Penguin 4.0 has arrived!

There has been great excitement at Xcite Digital this week with the arrival of Penguin! If this has somehow passed you by, then read on!


14th October marked the 90th anniversary of the very first Winnie-the-Pooh book. To mark the occasion, four new adventures have been written by Brian Sibley, in the style of AA Milne. One of these books – Winter: In which Penguin arrives in the Forest – introduces Penguin, the first new character to appear in the Hundred Acre Wood since Tigger in 1928!

We wonder if the omnipresent Google might try to take credit for this exciting new development?! In late September it announced a significant update to its latest algorithm which also happens to be called Penguin 4.0! Could there be a connection…

Google’s Penguin algorithm was originally launched in April 2012. Its aim was to identify sites that were spamming its search results and buying or placing inorganic links to improve search rankings. Penguin decreases rankings for such sites that violated Google’s quality guidelines, and rewards high quality sites with good UX rather than aggressive webspam tactics.

However, one issue that has occurred with Penguin is that bad links became ‘toxic’, requiring link audit and removal or disavow and then waiting for a Penguin refresh – all of which could take time. A Penguin 3.0 update took place in 2014, but this only affected around 1% of US/UK searches.

So at the end of September, Google announced that a Penguin 4.0 update would be rolling out in all languages. It brings two main changes that enable it to pursue its original aim whilst making things easier for websites affected:

  1. Penguin is now real-time

    As mentioned earlier, one of the existing issues with Penguin was that even when bad links were dealt with and the site improved, the website still had to wait for one of Google’s periodic refreshes. But now, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, usually taking effect shortly after the page is recrawled and reindexed.

  2. Penguin is now more granular

    The way Penguin adjusts rankings is now based on spam signals and any resulting penalties will be applied to a specific page rather than an entire domain. This means that even if links on individual pages are found to be bad, the ranking of the site as a whole will not be affected.

We look forward to seeing how this develops further over the coming weeks and months. The clear message coming from Google is that if you continue to focus on creating amazing and compelling websites then Penguin will work well for you. Certainly at Xcite we have already seen the positive benefits: with some sites we’ve been improving, jumping to page 1 of the search rankings as a result.

Meanwhile, back at Hundred Acre Wood we hope that Penguin is settling in equally well! We are promised that he brings a new dimension to the story and will report back in due course!

Author: Robert Walker