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Penguin 4.0 Goes Live – What You Need To Know

23 Sep
2016

Earlier today, Google announced the launch of Penguin 4.0 as a core part of their algorithm. It has been almost 2 years now since the last Penguin update and we’ve been awaiting this release for most of 2016. The rumors and news from Google about launch dates, how it might work, and other details have been like reading a tabloid. Overall, the PinkTie portfolio of clients has fared well. We are seeing a slight decrease in the number of new page one rankings this month, but we are positive overall. We have done a lot of prep work, including an in-depth campaign to cleanup toxic links, evolving our product offerings, and bundling services to ensure everyone is getting an SEO package with any new website design or redesign.  We have highlighted the key changes of this new launch for you below.

Key Changes:

  • Penguin is now real-time – Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the Internet, many of Google’s algorithms would take that into consideration quickly, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed. 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. It also means we’re not going to comment on future refreshes.
  • Penguin is now more granular – Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.

For local search results we have been seeing changes in the following areas:

  • Businesses that are not in the center of the city got a boost: For a long time it was important that you had an address near the center of the city, now that seems to have loosened up a bit.
  • Filtering of local results that share the same address: If you share an office with other people, you may be subject to filtering. This may also be a way to prevent false local business verification. The PinkTie family was hit by this one personally since we have a couple businesses running out of the same office. We had our Google Places listings get deactivated as duplicates until we verify the primary and suspended the other listings.
  • Searcher location / IP is more important (Results Customization): Different results are being served up based on locations. If you’re tracking your rankings in any kind of rank tracker, you’ll want to use the localized feature.
  • Long tails provide more variation in results: Different results are being served up for variations of keywords, city and state combos. This may also just be shuffling of the serps, but it’s a good idea to have all these variations in your link building and on your site.
  • Local and organic became more disconnected: Google seems to be going back and forth on this. We’ve seen previous updates where if you rank well organically, you would rank well locally in maps, but with this update it seems to regress a little bit back.

What Is The Penguin Algorithm?

First introduced in April 2012, the Penguin update was created to target sites that used “spammy” tactics and manipulative practices that violate the Google webmaster guidelines. The last update was in the Fall of 2014 and sites impacted by that update have been waiting two years for another update.

Is It Still Rolling Out?

Yes, and it is expected to be fully rolled out in a couple weeks. It is now a real-time part of Google’s core search algorithm, which means that once it fully rolls out, it will be a constant process rather than periodic updates, as it’s been previously. Since the beginning of September, the SEO community has been watching some of the weirdest search results we’ve seen in a while.

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.

If rankings are fine now, do we think there will be any more changes?

No one will know the impact until it has fully rolled out. Once it is rolled out, it will be a real-time part of the core algorithm. Keep in mind that Google is constantly making changes to its algorithm to improve the user experience, so with Penguin now as part of the core algorithm, it is more important than ever to ensure that your links are following quality guidelines.

If rankings have gone down, what should we do?

If you were hit by this update or you have seen massive fluctuations, it may not be doom and gloom. It will still be rolling out for the next couple weeks. We’ve seen some cases of big drops, only to see a total recovery in an overnight fashion.

If you do have over optimized anchor text, then it should be even faster to see a recovery after you clean up lower quality links and naturalize your anchor text profile.

This would be a good time to take a look at your anchors by having PinkTie perform an link audit on your website and either clean up any links that shouldn’t be there or build some new high quality links.

Conclusion

Google is always changing and the PinkTie team is here to keep you updated (and we’re keeping an eye on Penguin for you).  If you ever have any questions about these changes or your site, were here to help – Contact us.

 

What are you seeing on your end?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

Kevin Fairbanks
author

Kevin Fairbanks is the managing partner at PinkTie Technology Group located in Syracuse, NY where he builds everything from responsive websites to mobile applications. In his spare-time he is either spending it with his family or tinkering with electronics.