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Google recently revealed that it has completely rolled out Penguin 4.0, fully integrating the update into the core algorithm of their search engine. According to the search engine giant, the update will now run as a real-time signal that its algorithms will be processing alongside more than 200 other unique signals to help users find what they are looking for online.
In the past, websites that have been affected by the Penguin algorithm had to wait for periodic refreshes for their website improvements to take effect and their penalties be lifted. This meant that some webmasters and SEOs had to wait for months at a time before their websites could be cleared of penalties.
With the update running in real time, developers and SEOs will immediately see the impact of their website improvements. Instead of periodic refreshes, the data cached by the algorithm will be refreshed regularly, which means changes can be expected shortly after a page has been re-crawled and re-indexed.
This is surely a relief for those who have been hit by previous iterations of Penguin, especially those hit by the 3.0 update, which saw websites penalised for a two-year period before the release of Penguin 4.0 in the 23rd of September this year.
Aside from this, however, what else can we expect from the 4.0 rollout?
Now that Penguin 4.0 has been fully integrated into the core algorithm, the effect of black hat tactics such as link schemes and keyword stuffing will likely diminish further, as Google’s stringent algorithms run around the clock.
Strategies such as spamming entire pages with keywords and using anchor texts unnaturally will likely be dropped unceremoniously, as Google tightens regulations against webspam. For webmasters that have yet to perform the necessary clean-up, this may induce a feeling of dread. However, for websites that have made the changes according to Google’s guidelines, this is a welcome development.
Now that the algorithm is running within the core processes of the search engine, there will no longer be any announcements regarding updates moving forward. Future refreshes will now take place under the radar, which means the best way to keep within the good graces of Google would be to continue with recommended practices.
Prior to the latest iteration, Penguin has undergone seven announced updates, from the 24th of April 2012 (which affected approximately 3.1 per cent of queries) to the 17th of October 2014 (which affected less than 1 per cent of English queries).
Looking at the bigger picture, this new and improved version means a better search experience for web users overall. This will drive webmasters to continuously seek improvements of the overall user experience, from creating high-quality content to growing authority through ethical link building.
In previous iterations of Penguin, penalties had a site-wide effect. This meant an entire website could be ranked down if the algorithm detected anything that falls within its parameters of unnatural or spammy practice, even if it is only within a single internal page.
In this latest update, the Penguin algorithm hits spam by adjusting rankings depending on the signals it detects. While this may be open to interpretation, Google implies that effects will be more specific, instead of site-wide.
With this, webmasters can fine tune the implementation of their overarching strategies to comply with the regulations of Google with regards to building trust and creating content.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember Google’s primary objective with this update is not to penalise websites, but to help end users have a more accurate search experience. The core design of the search engine is to provide the right answers to queries. The first step to this is creating content that caters to actual questions. Do that, and you are on your way to improving your website ranking.