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It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business owner, marketing professional, or SEO expert, it’s good practice to stay current with Google algorithm changes.

More and more, the things you need to do to succeed on Google are becoming the things you need to do to succeed at marketing.

In September of 2016, Google announced the release of Penguin 4.0, a very important part of the Google algorithm that addresses backlinks – that is, 3rd party websites that contain clickable links back to your website.

While there is no such thing as an SEO silver bullet, backlinks are still a very heavily weighted ranking factor.  Links from high quality, trustworthy websites that are relevant to your niche can be very helpful for organic search engine rankings.

Spammy, low quality backlinks, on the other hand, can get your website penalized.

Backlinks are so important, in fact, that John Jantsch and I dedicated chapters to Backlink Building and Google Algorithm Updates in our new search engine optimization book.

If you know anything about the past Penguin updates, you should have a basic idea of what this one is all about. Of course, there are a few key details that deserve your full and undivided attention.

With Google’s algorithm relying on 200+ SEO ranking signals, there’s a lot to think about as you create a website with the idea of it ranking at the top of the search engines. From the quality of the content to your region to your site’s PageRank, Google never stops analyzing.

In 2012, Google launched its first Penguin update to the SEO world. Over the years, it has updated Penguin several times, all of which has led us to what we’re experiencing today: Penguin 4.0.

What is Google Penguin 4.0?

There are two key points associated with this update:

  1. Penguin is now real time, meaning that it will be the last publicly shared update of its kind. In the past, websites affected by Penguin were refreshed every so often. For this reason, even if you made updates to improve the quality of your site, you had to wait until the next Penguin update to get credit for your fixes and improvements. Now, this is no longer the case.  Penguin now functions in real time, meaning that results will appear immediately after reindexing or recrawling a webpage.
  2. While that point is pretty easy to understand, the second one is a bit more vague. Here it is, straight from Google’s mouth: “Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.

In the past, Penguin was considered to be a sitewide penalty. Now, it appears that Penguin may only be a page-specific penalty. In other words, the penalty could impact a particular page of a website, while leaving the rest of the site “unpenalized.”

Further, it sounds like Penguin is now less punitive in nature, meaning you don’t get an extra penalty for spammy backlinks, you just don’t get credit for them.

Is it Live?

This is the million dollar question, as many people want to know if their website has yet to be impacted (positively or negatively) by the latest Penguin update.  Yes, it is live right now.

Since Google has made it clear that additional updates aren’t forthcoming, don’t expect future announcements on Penguin 4.0 – now it’s part of the core Google algorithm.

How to Prepare

Are you concerned that this update will threaten your search engine rankings? If so, now is the time to consider a website SEO review.  Here is a link to a basic free SEO website audit.

Is your website full of low quality content? Is it packed full of keywords, as opposed to information of great value?  Are you paying for low quality SEO services?

If you answered yes to these questions, it’s time to update your digital marketing plan and focus on higher quality content in the future. By doing this, the Penguin update won’t hold you back. Instead, you may find that it works in your favor.

Final Thoughts

More than four years ago, Google shared a blog post on its intention to reward high quality sites and take action against those of low quality.

While many things have changed over the years, it’s important to remember that the key to modern marketing is creating an SEO friendly website, while consistently creating and distributing great quality content to your customers and prospective customers.

To learn how to get more leads and sales from your website, download this free eBook now:  How to Hire a Web Designer