Google’s Penguin 4.0 Announcement: What you Need to Know

Google dropped a big announcement last week: Penguin 4.0. The SEO corner of the internet is buzzing, but if you're a marketing manager or CMO who just wants to know what it means for your site you don't want all the bar graphs. Here's a breakdown of what you need to know, in plain English.
Nate Dame
Nate Dame
CEO and Founder
September 27, 2016

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.

What is Penguin and Why Does Google Have One?

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.

What is Penguin 4.0?

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.

What Does Penguin 4.0 Mean for My SEO?

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.

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Nate Dame

Nate Dame

CEO and Founder
Nate began his digital marketing career more than 10 years ago, and a side-project in SEO ultimately led him to found Propecta. Now a regular speaker and columnist, Nate oversees client strategy and thought leadership for Propecta. He is also a husband and father of three in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
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