At present, there are a couple of different sets of active penalty systems being tossed around on Google. There’s the Penguin update, and the link penalties which are being levied against sites with strange link profiles. If you’ve noticed a backtracking in your site position, how are you to know which way to proceed? Let’s have a quick look and see if it can be narrowed down some.
Firstly, the Penguin update which is still running around, seemingly causing mass havoc with some site owners. The most recent version of Penguin in the wilds of the web are searching for unnatural backlinks, a tighter field of view when looking for fresh content, better page title generation (if your page doesn’t have one), and better detection of hacked websites and pages. Note as well, that all of these algorithm changes, and much more, all run automatically as the spiders break down your site. If you’ve received no notification in your webmaster tools area, chances are you’ve been hit by a Penguin drive by.
The second current most common way that sites are being hit, is with what is called an unnatural link penalty. The key difference between this method and Penguin, is the link penalty is manually handed down against your website. If you pay heed to your webmaster tools notifications (you did remember to set that up right?), then just follow the steps in place to correct the penalties levied.
Or as I saw it put so succinctly:
Unnatural links is more about link networks, paid links, blog networks and unnatural link patterns.
Penguin is more about low quality links with weird looking anchor text, plus other over optimization related link building techniques.
In the discussion that has followed, it has been noted that the two seem to be inter-related to each other, so be sure to keep tabs on your websites performance, and don’t ignore the notifications you receive. You’ll only be sinking yourself faster should you choose to ignore any warnings or messages.