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Home » Google » Google Update: Penguin 4.0 – the “Real Time” Link Algorithm

Google Update: Penguin 4.0 – the “Real Time” Link Algorithm

Hey wait, but if Penguin goes real-time, that would mean it also needs to be integrated into the core algorithm… hmmm food for thought, if it’s not Penguin (the thing attached on top of the core, but the same link spam analysis component integrated into the core, would it be ok to say it’s “not Penguin”?

Impact of NoFollow 2.0, UGC and Sponsored Link Attributes
Curious what the No Follow Links 2.0 change means for you?

Google Penguin 4.0 – Real Time Penguin UpdateThe Real Time Google Penguin Algorithm is LIVE

Google Penguin 4.0 is officially part of  Google's Core Algorithm, according to an official statement given by Google on September 23, 2016.

"Penguin is now real-time. Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. (…)  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."

The “real-time feature” implies that effects of the Penguin algorithmic filter, i.e. demotions and promotions of organic rankings for a website due to link spam (unnatural links) happen faster than in the past. In the past, every Google Penguin update brought drastic changes.

Penguin 4.0 is the last Penguin update in history. There will be no other update.


Here's your guide to the Real-Time Google Penguin

understanding the real time penguin ebook

Download this 75-pages eBook and learn:

  • how SEO strategies changed with the Real-Time Google Penguin;
  • what is link risk management and why you need to do it on a regular basis;
  • why you need to clean your backlink profile and how;
  • how the Real-Time Google Penguin works;
  • why you should not wait for Google to re-crawl your links;
  • what the granularity of the Real-Time Penguin means;
  • how do you diagnose websites that have partial Penguin penalties;
  • how to find and build great links that will help boost your rankings;
  • and so much more...

Important points about the Real Time Penguin

  1. The Google Penguin positive or negative signal is now recalculated on crawl. Link Detox Boost is therefore the perfect tool also to "test & try" links effects and not only make the disavow work.
  2. Google Penguin now not only affects the whole site (or not). It has its impact on all levels like domain, folders, pages and probably also keywords and keyword groups. So anything that goes into the organic rankings will now be affected by the Penguin algorithm on a fine level.
  3. Because of 2. it will be harder to diagnose "small Penguin penalties" in many cases.
  4. Since Google Penguin will be more granular, it can mean that an aggressively SEOed part of a website trips the Penguin filter, while other parts are ranking fine. This will makes doing a competitive research using Competitive Link Detox (CDTOX) for every main topic a site covers more important to understand different risk level standards.
  5. Because of 4 the "Subfolder Analysis" Feature of Link Detox (launched 2014) will become one of the most popular features to diagnose and fix Penguin bases ranking issues (in conjunction with Link Detox Boost).
  6. The "Filter Slice Feature" that Link Detox and LRT have for years will be very helpful to analyze the risk per groups of keywords, groups of source domains, countries, types of links and many more.

You can read our latest Q&A about the Granular Real Time Google Penguin here.

The internet started going crazy about the Real Time Google Penguin

SEOROUNDTABLE announced the Google Penguin roll out right after Google announced it

The Real Time Penguin will not act at Page-Level, it's simply more granular...

Some remember the nightmare of the Google Penguin 2012 launch...

People are following the Real Time Penguin update all around the world

What we recommend moving forward with Google Penguin 4.0

It’s still early in this update.

However, some principles remain and one new aspect is the game changer – “Real Time”.

How much real-time that “Real Time Penguin” might be, it’s going to be a lot more frequent.

But there’s still network and processing power needed for all those massive crawls and calculations,
so I wouldn’t be surprised if “real-time” really translates into weekly or daily.

Link Risk Management, the practice of proactive link audits and disavows gets, even more, important
for your business – and we always recommended to do it on a weekly basis. Maybe faster in the future.

The post-penguin basic principles for link building and SEO remain

  • A link can help or hurt - positive to negative effect, vs. positive or nothing pre-Penguin
  • You need to analyze your FULL backlink profile – it’s about ratios. It’s wrong to think that the few percent
    that Google Search Console gives you in links would be enough to audit. And don’t show any penalized sites,
    so you’re definitely missing out if you’re not aggregating all sources you can. LRT was made for that.
  • Use a machete, not a scalpel for bad links – I know that it’s tough to let a so-so link go, but remember it’s about ratios
  • Disavow shady scraper links – Google has better things to do than detect all sorts of scraper spam, so they put it on us
  • Be careful with redirects – as I found out in Penguin 2.0 update Google passes penalties on with redirects for a while now
  • Be careful with redirects 2.0 – temporary redirects are handled differently than just a few years ago and can convert into permanent redirects. Did you know?
  • Content relevance and the “AI” part – “Rankbrain” is here – Google rolled out their new machine-learning in October 2015 that can and will impact search results.
    this will make results, even more, unpredictable for Google themselves as well. Let’s see how this works out.
If you sign up and watch my webinar, I will also send you some more tutorials and eBooks we created on Google Penguin, Risky Links and Disavows and much more. 

SEOs have been waiting for the Real Time Google Penguin for months now

We got a false Real Time Penguin alarm in January

Awaiting the major Penguin update in January as announced by Google after shifting it for many months, we called Google Penguin 4.0 to start already.

What looked like Google Penguin 4.0 was a core algorithm update that was bigger than Penguin 3.0 last year and almost felt like the massive Penguin 2.1 in 2013

Gary Illyes mentioned that the Google engineers are “still testing”, but for me this looked like the “final release candidate.”

Gary and Zineb Ait (in French) today confirmed - after almost 48 hours of waiting for a useful statement that this major shake up
is indeed a core algo update and not (yet) a Penguin update.

This means, that it was technically a Panda update, but Panda was integrated into the core algorithm, so is therefore no more a separate update they need to confirm.

Hey wait, but if Penguin goes real-time, that would mean it also needs to be integrated into the core algorithm... hmnn food for thought, if it's not Penguin (the thing attached on top of the core, but the same link spam analyis component integrated into the core, would it be ok to say it's "not Penguin"?

Last night I then wondered if Google's John Müller and Gary actually continued the practice of confirming Google Penguin Updates, and remembered, that from End of October til December (!) in 2014 we were wondering if and how the Google Penguin 3.0 rolled out. I even found that post where Google's John Müller confirmed in December 2014 that Penguin would be an "Everpenguin" already the  "Real-Time Version" of Google Penguin that was confirmed yet a year later.



superhero smallWith the Superhero Plans you can perform link audits, link cleanup, link disavow boost, competitive research, professional SEO and backlink analysis for your own or your competitor's sites.

You can fix or avoid a Google Penalty! Learn more about how you can Recover and Protect with LRT.




Christoph C. Cemper

Christoph C. Cemper is the CEO and Founder of LinkResearchTools and Link Detox. A well-known and distinguished expert in SEO who started link building for clients in 2003, building LinkResearchTools since 2006 and marketing it as SaaS product since 2009. When the famous Google Penguin update changed the rules of SEO in 2012, Christoph started Link Detox, software for finding and disavowing toxic links. 


  1. umut on February 3, 2016 at 19:44

    Merhaba. Ücretli backlink alımı ne derece yararlı. Yeni bir site için?

  2. Nikolay Stoyanov on February 29, 2016 at 11:30

    Nice post Christoph. I like the machete reference. No wonder webmasters are panicking so much as of late, asking for additional assistance. Update season is coming!

  3. A Brief Look at Penguin 4.0 and What We Can Expect From It - Kreative Machinez on March 9, 2016 at 10:27

    […] the updates for Google Penguin 4.0 is going to roll out on a continual basis, the ones who have been penalized by the current algorithm changes are going to have the […]

  4. Get Ready To Embrace Real Time Penguin Update | SEO Blog on March 9, 2016 at 10:39

    […] bated breath, the industry is going ga-ga over some effects in the rankings that seem to be the effect of the Penguin real-time update. However, some say that it is just a core update and not the actual Penguin […]

  5. The Busy Lawyer's Online Marketing Update - March 9, 2016 - on March 9, 2016 at 13:52

    […] The SEO community has been waiting with bated breath on the announcement of Google’s dreaded Penguin 4.0 Algorithm update. Last reports from Google’s Gary Illyes was that their engineers were still testing, but it’s believed that its implementation is imminent. Google’s Penguin Algorithm targets links that come from poor-quality sites, have little to no relevancy to the backlinked site, have overly optimized anchor text, are paid for, and/or are keyword rich. Read more: […]

  6. Anomalías en rankings sugieren cambios en los algoritmos de Google – B2 Performance – Digital Marketing and Technology on March 16, 2016 at 12:48

    […] embargo, en Link Research Tools están casi seguros de que la actualización de Penguin ha comenzado, al menos, es lo que concluye […]

  7. Reene Smith on April 4, 2016 at 05:47


    Well, I have been trying out to understand Google Panda and Penguin, by reading more and more and this is helping me a lot. I know Google Panda is all about Quality Content.

    Although, It would take some time for me to understand, How to avoid any penalty from Google Penguin. It is bit complicated for me, they say, Only natural links are safe, but After reading articles, including this one, i get bit confused.

    Anyways, Will try experimenting a bit.

  8. Donatas on April 21, 2016 at 18:58

    Very interesting article, thank you Christoph!

  9. Blogprime on June 12, 2016 at 07:06

    Well, that’s pretty in-depth article. But I rarely cared about these pandas and penguins; all because I never – ever hired $5 SEO experts from renowned SEO marketplaces ( you now which one ).

    All you need to do is to follow the Google webmasters guidelines, help your visitors and create beautiful and informative infographics and sometimes contribute to professional and authority sites in your niche.

    Thanks for this awesome post.

  10. guntaka subba Reddy on September 24, 2016 at 14:04

    Yes It’s Good Change and Lots of changes we can expect from sundar

  11. Poznámky k aktualizaci na Google - jedná se o Penguin 4? « Pavel Ungr, SEO konzultant on September 24, 2016 at 16:37

    […] Google Penguin 4.0 – Real Time Penguin Update has started – Link Research […]

  12. Hape on September 24, 2016 at 23:24

    I have been noticing a significant increase over the last week in the UK Serp for some pretty competitive keywords but seeing some strange things example is vastly different results with some keywords appearing on page 2 instead of page 3 but appear on page 3 when I use keyword check tools, perhaps nothing happened at all or perhaps I’m going mad, probably both 😉

  13. Maa Durga on September 25, 2016 at 05:04

    After a long time, Finally it comes

  14. Kevin Floake on September 25, 2016 at 07:55

    Every single page on website now it’s more more critical. it’s will big problem for website have dozen content ( even quality content ) without quality link.

  15. jawad on September 25, 2016 at 09:26

    After a long time, Finally it comes let’s see new changes

  16. Punkit Gupta on September 27, 2016 at 11:12

    It already working. My website’s ranking got some fluctuations, not very bad but not good either

  17. Cristian on September 29, 2016 at 19:42

    There’s a simple reason why everyone thinks this is a Google Penguin roll out: Google has been talking about an upcoming real time Google Penguin update for months and has said, through several people, that it’d come early this year. But what if this is part of a mayor update. The core algo certainly should change to. I think this is the end of Penguin as an algo, so RYP Penguin.

  18. Tom Beaty on September 30, 2016 at 10:44

    Interesting and informative article about the Google Penguin Latest Update.

  19. Sujata on October 4, 2016 at 12:54

    Thank you for the post. All of the points in the post is very much useful ones though I have my doubts on disavow links. I think if we can understand the relation between panda,penguin and rankbrain half of our battle is won because I know this for sure that rankbrain has a huge significance when it comes to rankings.

  20. Zhu on October 4, 2016 at 18:58

    Excellent read! Gary Illyes from Google said Google is managed to devalue spam instead of demoting the site. For brands who have or had unnatural backlinks, they still need to disavow files even though it makes no difference as Google devalues/ignores them anyway. It’s just not as bad if you don’t. The new update becomes smarter and relies more on content, rather than keyword phrases, SEOs need to rethink their strategy to catch up with such changes.

  21. Shamsher Singh on October 6, 2016 at 11:33

    Hey Christoph,
    That’s a pretty good piece of information, This is help with future link buidling strategies as well as if one is building good quality links, then quick rewards are good as this is now real time update. I will keep an eye on the updates with you..

  22. Erwin Pratama on October 7, 2016 at 03:50

    Thanks Christoph for your explanation.
    This new algorithm provides such great effect on my website.
    I hope my website can survive.

  23. AbelPardo on October 7, 2016 at 13:06

    Hello Christoph,

    Noe it’s real and admitted by Google.

    My websites have been up, then returned to a bit less than previous positions and now… let’s see. Maybe a new time for SEO? With your helps and tools maybe it will be easier.


  24. jadi on October 14, 2016 at 05:28

    Google doesn’t want to say anything, but I think that this may be Google penguin and they don’t want to announce it yet.
    We can’t be 100% until we get more feedback from Google, I guess we’ll find out what this is in the near future.
    Thanks for the update

  25. plombier Paris on October 14, 2016 at 07:16

    My websites have been up, then returned to a bit less than previous positions and now… let’s see. Maybe a new time for SEO? With your helps and tools maybe it will be easier.

  26. Ydoxy on November 3, 2016 at 13:47

    Great article. After penguin 4.0 my website increase traffic. Good job.

  27. Jonathan Strong on January 7, 2017 at 04:44

    Penguin being real time now is a huge benefit to all Seo’s. For all those who’ve been stuck on page 2 for over optimization for months at a time, now instead of it taking months to recover from that, if you make the immediate fixes to your webpage, it’ll get updated instantly. Since rankings are already taking longer to achieve, it’s great that Google has added this into the mix as well to help fix mistakes.

  28. Vandana Verma on January 24, 2017 at 07:22

    Glad you posted this interesting read. This Penguin update is going to separate the real SEOs from the fake ones. All those agencies employing black hat techniques would eventually die out. Google just made us wait far too long.

  29. sabtunes on November 23, 2017 at 15:19

    This Penguin update is going to separate the real SEOs from the fake ones. All those agencies employing black hat techniques would eventually die out. Google just made us wait far too long.

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