What You Need to Know About Google’s New Penguin 4.0 Update

Post by Ashley Westwood, SEO & Content Account Director

Over the weekend, Google announced the launch of the much anticipated Penguin 4.0 update, almost two years after Penguin 3.0. Google confirmed the update on its Webmaster Central Blog on Friday with Gary Illyes (Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) stating that after a period of testing it will be rolled out across all countries.

What is Penguin 4.0?

Penguin is a Google algorithm update that was launched in April 2012. The update was rolled out to expose any websites trying to manipulate Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) through the acquisition of unnatural links.

Sites discovered acquiring these type of links were penalised by Google (normally de-indexed from Google’s search engines resulting in a large drop in ranking performance), leading to a long and time-consuming process of being cleared and re-indexed.

Since 2012 Google has updated Penguin a number of times but Penguin 4.0 has two significant changes:

  • Real-time: The first big change to Penguin is that it’s now live in real-time. Instead of updates being rolled out over time, Penguin is now running updates continually. This means websites will now see changes much faster. If your site is hit by Penguin, you won’t have to wait around for the next update to see your penalty lifted (provided you have taken the right approach to fixing the penalty). This is good news for webmasters.
  • Granular – The second significant change to Penguin is that Google announced the penalty will not affect the whole site. It is not clear what this means yet, but it’s likely that certain pages or directories will be hit with penalties. For example, if you have been buying links with the term ‘blue shoes’ or pointing links to the ‘blue shoes’ directory, then any ‘blue shoe’ pages would be penalised by Google. However, your ‘brown shoes’ directory and pages would be safe from Google’s penalties.

What do all these changes mean?

It has been known for many years that Google has been cracking down on webmasters trying to spam the SERPs. Sites that don’t follow Google’s rules will be hit with penalties and de-indexed, resulting in site removal from Google search results or a drop in ranking performance.

So what do brands need to do? We recommend carrying out a backlink profile audit as a number one priority, particular if you haven’t completed a link audit before or have redirected any newly acquired domains to your site. If you’re unclear about your company’s previous SEO strategy, then this should be an even greater priority for you.

If you have any questions regarding Googles updates, need insights into how to carry out a link audit or require more information, please get in touch.

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