Penguin 4.0 Rolling Out Now

penguin-4-0After almost two years, Google today announced on their webmaster blog that they are rolling out an update to their Penguin algorithm filter.  Google has been working on this update for some time now, and the biggest change this time around is that the Penguin filter is now part of their core algorithm and will update in real-time.

What is Penguin?

Penguin is a filter that has been applied and run as part of Google’s ranking algorithm.  This particular filter was first introduced in 2012 and has been refreshed several times since, although very infrequently over the past several years. Penguin targets sites engaged in spammy tactics like keyword stuffing and unnatural link practices.

Penguin Moves to Real Time

The biggest change and what will most likely be applauded by SEOs and Webmasters is the fact that Google has made the Penguin filter part of its core algorithm that will now run in real-time.  This is really important because in the past, sites that have been hit by Penguin would have to wait for Google to refresh the index and rerun the filter to see any improvement and essentially get out of the penalty box.  Now if a site has spam issues and cleans up their act, they should recover once Google recrawls their site along with sites potentially linking to them.

This, of course, can have the opposite effect.  If you are a site that takes the unfortunate step of engaging in spammy tactics that violate Google’s quality guidelines, you will be demoted in Google’s search results in real time and can be impacted by Penguin regularly.

Penguin is more granular now. What does that mean?

Well we don’t completely know.  This is the part from Google’s announcement: “Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.”  While I don’t think that statement is completely clear, I do believe that means in the past, Penguin used to impact an entire site while it most likely now will impact certain sections that have spam issues.  If my interpretation is correct, again I think most SEOs and Webmasters will applaud this change.

What to Expect Now

Google has taken a long time to test this update, and with recent large algorithm updates, they take time to roll out across the web.  In the past, with large algorithm updates, Google has rolled the refresh in stages across languages and countries.  This is not the case with Penguin 4.0.  The key here with Penguin 4.0 is while this is rolling out across all languages and countries, the effects most likely won’t be seen right away because Google has to recrawl the web.  As Google starts that recrawl, we will see shifts in rankings as sites are impacted.  The dust will settle at some point, but I would say fluctuations will definitely be seen over the coming days to weeks.  Because it has been so long since the last update, the real-time part of this refresh probably won’t be tested until sites who now think they’ve been demoted try to recover.

What We’ll Be Watching

Our goal at L3 is to monitor our clients’ site health continually, and because of our data-driven model, we’ll not only be closely monitoring the SERPS but also analytics. If we feel any of our clients have been impacted by Penguin 4.0 we’ll be sure to be in touch about potential causes and recovery efforts which may include link cleanup and utilizing a disavow file.

A Volatile September

The search engine results have been very volatile all month starting on the September 1.  While Google has not confirmed it, a local algorithm update named “Possum” (named by a Local SEO) seems to have been released on September 1.  Around that same time, people were also reporting what seemed to be another core algorithm update.  Moz has also reported a pretty dramatic reduction in images in the search results, which is also adding to the volatility.  This will only continue with the release of Penguin 4.0 in the coming days and weeks.

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