Online merchants penalized by Google’s Penguin search algorithm signal will be able to resolve their issues more quickly.

Google today announced it has begun rolling out the latest update to a signal within its search algorithm that it calls Penguin 4.0.

Google introduced Panda in 2012 to identify and penalize retailers and other websites that seek to bolster their search ranking by gaming Google’s search algorithm. For example, Penguin penalizes retailers that used keyword stuffing, which is when a site loads keywords to manipulate a site’s ranking in search results. Penguin also dings retailers  that engage in link schemes, in which a merchant uses an automated program or service to create links to its site.

Penguin had operated on a periodic basis, which meant that penalized sites would remain lower in search rankings—even if they changed their site—until Google refreshed the signal. With today’s update, Google will refresh Penguin’s data in real time. That means that as Google re-crawls and re-indexes pages, which it is regularly doing, those pages will be evaluated by Penguin. Pages will then be penalized or freed from their penalty as part of that process.

That’s good news for retailers, says Stephan Spencer, founder of Netconcepts  and co-author of “The Art of SEO.”

“I’ve worked with clients who have had it take incredibly long for the changes they made to resolve their Penguin penalties,” he says. “In one case, it took nearly a year. That won’t be an issue any more.”


Penguin 4.0 also aims to take a more granular look at websites by looking at individual pages. Rather than penalize an entire site for one page that includes keyword stuffing, Penguin may only impact that  page.

“Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site,” Gary Illyes, Google search ranking team, writes in a blog post.