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As of the end of September, the Penguin series of updates is now a part of the core Google search engine algorithm. Designed to penalise spam linking and other black-hat SEO linking techniques, it’s now harder than ever before to manipulate the Google search engine. So what’s new with Penguin, and is it a big deal?

How Penguin Penalises the Black Hats

Google’s Penguin update was launched back in 2012 in an effort to combat problems such as spam linking and keyword-stuffing. These were both easy exploits that many website owners used to improve search engine rankings, without having to spend time or money creating useful web content. Once Penguin came into play, this kind of web content was penalised with lower search engine rankings not just for the offending web pages, but for the entire site on which they were located.

Penguin is a highly precise algorithm that can distinguish between organically-generated backlinks and spam or otherwise low quality links, and also further refines the search engine’s ability to differentiate between good and poor content in general.

What Penguin 4.0 Brings to the Table

As of Penguin 4.0, the algorithm is no longer its own separate entity; it’s now part of the core Google algorithm, AKA Hummingbird. So, in all likelihood, future Penguin updates won’t be rolled out separately, but will be packaged in with Hummingbird updates instead. There are several other important updates to the way Penguin works. The two major changes made with this update are:

How penguin deals with spam links has been updated. Previously, spam links would affect the search engine ranking for an entire website. Now they only affect the ranking for the page on which they’re located.

Overall, it’s a much fairer and less harsh way of penalising a site for having s a small number of low quality links. Spam links are a reality that many sites have to deal with through no fault of their own; for instance, high-traffic blogs and news sites are often inundated with spam comments and links that can negatively affect your SEO efforts. With this update, these types of issues won’t penalize an entire website.

The ranking adjustments that Penguin makes are now in real time. What this means is, if you remove spam links or make other changes that affect the Penguin algorithm, it’s reflected in your rankings as soon as Google recrawls and reindexes that page. Previously, any such changes wouldn’t affect your rankings until the next time the Penguin algorithm was updates, which often meant a wait of several months. Now, any positive changes you make will be taken into account much more quickly than previously.

This particular change is one that site owners have been waiting for eagerly—especially those who own sites that had previously been penalised. Making adjustments in real time is also a great incentive for site owners to actually improve their web pages. After all there’s not much incentive to remove spam links or make other positive changes if you know it’s not going to improve your rankings for several more months.

What can Site Owners do to Take Advantage of 4.0?

In the wake of Penguin 4.0, the question is: what, if anything, should you do about it? That depends on whether your site is currently playing host to one or more spam links.

First, if there are any spam or otherwise low quality links on your site, it’s time to start thinking about getting rid of them. Any changes you make in this regard will give the relevant pages a search engine boost in a relatively short amount of time, so it’s definitely important to take advantage of this now. If you haven’t given your site a good overhaul in a year or more, make your link inspection part of a thorough housekeeping session. For example, check your keyword performance, rewrite meta tags and descriptions, and clean up your site architecture. These and many other small but significant tasks can collectively give you a great search engine boost.

Second, if you run a blog and you’re having trouble with spam comments, now is the time to get it under control once and for all. Depending on the size of your blog, and the blogging platform you use, this could be a significant undertaking, since it may involve combing through your archives hunting for spam comments. Once your current crop of spam is taken care of, using a combination of plugins and moderation makes new spam comments easier to weed out.

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