Penguin 4.0 Real-Time: Part of Google’s Core Algorithm

James Whitelock | September 23rd 2016

There was a big announcement from Google today, and one we SEOs have been waiting a long time for. Google has finally updated its Penguin 4.0 algorithm – 705 days since the last update in October, 2014. Not only has it been updated, but Google has confirmed that it is now part of its core algorithm; meaning that it will now operate in real-time.

Penguin is Real-Time

Historically, Penguin has been rolled-out as a series of one-time updates, causing big shake-ups in the SERPs each time (impacting up to 3.1% of all search queries). This meant that not only could sites only be penalised when the filter refreshed, but also that they could not recover until the next update. It has been a long wait for some site owners!

With this announcement, Penguin 4.0 is now one of the 200+ unique signals in Google’s core algorithm. From now on, every time Google crawls a page on your site it will be passed through the Penguin filter. If it’s deemed to be spammy, it will be penalised. Likewise, if it had previously been penalised for spam, it will be reconsidered.

It is not yet clear to what extent the new code has been rolled-out – see Google’s Gary Illyes’ tweet below:

Penguin 4.0 Real-Time

Page-Level, Not Sitewide

The other thing to note in Google’s announcement is that Penguin 4.0 will now assess sites on a ‘more granular’ basis rather than sitewide.

Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.

Previously, Penguin would hit you with a sitewide penalty if found guilty. It now seems that Google will judge sites on a more page-specific basis. This may mean individual pages or specific sub-directories are impacted – we’ll have to wait and see the true meaning of this.

What Now?

September has been a volatile month for SERPs, with many of us noticing fluctuations in traffic and rankings. However, Dr. Pete of Moz has indicated that September’s volatility is not a result of Penguin 4.0.

For most of us, it’s business as usual. You’re only likely to see a huge shift if you were hit by the previous update and have since cleaned up your act, or if you’ve been participating in questionable link building activities recently. Many experts aren’t predicting the usual crater impact of previous updates, but rather a softer influence as the real-time algo does its job.

Another thing to take into consideration is how this will affect the disavow process. As links are removed and disavowed, how quickly are we likely to see this reflected in Google’s search results?

We’ll update this post as we receive new information from Google.