In a recent Google Webmaster Office-Hours Hangout, John Mueller, Google Switzerland Webmaster Trends Analyst, said he was “hopeful” and “pretty confident” that we’d see the Penguin 4.0 algorithm refresh in January 2016.

Whilst no date was set in stone, this is pretty exciting news for businesses that generate website visits (and revenue) from Google’s organic results.

What is Penguin 4.0?

It’s widely known that the quantity of links pointing to your web pages affects how visible you are in search results.

The rule used to be, the more links you have, the higher you rank.

Then people started to game the system, creating as many links to their content as possible, regardless of where that link came from.

Google put a stop to that with Penguin, which assessed the quality of your links, not just the quantity. Penguin 4.0 is the latest refresh of this ‘link quality’ algorithm.

With this forthcoming refresh, we are likely to see ‘real-time’ impact. We think this could be really beneficial for webmasters.

Historically, when Google worked on and released an algorithm update, if you were impacted by its release, you wouldn’t be able to recover until the next time it was released. In some cases, this took months.

Now with the release having real-time impact, as soon as you make changes to respond to the algorithm, you’ll see the effect. This is good news for anyone penalised for low link quality – the sooner you clean up your link profile, the sooner you’ll see your visibility improve.

There Will Be No Notification So Create Your Own

Unlike manual penalties, algorithmic changes do not come with notifications. With that in mind, here are our recommendations for dealing with Penguin 4.0.

  • Regularly review and manage your link profile. Don’t wait for a refresh to threaten you into action. Be proactive.
  • Set custom alerts in Google Analytics to monitor fluctuations in traffic coming from Google/Organic.
  • Use AccuRanker’s Grump tool to get notified of fluctuations in rankings. Head to and subscribe to alerts to be automatically notified when AccuRanker starts to see the rankings fluctuate.


What To Do If You Get Penguined

If you’ve been negatively impacted by a Penguin refresh, here are the steps we’d recommend you take to start recovering:

  • Assess your backlink profile and clean up any spammy or poor quality links. A good start is to look through Google Search Console’s ‘Links to Your Site’ which shows a current list of external sites linking to your site.
  • List and assess, between good and bad, each link based on its quality. Here are some suggestions to look out for:
    • Does it have exact match anchor text? Anchor text should be natural. If it looks out of context then search engines, especially Google, are likely to spot this too.
    • Is it a site wide link? Sitewide links (for example, a link in a side column or footer of a site) are usually the staple of advertisements and should be ‘nofollowed’.
    • Is the site relevant? As highlighted before, if the link is out of context with the site and looks ‘made for SEO’ then the chances are it is spam too. Typically posting links in forums or a comment in a blog where the sole purpose is to get a link is not likely going to do you any favours.
  • When you have a list of bad links, you should try to update or remove them manually (based on the quality of the site). This usually involves a few rounds of outreach to the site’s editors and webmasters.
  • When you have a confident list of ‘spammy’ sites that are still linking to your site, you should then submit these for Disavow using the Disavow Tool. (Caution! If used incorrectly this can harm your site’s performance. We would recommend reading their guide before proceeding.)

If you have any questions about Penguin 4.0 or would like to talk about safeguarding your organic traffic against future algorithmic updates, please drop us a note via