Penguin 4.0, the latest version of Google’s spam-fighting update is on its way, although exactly when it will arrive remains to be seen.
What is Penguin?
Google’s Penguin update, first launched back in 2012, marked an important step in the battle against spam and against black-hat SEO.
In particular, Penguin’s target was black-hat linking schemes.
As Chuck Price at Search Engine Watch puts it:
“Before Penguin, bad links were simply devalued and needed to be replaced in order to recover search rankings. After Penguin, bad links became ‘toxic’, requiring a link audit and removal or disavow of spammy links.”
What’s different about 4.0?
The big difference with Penguin 4.0 as opposed to previous versions is that this time, it’s going to work in real time.
With previous/current versions of Penguin, if your website was affected and penalised following the discovery of spammy links, then you’d need to wait until Penguin refreshes before you’re disavowal of these links actually comes into effect and you recover from your penalty.
Now, at least in theory, this will no longer happen.
The Penguin algorithm will be working constantly, and so you can recover from penalties instantly.
Of course, the same works the other way around – bad links will also be picked up on instantly – and this is the aspect that is intended to have black-hat SEOs shaking in their boots.
When will it arrive?
Here’s the real question.
Big changes in the SERPs were noticed by users and SEOs alike back in January of this year, causing some to speculate as to whether this was the Penguin we had all been waiting for.
However, it was confirmed on Twitter by Google employees Gary Illyes and Zineb Ait, that this was in fact a change to Google’s core algorithm, not the Penguin update, which is still on its way.
Initial reports put the release date firmly in the first quarter of this year, as was confirmed by Gary Illyes on Twitter:
@mrjamiedodd I’ll go with weeks. We’re aiming for launching penguin this quarter, but we don’t have a more precise timeframe.
— Gary Illyes (@methode) January 19, 2016
Now, it all looks a little more uncertain, as Illyes tweets get more ambiguous:
@mrjamiedodd I haven’t talked to the engineers for some time, I don’t know.
— Gary Illyes (@methode) February 12, 2016
So for now at least, all we can do is wait.
In the meantime though, given the nature of the update when it does eventually get rolled out, it’s time to start auditing your inbound links. Make sure that your website’s link profile is clean and above board, otherwise, you’ll be in for a nasty shock when Penguin 4.0 arrives.