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What You Need to Know About Google Algorithm and Penguin 4.0

Penguin 4.0 Update

Google has made another significant change to their algorithm and confirmed the Penguin 4.0 core algorithm change on Sep 23, 2016. What is Penguin and what does it mean for your site? What is a Google core algorithm change and why is it important? Staying up to date with Googles changes and understanding Google’s core algorithm effects can help you better understand the performance of your keywords ranking, website traffic performance and keep you educated regarding the ways Google may value or devalue your site in the way they rank.

What is a Google Core Algorithm?

Google uses algorithms to make it possible to serve up search results. These algorithms are updated about 500 times a year. According to Google they rely on more than 200 unique signals or “clues” to make it possible to sort through all that data on the web in order to show you the best search results. Some of the other signals include things like the words that appear on your website, how new or up to date your content is, where you are located and much more. One of these specific signals or clues is called “Penguin”. Penguin was launched in April 2012 and was developed to help catch websites that Google believed to be spamming their search results and making it difficult to serve up relevant search results to their users. Some of those things they were focused on catching were those websites who were buying links or getting them through link farms or networks using “Black Hat” techniques. When a new Penguin Update is launched, sites that have tried to resolve and remove bad links or to eliminate spam may recover rankings. New sites not previously caught may get ensnared by Penguin. The last time Penguin (Penguin 3.0) had an update, it was on October 17, 2014. Any sites that were affected by Penguin 3.0 have waited nearly two years for the chance to be redeemed.

Search Engine Optimization

What Does the Penguin 4.0 Update Consist of?

It would be helpful to think of Penguin as a filter. The Penguin’s main goal is to identify and capture sites -deemed by Google to be spammy- from taking up search results listings. The problem with Penguin was it was penalizing entire sites and sometimes that may not have been an accurate representation of that particular website or domain. These sites, when caught, will remain penalized even if they made changes to rectify the issues Google had identified until the next time the filter ran. This can take months for that website to begin ranking again in Google search results. This Penguin update should help tweak some of those problems Penguin had in the past. According to Google there are two key specific take aways from this particular Penguin 4.0 update:

  • “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 very fast, 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 re-crawl and re-index 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.”

How Will Penguin 4.0 My Site?

Unless you purchased links from a link farm or a non-reputable link network and had them sending spammy links to your site, there is no need to worry or take any action. Keep in mind links are still important, as Google executives have continually stated they continually utilize links as ranking signals, it’s more about ensuring no one is gaming the system by solely relying on these bad link practices.

What Can I Learn from This?

Penguin is only one piece of a very large puzzle. There are many other considerations Google has to review when ranking and stacking websites. I would however, take a step back and review your website and make sure you are continuing to do the following:

  • Have a site that is mobile friendly or responsive
  • Ensure your website pages are of importance to your visitors
  • You regularly create new relevant content your visitors would like to see
  • Keep your content up to date, i.e. phone numbers addresses, services provided or any wording that may no longer be relevant to your clients or business
  • Accurately describe your business or services

There has been a lot of shake up with what we are seeing with regards to local client’s listings in the local map packs as Google is continuing to devalue these sites with spammy content which in turn naturally changes the rank listings across the organic listings and map listings. For now, keep in mind with these changes you will notice a great variety of shifting happening in your keywords rankings and organic listings good or bad. Now you know that Google changes and updates are consistently happening, what can you do to control your websites outcome in the search engine rankings? The key thing you can do is continue to follow best practices and ensure your website is relevant and helpful to your visitors.

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