Google Penguin 4.0: The Hype vs. The Facts

Bang! The most awaited algorithm in Google’s history – Penguin 4.0 – has arrived. I’d wait a little bit longer with the excitement and recovery stories, though.

Why is this?

Let me explain.

After a period of development and testing, we are now rolling out an update to the Penguin algorithm in all languages. Here are the key changes you’ll see, which were also among webmasters’ top requests to us.

That’s right, Penguin 4.0 is rolling out but it looks like, in this case, Google still needs a little more time to fully implement the algorithm. From what I know, re-crawling the entire web, which is a necessity for Penguin’s full rollout, can take from 4 to 6 weeks (approximately). This means that what we see now may not be permanent. In particular, considering the types of links targeted by Penguin 4.0, we can assume that the crawling and indexation of all these “dark and spammed sides of the internet” can take quite a while.

So much for the hype. I wouldn’t open the champagne just yet. The only smart thing to do now is to make sure that your link profile is as clean as possible. Then, lie back and wait.

Penguin Tremors

We’ve all seen the Penguin tremors over the last few weeks. There is a clear pattern of Penguin-affected websites “dancing” in Google SERPs (which I will present later in this article, too.) There’s also a correlation between this and some huge crawl spikes for the same websites.

Let me share a simple technique that will help you diagnose your traffic/rankings fluctuations.

Diagnosing possible Penguin Tremors + examples

Go to Google Search Console → Crawl → Crawl Stats

Here is how the crawl stats look for one of the Penguin-affected websites:

  1. There seems to be a crawl spike pattern for all the Penguin-affected websites. This chart is for one of the websites where it’s most visible (visibility chart of the same website below).
  2. No changes were made to the website structure.

If we now take a look at the visibility chart of the same website:

Note that there is no correlation between the dates of crawl vs. the visibility spikes or drops. All we see is that the websites with heavy crawl spikes also have more ranking fluctuations than the others.

What is clear here is that there were some heavy Penguin tremors at play here in recent weeks.

Here is what the crawl stats look like for all non-Penguin websites.

Obviously, you shouldn’t take this as the only metric. These are the patterns I have observed on our clients’ affected websites.

What does it mean for webmasters?

Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.


Short answer – Diagnosing Penguin drops will get much, much more complicated.

Long answer – This solution favors website owners. At the same time, it requires a lot more “link awareness.” Getting bad links to one part of the website won’t affect the whole domain. Therefore, the drops can not only be hard to diagnose, they can be hard to even notice. With the new Penguin being a real-time algorithm, we can’t tie a drop to a date. Unfortunately, we don’t know, yet, if this means page targeted drops or something else e.g., anchor text targeted drops. Definitely, this statement has opened the doors for a flood of speculations in the SEO community.

New possibilities for Black Hat SEOs?

Blackhat forums and groups are already on fire. Real-time Penguin will definitely make it much more interesting (and probably a bit easier) for Black Hat SEOs to experiment with new forms of spam, looking for an “acceptable” spam threshold.

Penguin Wishlist

Penguin 4.0 would make everyone’s lives much better with an automated notification about “Penguin problems” in Google Search Console. This would prevent all the negative SEO attacks that most webmasters are, and will remain, unaware of.

What to do now?

With so much information going your way, it is easy to be overwhelmed with Penguin 4.0 before it has even fully rolled out. To simplify this for you, you have 2 options.

  1. If your link profile is clean – relax and wait for the full rollout. I guarantee there are more drops/recoveries coming.
  2. If you are unsure of your link profile – get to work on your link audit ASAP!

Good luck!