Penguin 4 and what it means for SEOs


On September 28th, Gary Illyes announced that sites that were hit by Penguin 3.0 will start seeing recoveries in their rankings with Penguin 4.0 as the links would no longer carry a negative score with them.

The links would just be devalued.

This could potentially result in a jump if you had healthy links being built to your site.

What he means by this is that if your site got negative points for each of the Penguin signals in the past, since these signals will no longer pass a negative value to your site – you may see an increase in your SERPs. This of course, is only if you do have healthy links to your site also.

However, this does not mean that the site is free of a Penguin penalty. It just means that you may notice an increase in rankings as the negative points get neutralized but only if the signals have not crossed a thresh-hold set by Penguin 4.0.

Note: You can increase your threshold numbers by registering a slew of social media profiles for your brand (this also helps with your online reputation management strategy).

If your site does bublbe up and cross this threshhold, it goes into a manual review by the Google webspam team and you will get a notice in your Search Console (Webmaster Tools) area.

So, if you have been pruning your site and removing bad links and penguin related signals – you may notice a jump in rankings, because as soon as you cross the penalty thresh hold on your site, all the negative links get devalued (assuming you also have positive healthy links that help you in the first place).

All this may be a bit confusing to you if you’re not exactly aware of how data refreshes and algorithmic updates etc. take place at Google. But, the good news is that you can essentially try and recover in real time and you wont have to wait for a data refresh to occur any more (which like I said earlier can take months at times).

The bad news is that, if you build spammy links you just get caught by the manual review team faster.


Why Real Time Penguin is Good for Google

Penguin Realtime just allows Google manual webspam review team to identify sites breaking the rule faster.

With Penguin 4.0 acting on data in real time, this means that if you cross the specific spam-trap thresh-hold’s your site could get hit by the Penguin filters immediately… and that will happen in real time. But, this also has a good aspect to it. Getting out of Penguin is also real-time.. which means you should now be constantly monitoring your links, and removing all new links which are of low quality.

This is good news, because now you can roll things back and fix them immediately instead of waiting for the new Penguin Update or data refresh.

However, also note that Google said that they will now not give you any “negative points” or a demotion as it did in the past for these links, but it would simply devalue them – that is not let any positive or negative link juice pass through these links.. unless you cross a threshohold and create too many bad links in which case your specific URL will get penalized immediately.

This was critical piece of how Penguin 4.0 works was publically shared on Facebook with Barry Schwartz.

So, you wont lose any rankings for doing spammy stuff… however, the way Penguin will continue to work is that if you cross a thresh-hold and the algorithm senses an overdose of poor spammy link Penguin related signals as a whole… your page or section can get hit in one moment… kind of like it blows a fuze!

That happens when your site bubbles up and goes into a manual review.


Google says that Penguin 4.0 is more “Granular”

By this they seem to be implying that the algorithm would not penalize and take down an entire site with a penalty but rather an individual page or a section that it believed was caught in the Penguin filters.

Its taken Google almost 2 years to release this Penguin update, but all in all it seems to be a very positive move as it does give sites that have been hit unfairly a quicker chance to try and recover and stay in the game.

In one of the Hangouts with Gary Illyes, they did imply that it had been running already for a while but they waited to make it public.

That’s probably why many of us saw fluctuations in the previous few weeks but that were downplayed by Google. At the very same time, there were fluctuations in local snack pack that came to be called the Possum Update (coined by Phil Rozek). Tihs is being said to be the biggest Local rankings update after the Pigeon Update in 2014.

There has also been a fair amount of fluctuation in organic rankings across many niches for a few weeks prior to the Penguin 4 announcement – so its entirely possible that Penguin 4.0 was slowly rolled out in some niches or geolocations already and by mixing up the timing with the Possum update they were cleverly camouflaging the initial test Penguin 4.0 roll out.

Its also important to note that an Algorithmic update like this cannot essentially re-crunch (refresh) all the data signals in one go.

They have to take data in large chunks across geolocated servers and mirrors and it does take a while for it to act on majority of the data as it pulls all the data into the index for the algorithm to apply its new factors.

So Penguin 4.0, as reported by Gary Illyes took around a couple of weeks until it fully rolled out (which means it gets applied to all the data that is in its index). And once its fully rolled out, then things happen in real time and Penguin 4.0 will then truly be “live”.

Being live means that things will take massive computing resources, because now for every page it indexes and link it sees the algorithm will have to run Penguin functions on it in real time as it crawls and recrawls the pages and then push and check the scores of each page with its data from RankBrain and other areas – so if any page trips a thresh-hold for that specific niche/location or RankBrain assigned values – it can immediately penalize that page or section in the site.


Here is a quick list of all the historic Penguin updates

Penguin 1.0 – 24 April 2012 – impacted ~3.1% of queries
Penguin 1.1 – 26 May 2012 – impacted less than 0.1%
Penguin 1.2 – 5 October 2012 – impacted ~0.3% of queries
Penguin 2.0 – 22 May 2013 – impacted 2.3% of queries
Penguin 2.1 – 4 October 2013 – impacted around 1% of queries
Penguin 3.0 – 17 October 2014 – impacted around 1% of queries
Penguin 4.0 – September 23, 2016

Penguin 4.0 would be the last of Penguin updates, as since its Real time – there won’t be any need to announce any core Penguin Update… if any variables are introduced or spam traps introduced it will just happen in real time. It is quite likely that RankBrain will fuse and control Penguin variable as well, just like it is handling most of the Panda core.


Things you now need to be doing with your SEO

  1. Regularly monitor your backlink profile
  2. Use the disavow tool to disavow your unnatural links
  3. Monitor new links that could trigger a penalty if you have too many of them
  4. Check your anchor ratios in your backlink profile very closely

That ssaid, there is a way you can dilute any shady links that you are building and that may come under a Penguin filter. And, I’ll talk about that in a later post.

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