Google Penguin 4.0 Algorithm Update

Full disclosure, we’re not ones to freak out about algorithm updates. Instead, we abide by a core practice of stepping back, researching and discussing amongst our industry peers about the impact such changes could have. It’s at that point we develop a strategic approach to move forward.

Google makes changes to their algorithm around 500-600 times a year, so now you can understand our rule of not freaking out. In addition to micro changes, Google likes to roll out major changes to their core algorithm, and these are the ones we monitor closely. Names you might have heard include Google Panda and Google Penguin, Google Hummingbird and Caffeine. This is definitely not a walk through the zoo with coffee, but signals of core algorithm updates.

Google Penguin Algorithm History

Flashback to 2012, an interesting year for many in the search industry. Again more rumbling of core algorithm updates, this time it was Penguin. As Google puts it, “Penguin is just one of more than 200 signals they use to determine rank.”

Google Penguin took aim on many “black-hat” SEO techniques that were centered around poor link-building practices in an effort to improve the rank of a site. Over the past 4 years Google Penguin has received its share of updates that either negatively or positively affected sites. Many sites received penalties as a result of their poor SEO practices, especially when Penguin 2.1 hit. We now fast forward to 2016 and receive the official news that Google Penguin 4.0 is the real deal.

What is Penguin 4.0?

Originally if a site was to be affected by Penguin, it took some time for the refresh to occur with the full consequences realized. Given the introduction of Google Penguin 4.0, those changes are now rendered in real time. Once a site/page gets indexed (or re-indexed), those changes are recorded in the engine in real time and penalties or rewards will be handed out immediately.

Penguin 4.0 Quick Facts

  • Penguin is NOT a filter, it’s a core to the algorithm.
  • Penguin 4.0 is real time and updates happen faster.
  • Recovery happens faster due to real time changes.
  • Penguin is granular, looking at individual pages instead of entire websites.

These real time changes have been rumored for a bit now as Google has been on a quest to push more toward machine learning. Reason being, the old way of filtering through site changes and seeking out webspam was not scaleable. Therefore changes have been made for better or for worse. On a positive side you’ll know relatively faster if the strategies deployed are helping or hurting your site. On the negative side, machine learning is only going to grow and its direction is very much in infancy.

Should you be concerned with Penguin 4.0 updates?

As mentioned before, not being ones to get all bent out of shape about such updates, this is a great reminder that the world of SEO is constantly shifting and you should always be re-evaluating your site and its performance.

If you are worried about the implications that Penguin 4.0 might have on your site, let us ease your mind with a couple recommendations so you can sleep better. Recently our friend Moosa Hemani over at SEtalks crafted a great post on a real life what if scenario related to the Penguin 4.0 release. We broke down Hemani’s post and are highlighting items we feel you can take immediate action on.

  1. Audit Your Link Profile:
    Think of this as your annual health screening, but for your website. This should take a look at all inbound links pointing to your site. Where are they coming from, what’s their relevancy and the context in which your brand name was mentioned, etc. Free tools are available for you such as Open Site Explorer, or go paid with Ahrefs.
  2. Review Broken Links:
    The concept is simple but does take some time. Finding broken links or lost content with good, updated and relevant content. Make sure you don’t have any inbound links pointing to 404 page not found errors, while taking advantage of others you find in your hunt.
  3. Creation and Identification of Link-worthy Content:
    As Moosa states, creation of excellent content (we like 10x content) is much easier to link to. If you are creating content that meets or exceeds the expectations of your industry, it is far superior and will garner more in the long run.


It is already being reported that Google Penguin 4.0 recoveries are taking shape. If your site was hit over the past two years by Penguin algo updates and you have since made changes, we recommend taking another look to see if things have shifted in your favor. As always, our thought process is simple; if it looks like a spammy link resource and reads like a spammy link resource… it probably is.