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Here’s What’s New with Google’s Penguin 4.0 Update

By Andy Mullins on October 21, 2016 in News, SEO
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Co-Founder of SEO authority Moz, Rand Fishkin, hosts a Whiteboard Friday every week where he features the latest news in the SEO world. In one of his recent featurettes, Fishkin laid out the benefits of Google’s new Penguin 4.0+ update.

Introduced several years ago to combat spammy backlinks, Google’s Penguin algorithm makes sure SEO companies who boast of their ability to improve SEO must do so with integrity instead of manipulating the process. In the featurette, Fishkin lays out the differences between the former versions and the new 4.0+ layout. But before we get to that, let’s review why this is necessary in the first place.

Why We Need Penguin

Before Google introduced Penguin, websites’ search results could be improved illegitimately with spammy backlinks. When a reputable site (let’s give it a random name…something really cool like links to another website (website B), website B’s credibility is immediately improved according to Google. When several reputable websites start linking back (hence the name, backlinks) to website B, website B’s Google search results improve.

SEO experts realized that this process of improving search results by increasing credibility with backlinks could be utilized to offer clients guaranteed SEO improvement. Illegitimate websites were created to become backlink farms. Reputable sites that were generating quality content were seeing their comment sections become inundated with links back to another site.

If left unchecked, spammy backlinks would litter the Internet, making it impossible to find what you really needed on search engines as Google’s results would all be manipulated. Then, Google created Penguin, an algorithm that monitors back links and penalizes websites that attempt to manipulate search results.

Penguin 1.0-3x

The earliest editions were run every few months. Data would be collected and Google would run the algorithm that would then penalize websites for their spammy backlinks. The intermittent rollout would be the only time sites received penalties or saw penalties lifted from prior rollouts.

If you ever encountered penalties throughout the intermittent rollout period, you already know how frustrating it can be to wait up to 6 months for your entire website’s penalty to be lifted (and it was your entire domain that was penalized). Overall, the process of correcting backlink mistakes was slow and unclear.

Penguin 4.0+

And then, on September 23, 2016, Penguin 4.0 rolled out like Gene Wilder in 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Not much was impressive at first, but as soon as the cane went into the bricks (between 5 days and 1 week later in this case), the SERP flux started as over a quarter of SEO’s started noticing changes.

What were those changes? The most noticeable and helpful change with 4.0 is that Penguin no longer runs intermittently. Instead, Penguin is monitoring backlinks all the time. Spammy backlink penalties can be handed down the day after they’re posted.

The other great change that comes with Penguin 4.0 is that entire domains are no longer penalized like they used to be when certain pages become associated with spam links. While entire domains still could be penalized, 4.0 will differentiate between pages that have been linked to unjustly on a domain and the entire domain itself. However, having a significant number of pages associated with spammy backlinks will result in a domain-wide Penguin penalty that will come more quickly than penalties under Penguin 1.0-3x.

Moz’s Co-Founder, Rand Fishkin closed out his Whiteboard Friday featurette on by saying, “Every time Google improves on the Penguin algorithm, every time they improve on any link spam algorithm, those of us who don’t spam will benefit. So if you’ve chosen to earn search results and credibility in an integrous manner, rest assured that Penguin 4.0+ will take care of those who haven’t.


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Andy MullinsView all posts by Andy Mullins >