Google recently updated Penguin to 4.0, and we’ve assembled a Frequently Asked Questions-style list of all the things you should know regarding this:
Q) What exactly is this “Penguin”?
A) The Penguin update to Google’s algorithms puts a priority focus on any links that are pointing to your website. The biggest thing that Google is now looking for is the overall value or quality of any links directed towards your website. You now rank better when you have a higher number of high quality links.
You can increase your link equity with these supposedly premium links, but Google still looks at some links as artificial or even spammy, and the search engine does automatically penalize sites that have links deemed as sub-par.
You don’t get notified through Search Console/GWT about this penalty, since it’s not a manual one, but low-quality links considered spam will suppress your rankings, moving you down the listings instead of up. The occurrence of this isn’t always evident, but it does hurt your rankings.
At the end of the day, if you ever find lower-quality links pointing to your site, disavow them. If they are yours, get rid of them. Stay mindful of this in the future.
Q) What’s the largest individual change this latest Penguin 4.0 made?
A) As of this update, the Penguin algorithm is fully integrated into Google’s core algorithm. Before this update, penalties determined by the Penguin algorithm would not go into effect until later dates, as scheduled by Google.
The last penalty update was December 2014. All sites that got penalized on that date had to suffer their applied penalty until this update, which was a long time in the realm of the Internet.
It’s better for webmasters that Penguin now follows in Panda’s footsteps. Both are now part of the core algorithm of Google, meaning that recoveries and penalties are applied almost instantaneously.
In short, when Google next crawls over your backlinks and website, any previous penalty applied is likely to disappear quickly.
Q) Google’s been promising that for some time. Are there other big changes involved in this update?
A) According to Google, the Penguin update should now be “more granular,” whatever that means. Penguin historically has acted like Panda in the manner of its changes affecting an entire website indiscriminately. Going ahead from today, things will act differently.
Google isn’t saying exactly what they mean by “more granular” but an official blog entry said that the Penguin update is going to apply devaluations to spam by moving the rankings up or down by spam signals, instead of applying ranking adjustments to entire websites.
It’s rather cryptic, but so far the search engine optimization community has assumed that penalties are no longer going to be carpeted across entire sites. Rather, the applications might be certain types or categories of pages, or even individual pages.
So, if you see parts of your site drop in their rankings while others remain steady, you should have an in-depth Penguin analysis conducted on specific pages that seem to be affected, as compared to your overall website.
Q) What types of websites will be most affected by this update?
A) The latest update by Google to its Penguin algorithm will affect primarily two kinds of websites the most. The first is those that use quick win search engine optimization tactics in search of fast money, and those include aggressive link campaigns, PBNs, and gray hat linking strategies. So-called “churn and burn” campaigns are also going to see money dry up too.
As elaborated earlier, Google now applies penalties in nearly real-time to websites that gather up collections of links that are artificial, spammy, or generally substandard quality.
SEO campaigns that do not take a long view in terms of building sustainable, quality links are going to run out of gas much faster than they once did, and so ROI margins on campaigns that use such techniques are going to be paper-thin.
Q) Is this update already live?
A) Yes and no. Google have stated that the Penguin algorithm has been updated. However, the full deployment of this update may never actually finish. The reason for this is because the analysis of links and the application or removal of penalties will be ongoing as Google crawlers move across the Internet.
As Google spiders continuously crawl the Internet, pages will get indexed and then indexed again, including the links pointing to them. The Penguin update will notice links that are gone, as well as new links from fresh pages needing scoring. Adjustments will be automatic based on both stale and fresh information.
Q) I used to know which penalty applied to my site because I’d see a traffic drop after the update. Is this true here too?
A) Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. Like we’ve said already, Penguin operates in real-time, following in Panda’s footsteps. As Google crawls the Internet and analyzes links as they are in the moment, pages will see a promotion or demotion immediately.
For instance, Google is possibly getting smarter about web page owners and operators who try to net SEO benefits by using certain styles or sources of links. These kinds of links might not have caught Google’s attention in the past, but Penguin’s evolution over time might add such links to the downgraded list of artificial or spam links. Sites that use these are at risk of penalty.
Q) What’s one concrete thing anyone should know from this update?
A) The indisputable fact from the most recent Penguin 4.0 update that you and other webmasters should know is that negative penalties are going to come faster than ever, so you have to pay attention to your site to avoid any shocks.
We highly suggest to our clients that they run a Backlink Cleanup service every four to six months. With this update to Penguin, we expect the frequency of these cleanups to increase.
Some of our more proactive clientele are now checking out their backlinks every month so they can weed out the bad links before Google spots them and applies a penalty.
If you’re looking for a best practice to implement as a result of the latest Penguin 4.0 update, it would be to constantly monitor and cleanup your backlinks. It was a good idea before, but with this update, it’s almost a necessity.
You should already be using ahrefs.com or a similar tool to do an analysis of your profile of links. If not, start immediately, so you can create a disavow file. If you’re not sure how to do this, or just want someone else to handle it, our Backlink Cleanup service is right up your alley.
Failing to manage this is risking a Penguin penalty that stays in place until you get crawled again, and who knows when that will happen?
Our team of professionals can go through your links and sort the good from the bad. We’ll provide you a disavow file which you can then turn into Google so the search engine knows just the links you would like them to turn a blind eye to.
For the most part, we rather link the algorithm and update being real-time in operation because it means you just have to wait for the next crawl to escape an applied penalty, rather than sitting tight until someone at Google manually hit the button. The most recent Penguin 4.0 update is also going to power-sink sites that haven’t really earned their high rankings.
So, how do you feel about this latest Penguin change?
For the meantime please enjoy a serving of Gary Illyes regarding the Penguin 4 update: