Are you trying to find out what the Penguin 4 algo update was about? well, my post headline gives you in a single sentence what this Penguin update was all about: real-time, granular and integrated on the core algorithm.
After about a year of wrong guesses, telling the SEO community that the new update to Penguin was about to come, finally Google has officially launched Penguin 4.0.
Here’s the main characteristics of Penguin 4:
- Penguin is now part of the core algorithm, same as Panda. So Google will no longer confirm future Penguin updates.
- Penguin 4 is supposed to be rolled out simultaneously in all languages, but Jennifer Slegg from the SEMPost confirms that this is not the case. Some specific countries/languages will be seeing the update first. Take this info as a pinch of salt for now until you are able to draw out your conclusions or more info is given on this.
- the devaluation of sites that get hit by Penguin 4 will take place at page-level, as opposed to the whole site or subdomain being hit. This means that you will potentially only lose rankings for the pages that happen to offend or be spammed. Although Google’s definition of “granular” is still not clear.
- as Penguin now runs in real-time recovery will, in theory, be faster. That IF you are able to act fast too and remove every sign of over optimisation, inbound toxic links or spam quickly. At the next crawl, Google will assess your link portfolio again and decide whether you stay in the filter or come out.
- Low-quality, unnatural and unhealthy spammy links are now automatically discounted by the algorithm. This means that, in theory, just in theory, the need for disavowing links is not there any more.
Despite the large amount of information given out by Google and by other independent SEO sources, SEO and marketing professional are still asking questions like these ones in the forums, events, and other communities:
“how long should I wait for Google to re-crawl my links?” or “How do I diagnose whether a website is under an algorithmic action if the Google is applying penalisations on a page or site section basis?”
Here’s some practical advice as answers to the above questions:
- Conduct a backlink audit of your entire link portfolio with an eye open for offending toxic links. You many want to start with SEMrush’s toxic link feature as part of their Link analysis reports. Other more sophisticated tools are Link detox from LRT, from LRT and Kerboo. If you perceive the scale of the link toxicity quite important, I would recommend you employ as many link analysis tools as you can.
- keep an eye on your GSC console for any messages from google, in case you happen to have a manual penalty message.
- Remove every sign of spam on your site manually, and request manual removals of toxic links. This can be huge work depending on the scale of the problem
- build your disavow file carefully and keep your disavow file up to date
- file a reconsideration request only if you’ve had manual action taken on your website.
Interesting note: In the specific niche (Jobs boards) where I operate, I have been able to see spikes of traffic triggered by Penguin 4.0. See below the spikes ocurring on the 20 September in the Uk, whereas for Sweden taking place just a couple of days after. For the most, the impact of Penguin 4.0 on my sites and those who we track as genuine competitors is positive:
This Penguin update has been a significant in the sense that Google has integrated it into the core algorithm, but doesn’t seem to have wreaked havoc, like other previous ones.
The update eliminates the long wait for site owners to recover if they have been penalised. With Penguin 4.0 devaluation of sites with spammy link portfolios or over optimisation will happen faster too.
On a positive note the devaluation of sites will take place at a page level as opposed to site-wide as it had been the case before. It is not clear yet whether this will make the algorithm filter hit harder or easier to detect.
I foresee a lot of confusion at site audit level with a lot of ongoing speculation on whether a site may have been partially hit by Penguin. This will, in turn, open doors to a more sophisticated SEOindustry where only real experts will be able to conclude on whether a site is hit or simply losing rankings naturally.
I hope you enjoyed the summary. If you feel like you still need to learn more about Penguin 4.0 you should watch the latest whiteboard friday video from the Fishkin man: