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Google Penguin #
Google Penguin was a major algorithm update that was first released in April 2012. The update was designed to target and penalize websites that were violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by engaging in practices such as link schemes and keyword stuffing.
The goal of the Penguin update was to improve the quality of search results by penalizing sites that were attempting to manipulate their rankings through unethical means. As a result of the update, many websites saw their search engine rankings drop, and some were even removed from Google’s index entirely. The update was periodically refined and updated over the years, with the last known update being released in October 2016.
What exactly is Google Penguin 4.0 and how does it affect my current SEO?
The Penguin update isn’t something new. It happened in 2012, 2013, 2014 and since 2016 we have Penguin 4.0. The goal of this update is to combat web spam and keyword stuffing used by some websites to manipulate the search results.
How it affects your SEO-strategy heavily depends on what your SEO-strategy is.
The fact that Google Penguin is now more granular means that your website could recieve a partial penalty, while before that was not possible. Parts of your website, such as folders, pages or even one single page could drop in rankings, while the rankings of your other pages remain stable.
You need to pay special attention to subfolders and subpages on your website. We now expect to see a lot of negative SEO attacks aimed at single directories. Penguin 4.0 makes link risk management - the practice of proactive link audits and disavows - more important than ever. Doing a thorough competitor analysis for each main topic on a site is also very important if you want to understand different levels of risk in your niche. Competitive Link Detox (CDTOX) can help you understand the risk levels in your industry and find strong links that your competitors have.
Did Google confirm the Penguin 4.0 update?
Yes, Google confirmed in an official statement published on the Google Webmaster Central Blog (September 23, 2016) that they rolled out the Penguin 4.0 update as part of their Core Algorithm.
How can I check if my website was hit by Google Penguin?
If your website has triggered a Google Penguin Filter, you will usually experience a dramatic drop in visibility i.e. organic traffic.
Now Penguin is part of Google’s Core Algorithm there are no periodic updates anymore. It runs in real-time. That means that your website can trigger a Google Penguin filter any day if you have unnatural links.
To detect potential Penguin penalties, keep an eye on your backlink profile by running Link Detox at least once a week. If you find that your site could be at risk, you should clean up your backlink profile immediately.
The work you put into analyzing your bad links and cleaning up your backlink profile will not go unnoticed by Google. According to their announcement on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog they will see your links shortly after re-crawl or re-index.
“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.”
If you notice that your traffic for a specific page or subfolder has dropped, you can use Link Detox (DTOX) to analyze only that part of your website. If you find that it has a high DTOXRISK and you associate the DTOXRISK with a sudden traffic drop, then you can be sure that you’re dealing with a Penguin Penalty. It can be a partial one if the traffic drop only affects a page or a subfolder of your website, or it can be a Penguin penalty that affects your entire domain.
Don’t wait; you need to get to work and start disavowing the bad links so that you get your traffic back as soon as possible.
Google said that Penguin 4.0 is more granular, what does that mean?
This is exactly what Google stated on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog:
“Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting the ranking of the whole site. “
The fact that Google Penguin will be more granular means that Google will not necessarily penalize an entire website but could now penalize only parts of it.
To clarify: the Penguin algorithmic filter can now affect part of your website, whereas before it would affect your entire website.
How do I spot a partial Penguin penalty?
Link Detox (DTOX) can help detect unnatural links on a subfolder and subpage level. You will need to check certain parts of your website more often than the others and manage the risk of your links. In some circumstances, you may need to do this every day.
Here are some examples on where you can use the subfolder analysis to avoid triggering a Google Penguin filter:
Monitor subfolders that contain User Generated Content (UGC), as they can often contain spammy comments or posts.
E-commerce: if you run a typical e-commerce website you will have various subfolders for each product category. You can assess the DTOXRISK of these individual categories.
Homepage: many websites have most of their links pointing to their homepage. This makes a separate analysis worthwhile.
It is important to understand the levels of risk in your niche for each topic that your site covers. The Competitive Link Detox (CDTOX) tool can be used for competitive research which includes DTOXRISK.
How can I avoid a Penguin penalty?
To avoid a Google Penguin penalty you need to do link risk management proactively. What does this mean? Link risk management involves weekly link audits, link monitoring and disavowing toxic links. Sounds like a full-time job? It sure is!
Here are some reasons to monitor your backlink profile:
Even after you recover from a penalty, your site is not immune to new Google penalties.
Your site gets new backlinks every day, some of them may have a high risk.
Negative SEO is not a myth.
Link risk management means analyzing a website’s backlinks to sort links by risk types and risk status. You should then protect your website from malicious, toxic and unnatural links by disavowing them.
LinkResearchTools processes all the backlinks of a website by aggregating data from 25 link sources. It then calculates and estimates the probable link risks and enables you to make an informed decision about which links to include in your Disavow File.
The link risk management process is a circular one: audit, disavow, monitor, build new high-quality links, then back to link audit and so on. Never stop doing this. It’s the SEO’s job. All these tasks are part of the link risk management process and doing them right and on a regular basis ensures that your website stays penalty-free.
What are the most important parts about the Google Penguin 4.0 update?
The two biggest changes are: the update is real-time and Google Penguin is now more granular. Real-time means that changes in your backlink profile will affect search engine results as your links are re-crawled. Granularity means that single directories, pages and keywords could be penalized or go up in rankings instead of the whole domain.
Penguin is not on my radar. Never has been on my radar. Why should I care?
When you work in SEO and depend on organic traffic you need to understand how a search engine works. You should always be looking for ways to improve your organic traffic.
Google Penguin was built to fight web spam. Now it’s part of Google’s Core Algorithm and it works in real time. But just because it’s not on a daily news, doesn’t mean it’s not very active inside Google.
Is Penguin more aggressive/sensitive now that it’s included in the algorithm?
We think that Penguin is more sensitive. It can now filter and penalize single pages and folders. Webmasters will tend not to see huge ranking drops like they did with the previous Penguin updates.
What does Real-Time mean in relation to Google's Penguin update?
Which links does Google need to re-crawl for Penguin 4.0 changes to take effect?
Google needs to crawl all the sites linking to yours. The more backlinks you have in your Disavow File, the longer it takes for all your links to be re-crawled. If you have many spammy links on some old forums, these links may not get crawled so often. We built Link Detox Boost in 2013, to speed up the crawling and solve this issue.
Will Penguin 4.0 affect the entire website or only the page that has spam links?
Penguin is now more granular. This means that links to a single page or a folder can trigger a penalty. You could get a penalty on two subfolders or a whole subdomain. Everything is possible.
This is not only about URLs, but also about keywords. Your top money-keyword that brings you the most traffic could also drop. This is also what we understand by granularity. Read more about this on our Blog.
Will Google now simply ignore bad links, is that what Gary Illyes said?
Some links may be ignored. Gary also said that we should continue using the Disavow Links tool.
Does Penguin 4.0 only affect Money Keyword Links?
How important is Artificial Intelligence in the new Penguin update?
Google’s search algorithm is called Hummingbird. RankBrain is Google’s name for the machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) system that’s used to help process its search results. RankBrain is part of the Hummingbird algorithm. Penguin is also a part of the Hummingbird algorithm. We are not Google so we do not know how RankBrain and Penguin influence each other.
If a link is disavowed by many webmasters does Penguin decide to ignore it?
This is very unlikely. The data quality of most Disavow Files is really poor in many industries. Google can’t decide to ignore links by using data from Disavow Files alone, it would be too simple. Many webmasters don’t use the Disavow Links tool at all. It is, however, highly likely that Google use Disavow File data to find linking patterns and train the Artificial Intelligence.
When do you expect Google Penguin to roll out completely?
The roll out will never be “complete”. As Google continually crawls the web it will change on an ongoing basis. The question probably means “when will I see all the effects for my website?”. The answer is when all your links and all their links and all their links etc. have been crawled. This could take a couple of weeks, meanwhile you may see ranking fluctuations.
Does the Real-Time Penguin mean we have to focus more on On-Page-SEO?
On-Page and Off-Page SEO always went hand in hand. Content and links go together. Google said that they want webmasters to focus more on amazing and unique content. While this is true, John Mueller also confirmed that Links are really important to Google. You should focus on On-Page just as much as you need to focus on Off-Page.
Does Penguin 4.0 have an issue with links from foreign websites?
Not really, but you should be aware of anything that looks unnatural. You should aim to have a link profile that looks similar to your competitors. You can check how many foreign backlinks your competitors have with the Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA). Make sure that you have links from countries that are connected to your business. A large amount of unrelated foreign backlinks may mean that you are dealing with a Negative SEO attack.
What was feedback from the SEO market after the Penguin 4.0 rollout?
According to a poll from Search Engine Roundtable, only 12% said they saw ranking improvements after Google Penguin 4.0 and 15% saw a reduced ranking. 73% did not witness any changes.
When did the Penguin 4 recoveries start?
This update was different to previous Penguin releases where thousands of rankings changed overnight. That said, by November 2016 there were reports of Penguin 4 recoveries and drops. We saw tweets and feedback from users and experts, confirming that rankings were changing. Penguin is now part of Google’s Core algorithm. That means that Google now processes links, redirects, rel=canonicals and content differently than they did before.
How can Link Detox help with Penguin 4.0?
We show you the full picture of your backlink profile by pulling data from 25 different link sources including Majestic, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Facebook, Twitter and more. We then analyze this data for you and estimate the risk of your website getting a Google Penguin penalty.
Since Penguin 4.0 is now more granular, single pages or subfolders can now get penalties. To detect a Penguin penalty, you can run a Link Detox report for the specific page or subfolder that dropped. If the DTOXRISK is high, then you need to disavow the bad links and use Link Detox Boost to make Google re-crawl everything faster.
What happened next with Google penguin: (what would you say could change with a Google “Penguin 5” update?)
Google said there will be no further Penguin Updates, and there were not.
Google announced that this update is now part of the Core Algorithm.
They will still changed things over the years, and always announced a “Core update” without mentioning any specifics. Of course links and changes in the “Penguin” core algorithms and other internal names for their link spam algorithms were surely part of their changes.
After all links are one of the two most important ranking criteria in Google - Content and Links.