Google Penguin – What You Need to Know

As of September 23rd 2016, Penguin 4.0 is live and now part of Google’s core algorithm. It runs in real time and is also more granular – but what exactly does this mean?

What Is Penguin?

Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times a year. These are mostly minor changes, but occasionally it will roll out a major update like Penguin, which impacts search results significantly. Google’s Penguin is a webspam algorithm designed to better catch sites believed to be spamming its search results, particularly those buying links from link farms or using other black-hat SEO techniques to boost Google rankings.

A brief history of Penguin

• Penguin 1 – April 24th 2012, Google first launches Penguin. It was initially known as Google’s Webspam Algorithm Update, and was named Penguin a week later. It affected 3.1 per cent of search queries in English.

• Penguin 1.1 – May 25th 2012, a data refresh within Penguin takes place, apparently affecting less than one tenth of a percent of English searches and basically confirming that the data for Penguin was being processed outside of the main search index.

• Penguin 1.2 – October 5th 2012, a minor update which affected just 0.3 per cent of queries.

• Penguin 2 – May 22nd 2013, Google didn’t reveal much information, but some evidence suggested that the update was more finely targeted at page level.

• Penguin 2.1 – October 4th 2013, no major change to the Penguin algorithm. Probably a data update, the overall impact was described as moderate. However, some webmasters claimed their sites were hit hard.

• Penguin 3 – October 17th 2014, a Penguin refresh more than a year since the previous update. Less than one per cent of English queries affected. Google claimed the update was spread out over weeks.

• Penguin 4 – September 23rd 2016, just under two years later and Penguin 4 is “baked” into the core algorithm. It’s more granular, and in real time.

Introducing Penguin 4.0

Long awaited by thousands of people, it’s finally here – 707 days after the last update, Google’s Gary Illyes announced on Friday via the Google Webmaster Central Blog that Penguin 4.0 is now part of its core algorithm.

The new Penguin update will function the same as previous updates, catching sites believed to be spamming its search results. However, Penguin 4 also comes with a few new features.

Wait, There’s More…

Penguin is now real-time. Previously, Penguin was updated every so often and all at once. Anyone hit by a Penguin update who needed to improve their site would have to wait until the next update to see if any changes made to their site actually improved it. But now that Penguin runs in real time, the results will be far more frequent. The data will be refreshed in real time, so changes made to a site will take effect just after google recrawls and reindexes a page. Google also stated in the blog that this means it’s not going to comment on future updates, which makes sense as it will be now be constantly updating Penguin instead of rolling out one big update.

– Penguin is now more granular. “Penguin now devalues spam on adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site,” says Gary Illyes. Previously, Penguin was a penalty punishing the whole site, whereas now it’s “more granular”. The best thing that can be interpreted from what has been released is that Penguin may affect specific pages on a site, or impact sections of a site while other pages are fine.

Illyes concludes the post by telling us to remember that now it’s part of the core algorithm, updates like Penguin are just one of more than 200 signals used to determine rank. In terms of the algorithm, he also said that it is “more convenient, but essentially nothing changed.”

So what’s the key takeaway for your business? Well, as long as you follow the rules and maintain a high standard of SEO, there’s nothing to worry about – but please get in touch if you would like to discuss your position further.