’s Penguin Update and The Changing Face of SEO

As a young, dynamic agency we’ve always tried to adapt to the ever-changing SEO environment. Our flexibility allows us to react quickly and even pre-empt major changes in Google’s algorithm; changes that completely flip the SEO industry on its head!

Google rolled out more than 50 changes to its ranking algorithm in April 2012 and a further 39 in May. April was a huge month for SEO as it heralded the launch of what became known as the Penguin update.

The most significant update since Panda, this update targeted what Google called ‘webspam’ and penalised sites with unnatural link profiles.

What’s Changed?

Penguin was all about penalising SEO tactics designed to manipulate Google’s rankings and eliminating spam from the index. It had a huge effect on the way SEO companies like ourselves work.

How Penguin affected – one of the worst affected by the update

By listening to the messages coming from Google in the months leading up to Penguin, Custard sidestepped the effects of the update by changing our link building processes in advance. Over an 18-month period we made wholesale changes:

  • Stopped using article submission services
  • Stopped targeting sidebar text links
  • Reduced reliance on low-quality, non-specific directories
  • Increased focus on industry-specific directories
  • Increased focus on quality of referring sites
  • Increased focus on editorial links (in-content)
  • Increased focus on blogger engagement

All these combined to form a link building process that fell in line with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to the letter. By building better quality references to our clients’ sites, the foundations had been laid for them to benefit from the update.

The Flip Side – backlink analysis & cleanup

Since the Penguin update rolled out, there has been an increased focus on backlink analysis. The majority of the new clients we have taken on recently have backlink profiles that are poor quality and/or ‘over-optimised’. This includes:

  • Links from unrelated sites/sites linking to unrelated content
  • Links from ‘splogs’ – spam blogs set up purely for SEO purposes
  • Links from low-quality directories, especially free directories
  • Links from sites with poor-quality content (including spun content)
  • Links from sites that were blatantly selling links

This has led us to introduce a backlink cleanup service as part of our standard offering for new clients – as a way of removing harmful signals that once helped SEO but can now seriously damage rankings.


Our safer, more transparent approach to link building came as a result of comments and warnings from Google in the months leading up to the update. While other agencies floundered and their clients suffered, the majority of our clients held their rankings, with some benefitting from the fall of their competitors.

If you’re interested in future-proof link building and SEO services, contact Custard Media today.

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