On September 23, 2016, Google announced that their link spam detection algorithm Penguin 4.0 is now officially part of Google’s Core Algorithm, and will update in real-time.

The original Penguin algorithm was launched back in April 2012 by Google, in the efforts of demoting websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, specifically by utilising spammy techniques like unnatural back-linking and link schemes.

Before Penguin existed, spammers were sometimes able to deploy black-hat SEO techniques and manipulate Google’s search engine rankings artificially by manipulating the number of links pointing to their website. Google’s overall goal is to display higher quality websites that serve the most value to the searcher at the top of the search results. When spammy and low-quality sites were appearing on the top of the listings, this caused a major problem for Google and subsequently launched a whole series of algorithms to combat this which focused on different areas, and Penguin was one of them.

Penguin 4.0 is now real-time – so what?

The whole concept of Penguin is to demote low-quality sites (penalise them) who manipulate rankings using unnatural techniques, whilst promoting good quality sites who naturally earn good quality links. The problem here is, if you were unintentionally caught by Penguin, or if your SEO agency was not doing the right thing and got you penalised, then the road to recovery was a very, very slow one. Conversely, if you were a spammer and managed to force your low-quality site into the top of the Google rankings, then similarly it could take an extremely long time for Penguin to refresh and correct this, much to the agony of legitimate businesses trying to get their site ranking on Google.

This happened because Penguin’s algorithm was not real-time like some of Google’s core algorithms and it would need to be refreshed every now and then, sometimes not for many months. Now with the release of Penguin 4.0 however, the data is refreshed in real time, so changes will update much faster, typically taking effect after Google re-crawls and reindex a page.

How this affects your business

With the cost of Google AdWords getting steeper and steeper due to competition, getting your website ranking well on Google’s organic listings could mean a very profitable avenue of marketing for your business, as you avoid paying each and every time a potential customer clicks on your listing. It is now of the utmost importance to make sure your SEO agency are doing the right thing and following Google’s best practice guidelines, as any detection of unnatural link activity can get your site penalised very quickly. The results of getting penalised could mean your business website could drop from lucrative top positions on Google and banished into deeper pages on the search engine, where nobody looks! No more traffic, no more leads, no more sales from Google.

What can you do to protect yourself and stay ahead of the game

The bottom line is, Google wants us to be free in creating good quality websites and content that genuinely serve our target audience. So as long as you are vigilant and are following Google best practice guidelines then that is a very good start. Here are 5 important tips to consider and keep top of mind which will keep you progressing nicely.

  1. Always follow Google best practice guidelines and do not engage in unnatural link building or spammy black-hat techniques.
  2. Make sure your SEO agency are also doing the same. Ask them about the specifics of your link building campaign and what they are doing to make sure you don’t fall victim to a Google penalty.
  3. Always endeavour to write good quality unique content for your site that will provide value to your current and prospective clients as well as your industry. This will help you earn good quality natural links, which is a very strong Google ranking factor.
  4. Stay vigilant at monitoring your backlink profiles. Use Google Search Console and the countless other web tools available to track your backlinks and remove any links that seem unnatural.
  5. Don’t just focus on your home page. Penguin 4.0 is now more granular and can target specific pages, folders and keywords independently. So make sure you are putting as much love into the inner pages and themes of your site as your home page.

Since Penguin is now real-time, this now means Google will not be commenting on future refreshes anymore. Updates like Penguin also are just one of more than 200 signals Google uses to determine search engine rankings. Working with a competent SEO agency who is continuously monitoring and tracking all performance metrics is crucial in identifying both positive and negative trends, so you can react with strategies to combat.

If you have any questions on Penguin 4.0 and how it may impact your business, or want to pick our brains on anything SEO related, please don’t hesitate to contact us we would love try and help in any way we can.