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Penguin 4.0 - The Wait is Over

Google Penguin 4.0

For the past 2 years, people have been waiting nervously for the next penguin algorithm update. Always wondering when the next algorithm update was going to hit.There was a lot of talk at the beginning of September, everyone in the industry was reporting on some very interesting findings because a lot of websites were fluctuating in their rankings.

Well, the wait is over because this weekend Penguin 4.0 rolled out and will now be operating in real-time. Google first launched a Penguin update in April 2012 to penalize sites that were spamming the search results, especially ones that use black hat link building tactics. Penguin basically hunts down websites that are buying or placing links solely for the purpose of improving search ranking, because it is adding no value to the user.

September Fluctuation

Moz reported that September was the most volatile month for the SERPS since April 2012, which was just before Penguin 1.0 (the first Penguin update). As of now, Moz does not equate this volatility to be related to the Penguin 4.0 rollout.

Around September 1st, 2016 local SEOs saw a huge shift in the local results. This is due to an update that has been named the Possum Update. It is reported that the local pack URLs moved significantly around this date.  

Additionally, between September 13th and 14th, Moz also reported having a significant drop in rankings in the image results, which can be detrimental if one of those images in showing up at the top of the organic search results page.

Why Are Your Ranking Down?

Not everyone was affected by this algorithm, but if you are one of those websites, this means that your organic rankings and traffic will be affected negatively. If this is the case, there are many reasons as to why you could have been a victim to Penguin 4.0:

  • Black-hat Link Tactics – If your backlink profile has many low quality, non-relevant links that were achieved using black-hat tactics such as buying links, you could have been affected by Penguin 4.0.
  • Lack of Quality Content – It is important that the content on your website is of substance and offers the readers something valuable. Penguin could hurt you if you have a lot of low quality content.
  • Poor Execution of Technical Aspects – Make sure there are no accessibility errors, which could be preventing some of your pages from being indexed in the search results.
  • Poor User-Experience – A poor user-experience and, which causes high bounce, rate can also be a cause for decrease in rankings.

If you are following Google Quality Guidelines there is no need to panic, but if you have seen changes, make sure you take necessary steps to clean up your current site. The best way to do this would be to perform a site audit.

What Can You Do?

Okay, your website rankings are down….now what?

Based off of some of the most common ranking factors, there are several things that you can do in order to help your website’s SEO improve.

  • Links – As stated above, it is really important to have high authoritative, relevant links pointing to your site. To improve your SEO, go through your backlink profile and once you have identified the low quality links, contact the site owner to try and get those links removed. I have found that it can take up to 3 emails before the person will respond or remove the link.
  • Content – Is your content engaging? Take an inventory of all of your content and see how well it is performing. You may need to refresh some pages or get rid of some irrelevant pages that could be hurting your rankings. If you content is not doing so well, it could be time to change your focus. Make sure you are staying up on the trends of what people are interested in reading in your industry.
  • RankBrain – Although RankBrain is a very smart algorithm, like any machine, it can’t read human language without a complex math equation. Make sure you are creating and optimizing content to cater to RankBrain A.I.
  • Web Design
    • Page Speed – Because of the current state of the human attention span, if users cannot access a page 3 seconds or less, there may be a problem. People most likely leave the site causing high bounce rate. Talk to a developer to see what they can do to increase page speed.
    • Mobile Friendliness – Is your site mobile friendly? It is said that 4 out of 5 consumers use smartphones when they shop, so if your site is not mobile friendly, then you are missing out on a lot of sales.

After you have cleaned up your mess, make sure you are always following SEO best practices so you can avoid getting hit by an algorithm update.

What to Expect In The Future

Now that we have discussed what to do if you have been affected by the update, let’s talk about what you can expect from the Penguin updates in the future.

Google Penguin updates will no longer function like they used to. Penguin 4.0 was developed and tested extensively and now will feature a couple of changes that we have not seen from Penguin before.

  • This update will now roll out in real-time
    • If a website was hit by the Penguin update by a previous update, they had to wait until the next algorithm update to see their results change. Now, Penguin will be rolling out in real time. This means if you were hit by Penguin 4.0, you can make adjustments and be on your way to your previous rankings with faster reindexing. This also means that Google will not be commenting on future refreshes.
  • Penguin is now more granular
    • Previously, the updates used to penalize the entire website, but now they will be more granular. This means that it now has the ability to penalize only parts of a website. So, they can penalize an entire domain or just one page, it all depends on the spam signals to the pages on the site.

If your website was affected by Penguin 4.0 it is vital that you make the necessary changes to get your rankings back on their way up. Once your site is optimized properly, it is important to know what the future of Penguin is so you are always aware of the importance using white hat tactics when optimizing your site for search.

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