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It’s official. After a nearly two-year wait, Google has finally launched the long-anticipated Penguin update. This is the fourth major release and most likely the last of this type, as Google now says Penguin is a real-time signal processed within its core search algorithm.

What does this mean for site owners? Read on to find out, and also to learn more about the other significant changes and differences from the old version of Penguin.

So what is Penguin 4.0?

Penguin is now running in real-time as part of Google’s core algorithm, and it’s also more granular. But what does that mean exactly?

Penguin is real-time

This means that site owners will no longer have to wait for months to recover from a penalty. So unlike Penguin 3.0, where sites would remain penalised even if they improved until the next time Penguin was updated, these penalties will now be lifted much  more quickly.

In other words, a site can recover from a penalty rapidly but it can also get penalised just as quickly. That’s because Google now recrawls and reindexes pages constantly, instead of periodically so the changes are reflected immediately.

As Google said in its post:

“With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page.”

This also means that if you have bad, unnatural backlinks you will need to fix them as quickly as possible to avoid getting a penalty.

Penguin is more granular

This means that Penguin will impact sites on a page-by-page basis, as opposed to how it worked in the past where it affected the whole site. So Google will penalise a specific page rather than an entire domain. That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news is that it’s difficult to pinpoint the pages with issues. So if you notice that a page on your site is suddenly losing visibility or organic traffic, make sure to take a closer look at its backlinks and perform a clean-up whenever necessary.

What kind of backlinks does it penalise?

Read our Google penalty guide to learn more about the types of bad links that can get your site penalised and how to check for an unnatural links penalty.

To summarise, here are a few types of bad, low-quality backlinks that can result in a Google penalty:

  • Paid links. Whether you’re offering money, goods or services, or free products in return for a link back, these types of links can get you a penalty in a heartbeat.
  • Link farms or building your own network of sites that link to each other with the sole purpose of building link popularity and boosting rankings. This is a sure way to get yourself into big trouble with Google.
  • Hidden links or sneaky redirects.
  • Links from irrelevant sites that have nothing to do with your site or your content.
  • Automated links that are created using software.
  • Links in the footers, sidebars or templates of various sites.

Top tips on how to recover

If your site has been penalised but aren’t sure what steps to take to recover, here are a few things you can do:

  • Put a stop to paid backlinks, if you’ve been using this technique in an attempt to boost your rankings and get more traffic to your site.
  • Try to determine why certain pages were affected.
  • Find as many backlinks as possible that point to your pages. Use tools like the Google Search Console, Ahrefs, Majestic or Open Site Explorer to track them down.
  • Take a closer look at your backlinks and using Google’s link schemes guide, try to figure out whether they’re worth keeping or if they’re bad backlinks that need to be removed as soon as possible.
  • Use Google’s disavow file to remove the backlinks that don’t follow the guidelines (paid, spam, etc).
  • Monitor your organic traffic and visibility in the search engine results to see if those pages return to normal values.
  • Repeat whenever necessary.

Wrapping up

Finally, when building links focus on getting them from sites that are not only of authority but also relevant to your industry and business.

But more importantly, try your best to earn links instead of building them. If you write amazing content that people want to read and share, and if you build valuable relationships with your customers and influencers in your industry, you’ll already be ahead of the competition. You can learn more about getting backlinks the right way in this guide.

What are your thoughts on the real-time Penguin update? Have you noticed any changes to your site’s traffic? Tweet us your comments @123reg.

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