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Google Penguin 4.0 Update: Punishing Bad Practice

Anthony James
Anthony is CandidSky's SEO Manager. He has vast experience and expertise in organic search and digital marketing.

September 29, 2016

3 minute read

On Friday 23rd September Google finally announced that Penguin was now a part of its core algorithm.

The announcement marks a significant point in time for the industry, the update could affect search rankings far and wide. In this post we discuss the implications of Penguin 4.0, and why we are ultimately thrilled it’s finally here.


What is Penguin 4.0?

Penguin is an algorithm designed to control link spam.

In the early days, search engine opportunists identified that links were a key ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm, and set about creating as many as possible. The simplest method was ‘link spam’, a practice that allowed people to manipulate search rankings using mass-automation tools. This caused big problems for Google’s quality metrics, resulting in the development of spam protocols to penalise and remove websites found to be proactively manipulating their algorithm.

Penguin was born.

Penguin has evolved over a number of years, though, we feel, the announcement of its integration into the core algorithm is long overdue. It was last updated almost two years ago, and experts within the industry have been anticipating this refresh for the best part of 12 months now.

Ultimately, this update reflects Google’s commitment to ongoing quality; it supports their statement that their algorithm can not be tricked by ‘spammy’ tactics. We welcome the reinforcement with open arms.

Details of the announcement

This announcement provided users and webmasters two bits of information:

  1. Penguin is real-time
  2. Penguin is more granular

Part one, Penguin is real-time, is a huge deal for many webmasters. One of the bigger challenges with Penguin being updated infrequently was recovering from Google penalties. The site owner had to wait for the next refresh before any ‘lifted penalty’ notices were reflected. The fact the Algorithm is now real-time should lead to penalties being lifted immediately once it is removed.

Part two, Penguin is more granular, indicates that penalties will not necessarily be applied to an entire domain (as they were previously) but instead apply on a page-by-page level.

Of particular interest is the sentence ‘Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals‘. This indicates that Google might be moving away from a penalty format altogether, and instead opting to devalue or discount any links they deem as spam.

Final thought: what this means for your website

What the impact is, depends on which (or both) of the these scenarios occur on your and/or your competitors website/s:

  1. If a competitor has a portion of their links devalued you could anticipate them losing some positioning. In these situation’s we would expect to see ranking improvements
  2. The removal of an algorithmic penalty on a competitor site could see their rankings improve. This would increase the competitive metrics of a query, and make ranking for it harder which could lead to some ranking declines for particular search terms

It may take a little time for everything to come out in the wash, as long as you have been employing best practice for your search marketing campaign you should stand to see some improvements. We are very happy to report we have already seen good ranking improvements across most of our search partners sites.

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