The time is finally here - SEO webmasters unite and rejoice as Penguin 4.0 has finally been released - it’s only taken 2 years. This update means that Penguin is now operating in real time within its core search algorithm.
To help explain what this means for you and your website, let’s go back to Penguin’s beginnings.
What is the Penguin algorithm?
Google first launched the Penguin update back in April 2012 to catch sites spamming the search results, with a focus on link schemes that manipulated search rankings. This boils down to Google hunting down links bought or placed solely for the sake of improving search rankings. The promise from Google was that anyone flouting these rules would be penalized, and thus would result in a drop in search rankings for the offending site and therefore a drop in traffic. In addition to this, those sites would remain penalized, even if they improved and changed, until the next time the filter ran. Google provided no data as to when this would happen, and so it was a stern warning to all - ‘Act right now, or you will get burnt’.
Penguin has since been updated to include other spammy practices. This includes keyword stuffing and over-optimised anchor text, however, the result is the same. The last Penguin update, Penguin 3.0, happened in October, 2014. Some sites punished by Penguin have waited nearly two years for the chance to be free - fair or not.
Penguin goes real time
With the rollout of Penguin 4.0, punished websites who have changed their ways no longer need to wait weeks, months or years to see their ranking recover. Instead, Penguin will now run in real time. In practice, this means that any punishment inflicted upon your site will only be in place until Google recrawls and reindexes the website’s pages. This dependent on you removing the offending features and doing as they insist.. This is great news for anyone who has hired a less-than-legitimate agency or who simply didn’t know any better.
You should also keep in mind that even if you are included in the on-going recovery process, you won’t bounce back to where you were pre-Penguin penalty. This stems from the fact that Penguin 4.0 devalues link spam, so those links that one gave you boosted rankings no longer count. On the plus side - this does mean that they no longer count as a spammy links either. On the whole, this is a good thing, but you may take an immediate hit. However with your defined content strategy in place, this will only be a short-term factor and you can quickly retake your top placing.
Penguin becomes more page-specific
Another feature of Penguin 4.0 is that it will no longer penalize an entire website, but instead will be more granular in its approach. In theory, this means that penalties will be page specific, but Google have since come out with the following (vague) statement: “It means it affects finer granularity than sites. It does not mean it only affects pages” So we may have to wait and see with that one, but the ambiguity does not sit easy, and we’re of the opinion that’s not a bad thing. Do as asked, and guess what - no problem.
So, what happens next?
Penguin 4.0 is currently being rolled out and will take around 2 weeks to be completely implemented. Some reports are suggesting that certain websites are already being affected by the update. This will also be the last Penguin update that Google confirm; now that Penguin is a constant process, there’s nothing to confirm and so additional updates will not be so documented and ‘announced’.