The SEO world is already very aware of the Penguin 4.0 update that took place a couple of weeks ago. It has been the talk of the town for every SEO and digital marketing blog you can think of.
So, for the uninitiated, what is Penguin?
Penguin is one of Google’s algorithms, which was first launched in 2012. It helps to determine the value of sites and therefore partially control ranking position in organic search results.
Google’s algorithms use a multitude of signals to analyse sites and this helps them to show content relevant to a search query. Some examples of the signals the algorithm uses are words in the content of websites, your region and how regularly updated or ‘fresh’ the content on the site is.
On 23rd September Penguin got a shiny new update.
Since Google’s algorithms updates can significantly affect website rankings, SEOs are always excitable when we suspect an update to an algorithm is on the way. If your digital agency uses ‘white hat’ techniques your site should be safe and have nothing to fear from updates like Penguin but if ‘black hat’ or even ‘grey hat’ techniques have been used this is when your website could be negatively affected.
What changes have taken place in the Penguin update?
Penguin 4.0 is a long awaited update and there are some fascinating and significant changes. Firstly Penguin is now in real-time and part of Google’s core algorithm.
In the past Penguin was periodically refreshed so if you had suffered from bad SEO tactics in the past but rectified them you would have to wait until the refresh to see if removing them and cleaning up your act had worked. Other Google algorithms operated much faster and so naturally you could see affects quite quickly but Penguin specifically had to be refreshed.
Changes seen as a result of Penguin will be much faster now that it updates in real-time. It will typically happen as Google’s algorithms re-crawl and re-index a page.
The way Penguin deals with spam is also different. Instead of affecting the rankings of your whole website it will devalue the offending page based on its specific spam signals. This is welcomed by the industry as being as much fairer approach.
Another change is that Penguin updates will roll out in all languages at the same time rather than rolling out in English first.
The results of disavows should also be quicker. No updates have been made to the disavow tool but the affect should be more rapid following Penguin 4.0.
How do these changes really affect SEO?
The message from Google remains the same – focus on great content and not links. This has been the standard message from Google for many years but it has been a hard lesson for many to accept with links remaining a key part of how Google determines value and authority. However with updates like Penguin 4.0 and the rise of AI like RankBrain the algorithms are becoming smarter and able to determine values based on many signals in a more nuanced light. Google is understanding the nature of links more as its algorithms advance.
With Penguin in real-time it means that if you do use some ‘grey’ or ‘black hat’ techniques Google will be able to detect it faster and therefore ‘punish’ faster.
With Penguin 4.0 live the advice from SEO experts is that you should continue to focus on content and brand rather than links. This can be hard, especially for highly competitive industries, so to succeed you need to keep using your great content on multiple channels, employ paid search and utilise social and digital PR to maximum effect to gain natural good quality links and traffic.
Another important lesson is to remember to monitor your current links and don’t neglect those disavows.