Google Penguin 4.0 Update
On 23rd September, Google released the fourth Penguin update – two years after the last one. This algorithm is now real-time and part of Google’s core ranking algorithm, meaning 4.0 will be
the last update.
A brief history of Penguin
Back in 2012, the first Penguin release had a major impact on the SEO world.
Google wanted to provide more organic search results, and with no warning, penalised websites that improved their rankings unnaturally – this included anyone using certain webspam methods or over-optimisation. So, those on page one suddenly found themselves banished to the lowest ends of Google rankings.
What about version 4.0?
OK, so what’s different about the latest version? Should we be worried about the latest penalising Penguin?
Interestingly (and most importantly) Penguin now works in real-time. If you modify a webpage, Penguin data refreshes shortly after the page has been recrawled and reindexed. So, you’ll see any changes pretty quickly.
This update is huge. Previously, penalised sites faced a long road to recovery, even after they made the necessary changes. Penguin used to harm a website’s rankings too much, for too long, and it wasn’t until the next update that websites saw refreshed rankings.
But, now that the algorithm is always ‘on’, it means websites are constantly being monitored.
Plus, Penguin will be more focused. Previous versions reduced the visibility of whole websites, even if just a few pages were detected as webspam. Now, the latest algorithm will affect only the
visibility of individual pages, sections or swaths of a website, rather than the whole thing.
Is there an easy way to tell if Penguin has hit you? According to SEMrush, a key sign is if your website suddenly experiences a sharp drop in traffic.
Or, you might be experiencing a Penguin penalty if you see:
- A fall in keyword rankings, click-through rates and conversions
- Google Search Console warnings
- Higher rankings for non-optimised pages
- Brand terms falling below P1 (for organic listings)
- Consistent Yahoo or Bing rankings, but a drop in Google rankings
Can you recover?
There is some good news. Penguin will penalise your website quickly, but it will also allow it to recover quickly – providing you find and fix the issues.
How can you prepare?
If Penguin has hit your website previously, or you’re worried about the new changes, you should act now.
Not sure what to look out for? Penguin will penalise websites containing:
- Inorganic links – Exchanging links to your website/others for the sake of ranking/monetary benefits
- Keyword spamming – Repeatedly using keywords to achieve higher rankings
- Low-quality content – Irrelevant pages tailored towards the search engine and not the audience.
If your website uses any of these techniques, Google will almost definitely catch you out. You should conduct a full site-wide audit, to determine the quality of your links and written content.
A lower ranking can have a negative impact on your business – it is in your interest to keep your audience happy, and in turn, Google will be happy too.
Instead, you should carry out the following:
- Use relevant Links – These links should enhance the user’s experience. Ideally, any links on your site should be related to your business, with high quality, relevant, content.
- Manually review links – When reviewing your site’s performance, you should remove poor quality links. This can be done professionally, or, if the links can’t be removed, you can use the disavow tool. By using this tool, you can request that Google doesn’t consider these links when assessing your website
- Monthly task – Penguin is now real-time, which means you need to monitor your website regularly. This way, you can avoid any penalties when adding new content. If you perform a monthly audit, you can minimise the impact of affected pages.
The Future – Is Penguin Good News?
There are lots of opinions on whether or not Penguin 4.0 will have a positive impact.
Google argues that it is the next step towards better search experiences for users, which has to be a good thing.
Some believe that it will help to fix issues and give rewards more quickly, as the algorithm is real-time.
Plus, it’s the final update – this helps to avoid any future penalty disasters.
Your website should always be a work in progress, and all site owners should familiarise themselves with Google’s Webmaster guidelines.
If you use white hat SEO methods, relevant content and high quality links, you should reap the benefits with higher search rankings.
For further advice on how to rank higher on Google or Bing, talk to one of our experts now!