What the Real Time Penguin Update Means for Your SEO

by Chad Carpenter | 3 MIN READ


Launched in 2012, the Penguin algorithm seeks to identify sites that have unnatural, or spam, links which can be accomplished by buying links or using a search engine optimizer network to manipulate search rankings.

Google essentially runs the entire web through the Penguin update periodically and any sites caught with bad links or unnatural links will be punished and lose search rank. The more bad links you build the more risk you have in dropping in search results, which is a negative effect, of course.

It has been made clear that manipulated link building no longer works, but that natural links will have a positive effect.

With previous updates, a publisher could make changes (hopefully the correct ones) to improve the site's ranking, butreal-time-penguin they wouldn't register with Google’s search results until the web is put through the next Penguin update and the new information is run through Google’s overall ranking algorithm, which traditionally has happened every few months, most often on a quarterly basis.

With this schedule, it was like a “big bang” clean up happening all at once.

As an example, let’s say a Penguin update is run in January, and the very next day, the publisher makes all the changes thought to be causing the link penalties. The site will still remain punished until the next Penguin update is run. It would be two to four months before any of the corrective changes would benefit the site.

Related Content: Why Quitting the Google Game Means Winning at SEO

Effect of Real Time Penguin Update on SEO

Google indicated in early October that the next Penguin update, version 4.0, will be released by the end of this year, which means any day now.

Moreover, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analysts, John Mueller and Gary Illyes, have said that moving forward these will be real time updates, meaning they will be ongoing clean-up and assessments versus a “big bang” clean up.

Real time Penguin updates will mean faster changes—either up or down—to your search rank. This isn’t to say it will be done in seconds, but it does open the door for a real time negative or positive SEO change in a single day.

This long overdue real time updating will now mean that the waiting period for valuable corrections to a website will not endure up to a four month waiting period to see the reward for correcting any bad links, disavowed links or even the recognition for new links.

As a review, here is a breakdown of what links Google Penguin likes and what links it hates. Keep these in mind as you continue to work with your optimization.

What Links Does Penguin Hate?

Put simply, Penguin hates unnatural links, easy and cheap tricks, and automated links.

The main types being:

  • Low Quality Links
  • Anchor Text that is Over Optimized
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Paid Links
  • Automated Spam Links
  • Link Directories (Make sure to check and see if Google has the directory indexed. If it doesn’t, that is a major red flag that you should pass up that particular directory.)
  • Article Directories (i.e., EZine articles. Probably best just to post the article on your own site)
  • Free for All Links Pages (FFA)

What Links Does Penguin Like?

In short, everything that is a natural link, that appears on the web without you having done anything directly to have it added.

  • Natural/Earned Links
  • On-Topic Links (related to your website)
  • Brand Anchor Text (i.e., using the brand name or URL in the text such as
  • Diversified Anchor Text (This is key as you don’t want 100% exact match anchor text, so keep exact match between 10-20% depending on competitor keyword analysis, and balance with brand, partial and zero match anchor text)

Tip: You can always find an up to date list of algorithm changes on the MOZ website.

A Final Note About Google Penguin Updates

Real time Penguin updates should be viewed as a good move for your SEO management and search rankings.

Moving forward, keep in mind...

  1. Even more than before, be cautious about the links you build.
  2. When it comes to your backlink profile, be extremely proactive in monitoring it.

Being able to have new links added quicker for ranking, and to be able to make corrections for any possible bad links without a long wait period to correct your negative rank means that your habits should be evolving to ongoing management versus sporadic management of your SEO.

A real time Penguin update is a positive step for Google, but it also means that search engine optimization will not necessarily be getting easier as you need to be prepared to look at your links in real time as well.

Related Content: The 5 Most Common Excuses for Poor Search Engine Rankings


Originally published November 23, 2015. Updated March 27, 2018.