Today it has been confirmed that Google Penguin 4.0 has started to roll out, and that it is now part of the core algorithm.

For several weeks now there has been chatter about an update from Google. We have seen some great movement ourselves across a range of industries, all with very different backgrounds (when it comes to historic link building activity). Google conveniently confirmed a local-based update but was also testing the latest and last Penguin refresh that they named Penguin 4.0. During the last few weeks, Google have actively denied a Penguin update was to blame.

What is Penguin 4.0?

To put this into perspective, Panda 4.0 is the 4th iteration of the Panda update that was first implemented in April 2012 when Google first dropped the update. It hit the industry hard and devastated rankings for a large number of websites. As part of their work, Google also for the first time sent out messages in Webmaster Tools to inform people they had been penalised.

Penguin was used to combat spam links and their ability to influence the search results. The 4th update for Google Penguin has come over 4 years after the first, which is a very long time in the land of Google. As a comparison, the first and last confirmed Panda update, which combatted poor content, was also a 4-year period, starting in 2011 and ending in 2015. In this time, they rolled out 28 confirmed updates.

Why is it the last?

With this latest update, Google have also said that Penguin is now part of the core algorithm. Before this, Google used to collect up all the data it needed for the algorithm to work, then systematically pushed out the update to the main search results. This is when they confirmed updates to the world and they get numbered. Now the Google Penguin algorithm is core, it means it just works in real time. When you make changes or carry out work within links, Google reacts once it sees the work.

This means that in the past, many agencies and webmasters that did work to clean up any spam links that a website had didn’t have any effect for up to a year or more when Google pushed out more updates. We were aware of this in October 2014 when Google released the Penguin 3.0 update.

What does Google Penguin actually mean?

Very little! As an agency, we very rarely need to do links work anymore to rectify link penalties. We have seen some good increases in our clients’ rankings over the last couple of weeks, probably from work we did back in 2014, or checks on disavow files that have been made when a client comes on board, but in reality, spam links are not a huge issue and haven’t been for a long time.

These updates first hit in 2012; if you hadn’t cleaned up your act and done what Google wanted you to do by Penguin 2.0, then you were slow on the uptake or your agency was poor. By Google Penguin 3.0 there should have been no issues whatsoever with links as this was 2 years after the initial update. That’s more than enough time to fix the issues and change your ways.

If you have seen drops over the rollout of Google Penguin 3.0 (it can take some time) then call us immediately! We see very little activity of poor spammy link building anymore and for the last 3 iterations of penguin, we have only seen increases and good results. If you have seen a negative response, then you need to get help and speak to an expert.

The Future

This doesn’t mean that spam links are a thing of the past. If you try and manipulate Google through the use of manufactured links, then I fully expect you to get penalised. I believe they will still be using the manual action penalty, but at the same time, it should be much quicker to fix this type of issue.

If you continue to conduct outreach and build links in a manner that is best for your client and its users, then you should encounter no issues.


As recently reported across the vast digital landscape, many SEOs and webmasters reported some major ranking activity in Google SERPs over the weekend, similar to what was witnessed just the previous weekend. Though many of us perceived this to have been a potential major update to the Penguin algorithm, Google were quick to quash any such rumours with Gary Illyes indicating that the consequence of these fluctuations was as a result of ongoing updates to their Core Algorithm.

confirmed google update twitter

Despite the impending arrival of the next update to their Penguin algorithm, it’s possible that these common core ranking algorithm updates may be being rolled out as an early warning sign to prepare SEOs and webmasters for the expectedly significant effects of the next major Penguin update. Without succumbing to speculation, it’s worth considering that ongoing updates could be the search giant’s method of fine tuning their Core Algorithm in order to enable Penguin to operate more efficiently, or become more discriminatory to further improve the quality – and accuracy – of search results for any given term. Although we are yet to fully understand what the true impact of these updates are to the world of SEO, we can infer that there’s likely to be some wholesale changes when the Penguin update is rolled out.

What have we seen?

From an agency point of view, we’ve seen many positive movers over the past couple of weeks with some really quite noticeable increases to many of our client’s rankings, as shown in the image below.

ranking increases google core algorithm update

As can be seen from the above image, there has been a major uplift in organic rankings for many of our clients’ sites that we track in our self-developed ranking tool. Though we can see also see an increase in rankings in Bing, we can clearly discriminate between the two by looking at the ranking fluctuations over a set time period which would indicate that such movement is consistent with this month’s two confirmed updates to the Google Core Algorithm.

ranking decreases google core algorithm update

To further prove that these sudden increases were as a consequence of the Google Core Algorithm update and, if we look at the some of the negative movers that were tracked, you can clearly see that despite a loss in positions in Google, almost all campaigns in the below image demonstrated an increase in rankings in Bing (as shown above). As such, we can now confirm the notion that the cause of these fluctuations was Google specific.

ranking increases google core algorithm update

By drilling down into the campaigns that demonstrated the greatest increases across the board, this evidence only serves to prove that this uplift was as a consequence of this weekend’s Google update. In fact, the graphs (above and below) clearly demonstrates huge increases on the days that the Core Algorithm was updated and has shown further positive increases since.

ranking increases google core algorithm update

With the Google Panda algorithm now fully integrated into the Core Algorithm, it’s possible that these changes may pertain to the quality of site content – particularly since we have encouraged many of our clients to refresh their site content in 2016. Not only that, but with this integration, Google are now unlikely to specifically release a major update to their Panda algorithm, as any change to their Core Algorithm will inadvertently update Google Panda too. So although we can’t necessarily interpret this as a major update to Panda, we can rationally assume that Google is further tightening the screw on what it defines to be quality and relevant content.

Don’t fear though. Such volatility in the search results over the past couple of weeks should simply be used as a guideline to determine whether you can panic or relax when the next Google Penguin update is confirmed. However, providing that standard and best practice is followed on a consistent basis, there should be no need to worry as it’s likely that many of us will have already made efforts to switch to a more natural strategy.