14 December 2016

How Penguin 4.0 could be affecting your business – demystifying the jargon

Tags : SEO

By James Phillips

penguin walking on a beach by the sea

If you work with an SEO agency already or are generally clued up on digital marketing, you’ve probably heard a lot about Google algorithms over the years. Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird and their various iterations are some of the more well-known algorithm updates to have been rolled out. The truth is that Google is always looking at ways of improving the search results it serves to users. The more headline-grabbing updates are the ones that have had the biggest impact on searches, but the technical wizards at Google are always working on something.

The most recent big update was Penguin 4.0 (which went live on 23rd September 2016) and outside of the fact that it could be impacting your business, you may not be aware of how much of an impact there’ll be or even how to check. The good news is that Penguin 4.0 has been described as a much nicer update than its predecessors. You’re less likely to wake up one day and find out that your website has been delisted from Google’s search results and you’ve lost all your organic traffic.

For more information on Hummingbird - http://www.mcmnet.co.uk/our-blog/what-does-the-google-hummingbird-mean-for-my-business/

For more information on Panda - http://www.mcmnet.co.uk/our-blog/panda-update-why-content-matters/

How is Penguin 4.0 different?

Until now the Penguin updates have been focused on penalising websites found to have been manipulating search engine results through spammy backlink practices, such as paying for links and participating in link networks. Before Google had these quality checks in place for links, it was very easy for website owners and SEOs to cheat the system by making their website seem more relevant and authoritative than it was. Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Nefarious tactics, such as spammy link building, contravenes this.

The two main differences with Google’s Penguin algorithm since 4.0 are:

  • Future changes to the Penguin algorithm will be real-time – instead of releasing one big update every few years, the algorithm will constantly be refreshing with new data, which means any changes to your backlink profile will affect your ranking the next time Google crawls your website. This is great news for any websites that have been hit by Penguin penalties, as they won’t have to wait for ages to be reprieved.
  • The algorithm is more granular – if Penguin does find spammy backlinks pointing to your website, you are less likely to find your entire domain get penalised. Your ranking for certain keywords or webpages will be affected, but the rest of the website should be fine.

What do I need to do about Penguin 4.0?

Since there will be no more announcements regarding Penguin algorithm updates, your best bet is to ensure that someone is keeping a close eye on your website’s organic traffic to check for anomalies. The best way to do this is with Google Analytics. If your SEO knowledge is more advanced, you also need to be checking the quality of new and existing backlinks pointing to your website. There are many third-party tools that can show you most of your website’s backlinks. One such tool, Google Search Console, will also alert you to potential violations and gives valuable insight into technical SEO issues.

Something that we have noticed when tracking our client rankings is that rankings have tended to fluctuate more since Penguin 4.0 went live. Even if your rankings aren’t changing drastically, there can be a big difference between being in 1st and 3rd position in Google. If you find this happening to your rankings, it is best not to panic and think you’ve been hit. The likelihood is that this is going to be temporary.

It’s also important to consider the other big shift in Google’s ranking algorithm, its Mobile Index. If your website isn’t mobile friendly (check your website’s mobile friendliness here), then you are likely to suffer a drop in organic traffic over the next few months anyway.

If you’re concerned about the impact Penguin 4.0 or the Mobile Index might be having on your website, you can get in touch with our SEO team via info@mcmnet.co.uk for a free review of your website and its backlinks.

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