After a two-year wait, Google’s Penguin algorithm update has finally been launched. In its simplest terms, Penguin is a filter created to catch sites that are spamming Google’s search results to increase their rankings. First introduced in 2012, Penguin was designed to find sites that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and penalize them. Even if the sites were improved, they would stay penalized until the next time the Penguin filter ran. This often took months. In 2014, Penguin 3.0 was introduced, cracking down even harder on spammy sites. The penalty went from a couple of months to two years.
With the new Penguin 4.0, these delays are now gone, according to Google. The filter is now real-time. This means that as Google crawls and indexes, pages will be constantly assessed by the Penguin filter. Pages will be caught or freed by Penguin on an ongoing basis.
The algorithm is also more granular. According to Google, “Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.” While Penguin used to be a site-wide penalty, it’s now more specific to affected pages.
What This Means for Your Website
With the rollout of Penguin 4.0, search engine result pages have been more volatile than usual. This highlights the importance of having specific and relevant content on your website. Google values the quantity and diversity of content and will catch pages that have similar content that is repeated specifically to get back links.
What else can you do? If you’re using anchor text for PageRank shortcuts, you’re likely to get penalized. Excessive blog commenting on a similar website or reciprocal link exchange are also red flags in the eyes of Google. While there are tools to evaluate back links, it’s wise to manually audit and remove bad links from directories, PR sites, paid links and link farms to avoid being penalized.
Yes, the update will mean more work to consistently retain a high ranking on SERPs. For those who continuously work to build quality websites, Penguin 4.0 should ultimately be a benefit by swiftly and consistently penalizing low quality sites and ensuring they don’t rank well in search results.