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Penguin 4.0 Released!

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What you need to know!

Google announced on September 23, 2016, that Real-Time Penguin or Penguin 4.0 is now live. The roll out will continue in the coming weeks as Google updates Penguin in various languages.

There are two main takeaways from the update:
  1. The algorithm will be in real-time so that spam results are caught and de-indexed on a continuous basis.

  2. The algorithm is granular, so that instead of a sitewide penalty, specific pages that are spamming, will be devalued in rankings.

Google launched its original Penguin update in April 2012, to catch websites that were spamming search results. The definition of spam was vague and could occur through building artificial links, buying links, submitting to link directories etc. to boost Google rankings. Many websites were caught with this algorithm and penalized at times by “mistake”.

The main problem with getting caught by Penguin was that Google launched updates to the algorithm in a sporadic manner so that a site hit by the penalty could not regain rankings for months, if not years.  However, now that Penguin 4.0 is a core aspect of the Google algorithm, sites that could potentially get penalized by “mistake”, can get out of the penalty faster.

Furthermore, web pages that alert the Google spam signals will be devalued as the algorithm adjusts the ranking, however, the ranking of the whole site will not be affected, as the algorithm is granular.

Immediate Impact on Websites

Websites that were previously affected by the Penguin penalty may not see an immediate recovery. Even with a real-time algorithm update, the time needed for recovery cannot be stated in days or even weeks. There is no incentive to provide immediate results. The algorithm will roll out slowly and many sites will continue to be devalued if old filters like poor user experience metrics, low-value links, artificial anchor texts, and incorrect disavow files are not cleaned up.

What does this mean for SEO?

Even after the Penguin update in 2012, some SEO agencies continued to use grey hat techniques by building “link” profiles to websites that could, and were considered “spam”. Since the algorithm was periodic rather than continuous, SEO agencies opted for “quick” results rather than “quality” results. Clients saw great results in a few months but were deindexed when Penguin updates took place.

What could be considered bad link policies?
  • Ad links

  • Link farms

  • Low domain authority directories

  • Blog comments, forum threads and paid posts

  • Links bought with exact match anchor text

  • Links generated through low trust and mirror websites.

  • Links that add no value to the user or domain

The Penguin 4.0 update will force SEO agencies to become more stringent in the work they do for their clients.
  • The Google disavow link tool will remain an essential aspect of the SEO industry.

  • Link management through a continuous and thorough analysis of backlinks on a weekly basis is necessary.

  • Backlinks can now cause immediate damage or effect. If you doubt-throw it out.

  • Link profiles are calculated in the ratio of great links to less great links. It is now essential to audit all links rather than only the visible ones.

  • Natural backlink creation through quality content will become a core strategic tool.

  • Negative SEO and automated SEO tactics will soon become non-existent.

  • User experience will be the core facet of SEO and better rankings will come through providing users with the best experience gained through metrics like bounce rate, page views, and pages per session.

The bottom line is that Google wants the user experience to be ideal. Any link-based SEO that creates an artificial funnel to boosts ranking rather than user knowledge, will, in the end, be devalued. SEO is not about boosting ranking, rather it is about strategically boosting the user experience.