Last Friday (the 23rd) Google announced an update to one of their algorithms; Penguin, now officially Penguin 4.0 and now a part of the core algorithm. In this blog post I’ll be walking you through a general idea of what Googles algorithms are, a brief history of Penguin and the other big algorithm updates, what is new about Penguin and what this means for the future.

What are Google’s Algorithms?

First a little background. According to Google it’s algorithms “rely on more than 200 unique signals” to best help users find what they are search for. Now what these unique signals are, Google isn’t telling – that would spoil the fun! It’s up to SEOs and marketers to figure out what these signals are and how to best conform to them.

Over the years these unique signals and algorithms have evolved and developed as Google has collected data and discovered trends and the best ways to help users find the information they want online. Since Google’s creation, now eighteen years ago, its mission statement has been to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Certainly a noble goal, its popularity and therefore its success speaks for itself.

What is Google’s Penguin?

Penguin was first announced in April 2012, as an algorithm update aim at lowering the rank of websites that don’t follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. There are techniques used to rank highly that Google doesn’t approve of and therefore violate the Webmaster Guidelines, these techniques are often described as “Black Hat” and are typically fast acting and short lived.
The idea of Penguin was to penalise the webmasters using spamming and black hat techniques. When a website is penalised by Penguin it starts to rank poorly and lose online authority, according to Google’s John Mueller the penalty can be removed by building good quality links.

Link building has always been important for Webmasters but the way in which the links are obtained has changed over the years because of algorithms like Penguin. Previously a Webmaster could simply buy X amount of links and get an immediate result. However, Google deemed this unnatural and wasn’t helping users find the right content so it became something that was penalised. Additionally techniques such as Private Blog Networks (PBN) have been now considered Black Hat. Now the best practice is considered to be obtaining natural links that are deemed to be helpful for users.

What’s new with Penguin?

After a development and testing process, Penguin 4.0 has been launched in all languages and there are two important changes to the algorithm; becoming real-time and becoming more granular.

Penguin is now real-time

Before this update the websites affected by Penguin were updated and refreshed on a periodical basis. What this means is once the details of a website were changed most algorithms would take this into consideration and update accordingly but Penguin would not and would refresh on a schedule regardless of when a website was updated. Because of this change Penguins information will be updating in real-time like the majority of Google’s algorithms. Because of this the impact of Penguin will be visible much faster, usually this’ll be in line with when a website is recrawled and reindexed by Google’s crawl bot; Googlebot.

Penguin is now granular

According to Google; Penguin now “devalues span by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site” – now you might be asking yourself what exactly this means? Let me make this sentence a little clearer; Penguin will look deeper into a website and not just consider the domain and the overall website. Every level of the website will be reviewed by Penguin; domains, pages, folders, images and maybe even keywords and keyword groups. Nothing is set in stone however, time and testing will tell.

The impact of Penguin

What does this means going forward and the impact Penguin will have on websites? Immediately, we don’t know. There hasn’t been any evidence of major changes to rankings and domain authority, some of our websites have had some small movement but it can’t be purely credited to the Penguin 4.0 update.
For Google’s official statement on the update see their blog post here

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