Google Penguin 4.0 Update Now Real-Time: Summary & Key Takes

Information on the Penguin 4.0 Release Including Our Summary and the Key Takes Given its New Real-Time Signal Process.

After more than 700 days since the last Penguin algorithm update and a few ranking fluctuation talks from the SEO community on Twitter and forums, Google finally confirmed and officially announced on the 23rd of September that Penguin is now a part of their core algorithm.

Penguin is Now Real-Time

Firstly we have to say, this is great for the SEO community. Why? Historically when your site was affected by a Penguin update, whilst other parts of Google’s algorithm could refresh very quickly you’d have to wait until Google refreshed Penguin manually on a new update. Now Penguin is refreshed in real-time, changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after a recrawl and reindex of a page according to Google’s official announcement. This does however mean there will be no Penguin updates from Google because there’s actually nothing to update.

Important to note: If you are seeing fluctuations currently sit back for a while because it’s likely this update is still rolling out and will continue to do so for at least the next couple of weeks.

Penguin More Granular, Page Specific? (No More Site-Wide Penalties)

According to the official statement:

“Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.”

We think, being ‘more granular’ could mean 1 of 2 things. Either you could see a page-specific penalty if you happen to trip these spam filters or it could mean a partial keyword penalty based on reducing the ranking of any pages ranking for specific search terms. The latter is just our theory but either way if you see anything like this you should be able to fix and recover from this pretty quickly.

On a whole, this is good news. You’ll now be able to see which part of your site is experiencing a penalty and will be able to fix it with real-time feedback during a re-crawl and reindex.

How To Avoid Penguin Penalties

It’s simple really. Penguin is part of Google’s algorithm which from a link building point of view is designed to detect unnatural link footprints therefore all you need to do is mimic natural viral distribution and build links when it makes sense, to content and pages that make sense and using anchor text that makes sense within the flow of content.

Most websites will probably see some small fluctuations during this period up and down so before you start organising those champagne parties or getting a little hasty with cleaning up your site’s link profile, we would recommend you sit back for at least the next couple of weeks.

Here’s How to Build a Natural Link Profile

  1. Avoid Over Optimised Anchors (build out more Brand variations)
  2. Don’t do too many Keyword Rich Anchors especially if they don’t make readable sense
  3. Avoid linking to the same Target URLs and link to other content assets like blogs and infographics
  4. Links in Author Boxes in volume suck. Links within the editorial flow of content look real
  5. Avoid repetitive link quantities, vary monthly and think about seasonal trends
  6. Avoid volume links like low-quality web 2.0’s directories and networks
  7. Vary your link type, get citations, blogger outreach links, links from infographic credits etc

We go into more detail on avoiding link footprints in this post.


This has not really been the shocking update that Penguin normally brings with it to the SEO landscape, largely because the effects of the ‘real-time Penguin’ will only affect a page or part of a website and will now only be temporary, provided you clean up whatever it is that would be tripping Google’s Penguin Spam Filters.

Put it this way, you’re not going to wake up one morning with the previous dreaded site-wide penalty where the rankings on your whole site tanked!

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Daniel Trick

Head of Content

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