After a two-year wait, Google Penguin 4.0 finally rolled out at the end of September 2016. Google’s Penguin filter, first released back in 2012, is designed to catch sites deemed “spammy” — in other words, websites that acquired links through unnatural means in order to try to boost their rankings in search engine results pages. This new update to Penguin was launched across all languages simultaneously, and it is intended to make the Penguin filter more sophisticated and integrate it directly into Google’s algorithms.
What Does Penguin 4.0 Do?
Basically, Penguin is now real-time. That means that as soon as you make a change to your website — whether positive or negative — Penguin will register that change much more quickly. The impacts of your actions will become much more noticeable much faster. Therefore, if you buy a bunch of shady backlinks, Google will be able to pick up on that much more quickly.
“Once a webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the internet, many of Google’s algorithms would take that into consideration very fast, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed,” Google explained in a blog post dated Sept. 23. “With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real-time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page.”
Furthermore, the update makes Penguin much more granular. It will focus on the specific pages that a toxic link points to, as opposed to entire websites. The rationale behind this is that these kind of “micro penalties” are harder to track. In order to avoid problems, webmasters will likely want to audit all important subdomains and individual pages on their websites on a fairly regular basis.
Understanding Penalty Assessment
This latest Penguin update looks at the source for each link in your link profile and will punish you for links that are deemed spammy. With the penalty assessment, the consequences will be more immediate because Penguin 4.0 is real-time. So, yes, Penguin 4.0 does penalize for bad links. However, as always, if you keep your backlink profile clean and healthy, you should be able to avoid most problems.
On the flip side, you’ll also be able to recover from penalties much more quickly if your site is penalized. Penalty assessment will now also occur in real-time, meaning if you do remove the links that are causing an issue, you will be able to recover from the penalty promptly.