Is Google Penguin 4 Rolling Out? — 6th January 2016

Algorithm Update, 6th January 2016.
Algorithm Update, 6th January 2016. CREDIT: 123-RF.
Jonathan Griffin
By Jonathan Griffin, Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

Editor’s Note -10th January 2016: Please see this post for an update.

We only just reported on comments by Gary Illyes that there will still be some delay before Google Penguin starts rolling out. Not more than a few hours later, we see “some” chatter that the update may have started. We have our doubts.

There is increasing chatter on the various SEO forums, as well as the SERP Trackers (we will cover all these points shortly). However, the main indication is a specific mention by the SERP tracker tool AccuRanker. They have raised the possibility that Google Penguin is now rolling out across the United States, with a blog post titled “Penguin 4.0 January 2016: Possible Google Algorithm Update Today?".

According to Accurankers “Google Grump” tool (their Google algorithm early alert system), there is currently huge volatility in the US SERPs that started today:

Google Grump.
Google Grump. CREDIT: ACCURANKER.

SERP Trackers are in an ideal position to ascertain trends \ volatility due to the sheer number of websites \ keywords they monitor. As such, this gives a great indication of when something is up.

Let’s Take a Look at the Other SERP Trackers

This is something we will most likely have to update in a few days, as some Trackers work a day or two behind. However, we have already discussed the volatility seen in the SERPs throughout December 2015, but it does seem this has continued into January:

Rank Risk Index

This is showing some volatility, including up to and including the 6th January 2015. However, there is not spike like in the Google Grump tool above. That being said, it may be that the spike may show on the 7th instead, so we need to wait a little longer for this information.

Rank Ranger Risk Index.
Rank Ranger Risk Index. CREDIT: RANK RANGER.

MozCast

This shows a massive spike commencing on the 4th of January and increasing significantly on the 6th of January. This supports the fact that something is up.

MozCast Weather.
MozCast Weather. CREDIT: MOZ.

Let’s Take a Look at the SEO Forums

It is useful to check out what other webmasters are saying, especially those who are seeing some volatility to see if there are any clues. For instance, they may have previously suffered from Google Penguin and recovered or used use spammy techniques and have now been hit by the penalty.

DigitalPoint Forums

There is only one thread here, which has not yet garnered any replies. The post seems to imply that the author is seeing something, but does refer to the Google Grump post as well. It could be the post was prompted by the Google Grump Post by AccuRanker, but it isn’t straightforward to tell.

Black Hat World

Black Hat World, too, seems to have a similar post made to the one in the DigitalPoint Forums. The response appears to be lackluster as if no one sees any movement themselves. One reply refers to MozCast, but this may be from before it updated with data from the 5th of January.

Unfortunately, this does not help us much, except to the extent it implies that there may not be a significant update going on. Very odd, as the SERP trackers do show something.

WebmasterWorld

Again, this forum shows very little too.

Final Thoughts

Despite AccuRanker crying wolf, and the activity in the SERP trackers very compelling in that they indicate a fair amount of volatility, we are beginning to have our doubts.

Indeed, if Google Penguin were rolling out, there would be a significant number of SEO specialists adding to the conversation right now. There isn’t.

We believe it is more likely to be tremors arising from the November Update, but we will, of course, keep an eye out and update this post as soon as we know more.

Updates

Update 1 — 7th January 2016: We are seeing some considerable movement in our own rankings today. For us, it is mixed, with some minor improvements and some minor declines. However, some of our older, not so great, content seems to have taken a small hit dropping half a dozen or so places. We suspect this update relates to content quality and are testing this by improving some of the content that saw falls.

Update 2 — 7th January 2016: It seems the MozCast graph is wrong. See:

Update 3 — 7th January 2016: It appears to be our older \ poorer quality content that has dropped a couple of places (1-5 places) in the SERPs. Good quality content has remained steady or increased. A couple of keywords that we tracked had only a little relevance to a page (i.e., a not so closely related keyword we hadn’t explicitly covered) dropped significantly, which was interesting. This seems to imply the changes are focusing on content quality \ relevance.

Update 4 — 8th January 2016: We are seeing some fluctuations with the SERPs seem to be constantly changing. One user at Webmasterworld concurs, stating that “Since yesterday I’m seeing 2 data sets switching by the minute.” This may indicate that they are doing some significant testing of differing data sets \ algorithms. The best thing to do right now is not to panic and wait a few days until it settles down.

We have also seen Google Testing other things such as blue rating stars in the SERPs rather than yellow.