Google Penguin 4.0 – What’s Different and What It Means For Your Website Traffic

Oct 14th 2016

Google Penguin 4.0 – What’s Different and What It Means For Your Website Traffic

The Google Penguin has arrived … again!

On Friday September 23’rd the rumbles started in the SEO-sphere, with fluctuations in Google Ranking reported early and continuing over the next few days. By early the next week it was confirmed: The latest Google Penguin update had rolled out, adding real-time functionality to the biggest web-spam fighting algorithm in the search giant’s toolbox.

Many websites saw their ranks increasing, a few saw them fall drastically, but for most the results were… mixed.

So, what happened, and what’s coming next? How do these new changes effect your SEO and marketing strategy?

To start, let’s jump in the SEO time machine and turn the dial to April 2012.

Whum-whum-whum-whum- BZZZZZZZZZ

Ahh, here we are… Gotye is on the radio, Mitt Romney is creeping closer to the Republican nomination, a UN-brokered ceasefire is starting in Syria. Simpler times!

On April 24th, Google announced an update aimed at decreasing rampant web-spam and blackhat linking techniques. For the first time, actual penalties would be applied to sites who tried to ‘game’ Google’s system, and the SEO world was thrown into an uproar.

How Penguin used to work

  • Backlinks were assessed every time a new version came out
    • Penalties were given 1-2 times per year
    • Penalties were lifted 1-2 times per year
  • Penalties affected domains as a whole.
  • Penalties required a reconsideration request to be removed
    • Might take several months to go through
  • The purpose? These updates were designed to scare people into doing the right thing… and maybe, just maybe, to do something more…

According to Rand Fishkin in a recent Whiteboard Friday:

“I believe that Google specifically went through this process in order to collect a tremendous amount of information on sketchy links and bad links through the disavow file process. Once they had a ginormous database of what sketchy and spammy bad links looked like, that they knew webmasters had manually reviewed and had submitted through the disavowal file and thought could harm their sites and were paid for or just links that were not editorially acquired, they could then machine learn against that giant database. … (T)hey needed to get that huge sample set. They needed it not to just be things that they, Google, could identify but things that all of us distributed across the hundreds of millions of websites on the planet could identify. Using those disavowal files, Google can now make Penguin more real-time.”

So, the Penguin update that rocked the SEO world fought webspam and cut the legs out from under blackhat SEO… But it was far from the perfect solution, and further updates sought to correct some of the big problems.

Why was Penguin unsustainable?

  • It was far too slow
    People could wait months and months after doing all the hard work of disavowing bad links to see any impact. This made it very hard for many business owners to justify the time and cost. For many people, a day of bad search engine traffic is inconvenient, a week is a disaster, and a month or more could lead to layoffs or simply shutting down for good.
  • It was far too broad

If Penguin found bad links on a single page, they would put a penalty on the site as a whole. For smaller sites, this might make sense.. But for websites with thousands, even millions of pages, did it really make sense to punitively tank rankings for everything based on spam links to a single page?

  • It was too labor-intensive

To get a penalty removed, a webmaster would need to attempt to contact the site with spam links pointing to an offending page and make a ‘good faith’ effort to have the links taken down. Then they would need to wait for a while, see if they got a response, and, if not, upload the urls to a disavow file, which would be reviewed (along with any documentation of the ‘good faith’ effort to remove the links) by Google. This is a massive time-suck for any business, and can you imagine how much work it took for Google to review and assess this documentation from thousands if not millions of websites?

  • It opened the door for blackmail and other types of bad SEO

The intention was to fight web-spam, but the result was a little like putting out a kitchen fire by flooding your house: it created a whole new set of problems. Some spammers made millions by refusing to remove spam links until they were paid, or threatening to point thousands of bad links at a website until they were paid. Google had basically given some spammers a nuclear option – if they had the questionable morals and chutzpah to use it!

Ok, fire up the SEO Time Machine again and head back… to the current time!

No headline recap this time, please…

What Penguin 4.0 is all about

Penguin 4.0, released recently, and it is a big change! Here are the big differences with Penguin 4.0:

  • Penguin 4.0 is integrated with Google’s core algorithm

This means that the effects of this update will be more integrated, more smooth, and perhaps more significant

  • Penguin 4.0 will update in real time
    No more waiting months for your disavowal to take effect, PEnguin recovery will now happen whenever your backlinks are indexed – as close to real time as Google changes can get!
  • Penguin 4.0 will only affect specific pages, not whole domains
    Google is no longer penalizing entire domains if bad links are localized to a certain page or group of pages. This has already caused big boosts with some sites already struggling with previous penalties!
  • Penguin 4.0 will be the FINAL Penguin update.

No more stress over the next Penguin storm to roll through town! Since all Penguin updates will happen in real time, you can be sure that if you get your penalty removed, it will stay removed.

So, what does this mean for you?

If you are a business struggling to boost your search engine traffic, now is the time to act! Disavowing and removing bad links now will have an immediate and lasting effect. Some businesses have already felt the impact of Penguin recovery – Cognitive SEO reports on one company who has seen search visibility increase by over 370% as their backlink recovery work has paid off!

Are you struggling to bring in search engine traffic? Do you want to see how professional backlink recovery could help your business? Contact us, we’d love to help you!

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