For all SEOs, this moment has been a long time coming. Google first launched the Penguin update in 2012 in order to penalize websites that appear to spam the search results. Google has always prided itself in providing accurate and valuable search results to users and has developed updates like Panda and Penguin to ensure that accuracy is maintained. Penguin really boils down to site’s backlink profile. If your site appears to have inaccurate or inauthentic backlinks (spam sites, poor anchor text, high influx of backlinks attained at one time), Google will see this and penalize you.
When the update first arose in 2012, websites definitely took a hit, as buying links was an easy way to rank sites at the time.
According to Search Engine Land, the last Penguin update was October 14th, 2014 – 705 days ago! Websites that have been penalized in past who have disavowed and cleaned up their “spammy” back links should receive a boost after this update rolls out fully. Websites that have been hiding bad links in their profile will be taking the hit.
There were signals seen yesterday – where Google was testing out Penguin 4.0, but the real time update will be today. Penguin 4.0 has been described as more “granular”. Google stated this morning that “Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.” What we can draw from this is perhaps your entire domain won’t take a hit for links to certain pages or sub domains.
But the real news here is that Penguin is part of Google’s core.
What is a real-time update?
Previous Penguin updates happened at unpredictable intervals. You could only benefit (or be hurt by) Penguin updates when they happened; otherwise it was just a waiting game. You had to wait until the next Penguin algorithm refresher, often with no announced timeline, before you could see a rise or drop or rankings attributable to your backlink profile. With a rolling, real-time Penguin update, it means that sites can benefit from backlink clean-up the next time Google crawls your site. If your backlink profile still isn’t up to par, you can clean it up by disavowing links and starting a link building/outreach strategy, and see it pay dividends very quickly. With real-time updates to the algorithm, it could be a game-changer. I would suspect you will be able to see updates over the next week – but Google has not indicated a timeline.
Because Penguin is now a real-time update, Google will no longer comment on future updates as it is now part of the core algorithm. This means that even though your site may take a hit from this – you won’t have to wait 700 days to recover. There are over 200 ranking signals part of Google core algorithm (PageRank, content, keywords, etc.), but you can now count on Penguin to be part of this.
If you feel the heat of Penguin today – be sure to visit Google’s Disavow tool to clean up your backlink profile. I briefly touched on how to do this is our last blog update about Google Penalizing Widget links.
One final note, Google had this to say this morning at the end of their Webmaster Blog Post:
“It’s also important to remember that updates like Penguin are just one of more than 200 signals we use to determine rank.”