Phil Ringguth
Phil Ringguth 7 October 2016

Penguin 4.0 Is Officially Rolling Out!

News from the USA came on Friday 23rd September signifying that Google had just confirmed in the public domain that the Pengiun 4.0 was now part of their core link analysis algorithm.

Back in January you may remember our blog post on the imminent arrival of the next update to Google’s Penguin algorithm, if you need to brush up on your knowledge you can find our previous article here. 

Ever since Gary Illyes teased us all those months ago, the digital community has been on the edge of their seats waiting for the first signs that Penguin 4.0 has arrived. In the time between then and now we have seen numerous sources claiming any change within Google was the first signs of the pending update, however news from the USA came on Friday 23rd September signifying that Google had just confirmed in the public domain that the update was now part of their core link analysis algorithm.

A couple of weeks have now passed since that news and we have waited to see how the UK search engine results have been affected by this recent update. When Penguin originally rolled out in 2012 it was designed to prevent spam and low quality automated link practices by companies trying to appear higher in the Google search results (also known in the industry as the SERPs), we have come a long way from the Panda and Penguin updates and now with 4.0 we are entering a new dawn of real-time algorithm updates.

What does the new Penguin 4.0 update mean for my website, traffic and organic rankings?

Essentially this is good news if you run your own website. Previously when sites were penalised historically by Penguin this was for actions deemed as poor SEO practice (over optimising anchor text, automated link building and spammy links) the resulting penalty could be in place for months even years, even after the fix was implemented and link building practices were changed. These penalties were only updated when the algorithm was updated, therefore some sites never recovered from the loss of ranking and traffic they were experiencing post penalty as by the time the algorithm has updated with the reconsideration request 6-12 months had passed, destroying many smaller businesses.

This is why a real-time algorithm update means automated penalties could be resolved much sooner with Google, in essence, rewarding you for fixing your site quicker and alleviating the penalty. 

However, a word of caution - you shouldn’t get too complacent with your SEO activities especially when link building, there is still the threat of a manual penalty that could hurt your site in a more permanent way, despite the new update. Whilst these kinds of punishments are usually reserved for the worst offending spammy sites Google applies hundreds of thousands of penalties manually per month so it is worth considering before you begin using techniques to rank higher in the search engines in a short time frame that border on ‘Black Hat’ SEO. 

This Penguin 4.0 update is unique in that now it can be considered more granular, in that any penalties incurred will likely affect smaller sections of you site rather than a site wide problem. Pages, categories and sub-categories will now be affected by these penalties which will allow your site to continue ranking for keywords and drive targeted traffic on pages deemed acceptable by Google.

In addition, this is likely to be the last announced update for Penguin, meaning all future updates will be implemented slowly in a similar way to how 4.0 has been introduced. At this time not everyone is experiencing the effects of the latest update, as you can see in this recent article from Search Engine Roundtable.  However, the as with previous updates the roll-out phase is likely to be phased over the next few months so you may still see evidence that your site has been affected by this update.

Not everyone is feeling the effects of the update yet, but you can rest assured that this update will soon be apparent across the SERPS, although don’t expect it to change any more than 1% of total search results. Previously the last two updates (which affected the whole site rather than individual pages) to Penguin have affected just 1% of search results in Google, spanning back four years.


How do I know if I have been affected by the Penguin 4.0 update? 

The effect of Penguin 4.0 is likely to be hard to quantify at this stage due to the recent release and the roll-out phase likely to last a few months. However, as a business the main factor you should be reviewing in your analytics (or other website/keyword traffic monitoring software) is looking for is any drop off in traffic that cannot be attributed to any other factor (seasonality, products out of stock or any external issues), if you notice a decline in these metrics that started recently then you could be affected.

As a general rule of thumb we have created 3 questions below to evaluate whether or not you could be affected by the recent Penguin 4.0 update:

  • Is your website and web domain older than 3 years?

  • Have you ever used an SEO outsourcer or freelancer?

  • Have you recently experienced high ranking positions in a short-time frame? (less than 6 months)

  • Have you been penalised before? (Panda or Penguin)

  • Has your website traffic recently declined for reasons not attributed to business and industry factors?

  • Have you ever expressly paid for links, blogs or directories?

  • Have you ever used a bulk link submission service or network?


If you have answered yes to one or more of the above then it is likely that your site could be affected by the Penguin 4.0 update.

I think I have been penalised by Penguin 4.0, what next?

If answering yes to the above questions and reading this post you believe you have been affected by the recent update, the main consideration is to not panic. Remember this is a real time update, the changes caused to websites in the early updates will not be felt this time around. The key is to act fast, have your link profile analysed, submit key files to Google, and realign the links. 

As this update is a real-time algorithm by addressing these issues on the offending pages sooner than later, will ensure you are able to reclaim your ranking page positions in Google and traffic in a short-time frame. If you believe you have been penalised, get in contact with us at and our specialist SEO technical and link analysis team can investigate further. 

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