What the Google Penguin 4.0 Update means for your SEO Campaign

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Although Google makes changes to its Google search engine algorithm between 500 and 600 times every year, most of these are minor. It is only major algorithm changes (such as the change between Google Panda and Google Penguin) that have traditionally significantly affected search results.

Google Penguin is the current Google algorithm. In 2016, updates to this algorithm have been:

  • Unnamed Update released in January 8 which led to historically-large movement in ranking as observed by such tracking tools as MozCast.
  • AdWords Shake-up released on February 23, which involved the removal of right-column ads and 4-ad top block rollout on a number of commercial searches.
  • Unnamed Major Update released on May 10 which led to week-long algorithm activity of historic proportions by such Google weather trackers like MozCast, but which Google did not confirm or explain.
  • Mobile-friendly 2 which was released on May 12, a year after the first “Mobile Friendly” update, and which is meant to reward mobile-friendly websites.
  • “Possum” released on September 1, which was not confirmed by Google, but which led to a drop in pack results as observed by the local SEO community and MozCast.
  • Image/Universal Drop released on September 13, which led to up to 50% drop in search engine results pages that have image (vertical/universal) results.

The latest update, released on September 23, is Penguin 4.0 (Real-time). According to Google, this algorithm change involved making Google Penguin real-time and engraining it into the “core” algorithm. Although the initial impact has not been as big as expected, it is important to note its key features as this will inform your SEO campaign.

In the past, all sites that have been affected by Google Penguin have been refreshed periodically at the same time. With the Google Penguin 4.0 update, the Penguin data will be refreshed real time. This means you will see results much more quickly. With the real time refreshing of Penguin data, changes will take place after each reindex or recrawl.

With the real-time feature, promotion and demotion of organic ranking due to unnatural links (spamming) will happen faster. If you have unnatural links, you will get a low ranking immediately. Before this update, it was only after major Google Penguin updates that you saw drastic drops or rises in ranking.

With this update, it is not only the entire website that will be affected. Also affected will be all levels such as folders, pages, domains, keyword groups, and keywords.

The best SEO expert could traditionally diagnose small penalties, but this will be much harder now. Since Google Penguin is set to be more granular, it will be important to understand the different risk levels. If one part of the site is optimized and another is not, this will trip the Google Penguin filter and so you have to do competitive research using CDTOX (Competitive Link Detox) more aggressively.

Even with this update, basic post-Penguin principles that should not change include:

  • Link with credible websites only (avoid scraper links)
  • Write relevant content because the AI feature is still on

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