Have you missed the fuzz about Penguin 4 in the last two weeks? well, my post headline has already given you in one sentence what this Penguin update was about.

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.

To the point: 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.

Despite the information provided by Google themselves and other independent sources, SEOs, all around the world are still asking themselves some questions, such as “how long should I wait for Google to re-crawl my links?” or “How do I diagnose a website with partial Penguin penalties?”

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. My preferred tool for this lately is SEMrush. They have recently launched  new toxic link feature as part of their Link analysis reports, and it really kicks ass. 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:

fluctuations triggered by Penguin 4 on a certain 'niche' in the Uk market
Spikes observed on a set of sites in the Jobs board niche in the Uk


fluctuations triggered by Penguin 4 on a certain 'niche' in the swedish market
Spikes observed on a set of sites in the Jobs board niche in Sweden


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:

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