Penguin 4.0 is here and is real-time. This means that the Penguin portion of the algorithm will always be “on” and updating from now on. As we have previously developed in an earlier blog post, Penguin going real-time is huge news for the SEO community. With Penguin 4.0, the algorithm should now catch spam link profiles more quickly. Aside from the fact that Penguin’s data is now refreshed in real time so that changes will be visible much faster, Penguin will be able to devalue spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals at a URL level, rather than affecting the ranking of the whole site.

Rare Penguin 4.0 Case Study cognitiveSEO

The things we should all have in mind now are real time penalties and real time recoveries.

Not only Google Penguin is in ongoing mode now, but also the question from every cautious webmaster’s mind: Is my website prepared for all these changes?


Penguin 4.0 – Penalty Case Study


We’ve searched back and forth looking for the havoc that the new Penguin 4.0 might have made. As much as we’ve searched (and trust us, research is our middle name), we haven’t found big traffic spikes (up or down) caused by the fearful Penguin. Instead we’ve found various sites that have slightly incremental or decremental traffic patterns.

There are SERP fluctuations, yet, nothing comparable to the impressive volatility caused by the previous Penguin Updates.


Some other researchers in the field found some websites affected by Google’s newest update, then again, no big fluctuations were mentioned.


After a lot of research conducted for several days, with a high attention on keywords and SERP fluctuations, we’ve found a couple of affected websites. From those we choose one that seems very likely to be affected by the latest Penguin. Without any further introduction, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy reading the complete Penguin 4.0 Case Study:


Metamorphosis, as a biological process, sounds like a word with which you can become a Scrabble champion. In fact, as complicated as it might sound, it designates one of the few constants in life: change.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

This is what probably the “spam fighters” team behind Google Penguin 4.0 had in mind when they’ve implemented the new, Real-Time Penguin algorithm.


The irony is that one of the sites affected by the Google update is a website related, at least with the name,  by the newest real time Penguin.


Metamorphosis Design ( is an online business that offers flash templates, website templates, web design and site re-design services. Or, as the website itself states, Metamorphosis Design is “everything you want to know about web design”.



The website we are looking at is quite a large one: the almost 2 million links coming from around 9k referring domains place our analyzed website within the medium- large sites. We cannot overlook the Link Profile Influence: more than 98% of the total links have low or no influence at all.  Therefore, if we were to think of the catchword quality over quantity, it doesn’t look like Metamorphosis Design have invested a lot in getting high-quality links. 

More than 98% of Metamorphosis Design’s links have low or no influence at all.


metamorphosis explorer data cognitiveSEO


Before going any further with our analysis, please allow me a few moments to explain why is the SEO Visibility chart presented bellow (and fully integrated within cognitiveSEO) is so important and why it’s helpful in easily spotting Google Penalties.


Basically, SEO Visibility is about monitoring the search performance of a website as it presents the historical development of a domain’s visibility in Google.  It is calculated based on millions of keywords that are tracked in Google and their importance and traffic volume. Each keyword has a particular importance and based on that and the ranking of the tracked site, a SEO visibility score is calculated, score which is updated weekly.

The SEO visibility chart can help you identify penalties in a heartbeat.

We, at cognitiveSEO, are trying to make the penalty identification process as easy as possible. And this is why, with the integration of the SEO visibility chart, we take the “penalty identification” process to another level, making it easy to identify what happened to a specific website. We live in a world where we use apps and tools on a daily basis; we have apps to helps us get our schedule right or tools to helps us buy Christmas presents for the dear ones. When it comes to your business I find it only natural to try using the best tools there are out there to be sure that your website will attract customers, not penalties.


Therefore, as we look at Metamorphosis Design SEO visibility, we get an important insight. It seems like a significant drop affected the website in 2012, drop that can be easily correlated with a Penguin update from that time.





And although the site never seems to have completely rebounded ever since, it seems like the new Real-time Penguin has destabilized the flash templates site even more. It’s true that it’s not an abrupt drop like the one from 2012 we are talking about, yet, there is a significant one, and it’s most likely related to the newly released Penguin update.



seo visibility sept meta


Luckily, we have the possibility to look at our analyzed site’s link profile and see if indeed the drop might have something do to with this website’s link profile. We don’t know how Metamorphosis Design’s link profile looked back in 2012 when they probably got another penalty, but one thing is sure; if their link profile was similar they did not learn from their mistakes.

unnatural profile metamorphosis


With almost 90% of total links being unnatural, there is no big surprise that this site is a Penguin 4.0 “victim”.

Name it; it seems like they have it all: thin content, low influence links, suspect anchor text, footer links, etc.


Metamorphosis is a changing process that involves a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change in one entity’s structure through growth and differentiation. However, it looks like Metamorphosis Design has borrowed only the name but not the characteristics of the metamorphosis process as well. 

With most of the links being placed in short paragraphs of text or group of links, there is no wonder that this website might have raised a lot of red flags for Google Spam Team.


The anchor text distribution and classifier don’t bring extra points in Metamorphosis Design’s defense, as most of the anchor texts are of commercial nature. And as Google is not a big fan of such keywords as it may consider them of being part of a link scheme, the suspicion of penalty in the case of our analyzed website is becoming more and more a certainty.


anchor text meta


Some other penalties examples com from  Mary Haynes, who wrote an interesting blog post where she analyzed various keyword fluctuations, highly correlated with the dates of September when Google announced the Penguin 4.0 Update. No big SERP fluctuation found within these examples either.


Google Penguin 4.0 And What You Need To Do


Having in mind the idea of real time penalties, it’s important to stay prepared, regardless of the surprises this Penguin might come with.


As the Penguin update is becoming a real-time part of the algorithm, things are slightly different from the publicly announced updates until now like Penguin, Penguin 2.0 and Penguin 3.0.  This means that the algorithm will become smarter and at a quicker pace than before since Google will be able to roll out changes as needed as opposed to scheduling one massive update.


Google updates have always been of high interest and, as you can see in the screenshot below, the interest on this matter is fantastic. If on Thursday, one day before the big announcement Penguin 4.0 had a few mentions, the next day the interest for the on-going penguin increased 65 times.


Brand Mentions


One might say that as long as you always work on the safe side and you are developing digital marketing strategies by Google’s Guidelines, you shouldn’t invest much time and energy worrying about this update. However, even when analyzing things within this mindset, two things should be taking into consideration: first, Google’s Guidelines (as many other guidelines) can be subjectively interpreted and second, it is better to be safe than sorry.


This being said, let see what you can do to be sure that your rankings will be safe even with the Penguin being released “in the wild”.


1. Regularly Monitor Your Backlink Profile

As Penguin is here and it’s real time it should get into your routine to regularly check new and lost backlinks, their value and quality, and most of all their naturalness. There has been a lot of speculation related to the fact that this update wasn’t released; we cannot deny nor confirm these rumors, yet, what we can do is take a look at what Google representatives have to say.

tweet rolling out

Therefore, what you need to do from now on, more than ever, is to constantly keep an eye on your link profile. Manually checking ALL of your links and identifying the unnatural links will get you a lot of time and energy. And even if you were willing to invest all the energy it takes, with Penguin being ongoing, time might not be in your favor. As soon as Google discovers that some links are shady, it will instantly penalize the involved website. And the vice-versa is just as valid:  as soon as links are being removed or disavowed, the Penguin algorithm will process it in real time, and you would be able to recover from a Penguin penalty incredibly quickly.

Ongoing fresh unnatural link monitoring is a necessity with the latest Google Penguin 4.0



2. Disavow Your Unnatural Links

Having a Google Link Penalty or being on the edge of being penalized is not something you wish for, but it’s something that you might have to deal with. In October 2012 Google launched the disavow tool which purpose is to help webmasters clean up their link profiles. Since its launch date, it has become a very used tool to help people recover from link related penalties, both manual and algorithmic. Even though there are a lot of pros and cons on whether a disavow really helps with penalties or not, Google representatives have stated before and are still claiming today, in the Penguin 4.0 update context, that the disavow tool is really helpful and should be used by webmasters.

Google recommends the use of the disavow tool.

disavow tweets


If manually identifying unnatural links is a time-consuming task, creating a disavow from scratch can be as time consuming and even more stressful as disavows have a high impact on one’s website. We are not advocating a reckless use of the disavow tool, yet, if it is the case, why not making the process as easy as possible? It’s enough energy invested in the fact that you are in the position of submitting a disavow; the last thing you need is to worry about disavow templates agreed by Google and spending lots of time in manually creating one. What I’d recommend is creating an automate disavow file ready to submit but not before documenting a bit on the disavow myths and realities so that you can submit the disavow wittingly and wholehearted .




3. Monitor New Links That Could Trigger Penalties


Real-time is the baseline keyword in the context of Penguin 4.0. As mentioned before, this means that as soon as Google discovers that a link is unnatural, it will process it in real time, causing penalties incredibly quickly.

Be aware of all of your links and why not, be one step ahead of Google and spot the unnatural links on time.


New Unnatural Alert cognitiveSEO


4. Know Your Anchor Text Ratio

Having a clear overall image of your anchor text profile is crucial, especially if you need to see how many of your keywords are commercial and how many are brand related. Brand Anchor Text is one of the signals that Google takes into consideration when deciding if a site should be “trusted” or not, while the Commercial Anchor Text tells Google what keywords might the site be interested in ranking. Therefore, knowing your anchor text ratio is another feature you should be aware of, not only in your quest of preventing a penalty but also on a daily monitoring basis.

anchor text ratio


We know that things may seem a bit confusing for the moment, maybe overwhelming and why not, a bit scary. Having the right tools at your disposal might make a difference in your favor: in terms of rankings, invested time, money and energy, website optimizing and even stress reduction.

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