Penguin 3.0 changed the search engine world when it was released at the end of 2014 and punished sites that had acquired a large number of spammy links and had benefited from those links with better search results. Even though it only affected <1% of US- English search queries, some businesses were completely removed from Google’s results and were told they’d have to wait until the next Penguin update for a possible return.

Penguin 4.0 looks to build upon Penguin 3.0 by working in real-time. This is a potential game-changer because it means that it will always “be on”, constantly updating and punishing sites based on their activity.

While it has been rumored for at least a year, expected release dates have continuously been pushed back. First, it was by the end of 2015. Then there were big rumors that it had been released in the middle of January. Then it was definitely by the end of the first quarter. Now, with still no release, Google’s Gary Illyes says he’s given up estimating a Penguin 4.0 launch date because he’s been wrong three or four times.

Goals of Penguin 4.0

The main purpose of Penguin 4.0 will be to continue punishing sites that obtain a large quantity of spammy links to drive up their Google search results. That means, if you’ve been practicing white-hat procedures, you have nothing to worry about. However, if you’ve delved into some black-hat techniques in an attempt to improve organic search results, you had better start undoing them and quickly. According to Google, when Penguin 3.0 was released, those sites that had changed their techniques up to three weeks before the official release were still affected by the update. And, some were completely removed from Google’s results.

What is Penguin 4.0 going to focus on?

1. Real-Time Version of Penguin 3.0

Penguin 3.0 had serious ramifications for a number of sites, including a number of small businesses. Some knew what they were doing, and were looking for quick results and continued to acquire spammy links from spammy sites, hoping for a shortcut to the top of Google results.

Others had hired an SEO agency and trusted them to do what was right. However, looking to achieve and brag about quick results, that agency went the way of the dark side and tried cheating the system.

Either way, those sites were punished and were told they had to wait until the next update to regain eligibility on Google’s search results, with no guarantees. When Penguin 4.0 is released, it will always be working, indexing, and crawling, which means your business needs to start cleaning up both internal and external links now, and continue these white-hat procedures or constantly risk getting punished by Google.

2. Focus on Link-Building

Originally, Google creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin had named their search engine, “BackRub.”

What Can You Do Now?
-Take the time to clean up your site-Check all internal links, long-tail keywords, and user experience on your site

-Check all of your external links and that they lead to relevant, operational sites

-Check all of your backlinks

Resources to Check Links and Backlinks:


Dead Link Checker

Yes, BackRub. Why? Because their search engine was going to focus on links when ranking pages. And that’s still true today.

While content is important (current, relevant, unique content drives traffic to your site) and keywords help tell the search engines and users what your page is about, links drive the increase in organic rankings. But, it’s not just how many links you have. One link from CNN or ESPN means more than 100 links from sites with no influence.

Knowing how difficult it is to get legitimate links form legitimate sites, some businesses have tried cheating the system by buying links, creating multiple sites and linking between them, and other tactics. These are the sites Google is after.

As Google’s algorithms become smarter, link building will have less of an impact. That’s still years away though, which means links still matter. Google and their Penguin updates have focused on penalizing sites that acquire a high number of illegitimate links.

3. Ramifications

As stated, some sites punished after Penguin 3.0 faced precipitous drops in their rankings and others were completely removed from Google results for an indefinite amount of time. Now that Penguin 4.0 is going to be operating in real-time, that means it will continuously be updating and checking sites.

Can Google drop your site from their rankings for only one blemish? Of course they could, but it’s highly unlikely. Mistakes can be made, but Google is attempting to make their user experience the best possible. That means driving away sites that are pummeling users with advertisements and irrelevant content and shooting up the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) by acquiring a number of spammy links.

Difference Between Panda and Penguin

Google's Penguin 4.0 update will punish websites and businesses that don't practice white-hat link-building techniquesYes, Google chooses adorable names for their updates, but that’s only so they don’t create the panic that Chaos 4.0 or Destruction 4.2 would (remember the fear “Mobilegeddon” caused?). That doesn’t mean they are any less intimidating. However, Penguin 4.0 should only be intimidating for those using black-hat techniques to increase their rankings. Every business owner should understand the benefits of white-hat practices, and be able to have the long-term patience to stick with them.

The main difference between Panda and Penguin is that Panda is a tweak to Google’s search algorithm. These updates can affect your site, but you can recover from them. On the other hand, Penguin updates are a game changer. You need to prepare for and adapt because those punished with Penguin 3.0 are still waiting for 4.0 to be released from prison.Google's Penguin 4.0 update will punish websites and businesses that don't practice white-hat link-building techniques

The main point is simply follow Google’s Best Practices. They are focused on their user experience, as should you. The best way to increase traffic to your site and increase your organic search results is to publish current, relevant, unique content regularly, promote that content through social media, guest blog for other sites that allow you to include a link in your bio, and analyze the data to see what aspects of your plan are working and which need improvement.


Panda vs. Penguin

-Focused on Content-Create Brand Awareness through content, promotion

-Reward high-quality sites that produce current, relevant content

-Smaller sites can recover from

-Black-hat tactics severely penalized:

-Spammy Link Building

-Keyword Stuffing

-Irrelevant Content

-Long-term Punishments with Few that Recover


Worried about Penguin 4.0?

Nervous your digital marketing agency may have used black-hat techniques to help improve your organic search results? Schedule a Free Consultation today or continue reading about the how to choose the best digital marketing agency for your business.

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Mike D. O’Brien
Lincoln Park, NJ
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