Understanding Google’s Latest Penguin Algorithm Update

October 10, 2016: Samantha Steinbring, Search Engine Optimization Manager

Think about the last time you searched for something on Google. You probably found what you were looking for on the first page of search results, likely within the top three links. Have you ever wondered why Google’s search results are so accurate?

Google’s algorithm is made up of more than 200 ranking signals that determine what websites and pages are returned for any given search. The algorithm is constantly being tweaked and modified in order to provide you the most relevant results. In addition to regular algorithm modifications, Google occasionally rolls out major updates that can have a serious effect on search results across the web.

Let’s take a closer look at Google’s latest major update: Penguin 4.0.

What is Penguin?

The Penguin algorithm, also known as the Penguin Update, is the name of Google’s algorithm filter that aims to reduce spam across the web. More specifically, Penguin detects and penalizes websites with spammy backlinks (a backlink is a link that is directed from one web page or website to another). The first version of Penguin rolled out in 2012, sending shockwaves across the web as thousands of websites saw their search rankings and traffic drop significantly.



The websites most affected by Penguin 1.0 were those that participated in link schemes and link buying (paying other websites to link to yours to try to game Google’s algorithm). The only way to recover from a Penguin penalty was to clean up and remove all spammy backlinks, then wait for the algorithm to refresh and run again, with the hope that your efforts were enough to get back in Google’s good graces.

What is Penguin 4.0?

Almost three years after the last update, Google announced some major changes to the Penguin algorithm on Sept. 23, 2016. The latest update, dubbed Penguin 4.0, has a few key improvements:

  • The Penguin algorithm now runs in real-time. This means websites can be penalized for spammy links—and recover from a penalty—in real-time as a website is recrawled and reindexed (which happens very frequently). Penalized websites no longer need to wait for the Penguin filter to run (which took months in the past) to recover from a penalty.
  • Penguin is now more granular. The old Penguin algorithm penalized entire websites, even if spammy links were found only on a single page or section of a site. Now, Penguin has the ability to impact specific pages or sections of a site if they are found to have spammy backlinks.
  • No further Penguin update confirmations from Google. In the past, webmasters dealing with penalized websites desperately awaited a Penguin refresh announcement to see if their clean-up efforts were effective. Now that the algorithm runs in real-time, Google will no longer announce when Penguin will refresh or be updated.
To learn more details on the update, check out Search Engine Land’s recent blog post

How Will Penguin 4.0 Impact Your Website?

Ask yourself this: When creating website content, do you put users’ needs first? If you answered “yes,” then Penguin 4.0 will not likely impact your website.

Remember, Google’s goal with any algorithm update is to ensure that users receive the most relevant and useful results to their search queries. If your website publishes content that is useful and informative for the user, and that garners backlinks organically (other websites link to yours because they want to, not because they are paid to), you should have nothing to worry about. 

However, it is always a good practice to monitor your search rankings and website traffic, taking note of any major changes or fluctuations.
 1 Comments
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  • January 12, 2017 | Henry Oketch
    nice job
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