With the release of the 4.0 update, Penguin has now become a part of the core algorithm which Google uses to govern search rankings. These changes could have a significant impact on your company’s digital assets. So how can you ensure that you are adequately prepared for Penguin 4.0?

Vital reputation tool

Google is the world’s most popular search engine. The first page of Google captures 92% of traffic from average searches1. It is key that your firm’s digital assets rank on the first page of a Google search for your name, so you can shield your firm’s reputation from negative content online. Google is increasingly focusing on ensuring searches deliver only relevant content, for the subject in question.

Google Penguin

In 2012, Google developed an algorithm called Penguin2, to help achieve this task. This is designed to catch sites which employ spammy linking practises e.g. buying links, to power themselves up rankings. When Penguin picks up on these practises, Google inflicts penalties on the offenders, demoting them in search listings for relevant terms. This has incentivised those caught out by new Penguin updates to use features such as the Google link disavowal tool, to remove bad links and recover from penalties.

Changing to real-time

Google released the Penguin 2.0 update in mid-2013 and the Penguin 3.0 update in October 2014. These were problematic for those penalised, as they could not benefit from recoveries until the next update, which typically took over a year to roll out3. In October 2015, Google announced that it would release Penguin 4.0 in September 2016 as a real-time update4. Google said that with 4.0, ranking changes would become visible faster, taking effect shortly after a page is re-crawled and re-indexed.

New Penguin update

Search Engine Roundtable reports that Google is now rolling out Penguin 4.0. Traditionally, Google penalised links by demoting the hosting website down its rankings. Google now devalues the spammy link, ignoring it but not downgrading the rank of the hosting website. If you have these links on your firm’s portal, it will not drop as many places in rankings now, as it would under demotion. But if you incurred penalties under Penguin 3.0, your business’ website may not experience a full recovery. Also, if you used a spammy link to boost your business’ website up the rankings, it may now fall down them.

Disavowing links 

So do you still need to disavow links penalised under Penguin? It is important to note that when you disavowed a link, you basically asked Google to ignore it. Since devaluing said link does the same thing, so there is no point using this tool specifically for Penguin penalties anymore. However, you will still require the disavowal tool for other link penalties, such as manual actions, where a third party reports that pages on your portal do not comply with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines.

Measuring the impact

So how much of an impact has Penguin 4.0 had? A poll of nearly 600 people from Search Engine Roundtable5 found that 12% noted an improvement to their rankings, while 15% experienced a drop. But 73% experienced no changes in their Google rankings. It is still early days, so users may start seeing changes as Google keeps rolling out 4.0. Especially as it will take a while for Google to re-crawl URLs.

Exploring the ramifications

It is crucial to note that Penguin 4.0 marks the last major Penguin update in history. Google will now be rolling out smaller changes as they develop. This could potentially serve as good news. Once your firm’s website attains a high a ranking on Google, view it as having been highly optimised for the last ever major Penguin update, so you will only need to implement minor tweaks in future.

Dealing with Penguin 4.0  

So what does this mean for your firm? Penguin penalties will be harder to identify. You will need to scrutinise any links on your digital assets more carefully going forward. A Google spokesperson noted that the company has not changed its linking guidelines6. It is key that you link organically and continue creating relevant content for your firm’s target audience, so your digital assets place prominently on Google searches for your business’ name, cultivating a positive reputation for your firm online.


1. https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/study/2276184/no-1-position-in-google-gets-33-of-search-traffic-study

2. http://searchengineland.com/library/google/google-penguin-update

3. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-penguin-update-2016/174432/

4. http://www.linkresearchtools.com/news/google-penguin-4-0/

5. https://www.seroundtable.com/google-penguin-4-recovery-poll-22788.html

6. https://econsultancy.com/blog/68337-the-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-google-penguin-4-0/

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