This morning, Google made the long awaited announcement that they have refreshed the Penguin algorithm (this update has been dubbed Google Penguin 4.0). First launched in 2012, Google Penguin was an algorithm that was designed to penalize websites with spammy link profiles. From 2012 to 2014, the algorithm was refreshed once per year. If you were negatively affected by the algorithm refresh in 2013, for example, you would have to wait until the refresh in 2014 to recover from the penalty.
"Penguin will no longer refresh once per year, but instead it will refresh in real time."
The SEO industry has long awaited this latest Penguin refresh, as it has taken over 2 years for it to be updated (the last refresh was October of 2014). So why did this update take over 2 years to roll out? Because the Penguin algorithm has been updated to fit inside the core Google algorithm, instead of living as a separate entity. This means that Penguin will no longer refresh once per year, but instead it will refresh in real time.
Real Time Penguin
What does it mean for Google Penguin to be “real time”? Now that Penguin is incorporated into the core Google Algorithm, its data will refresh in real time, and it will not require a yearly manual refresh by Google’s engineers. This means that, should a website have bad links that are negatively affecting the rankings, the webmaster will be able to disavow the bad links and see the results within a few days. Historically, websites penalized by Penguin would submit a disavow then wait one year until the next algorithm refresh.
How Does This Affect SEO Moving Forward?
A real time Penguin algorithm is most beneficial to anyone who was negatively affected by a previous iteration of the Penguin algorithm, but it is also beneficial to Google. Since the departure of Google’s main SEO spokesperson, Matt Cutts, Google has made an earnest effort to share less and less information with the SEO community. If Penguin operates in real time, Google no longer needs to field questions and criticism from the SEO community for each year’s big Penguin refresh.
Going forward, Google will likely continue to hide more of their technical decisions from the SEO community, as to avoid public scrutiny and to keep spammers guessing. This comes as great news to marketing-forward SEO companies who rely on a broad variety of traffic generation techniques, and as another hurdle to black hat SEO companies that rely entirely on link building.