Google Rolls Out Penguin 4.0 Update as Part of Core Algorithm in Real-Time

Google has confirmed that the Penguin 4.0 algorithm update is rolling out in all languages – and it’s now part of Google’s core algorithm, and is now in real-time.

The last update came in 2014, named Penguin 3.0. While this impacted 1% of UK and US searches, it still accounted for 12 billion search queries.

What is Google Penguin?

Penguin launched back in April 2012, in order to combat websites that spam the search results. Penguin is a filter that attempts to capture and penalise websites spamming the search results, as regular spamming systems may not pick them up. These websites often used link schemes in order to rise up through the search results.

Sites would be impacted by Penguin updates periodically, as the update rolled out. Any websites impacted by the updates would have to wait until the next update in order to see a change in rankings.

Google Algorithm Update Penguin 4.0

Penguin 4.0 Changes

Penguin is now part of Google’s Core Algorithm

As Penguin 4.0 is now incorporated in Google’s core algorithm, it means that when a page is indexed, Google will instantly recalculate the signals around Penguin.

This means that if you were previously penalised by a Penguin update, and had to wait a long period of time for a refresh, this should be a thing of the past.


Penguin is now real-time, rather than periodically refreshing. Google has said the following on the subject:

Penguin is now real-time. Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the internet, many of Google’s algorithms would take that into consideration very fast, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed. 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. It also means we’re not going to comment on future refreshes.


The signals will be constantly updated, with Penguin scores being pushed in real-time as Google crawls and indexes URLs.

Granular Update

Google has also said that Penguin is now more “granular”, stating: “Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.”

Essentially, this means that Penguin has gone from being a site-wide, negative ranking factor, to a more granular one. While this doesn’t mean it only affects individual pages, it could mean sections or swaths of a website.

What does this mean for my search rankings?

Now that Penguin is real-time, it’s very difficult to judge if a ranking change is down to Penguin.

The impact of Penguin 4.0 may not be seen until it has fully rolled out, but as it is a real-time algorithm, there’s no real idea of how long until the full impact will be seen. While Google hasn’t said how long it will take to fully roll out, this is likely to be a few weeks.

If Google regularly revisits your web pages, then the changes should be seen more quickly. For instance, websites with refreshed content, or a higher PageRank or URL importance will likely see the impact of the Penguin update first.

However, as Penguin’s date is refreshed in real-time, any changes will take effect quickly after Google recrawls and reindexes the page.

If your website was affected by Penguin 3.0 back in October 2014, and you aren’t seeing any increase in rankings, then you may still be impacted. However, this could be very difficult to judge until the algorithm is confirmed to have fully rolled out, and it will also only affect specific pages.

The Future of Penguin

Because this is now a real-time algorithm, Google will not be commenting on future refreshes.

This means that when Google recrawls and reindexes your web pages, those signals will be used in the new Penguin algorithm in real-time.

Previously, Google had made Panda part of the core search algorithm.

What should I do next?

As Google states: “Webmasters should be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling websites. It’s also important to remember that updates like Penguin are just one of more than 200 signals we use to determine rank.”

At the end of the day, Google has many, many signals that determine the ranking of your website, so it’s important to ensure you’re doing as much as possible to rank highly. But still, creating compelling content and informative websites that your users find useful is the key to higher search rankings, and providing a top experience for your customers.