Penguin 4.0: Should celebrations be on hold?

It’s been a couple of weeks since Penguin finally updated, those that persisted with a strong, clean SEO strategy will now be feeling extremely smug as their websites (and their clients websites) recover one by one, returning to their former glory. We’ve seen some amazing recoveries, double digit growth in market share, and searchmetrics charts similar to the below appearing one after the other:

Penguin 4.0 recovery

We’ve also seen a few surprises:

– Very little change in the Payday sector

– Website recoveries where no work has been done to clean up or use the disavow tool

When it comes to link signals Google will always feed you the bare minimum and let you work out the rest for yourself, so in order to try and understand what might be happening lets recap what we know about the roll out.

It’s real time

From the off Google confirmed that this was now a real time algorithm, and the revaluing of signals would take place after “it recrawl’s and reidnex’s a page”. This means there will be no further commentary on updates; decisions will be made about spam signals as Google crawls the web, and changes will be made to results in real time.

It’s granular

Simply put, this means individual spam signals will be judged and penalised rather than penalising the whole website. I think there is generally some confusion here, I’ve heard it being referred to as a ‘page level’ algorithm. This isn’t how I see it; more granular simply means it will judge each spam signal, each link and devalue appropriately. Rather than a blanket penalty it will devalue the individual link, this does not mean if a link is devalued it will only affect the page it points to, we all know links carry authority through an entire site and not just page level. Based on this I still think websites could see site wide improvements/declines caused by real time Penguin.

Google will label the link source

We now know that Google will actively label certain types of links to understand if they warrant further investigation and to understand what value should be passed, e.g. a footer link may pass less value than a link inside content. This is not new thinking, but it’s the first time I’ve heard this in relation to Penguin.

What has rolled out?

Gary Illyes has made numerous comments that make me think there are different parts to this roll out, ‘the recovery’ and ‘the real time valuation’.

Gary Illyes on Penguin 4.0

The above seems to be relating to ‘recoveries’ specifically which makes me think Google has simply removed the blanket version of the penalty. We know from looking at link profiles Google still hasn’t crawled all the links to a website, so how can the new algorithm have taken full effect?

Gary seems to have more recently confirmed Penguin 4 has now fully rolled out, but I’m not convinced at all.

We saw some early testing of Penguin at the beginning of September producing results like the below:

Penguin 4.0 testing

In my opinion Google were testing the results to see what multiple recoveries would look like before hitting the button.

Is it really fully rolled out?

My opinion is no, it isn’t.

I believe all the recoveries are live, but I think in no way has every link passing value been judged based on the new code. This will take longer, maybe months; so before we get too excited let’s see how Google judge results once they have crawled and valued entire link profiles, I think there will be some major drops between now and Christmas.

The only set of SERPs I’m struggling to understand is Payday, there have been small movements but nothing significant. The pure amount of blatant spam ranking well only backs up my thoughts that Google has not yet devalued all links necessary to fully remove spam results.

If you’ve seen a recovery, great, but expect more changes in the coming months and don’t be surprised if roll backs occur.

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