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What does the Google Penguin 4.0 update mean for webmasters?

Jonathan Whiteside
Jonathan Whiteside
Global SVP Technology & Engineering
3 min read
2 October 2016

Penguin has been part of Google’s search algorithm since 2012 and has now been updated to its fourth iteration globally. When it first launched, its main purpose was to address the black hat SEO tactics which were prevalent at the time, with websites trying to rank highly using bad, spammy links pointing to their website. The more links, the more authoritative – or so they thought up until 2012.

With the latest update the biggest change is that Penguin now runs in real time, meaning it won’t have any major updates in the future but will instead undergo frequent adjustments by Google. This means is that webmasters can submit spam link removals and assess the changes much faster, as well review if old legacy links are still offering the same link value. If you have been hit by this update, you can now work through the link removals and avoid long-term negative ranking effects.

SEO practitioners can now work on improving SEO rankings much more efficiently in real time. Previously, some sites had to wait up to two years to be clear of the bad links generated and subsequent Google penalties. Penguin has got around this is by devaluing spam links as signals to a web page, rather than devaluing a whole website. This means that Penguin is more granular than it has been in the past on assessing link quality. The Penguin 4.0 update does not mean that your site will be automatically lifted from previous penalties, but does mean you can work through the removal requests based on the latest analysis after Penguin has reprocessed the links.

The latest update also brings attention again to black hat SEO tactics; trying to manipulate Google rankings will always result in a backlash of search visibility. Google points out that its original recommendation of quality content still stands as a key search ranking factor.

The full effects of Penguin will take some time to be seen but as it is now a core algorithm, a lot of web pages will need to be re-crawled for reassessment. In the short term expect potential minor fluctuations to your rankings and monitor and action in real time to take advantage of the main benefits this Penguin update brings to us all.

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Global SVP Technology & Engineering

Jonathan Whiteside