Big Changes: Google Updates their Algorithm Again: Penguin 4.0

google algorithm update penguin 4.0

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Change is the only constant in life, and Google has been hard at work honing their search algorithm. It seems that they are always working out ways to improve their user experience, and they have updated one of their search engine modules. Many of you have likely heard of the Penguin update, which spawned incredibly dynamic and volatile shifts in the SERP’s overnight when it was first introduced. In the blink of an eye, some websites lost the vast majority of their organic search traffic while others experienced massive gains. Over the years, Google has released further Penguin updates, and on September 23, 2016, they made the latest update.

It has been almost two years since they last updated Penguin, and though this update hasn’t created as big of a commotion as the first introduction of Penguin, there are several important factors you need to know. Whether you run an ecommerce site or a simple website to digitally advertise your small business, you need to stay on top of Google updates to ensure your digital marketing campaign doesn’t bite the dust.

Furthermore, the latest update – Penguin 4.0 – will reportedly be the last Penguin update. 

How the Update Catalogs Sites in Real Time

One of the most interesting qualities of this new update is that Penguin now operates in real time.

In the past, older versions of the Penguin algorithm didn’t operate in real time. Rather, they worked more similarly to how bots crawl web pages. It would run through periodic cycles, and only occasionally check back-links. Today, however, things are drastically different. The latest update has gone live, and Penguin can now detect changes in linking structures on the fly.

For those of you who were unaware or have forgotten, the whole point of the Penguin algorithm is to filter out sites that are sketchy, spammy, and provide a poor user experience. It has been preventing low quality sites from surfacing in the SERP’s since 2012, and if it found a site that it judged to be spammy or suspicious, it would penalize it’s ranking. But there was one massive flaw in the algorithm.

If a website became flagged and was penalized, it was nigh on impossible for it to redeem its standings. At first, people thought all they had to do was clean up their act before the algorithm ran through its next periodic cycle (which could take weeks, or even months), thereby rescanning their site and removing the penalty. The reality, however, was that the penalty would still stay in place.

Even sites that were penalized by the last update, Penguin 3.0, were not able to redeem themselves. They’ve been waiting for over two years, forcing many to jump to a new domain or try to find other workarounds. Fortunately, things are looking a lot better now.

Faster Response Times to Clear Up Penalizations

With the introduction of the latest update, website administrators won’t need to pull their hair out in frustration while waiting unreasonably long periods of time to redeem themselves. Not only does the algorithm now seek and destroy rankings of spammy sites in real time, but it can once again crawl and index sites to spot changes and updates in real time. Basically, the update helps sites recover from being penalized, supposedly in real time, with nothing more than an ephemeral slap on the wrist.

Improvements to the Algorithm

There have been several improvements to the Penguin algorithm other than its new ability to operate in real-time. Google announced that the latest update now makes the algorithm more granular, and can make determinations about how spammy individual pages are, as opposed to penalizing an entire domain. In part, this will help ensure that legitimate sites don’t get completely penalized for one piece of content or page that generates false positives to the algorithm.

Further Posted Updates and Announcements

One interesting change is that Google isn’t going to make further announcements to the algorithm, which makes a lot of sense. Because it now operates in real-time, they no longer have to ‘roll out’ an entire new implementation. Instead, they can make small and incremental changes on the fly.

As a side note, we still don’t know if the latest update is fully operational. In the past, they have staged the implementation process by rolling out new update components piece by piece. Nevertheless, there has been a lot of speculation that all the latest changes are now live.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been knocked down in the rankings in the past due to false positives, you should be able to correct those penalizations in real-time now. Also, I’d highly recommend managing all of your back-links. If you get back-links from low quality and spammy sites, you can incur further penalizations. Fortunately, you can use the disavow tool to sever your association with poor quality sites. Lastly, if you don’t know how to do so, it’s likely time to reach out to a web design and digital marketing professional. Failing to do so could mean that you’re missing out on loads of organic traffic and leads.

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