Google's Penguin 4.0 search algorithm: Everything you need to know for 2017

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Google has been teetering back and forth with their algorithm updates for over a decade. Commencing from 2000, we have witnessed a number of algorithms rollouts in the name of Bourbons, Pandas, Pigeons and Penguins. With all the effort focused on improving the quality and search result relevance for users. The purpose Google says is they are tightening rules around unethical websites that rely on blackhat SEO techniques to manipulate the search result in their favour. Lately, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes on September 23rd, confirmed the roll out of Penguin 4.0 via Webmaster Central Blog. As per the Garys post, the Penguin update, first launched in 2012 and has been a major signal among the Google’s 200 ranking signal since then, has undergone some major changes. Let’s look at some of the key changes with the latest Penguin algorithm.

  • The penguin predecessors have always been criticised for their tardiness, i.e. the previous versions needed to be refreshed so as to make them identify the improvements made on websites with respect to search engine etiquettes, while most of the other algorithm versions indexed these changes in a jiffy and without the need of a manual refresh. To cite an instance, the Penguin Algorithm was unveiled to undermine sites that followed questionable backlinking strategies. The webmasters of sites, which were blacklisted by Penguin algorithm saw no sign of recovery up to two years even after they took down the spammy backlinks and resubmitted their websites. Google alleviated this concern with Penguin 4.0, i.e. the algorithm data is set to refresh in real time and hence it picks up changes really fast or in real time. Therefore, with this update, you can supposedly see the changes much faster once the site has been recrawled and reindexed.

  • Additionally, Penguin 4.0, now relies heavily on spam signals to rank websites. Literally, the algorithm is set to deteriorate the rank of a particular page that offends the search engine rules rather than the whole website. I.e. the algorithm update is deemed powerful enough to impact individual website factors like domain, pages, keyword groups and even folders.

  • It is also deemed that it will be pretty difficult to identify the penguin penalties due to minor violations; however, since the update is considered real-time, any part of the website which break these rules can easily trip the Penguin filter and drop in ranking.

How to prepare yourself for the storm

If Penguin 4.0 really digs into the questionable parts of your website, you can definitely expect a massive fall in the organic traffic. As of now, there is no confirmed or approved tool that helps you to identify whether you are penalized by Penguin. However, you need to keep a close eye on your organic traffic and keyword rankings to sniff out if anything is wrong. As the Penguin algorithm is configured for sniffing out unethical backlinks, you should start by performing a backlink analysis. You will find the following tools useful to dig deep into your backlink profile.

You can start by exporting a list of all the backlinks to your website from your favourite Google Search Console.

Concentrate on the link score to identify the links that may be harming you. Keep in mind that Penguin 4.0 devalues the rank of the page, not the website as a whole, which holds the unethical backlinks. Therefore, identifying the bad backlinks, their placements on the respective website and disavow them to be on the safer side is a good strategy.

Use Google Analytics or any website analytics tool that you have signed up with, to get a detailed insight into your website traffic. Look at metrics like weekly organic traffic, source and bounce rate to identify any massive changes. While using Google Analytics, if you wish to get a clearer picture of the organic traffic, choose the following path:

Acquisition-> All Traffic-> Source/Medium

Look for the organic value and compare it by adjusting the date range in respect to weeks or date to identify whether there has been a drop in traffic coming from Google.

You can also use tools that will help you to keep tabs on your online visibility. Search Metrics and Sistrix provides you report based on your rank history, massive rank improvement and drops with respect to approximate date ranges.

Summing up Googles Penguin update

The Penguin updates have been frowned upon for its tardiness in rewarding webmasters who have fallen for it in the first place and made necessary corrections to fall back within Googles search engine algorithm. Therefore, if you were penalized by the Penguin previously and have then disavowed all the shady links and have been sticking within Googles ideals since then, you will be rewarded. As the Penguin 4.0 operates in real-time, you no longer have to worry about daunting delays, your domains or web pages will be freed or penalized with respect to the re-crawls and re-indexes which occur perpetually.


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Searchenginewatchcom. (2016, no-date). Penguin 4 What does it mean for SEO Practitioners . [Weblog]. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from

Coastdigitalcouk. (2016, 29 September 2016). Google Penguin Update 40 is Real-time - Coast Digital. [Weblog]. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from

Linkresearchtoolscom. (2016, 24 September 2016). Google Penguin 40 - Real Time Penguin part of Google Core Algo now. [Weblog]. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from

Mozcom. (2016, no-date). Algorithm Change History. [Weblog]. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from

Searchenginejournalcom. (2016, 26 January 2016). Google's Gary Illyes will Keynote #SEJSummit Chicago June 23. [Weblog]. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from

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