Google Penguin 4.0: What You Need to Know

October 5, 2016

penguin versions

Penguin is not just a flightless arctic bird. It's also the code name for an update to Google's search algorithm. Each Penguin update aims to decrease the rankings of websites that violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

There are also algorithm updates that go by the name of Panda and Hummingbird. This blog post does a great job explaining the differences between these updates.

But, back to Penguin. A couple weeks ago Google released the much anticipated Penguin update.

What is the Penguin update all about, and how does it affect your insurance agency website? Read on.

Google Penguin's History

Google announced their first Penguin algorithm update (Penguin 1.0) in April 2012.

This update penalized websites that engaged in grey and black hat techniques. Google targeted online spam tactics, like keyword stuffing, link schemes, and cloaking.

The second and third updates, Penguin 1.1 and 1.2, were data refreshes. Data refreshes allow Google to update their search results.

The fourth update in May 2013, Penguin 2.0, was more comprehensive than Penguin 1.0. It went deeper and had more impact than the original version of Penguin.

It targeted advertorials, an advertisement disguised as an editorial or objective journalistic article. This insidious style of native advertising violated Google's quality guidelines.

Websites placed these advertorials on their own sites without disclosure to visitors. Then they were passing PageRank to the advertised website, which is against guidelines.

What's passing PageRank? This occurs when 'link juice' or 'link equity' is transferred when a website links to your website, or when you link internally from one of your pages to another.

Spammy industries like payday loans were also looked at more closely.

The fifth update (Penguin 2.1) included minor changes that weren't disclosed by Google. The sixth update (Penguin 3.0) was a natural continuation of the first five updates. It continued to target websites found in violation of Google's linking guidelines.

The Impact of Penguin 4.0

The latest update (Penguin 4.0) is the most significant update. Here's why:

• Penguin is now built into Google's algorithm, and is a part of more than 200 ranking factors.

• In the past, the list of sites impacted by Penguin were periodically refreshed at the same time. The newest Penguin allows data to be refreshed in real time. Changes typically appear after pages are re-crawled and re-indexed.

• Penguin is more granular. That means Penguin could affect one page on a website, not the entire site.

Also, because Penguin is now real-time, Google will no longer comment about updates.

How Does This Affect My Insurance Website?

It depends. If you've paid for questionable SEO in the past, you may or may not have experienced any SEO hiccups up to this point. You may have utilized Google's disavow tool to clean up any questionable backlinks. If you have used this tool, you will want to analyze the backlinks you have uploaded to determine if you still want to disavow them. Spammy links are now devalued not demoted, so some questionable links may still have a little value. (Devalued means that Google would ignore the link spam and not downgrade the rank of the site and demoted means that it would lower the rankings of site for doing something bad.)

As always, you should monitor activity, such as organic traffic, through Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Auditing backlinks on a quarterly basis could prevent future surprises and can help determine if your backlink building methods are effective. It's also a good rule of thumb for routine SEO maintenance. Check out our blog post about how to perform an easy SEO audit yourself.

If you have followed Google's guidelines, you should have little to worry about. All your steady, deliberate hard work should come to fruition.

Are you experiencing any Penguin-related changes yet? Let's talk about it in the comments below.

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