The Oban Blog

Google update

Google announces new Penguin 4 update

Google recently announced that the much anticipated Penguin 4 update is rolling out. Penguin is the aspect of Google’s algorithm which deals with link quality issues, both on and off site.

What you need to know:

· Penguin is now real-time. This means that action to improve quality signals from backlinks or over-optimised on-site linking should yield results more quickly.

· This also means that there will be no further Penguin updates from Google because there’s nothing to actually update. In other words, Penguin is emulating Panda in moving to a continuous-update model. This places the onus on webmasters to ensure they comply with quality guidelines.

· Penguin is more granular or, in Google’s words, “Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site”. This is open to interpretation but broadly, it should mean that you will now be able to see which part of your site is experiencing a penalty and will be able to address it with real-time feedback during a recrawl and reindex.


Penguin was introduced by Google in April 2012, specifically to deal with link-quality issues both on and off site. In essence, Google wanted to reduce the visibility of sites which attempted to artificially increase their rankings by manipulating the number of links pointing to the page, and reward those sites which genuinely meet a user’s informational needs. Since then, it’s been updated periodically but without the list of affected site being refreshed.

Reactions so far:

The real-time aspect to Penguin 4 has largely been welcomed as being fairer, in that sites will be rewarded for great content more quickly. The granular aspect is also seen as favourable, in that penalties affecting sites will impact the relevant pages, rather than whole domains. This gives webmasters the ability to fix the affected pages and learn from mistakes without losing a large proportion of organic traffic. For the end user too, the update is seen as providing better results to match their search intent.

Oban’s Head of SEO, Emily Mace, commented on the update:
This is good news for anyone who was affected by Penguin and the signs are that previously hit websites are starting to see a recovery to their rankings now. Oban has been closely monitoring what’s going on both with our clients and other core sites and it does seem that this Penguin release is the smallest yet, with the lowest impact. However, it’s early days and we will continue to keep a close eye on developments.

How can brands avoid being affected by Penguin:

As ever, the basic principle remains the same: focus on creating well-written and useful content for your audience, and building genuine editorial links to it. Tell your brand story via relevant and engaging content, promoted to your audience via multiple channels (social media, paid search, influencer engagement and so on). Monitor your links and audit these on a regular basis, taking action to disavow inappropriate links. In a nutshell: if your site is written primarily for your audience and is based on authentic content, then there is nothing to fear from this update.

What next:
If you think your site has been affected by Penguin 4, please talk to Oban about a backlink audit or how to improve your site’s content.