Hey everyone I decided to hold off posting anything about the latest Google Penguin 4.0 algorithm update until I had collated enough data to report properly, and not just another click bait post.
So what do we know about Google Penguin 4.0 update
Well officially according to Google it rolled out on the 23rd September 2016 but many including myself believe it may have rolled out even soon than that. We tracked ranking fluctuations weeks and week before this and later in this blog we will share with you dates throughout the year where we tracked massive but temporary ranking improvements.
This is what Google has to say about the Penguin 4.0 Real Time 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 recrawl and reindex 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.
Let’s break this down in more detail and what Penguin 4.0 means for SEO’s and webmasters right now.
‘Penguin is now real-time’
This now means if you’re website gets caught out for manipulating it’s organic search rankings then it can be as quickly corrected. More importantly though it means those who were hit by a previous generation of the Penguin algorithm and were waiting on a refresh to clear any penalties against them, as long as they have cleaned up their link profile and haven’t continued to spam will finally be free!
Google makes a big point of mentioning it’s now granular rather than penalising an entire website.
I think this is one of the most interesting points about the latest Google Penguin update. Previously spammers would feel the full wrath of Google should you get caught out. But now they are quite clearly telling us all that if you spam or try and cheat with paid links etc then you shouldn’t expect your whole site rankings to get killed off.
How Google Penguin now looks and deals with link spam
This is the biggie without a doubt and I could write about this all day but I will keep it short and sweet.
Google tells us that now it won’t penalise you but in fact will ignore suspicious links to your site. Hang on a sec!
No more Google Penguin Penalties, ever?!?!?!?!
Yep according to this post Gary Illyes at Google said that they now look at signals that suggest spamming or link manipulation and will just devalue the links rather than penalising for them.
Goodbye link spammers and negative SEO problems then?
Looks like Google sorted that issue out then. But it does also make you question is a rolling Penguin update even that important if it just ignores spam? There are two types of websites right now that this applies to.
1.) Sites that already have a penalty from previous Google Penguin updates
2.) Sites that are yet to spam and have no issues.
So for the first type of website which have had Penguin issues, once the update has fully rolled out and all data is refreshed they are free from the evil Penguin.
The second type, the good guy not doing anything wrong then this really has no affect on them. Because if Google Penguin now devalues spam then it with neither harm or positively affect your rankings anyway.
The ones that slipped through the net
So far so good then with the Google penguin 4.0 update it seems. But what about serial spammers the seem to have slipped through the net? I discussed this in my last blog post about certain websites we’d found to be link spamming and getting away with it.
Techniques such as using link networks (SAPE/PBN’s) but cleverly using no relevant business keyword anchor text. Thus being able to keep off the radar from Penguin and the manual spam action team at Google.
Will Penguin ever catch up with the no-good-ers?
I think Penguin will only continue to evolve and catch black hatters out but right now from what we have seen those who choose to link spam using a bit more grey matter are getting away with it and dominating search results.
So that’s what we know about Penguin 4.0 so far and what it means right now for SEO’s.
Evidence of Google Penguin Recoveries
This is the really good news and also some pretty strong evidence that contradicts what many believed a Penguin recovery to really be.
The U.S were reporting Penguin recoveries a little sooner than we were seeing here in the U.K – We started to see these on Monday 3rd October 2016. At first the results of obvious recoveries were hit and miss but over the next week we saw many sites recovering and showing huge ranking and traffic increase.
Don’t worry about ranking fluctuations Google has a lot of data to go through
If you’ve been seeing fluctuations in your organic rankings over the last 2 weeks then don’t worry as Gary Illyes once again has said this is normal and to be expected.
During parts of the week we reported as many as 8 fluctuations per day, with rankings moving up and back down to their last seen position, pre Penguin 4.0 roll out.
Strange results in Google search for your domain?
I thought i’d mention this incase anyone else had seen strange indexing issues with their website.
For one website we are tracking who’s site has seen a huge Penguin recovery in the last week with traffic increased by as much as 50% their home page was not listed in the results if you searched site:domain.com
This site has no manual actions and I wouldn’t expect it to either as it has a very organic and clean link profile. Plus it’s rankings for every other page have increased massively. Plus what’s even more interesting is when using a mobile browser or even mobile device tethered to a laptop the home page is indexed and has been reindexed twice since we noticed the error.
I think there must be others seeing pages missing, even their home page/root domain but if you do don’t panic as there are no penalties from Penguin anymore, we know that anyway and it looks as those there are just some holes still in Google’s dataset.
Biggest Google Penguin Recoveries We’ve Seen
One site we look after was hit with a manual action in 2012 and Penguin penalty in 2013. We began the long drawn out task of auditing all of their inbound and outbound back links. Once we were certain on the offending links we started to reach out to websites asking them to remove them, and where we couldn’t get them removed disavowed them. 2778+ referring domains removed in total.
Waiting patiently for Penguin to refresh, we expected huge improvements in their rankings, but sadly it never came.
Recovery without link building as the primary SEO focus
Without building links, just a few organic ones the site has now fully recovered. Even with very few back links, only good content the website has made a full recovery.
During the early part of this year the website traffic started to increase and peaked in July (this is a seasonally effected industry)
Their website traffic hit almost the same peak as it did when they were spamming, over 45,000 unique visitors in a month.
Then came Penguin 4.0 last week and everything changed
I must be clear nothing else has been done just added more good content and concentrated on getting the on page SEO in order.
Last week everything changed for this website (which I’m not going to publish). Suddenly where it had once ranked page 1 but not been seen for almost 3 years was now back. Plus more importantly with all the new content it was getting a lot more long tail keyword traffic, over 30,000 search terms in fact as apposed to 200+.
So this leads the question can you recover from a Penguin penalty without link building and still rank page 1?
YES, Yes you can! We’ve seen it in more than once too.
We’re seeing sites previously panned in search with no SEO since and no links whatsoever now ranking where they once did.
Don’t give up on your penalised website, you can recover fully and even higher than you did before.
I say this because i’ve read so many times where business owners have been told by SEO’s just give up and build a new site on a new domain. But if you’ve spent thousands on building your site and just as much if not even more getting it to rank well just throwing it away shouldn’t be your first decision.
We’ve now recovered more than 50 websites in the last 24 months and more in the last 2 weeks.
If you’re site isn’t doing as well as it once did or has taken a hit recently then talk to us and we’ll try and help.
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Tom Peary is the director of SEO21 Ltd. Offering SEO, Website Design, Digital Marketing, Google Places Optimisation, Guest Blogging, Copywriting and Link Building Services.