Penguin 4.0: Everything you need to know

Algorithm Update Roll Out

Unless you were living under a rock, you couldn’t have missed the single most important piece of SEO news last week- the Penguin Update known as ‘Penguin 4.0’.

After close to 700 days of waiting, Google decided to quietly roll out tests and deployment of this much anticipated update. Webmasters from all corners of the world saw highly unstable hikes and dips in their search rankings, which is what is known as the ‘Google dance’ .

The dancing search rankings were different from the usual types of spikes and decreases, as these results would fluctuate several times a day for a period of 7-14 days depending on who you ask.

Google finally broke it’s silence on the matter by having an official announcement that the update was live and in real time, a few days after Google’s John Mueller gave a response saying that there were no announcements about an update as far as he knew , much to the chagrin of webmasters everywhere.

What exactly is the Penguin Algorithm?

The penguin algorithm is a complex set of algorithms targeted at off page signals. While this in itself is a very broad spectrum, the majority of off page signals are in fact link building.

In a bid to stymie the widely used practice of procuring paid links, Google designed this algorithm to determine if the links pointing to a website were unnatural or irrelevant to it’s niche and topical interests.

While it isn’t perfect, the Penguin Algorithm has been single handedly responsible for a major portion of manual penalties handed out to webmasters.

Webmasters who procured links through link exchange schemes, blatant and very obviously paid articles in the form of guest blogs, links from PBN sellers were all hit with either a massive loss of SERP rankings or an outright manual penalty ever since the penguin algorithms earlier versions were launched.

It is important to note, penalties from the previous versions of the Panda algorithm were handed out on a domain wide level-while for Penguin 4.0, Google has stated that this latest update would be on targeted at the offending page itself with no negative consequences to the other pages within the domain.

What does this mean for webmasters?

How concerned should you be with this algorithm update? Should you care even if your site didn’t see any negative changes the past week?

Many SEO forums such as Blackhat World or ‘BHW’ for short, have been ablaze with speculations and discussions. The general consensus is that those who did see negative impacts from this update were those with competitive and commercial niches and keywords.

The chatter centred around this update is not limited to just Black hat forums, everyone from SEJ to Search Engine Round Table have been discussing their findings vigorously.

Now more than ever, it is highly crucial for webmasters to take a closer look at their ranking tactics and existing backlink profiles.

As Google has claimed that the algorithms is constantly rolled out as compared to previous versions, this could mean both good and bad news for any website.

If a website doesn’t have a constant velocity of incoming links, the webmaster could possibly neglect the upkeep and tracking of it’s link profile. This could lead to the algorithm evolving in due time and revealing that site often, and detecting that nothing has been done about certain toxic links that are deemed undesirable. In the long run, multiple crawls detecting no positive changes could affect the website’s ability to retain it’s rankings, much less rank higher for it’s desired keywords.

On the flipside, because the algorithm is active in a perpetual state of deployment, webmasters could easily submit a file of toxic links using the disavow tool and see a much quicker response the next time the website is crawled.

Other implications 

Earlier this year, Google had released news of it’s brand new project called ‘Rankbrain’, which is simply defined as an artificial intelligence system centred around machine learning.

It’s official announced purpose was to help Google’s search engine to further refine it’s capabilities of associating articles and contextual content to search queries to give its users a better experience during search sessions.

Sounds great doesn’t it? 

What this really means for webmasters is that no longer can they simply get cheap and low quality or spun content and use it for their link building campaigns.

Rankbrain’s capability at sussing out poorly structured content with grammatical errors will ensure that the links being built using that type of content, would either be outright devalued or lead to a non-manual algorithm penalty.

Hence the difficulty levels in trying to rank organically in search result pages has just been raised.

Webmasters need to be very conscientious when procuring links. A badly produced piece of content may not be the end of the world, but if it is used to build links on a spammy looking website that has absolutely nothing in relevance to the site it is linking out to, could bring about devastating results handed out from the combined abilities of the Rankbrain and Penguin 4.0 algorithms.

Fans of tiered link building campaigns often generated by using link building tools should also be cautious when using low quality content. The human readability of the article isn’t the only thing you have to worry about, you now also need to contend with making the article both readable and relevant with the use of latent semantic indexing or ‘LSI’ so that the machine learning systems can attribute the content to the actual topic of your site.

Actionable Steps:

Keeping your site safe from manual penalties dished out by the penguin algorithm isn’t simple even if you don’t participate in link building schemes. Many good quality and authoritative websites often find random websites linking out to their content for no reason at all.

With that in mind, here are some things you can do to keep that pesky penguin in the artic wasteland where It belongs.

It is highly recommended to use multiple search tools such as ‘Ahrefs’ , ‘Semrush’ and others to detect your existing backlinks.

Using the data from these tools, take a look if the links are spammy or totally out of relevance to what your website is all about.

Make a spreadsheet of these undesirable links that could be harmful to your site, and send out requests to the owners or admins of those sites to request the link to be removed.

Upon confirmation of which sites have acceeded to your deletion requests,  update your spreadsheet to reflect the URLs of those who haven’t complied or even given a reply and submit it into your search console (formerly Google Webmaster tools) under the ‘Disavow’ tool.

It is recommended that you attach a message stating that you have repeatedly attempted to contact those webmasters to remove your links, but to no avail.

Be aware though, while certain links may look absurd or spammy- removing them could cause your ranking positions to fall significantly.

Only use the disavow tool if you are absolutely sure of what you are doing. There are various guides on the internet to help with link assessment and the usage of the disavow tool.

The disavow tool is a very handy function, but could be dangerous if poorly executed.

Tips to Improve Your Local SEO

Owning a local business has many challenges. Among these is the difficult task of creating and maintaining an online presence. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be drastically important to the success of your company online. A typical SEO campaign can be challenging enough as it is, but when you’re working on a local SEO campaign things can become even more difficult.  Knowing these steps will make it easier to find the right SEO Firm to conduct your campaign.  While the basics of SEO often seem manageable, sustainable results lie in the ability to do the basics perfectly while doing advanced tactics that deliver results.

Local SEO can require more maintenance, because local search results change more quickly than any other type of search. You will have to focus on different aspects in a local SEO campaign than you would in a typical one in order to be as successful as possible, though some aspects will remain the same.

For local SEO, links and on-page elements are still just as important as they are for any type of SEO. However, the types of links that will require your focus will be different. Before you can focus on building links, however, you’re going to want to focus on garnering great local reviews. You’ll also want to focus on getting out as many NAP (name, address, and phone number) citations as possible. Let’s take a look at these tips, along with some others, in a little more detail.

NAP Listings
Lately, search engines have been placing a much larger emphasis on showing local search results. In order to accomplish this, they use the location information they find on a company’s website, as well as online directories and other websites, so listing your NAP is vitally important to optimizing your web presence. Consumers don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to find this information. Oftentimes, they won’t even consider a local business if they can’t immediately find NAP information.

To make your information easy to find, you should include it on every page of your website in either the header or footer. You may also want to consider using markup to make your information easily show up in search results. offers coding for this purpose, so all you have to do is enter in your company’s details.

Each time your NAP is listed, it’s called a citation. Search engines use these citations to make sure your company is real and trustworthy. You rank higher in localized searches if you’re considered more trustworthy. This is why consistency with NAP listings is so important. Any variation will be a red flag to a search engine that your company isn’t trustworthy. Even a slight variation such as Avenue versus Ave. can be enough to cause an issue.

You’ll want to acquire as many citations as you possibly can, because this will increase your local SEO and credibility. You can do this by listing your NAP with online directories such as YellowPages or Yelp. If possible, you should also try to list your NAP on other local websites. Here again, consistency is of the utmost importance, so be sure to use the exact same format for these NAP listings as the one you used on your own website. Also, try to list your NAP on as many credible sites as you, because with higher credibility comes higher local SEO rankings.

Positive Local Reviews
Local consumers used to mostly rely on word of mouth and yellow page listings to make decisions. In the age of technology, however, people turn to the Internet for practically everything. Even when they get a good word of mouth recommendation, consumers will still turn to search engines to scour reviews and see what others had to say.

Getting local reviews is essential, because they directly impact local SEO rankings. Along with having customer reviews and testimonies on your own site, you’ll want to try to establish reviews on outside sites. Keep in mind that different search engines use different sites to determine SEO rankings, so you’ll want to try to have reviews on a variety of outside sites.

In order to gain reviews, you’re going to have to reach out to your customer base. Please don’t try to do this by directly asking your customers in a one-on-one conversation if they’d be willing to review you online. This puts people on the spot, and they’ll be much less likely to follow through even if they agree to do so. If you want to entice customers within your physical location, a small sign will do the trick. Even if it fails to garner reviews, it will draw attention to the fact that you have a website.

A great way to draw reviews out of your customers would be to have a page on your website dedicated to showing customers how they can review your company. Non-tech savvy customers will appreciate this straightforwardness and simplicity, thereby becoming more willing to actually leave a review. You may also want to add a link to your review page on your email signature or business cards to increase traffic. This webpage should include ways to leave reviews both on your own website and on other sites. Gaining reviews on sites other than your own will help increase links to your page, which in turn will increase your local SEO. It will also increase your credibility with customers who are often hesitant to trust reviews on a company’s personal site.

Information is Key
When working on building up your local SEO, you’re going to want to include as much information about your company as possible. One way to do this is through a landing page. Landing pages aren’t typically associated with SEOs, but they should be. A landing page can be included on your site to help consumers with site navigation. They’re also an excellent way to utilize keywords, which will greatly help to increase your SEO. Since a landing page can help simplify your website, it can help keep your customers happy, which might lead to positive reviews.

Another way to include helpful information on your site is through a blog. Like landing pages, blogs can be used to target specific keywords. Your blog content should increase your trustworthiness as well. It can create transparency for your company, which holds a lot of weight with consumers. Be honest in your postings, don’t try too hard to talk up your own company, and offer competitor reviews. Try to be fair with your reviews of other companies and don’t badmouth them. While this may seem counterintuitive, it can actually help increase your trustworthiness. Consumers are intelligent enough to know when you’re being sincere versus when you’re just trying to push your own company. An enjoyable, informative blog may also increase your ability to draw positive reviews out of customers.

Choosing the Right Keywords
Keywords are incredibly important when it comes to local SEO. Choosing the right keywords can make or break your SEO ranking. This being said, you want to make sure your keywords feel natural and not forced. It’s very obvious to consumers if you write a blog post and are constantly using the same words or phrases over and over again. It becomes annoying to read and will push people away. Also, keep in mind that you need to have at least 300 words in order for keywords to count towards rankings.
Choosing keywords will depend on what you are trying to accomplish with your company. For local SEO, you definitely want to include your location. Beyond this, what you include is ultimately up to you. You know what your company has to offer, so use keywords that target your industry. A good way to determine what keywords to use is to think about what you would search for if you wanted to find your company. Odds are, these are the same types of words consumers will be inclined to use.

Local Search Engine Optimization requires a lot of work, but the payout over time will make it worthwhile. You’re bound to get frustrated with the process at times, so try to remind yourself that patience is almost always rewarded. Also try to remember that results won’t always be immediate. Building a solid web presence takes time, but ultimately it’s the best strategy for success.