After a nearly two year wait, Google’s Penguin algorithm has finally been updated again. It’s the fourth major release, making this Penguin 4.0. It’s also the last release of this type, as Google now says Penguin is a real-time signal processed within its core search algorithm.
Penguin goes real-time
Penguin is a filter designed to capture sites that are spamming Google’s search results in ways that Google’s regular spamming systems might not detect. Introduced in 2012, it has operated on a periodic basis.
In other words, the Penguin filter would run and catch sites deemed spammy. Those sites would remain penalized even if they improved and changed until the next time the filter ran, which could take months.
The last Penguin update, Penguin 3.0, happened on October 17, 2014. Any sites hit by it have waited nearly two years for the chance to be free.
Those long delays are now to be a thing of the past, according to Google. With this latest release, Penguin becomes real-time. As Google recrawls and reindexes pages — which happens constantly — those pages will be assessed by the Penguin filter. Pages will be caught and/or freed by Penguin as part of this regular process.
As Google said in its post:
With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page.
Penguin becomes more page-specific, not sitewide only
Google also said this new Penguin algorithm is “more granular.” From its post:
Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.
Previously, Penguin was a sitewide penalty. So, does being “more granular” mean that it’s now page-specific? Yes and no, it seems. We asked Google for more clarity about this, and we were told:
It means it affects finer granularity than sites. It does not mean it only affects pages.
Our best interpretation of this statement is that Penguin might impact specific pages on a site, or it might impact sections or wide swaths of a site, while other pages are fine.
Google will no longer confirm Penguin update
Google also said with this update, it will no longer confirm future Penguin updates. That makes sense. Since it’s a constant process, there’s nothing to confirm.
Is Penguin fully live?
This real-time Penguin update is probably not fully live yet. It is now “rolling out,” Google said. Google didn’t tell us how long it may take to roll out, but I suspect it won’t take that long, maybe a couple of weeks. If Google regularly revisits your pages, then you should likely see the change quickly. If Google comes to your site more infrequently, it may take longer.
Some swore they saw this roll out yesterday, but Google would not confirm that.
Past Penguin updates
For history buffs, here’s the rundown on Penguin updates over time, as well as the impact they’ve had on queries, according to Google:
- Penguin 1.0 on April 24, 2012 (impacting ~3.1% of queries)
- Penguin 1.1 on May 26, 2012 (impacting less than 0.1%)
- Penguin 1.2 on October 5, 2012 (impacting ~0.3% of queries)
- Penguin 2.0 on May 22, 2013 (impacting 2.3% of queries)
- Penguin 2.1 on Oct. 4, 2013 (impacting around 1% of queries)
- Penguin 3.0 on October 17, 2014 (impacting around 1% of queries)
- Penguin 4.0 & real-time on September 23, 2016
Penguin 4.0, Google would not give a specific number of the percentage of queries it impacted, mostly because the update is constantly happening and the percentage will constantly be changing.
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