Google Algorithm Update: Penguin 4.0

Google PenguinGoogle recently added Penguin as a filter to its core algorithm. This filter is supposed to help catch websites that may rank well in the core algorithm but are actually considered spam. In other words, these sites are not considered among the most useful or relevant for Google’s search users. It’s all part of the company’s efforts to improve the quality of its search results and appeal to search users.

Of course, some useful websites may get caught by Penguin penalties because it is an automated filter. Naturally, it’s always important for site owners to know about Google updates in case they may need to take steps to get out of this dreaded Penguin’s clutches.

These are things to know about the update:

  • The Penguin 4.0 update should actually help webmasters fix their sites and see relief from penalties faster.
  • It might also help determine if certain sections of a website have been impacted and not others.

What’s Different About Penguin 4.0?

These are the three major differences that webmasters need to know about:

  • Real-time updates
  • More granular filter
  • Spammy links are devalued but sites are not demoted

Penguin 4.0 Runs in Real-Time

The company has been releasing periodic updates since 2012. In the past, the time between updates may have been from a month to a year. Webmasters may have taken steps to remediate Penguin problems, but they still had to wait for the next update to get Penguin penalties released.

Since the previous Penguin 3.0 update occurred in 2014, some sites may have waited for almost two years two regain their ranks. Conversely, some webmasters made it their business to produce low-quality websites, and these may have enjoyed the luxury of escaping Penguin penalties for a very long time.

Google announced that Penguin 4.0 runs in real time. Since Google visits and crawls web pages constantly, webmasters should find that they can fix problems and see results within hours or days and not months or years. Conversely, webmasters who produce low-quality sites that are only intended to rank may find that their efforts don’t bear fruit for very long, if at all.

More Granular Filters

It’s not easy to understand exactly what Google means when the company says that this new filter is more granular. As usual, the language they use to describe the update is rather vague. According to Search Engine Land, their best understanding is that the filter may narrow down problems to either specific pages or sections of a website and not an entire site. These days, many sites have a variety of different sections that might include a blog, product pages, and so on.

For example, this improvement might help webmasters narrow down problems if they see that only certain pages or parts of their site gain or lose rankings but other pages or parts of a site seem to remain relatively stable in the rankings.

Spammy Links are Devalued but Sites are Not Demoted

This is a big development in how Penguin treats spammy/unnatural links. Typically in the past, Google demoted or penalized sites that were caught using spammy link building techniques. With this Penguin update, Google simply devalues or ignores those spammy links. This is probably a big relief for many webmasters and SEOs who are very active in the link building arena.

This can also mean:

  • Less risk associated with most link building activities.
  • Could possibly lead to increased spam all over the Internet as people would be less fearful of questionable link building techniques.
  • It would be more difficult for competitors to try to sabotage your site with spammy links.

Keep in mind that this only applies to the Penguin filter. Google still has a Search Quality Team that can impose manual action on any site that they find spammy or using spammy link building techniques.

Has Google Penguin 4.0 Been Fully Released Yet?

Webmasters have reported changes to their rankings since September, 23. It’s likely that sites that get frequent visits from Google bots will see updates faster than sites that are not visited very frequently. A site update or adding additional content might help call in Penguin faster.

The good news is that webmasters won’t have to take long to see if their efforts to signal Google that their site is indeed a quality site should not take long to have an impact. Since Penguin has become a real-time filter, Google says that this is the last announced update, but that doesn’t mean they won’t keep tuning the filter.

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