Google Penguin 4.0
Penguin 4.0 is the fourth version of Google’s algorithm and the first to run in all languages. Google announced the update on September 23, 2016, claiming “webmasters should be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling websites.” It was also revealed that Penguin 4.0 would be the last update of its kind.
While Penguin still addresses the web spam problems it was originally intended to tackle, by incorporating it into its core algorithm, Google gave Penguin 4.0 much more responsibility. The “core” is comprised of more than 200 separate algorithms that evaluate where a website should rank for a given search query.
Other key changes to the algorithm included:
Penguin 4.0 devalues spam
Rather than being punished for spammy links, low quality links are usually now ignored and devalued. This is good news for sites which have been unfairly hit with a Penguin penalty in the past. However, if Penguin detects a large amount of low quality links, it can decide to discount all of the links pointing to your site which will be severely detrimental to your site’s visibility. Severe cases are still penalised.
The disavow tool is still available to users. However, senior Google officials went on the record in 2019 and 2023 to advise serious caution when using it.
Penguin 4.0 runs in real-time
The latest Penguin update operates at a much quicker speed than ever before. It’s no longer subject to periodic data refreshes. Instead, it refreshes in real-time, meaning links are constantly re-evaluated as Google crawls the web.
This means that if you’re found to be manipulating links, you could be devalued or penalised almost instantly. On the other hand, it also means it’s much easier to regain Google’s trust when working to remove a Penguin penalty, as you no longer have to wait months for an update to be re-evaluated.
Penguin 4.0 is more granular
Google previously penalised entire sites if they were found to be guilty of spammy link building practices. For instance, if one page had a particularly bad reputation with Google, the entire domain would suffer the consequences.
Now, the Penguin algorithm has become much more page-specific. If one page has a high number of poor quality links, ranking adjustments will be more likely to affect this page rather than the domain as a whole. Again, in the most egregious examples, websites with heavy use of link spam can still be penalised as a whole.