At first glance, Google's Penguin 4.0 update -- released last Friday -- seems to have had minimal impact on websites' keyword rankings and search performance. This may be because the update has not yet been completely rolled out. There is speculation that the update will continue in stages over the next couple of weeks.

Google tells us that its search algorithm is made up of more than 200 signals, of which Penguin is just one. Penguin was programmed to identify and penalize spammy websites that use black hat tactics like purchasing links and participation in link-exchange networks. While it used to be refreshed on a periodic basis, that is no longer the case. Which leads us to the first main takeaway of the Penguin 4.0 update:

Penguin is Now Real Time

Before 4.0, Penguin needed to be refreshed periodically for its effects to be noticeable. Now it has been incorporated into the constantly-running core search algorithm, so changes will be visible shortly after a website has been re-crawled and indexed. Once the update has been fully rolled out, if there’s something on your website that it doesn’t like, your keyword rankings will show this pretty quickly. All this is to say that as long as you create and maintain a website that follows best practices, you have nothing to worry about. You can also rest assured that other websites using spammy techniques or black hat SEO practices will be penalized by Penguin's real-time nature in short order. Additionally, since Penguin is incorporated into the core search algorithm and running in real time, there won't be any more updates announced by Google to this particular signal.

More Granular Spam Evaluation

The second thing to note about Penguin is this: Google tells us that they've gotten more granular in this update with how they evaluate spam signals on websites. Prior to Penguin 4.0, if Google detected any spam on your website, the whole site was penalized. Now it is possible that certain pages or sections of your site may be penalized for spam while other pages and sections of your site that follow best practices will still perform well. As always, as long as you aren't using spammy techniques or shady link-building practices on your website, you won't be negatively impacted by Penguin.

To stay on top your site's health in Google's eyes, clean up your link profile regularly. Scan your site's backlinks and disavow any spammy links you find. And always follow best practices when employing SEO and link-building tactics on your site.

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