Penguin 4 has landed! Is this the calm before the storm?

Blog > Online Marketing > SEO

Penguin alert… Google confirmed last Friday that the Penguin 4 algorithm is now operating in real-time. Did the earth move for you? Is this the calm before the storm? Google, as we’ve come to expect, is keeping everything pretty close to its substantial chest…

Penguin goes real-time

“…we are now rolling out an update to the Penguin algorithm in all languages.” Until roll-out is finished, the full impact is unknown.

Penguin 3

The original Penguin algorithm was slow to recrawl and reindex a website that had been found guilty of black hat webspam. It was a manual refresh and recovery from a Penguin 3 attack could take up to 12 months.

Penguin 4

Penguin 4 now works in real-time and changes occur almost immediately, leading to a super-speedy recovery time. Yay - no more waiting around for data refreshes after you've cleaned up your links. Penguin 4 is also more granular, "It devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site." That means each page will be judged separately, rather than the site as a whole. Hopefully this means that penalties will be by page too.

Google has made it clear it won’t be announcing future Penguin updates. So, what does that mean for us? We’ll have to pay more attention, be on the ball, and keep our white hat spotless. The two big baddies as far as Penguin 4 is concerned are using irrelevant keywords and unnatural links.

Keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is bad, there's no way round it. If you stuff, you'll be stuffed. If you pack pages with irrelevant keywords with the intention of manipulating Google’s search results, you'll receive a penalty. End of...


Link building schemes designed to manipulate your website’s ranking in Google search are a violation. Your site will receive a penalty. Previously, I posted the Penguin’s top 10 pet hates, and how to avoid a penalty. This post has tips on getting natural backlinks from other high-authority websites to your site that won’t ruffle the Penguin’s feathers. Grab your white hat, we're going link hunting...


You write a blog to share relevant and helpful information with your readers, but you can't cover every subject under the sun. Link to other relevant websites and blogs to enhance your content. Once a relationship is built, you'll start to receive backlinks.

Infographics get shared again and again. Ensure your website is credited as the original source and has an embedded link. If you used information from other sources, share it with them.

Guest blogging is a goer but you have to be careful. Google has been ruthless in the past and taken down large blogs that were full of spammy blog posts. Guest blogging is not about getting backlinks. It’s about writing good content that’s relevant to the readership you’re targeting. If you fill your post with unnatural links, you’re in trouble. Backlinks have to be earned and happen naturally.

Share on social

If you have content to share, social media is efficient and quick. Use all your social media accounts and post links to your blog posts. If you cite anyone in your article, send them the link. Whilst you shouldn’t ask for links, never pay, never beg – it’s a gentle nudge.

Social sharing buttons

Add social sharing buttons to your blog posts, white papers, newsletter, help site, case studies, and ebooks. If the content is relevant, interesting, useful, or funny – it’ll be shared.

Tweet links

If you include ‘tweet this’ or ‘click to tweet’ links for snippets of text, it’s easy for readers to share your content. Your visibility in search results will increase, along with news feeds and twitter streams. This will increase the chances of your content being quoted on other sites and blogs.


Use a trending news story that relates to your brand. It mustn’t be forced and it has to make sense. It mustn’t be offensive, so don’t use other people’s suffering. If you make people feel uncomfortable it will damage your brand’s credibility and integrity.

Press releases

Announcing something big? Write a press release and send it to a big newswire so you’ll get the best coverage. A new partnership or a new product launched with another company? Your audience is doubled so you’ll be hitting lots more related sites. The result? Natural backlinks.

Use your customers (in the nicest possible way)

Massage some egos…

  • Case studies written about your fantastic customers. Who could resist linking to that? For them it’s free promotion.
  • Interview your most prestigious customers. Again, free marketing for the customers, so what’s not to like.
  • Be interviewed as an industry expert (make sure you are actually an expert).

Are backlinks that important?

Yes, backlinks/inbound links are ranking factors that Google check when deciding the page ranking of your website. If you have backlinks from high-authority sites, Google will rank you higher.

  • They will drive and increase traffic to your website. If a link to your website appears on another site and a user clicks on it, it's referral traffic. Traffic you may not have otherwise received.
  • If your website has quality backlinks from well-respected sites, search engines know that your business is a recognised authority. They act like a character reference and mean your website will rank higher in search result pages.
  • Keep anchor text natural and keep hyperlinked keywords to the minimum. Whilst using ‘click here’ as a link is frowned upon, Google understands the context so it's not a disaster. Rule of thumb? Don’t over-optimise your anchor text.

It’s all about presenting good content. Links are votes of confidence given freely by high-authority websites. The better your content, the more chance it will be shared, tweeted, mentioned, or linked to.

Will we see lots of sites with improved ranking?

This algorithm update has so far been uneventful, but don't forget that Penguin 3 penalties have yet to be removed and won't be until the roll-out is complete. Recrawling and reindexing sites is going to take time.

Will we see lots of sites with improved page ranking?

If your site received a penalty from Penguin 3 and have since cleaned your website, your content is relevant and you have acquired natural links, watch your ranking improve. But many sites that were hit by Penguin 3 and lost page ranking, only ranked highly because of spammy links. Disavowing bad links but not improving content means the penalty will be removed but the ranking will stay low.

I've said it so many times but I'll say it again. To avoid penalties and to increase your page ranking you just have to publish relevant, interesting, helpful, valuable content. Google sums it up, "We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites".

Photo credit

Next article:
Online security and password protection: hacker proof!

Previous article:
The ICANN takeover of DNS: 5 reasons not to panic

Related articles: