On Friday, Google officially updated Penguin to version 4.0, which Google says will be the last update since it now runs real-time in tandem with the main search algorithm.
What is Google Penguin?
Penguin is a filter developed by Google to catch sites with spammy links. Originally introduced in 2012, Penguin was set up to de-rank websites using black-hat SEO, such as inflating their value through link schemes (buying backlinks, using spam websites).
In 2012, Penguin 1.0 impacted roughly 3.1% of English queries, and 3% of German, Chinese, and Arabic queries, but it has a greater effect on “heavily-spammed languages.” Even though this may seem like a small percentage, it’s still worth noting that up until Google Penguin, link-schemes were a common practice, so it’s best to make sure your website isn’t affected by disavowing links from spammy websites.
What’s new in Penguin 4.0?
Previous versions of Penguin only penalized websites whenever it was updated. So if your website was caught using spammy links, you would have to wait for the next update to regain your ranking for some keywords. For some updates, that meant a couple months, but in the case of Penguin 3.0, some webmasters have been waiting 2 years.
Penguin 4.0 introduces real-time page crawling. That means Penguin 4.0 is the last update, since Google will continually check whether pages are using link schemes. Pages will also be crawled faster than version 3.0.
Penguin 3.0 penalized whole domains for link schemes. Now, Google says Penguin is “more granular.” When asked for clarification, Google only mentioned that Penguin will have “finer granularity than sites,” but that at the same time it is not page-specific. While it’s anyone’s guess what “finer granularity” means, we know for sure it’s neither page-specific nor domain-specific.
Devalue v. of Demoting
Google’s Gary Illyes also mentioned that Penguin will “devalue spam instead of demoting.” Even though they sound similar, this means that Google will ignore or devalue the spam on a website, making sure it does not affect ranking, rather than penalizing the whole website.
When does it come out?
Google officially announced this on September 23, and is slowly rolling it out. Since we’ll no longer get updates from Google on it, we won’t know when it’s fully in the wild.
Remember, Google’s algorithm is constantly changing, and no one agency or person knows all the signals that go into it. For the signals we are aware of, it’s important to factor these into our strategy. With Google Penguin 4.0, there’s more of a need now more than ever for useful and relevant content, without relying on shady link-building tactics.
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