The Google 4.0 Penguin release in September 2016 made a significant impact on the way SEO marketers worldwide approached content – shifting focus to a more organic strategy without having to stress about search algorithm penalties from before.

As a speedy reminder, Google designed the Penguin updates to identify spammy sites that place unnatural links on other sites, which are unacceptable to the search engine.

The update was first introduced in 2012, while the last 4.0 update went live on September 23, 2016 and began filtering results in real time.

Ever Evolving Algorithms At Google: A Historical Outlook

The history of Google updates is constantly changing. Panda and Penguin have both dramatically changed the way the search engine evaluates quality of content and links, penalising websites with spammy profiles. Questionable links and content were devalued, while high-quality links were rewarded.

Image source: Search Engine Journal

Google uses over 200 unique signals for its algorithms, which includes everything from specific keywords appearing on websites and frequency of content refreshing to location of website and PageRank.

Penguin is one of these signals with a focus on link building, working in tandem with others to rank websites based on SEO efforts.

The point to clarify here is that the source site where the link comes from is significantly important for Penguin, which means that the target site is not important as the source site.

Websites looking to get rewarded with higher search engine rankings will want links to come from high-quality sources in comparison to lower quality ones.

The first Penguin update was shadowed by several other updates over the years, with the latest one coming out as the 4.0 update. While other algorithms updated constantly, Penguin was subject to intermittent refreshes. This put several websites on the back foot, even after they made efforts to improve their link profiles.

How The Google 4.0 Penguin Changes Can Affect You

The apprehension over the new Penguin update has now been put to rest. So what can marketers and SEO experts expect to happen:

  • The granular practice of the latest Penguin algorithm is designed to utilise spam signals for correcting rankings on specific pages, which in turn will not diminish the value of websites on the whole.
  • Changes to website ranking occur faster thanks to real-time data refreshment, which is excellent news for websites that have been penalised in the past for misdirected SEO strategies and have witnessed slow times for recovery.

The good news for previously penalised websites is more than welcome because past algorithms took excruciatingly wrong to undo the penalties imposed even after changes have been implemented.

With the new Penguin update, real time penalties are inevitable, but faster recovery times ensure that websites can right their wrongs quicker and more efficiently.

Reflecting The Changes Triggered By Google Penguin 4.0

Spammy link profiles are now in danger of getting picked up faster by Google, so websites with low-quality content are unlikely to rank higher when following unnatural SEO strategies for quick rank upgrades.

Image source: Search Engine Roundtable

Of course, with the introduction of Penguin and Panda integrated in the algorithm of the search engine, previous factors used for ranking websites may have also changed. The Penguin update raises some potential benefits to help websites better understand link development:

  • The Penguin 4.0 update will enable more open and free website linking and will enhance the concept of using links as ranking signals for websites.
  • Links are devalued, instead of full websites, but manual penalties may still apply to habitual SEO offenders.
  • Real time updates ensure faster recovery times for previously penalised websites, proving beneficial for those who have inadvertently slipped up.
  • Negative SEO strategy potential is reduced with the new update.
  • SEO strategies are now becoming more representative of real marketing strategies.

Websites looking to use the disavow tool from Google can continue to do so, though not necessary in the same capacity as before because devaluing and disavowing links are almost the same thing.

For Penguin updates, there’s less need to use the disavow tool, but websites that use it will continue to help the search engine. Since manual actions are still present and can take harsh action against systematic spamming, the disavow tool still remains valid.

The Real Time Benefit Brought About By Penguin 4.0

The previous penalties were tedious to remove, even though Google acknowledged the efforts made to improve link building efforts. Websites often had to wait months before penalties got lifted during refreshes.

Before the new update, affected sites were intermittently refreshed together. Once webmasters undertook strategies to correct any SEO mistakes, algorithms like Penguin required to be refreshed. This put webmasters at a significant disadvantage as they waited for Google to remove imposed penalties on their websites.

The new change ensures that data for Penguin gets refreshed in real time. This means that changes to website ranking will be seen faster and goes into effect soon after pages are indexed and crawled through.

Websites that were hit by Penguin updates between 2012 and 2014 should see their rankings positively impacted by the new update if they made efforts to clean up their links. The new page-specific instead of site-wide approach has made it possible to devalue spam through ranking changes, so that the whole website isn’t affected. This shift from site-wide penalties is good news for websites that inadvertently have poor links to specific web pages only.

Links will play a role in SEO despite the changes brought about by Google’s Penguin 4.0 update, so websites should continue to include them in SEO ranking efforts. But as any search ranking effort, link building cannot be the only strategy because numerous links without any online noise is likely to raise doubts with Google crawlers.

If you have made efforts to build online buzz about your website and have earned links organically through different strategies, you’re likely to get rewarded by the search engine with a higher rank.

Links continue to remain a strong part of SEO, but it cannot be followed in a sequestered manner, which is separate from other strategies. Under the new update, devalued websites can actually rebuild their ranking by simply building high-quality links.

The whole point of the new update is to incentivise good quality because Google recognises that a website provides value to readers through content. With so many changes constantly taking place through Google, following white-hat SEO strategies will ensure that websites remain in the good books of the search engine always.

Changes To Make For Websites Affected By The New Penguin Update

Websites affected by the Penguin update can make changes to recover quickly:

  • Avoid over optimising anchor texts and websites in general, so they look more natural for Google bots.
  • Remove low-quality links to your website to ensure Penguin updates don’t penalise you.
  • Add high-quality links from reputed source sites.
  • Create a mobile-friendly interface without popups to avoid penalties from Google.
  • Build organic links through different online marketing strategies.
  • Build high-value content to ensure better inbound links to your website.

The Penguin 4.0 update is designed to eliminate poor link building efforts by focussing on organic strategies. Websites will want to consider making these changes quickly in order to stay relevant and high up in search rankings.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

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