Google’s Penguin algorithm is one of over 200 signals that they use to determine rank. Historically, Penguin has searched out and neutralised ‘spammy’ or ‘black hat’ websites. Sites over-loaded with keywords for example, who had previously taken advantage of Google’s blind spots to rise in the rankings.
The problem with Penguin was not so much what it did, but how it did it. Previously, if your site fell foul of Penguin, then you would have to wait for the next update, which took years in some cases, for it to appear again – regardless of when you cleaned up your site.
SEOs have reported some weird changes in recent weeks. Rankings have fluctuated, particularly in local search.
People began to speculate that Google was testing a new update, but the search engine kings played this off as ‘normal fluctuations’.
A week later, however, the truth came out with the official unveiling of Google Penguin 4.
Ch – Ch – Ch – Ch – Changes
The big news is that Penguin now updates real time.
Now, Google says,
‘Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster’.
Indeed, rather than waiting for the next iteration of Penguin, those unfortunate enough to have angered Google will only have to wait for the next crawl of their website for a second chance, which typically takes no more than a few days, as opposed to the long months and years which the updates generally took.
Another significant change is that Penguin, in Google’s own words, is now ‘more granular’.
What this vague phrase means is that rather than penalising an entire site for spammy or black hat practices on a particular page, Google will now only devalue that particular page.
This appears to be an attempt to avoid punishing webmasters and SEOs for relatively minor infractions. Such practices will still be penalised, but in proportion to the offence committed.
So, Good News?
Overall this definitely appears to be positive news for SEOs. The new Penguin update is a much kinder algorithm. It will seek out and punish spammy or black hat practices, but if you are penalised and you subsequently clean up your act, you will now see your site reappear in the rankings within a matter of days, rather than years. Equally, the move to punish bad SEO practices proportionally, by censuring individual pages rather than entire domains, can only be seen as a welcome move.
Ultimately, perhaps the biggest positive to take from all of this is that Google is willing to listen to the SEO community. The lack of flexibility from the Penguin algorithm has been a bone of contention for some time now. With the latest update Google has not only rectified long standing issues, but has taken positive steps to make the algorithm much more forgiving.