Last Friday, September 23, Google dropped a big announcement: Penguin 4.0.
The SEO table in the lunchroom has been abuzz all weekend—comparing bar graphs and trying to decipher Google’s particular use of the word “granular” in this instance. If you’re sitting nearby and trying to listen in, on behalf of your business’ website, allow me to filter out the details you need, in plain English.
Google’s algorithm uses over 200 signals to determine which organic search results to deliver up, in what order, for every query that comes through their search bar. Penguin is one of them, and a pretty big one.
Penguin helps Google catch spam sites trying to climb through the rankings with black hat strategies, primarily through the use of low-quality—usually purchased or farmed—backlinks.
Penguin has to be refreshed by Google in order for changes on websites to register and affect search rankings. Previously, Penguin was updated periodically, released, and search results reeled with changes.
Now, Penguin will update continuously, in real time.
With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page. It also means we’re not going to comment on future refreshes.
This is good news. It means that errors and bad SEO can be fixed, and rankings adjusted much more quickly
Google also announced that Penguin is now “more granular.”
Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.
Search Engine Land asked Google for more clarification on this point, which they didn’t really deliver. Barry commented,
Our best interpretation of this statement is that Penguin might impact specific pages on a site, or it might impact sections or wide swaths of a site, while other pages are fine.
That’s more good news. If one page on your site is suffering from bad backlinks, it looks like a penalty will no longer affect the entire site.
First, it means that if you got a penalty related to Penguin the last time it updated (almost two years ago), and you fixed the issue, you can finally look forward to recovering some rankings.
If you still have penalties related to Penguin, it means it’s time to address those (because it’s always time to address Google penalties). You won’t have to wait years to see fruit from your efforts.
Beyond that, it doesn’t change much about how you operate a good, modern SEO strategy, because it’s not at all surprising. Google has been working toward this goal for almost two years (which means my prediction that 2015 would be the year of the penguin was just a little early).
Google is doing what they do better and faster with Penguin 4.0, but they haven’t changed what they’re doing. Keep your link strategies natural and authentic.