Google Algorithm Update - Penguin 4.0 Now Live and in Real Time

Martin Calvert

Google Algorithm Update - Penguin 4.0 Now Live and in Real Time

There are two big points to take away from Google’s official announcement that the Penguin 4.0 algorithm update has begun its global roll-out:

  1. SEO professionals and agencies can stop speculating and dedicate proper research into the impact of the change, and build it into ongoing strategy
  2. No more official updates will follow as rather than big bang updates, Penguin will now be running live and in real-time.

Point number 1 is pretty significant. So much of what we do as SEO and online marketing professionals is based around a bit of Google Kremlinology – conducting research and experiments, trying to read between the lines and comparing and contrasting different variables to detect if Google has made some subtle change that may have unsubtle consequences for SEO best practice.

With this information, we have a very clear steer from Google on what to look out for, and how to make sure we continue to deliver the most effective strategies for client.

Point number 2 has very substantial long term significance.

Google has stated that because Penguin is now live as a real-time algorithm that they are”not going to comment on future refreshes.”

With Penguin now part of the core Google algorithm, webmasters and marketers can expect their sites to be re-evaluated instantly, every time Google recrawls and reindexes  pages.

What is Penguin?

For those new to the phrase, Penguin is a sophisticated filter created by Google in 2013 that is specifically designed to detect and penalise sites that use spammy tactics to try and artificially inflate their search engine results page rankings.

Until now, Penguin had only operated on a periodic basis and not reassess sites until the next big push. The good news about Penguin going real time is that Google should become more reactive to changes made by webmasters and marketers, rather than having a long wait to be re-evaluated.

To put this in context, there are sites that have been languishing in the bottom reaches of Google search results since 2014, even after making sensible changes to their strategies and content, simply because the algorithm hasn’t caught up with them. Now that it’s real-time, that won’t be the case.

Of course, that could be bad news for sites that have been relying on spammy tactics that have so far averted the gaze of Penguin.

What should marketers and SEO professionals do?

The key is to measure and manage the impact of the change on the specific sites that you are responsible for, mindful that not every site will be re-indexed and reassessed at the same time.

The roll out will not be instant but as with the Panda update, when it became part of the core algorithm, sooner or later your sites will be assessed. Likely sooner.

Re-evaluating strategy in line with the update is therefore key – marketers need to ask what their agencies are doing to explore the implications, and SEO professionals need to get their houses in order.

Penguin – live and expanded

As Google have stated, Penguin is now even more responsive to detail and the particular performance of individual pages, not the entire site. This should be welcome news to webmasters and marketers as if they do experience an issue when their sites are re-crawled, the chance that their entire site will take a hit in rankings is significantly decreased.

Google Penguin Update Timeline

For context, the previous Penguin updates took place on the following dates –

  • Penguin 1.0 from the 24th of April 2012
  • Penguin 1.1 on the 26th of May 2012
  • Penguin 1.2 on the 5th of October 2012
  • Penguin 2.0 on the 22nd of May 2013
  • Penguin 2.1 on the 4th October 2013
  • Penguin 3.0 on the 17th October 2014
  • Penguin 4.0 & real-time on the 23rd September 2016


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