There is no need to stress more the fact that Google has just made an innovative update: Penguin 4.0 –  a real-time, granular algorithm update that allows both real-time penalties and incredibly quick recoveries. However, with such a big controversy around this update, what we need to dwell on more are case studies and analyses in order to have the best understanding of the latest Penguin phenomenon.


Penguin 4.0 Recoveries


As (we hope) you’re already used to, at cognitiveSEO we are highly interested in research but not just for the sake of it, but with the purpose of understanding. The Penguin 4.0 update is in our sights now and this is why we’ve run some analysis to see what the algorithm is bringing new to the table.  Therefore, grab a cup of coffee and take a look at these fresh new findings.



1. After 3 Years of Almost No Traffic Penguin 4.0 Brought a 370% Traffic Boost


SmartFares ( is a travel reservation service activating on the market since 2006, specialized in providing affordable travelling fares available in the marketplace. Nothing unheard so far. Yet, what is special about this website, and the reason we are looking into it,  is that their rankings “rise and fall”.

smartfares recovery



As we take a look at the screenshot above, we can easily spot some high Google updates activity, but 2 of these updates will probably remain in the history of this website. The first algorithm update that impacted is the Penguin 2.0, somewhere around October 2013. They had a big drop then and it seems that they have never recovered ever since. Until this fall.

The Penguin 4.0 brought the highest visibility from 2013 until now.

The harvest season came with good news for this travelling website as in the same October, 3 years later from the Penguin penalty, they had the biggest increase in visibility from 2013 until now. Maybe Penguin 4.0 really is “the nicest update” as Google representatives mentioned, at least for these guys.



As we take a look at the “winning keywords” for them, we spot some impressive ranking position increases. What is even more interesting is that all these increases are affecting highly commercial keywords: 77 positions up for “cheap rental cars” or  82 positions up for “last minute airfaire”. Highly commercial keywords are being propelled at the very top. Which made us really curious on how the’ link profile looks like.


It’s really difficult to try making anything, without having the proper tools at your disposal. Even if we’re talking about a dog cage, repairing a bicycle or making an in-depth research on digital marketing, when having the proper means at our disposal, things get easier.  In our case, having the possibility to run an automated unnatural link detection on any website we wanted, along with checking their Search Visibility, made this analysis possible.


After we ran the unnatural link detection, we were not surprised to see that more than 50% of their total links are unnatural. And when taking a closer look at their unnatural links, we notice that it’s mostly about links placed in short paragraph of text, web directories, group of links, domains with no authority and thin content, etc.


smartfares cognitiveSEO unnatural links



In this context, the obvious question pops out:

Why did Penguin 4.0 recover a website with such a high unnatural profile?


smartfares unnatural navigator cognitiveSEO


What most likely happened is that have submitted a disavow sometimes in the past. They were down for three whole years now and they were suddenly recovered.


Our supposition is that even if their unnatural links are still live, they must have submitted a disavow and Google simply doesn’t take those links into consideration when ranking this website. Their unnatural links are still live but they simply don’t count in the ranking algorithm.

We do not think that Penguin 4.0 is in a Thanksgiving mood, recovering sites that haven’t made sustained recovery efforts.

Therefore, what Penguin Real Time made for these guys was to rank them and boost them up according to their OK links only. It’s a great recovery for and an interesting case study for all of us to look at.

smarfares OK links cognitiveSEO


2. Impressive Penguin 4.0 Recovery for a Big Online Store

There is a quote of the novelist Robert Ferro I particularly like in the present context; it goes like this: The key to life was rearranging the furniture., as its name states, is a furniture store that got recently “rearranged”, but not in the typical way of moving the sofa near the window and the coffee table in its place.

The sort of rearrangement this website got came from Google Penguin 4.0 that boosted this website’s ranks after a penalty that occurred back in 2013.



And if you think that the search visibility increase is not that high when looking at a 5 year chart, when taking a pek at a micro level, we can see that’s visibility has an impressive spike after the latest Google update.


lafurniturestore 1 year visibility


Also, when looking at their top ranking keywords, we ca see that they’re doing pretty well for highly competitive keywords. With seven keywords ranking number one, of which there are keywords with high search volume and traffic index, it seems like is back in the business after almost three years of absence.


lafurniturestore top ranking keywords


However, when looking at their link profile unnaturalness, we encounter the same unnatural link patter that we did for the example above with

High number of unnatural links, high number of commercial keywords and most of the links being placed in web directories, short paragraphs of text and group of links.

Just like before, our supposition is that submitted a disavow file in the past and now, with the newest update, they are enjoying the fruits of their labor.


lafurniturestore Unnatural Links cognitiveSEO


3. A 320% Increase in Traffic for a Penalized Auto Related Site, a business headquartered in California that has sold car parts for over 20 years, seems to have experience not only in sales but also when it comes to Google Penalties. Being hit by a Penguin 2.0, the new real time update brought good news for them this fall, as they are having the biggest rank boost since their 2013 penalty.

They seem to have had some rankings fluctuations in the past due to some other algorithm updates, yet, none of them was so significant as the boost brought by the Penguin 4.0 update.


4. Penguin 2.0 Penalty Removed by Penguin 4.0 – Huge Traffic Recovery


The French website,  an online appliances store, seems to be enjoying a great boost in rankings due to the latest Google update.


proxiconfort penguin 4.0 recovery



Yet, even if their link profile doesn’t seem to be the most natural one, with lots of links being placed in web directories or group of links, the French appliance website seem to benefit from the Penguin Real Time update.

As in the previous cases, it’s very likely that this website might have submitted a disavow file and Google now ranks the website based on the natural links only, ignoring the unnatural links even if they are still live.

proxyconfort link profile


5. Penguin 4.0 Recovery for a Website Penalized 4 Years Ago


As we’ve analyzed websites coming from such a variety of domains and countries,, a Polish business specialized in selling car parts, reached our analysis due to the Penguin 4.0 recovery they recently benefited from. had a penalty back in 2012 and since then, the site never returned to its glory until this month.

It seems that the Penguin 4.0 had a big impact on this website, giving it its ranks back, after more than four years.


6. Pharmacy Website Got Huge Traffic Boost After Penguin 4.0


There have been some debates in the past whether Google Penguin impacts only English queries or not. Websites penalties regardless of the language there are in, have put an end to these debates. With the newest Penguin update on the table, we took a look into some German websites to see whether the real time algorithm has influenced in any ways their rankings.


As we look at the’s search visibility we can easily see that the Penguin 4.0 recovered this website from a penalty that hit them more than 3 years ago.



If from our previous analysis we figured that out, even if the recoveries occurred, the websites still had a lot of unnatural links live, in this case, it seems that managed somehow to remove the links that might have attracted their penalty. Their link profile, with a few exceptions, is looking quite natural, with around 90% of the total links being OK. 

omp=apotheke unnatural cognitiveSEO


7. German Online Casino – Huge Visibility Increase Due to Penguin 4.0


Have you ever wondered if the doubling strategy at roulette now works? Or whether you can beat the Blackjack dealer with the method of card counting? No worries, we haven’t reoriented our filed of interest, we were just quoting some of the questions placed on the online casino, a website taken into consideration for our Penguin 4.0 Recoveries case study.

After a Penguin update hit them a couple of years ago, it seems that the real time Google update brought some real added value to their business, boosting their rankings.


8. Impressive Penguin 4.0 Recovery for an Online Furniture Shop is an online furniture shop that is facing a great recovery after a three year penalty.


There are still a lot of aspects to investigate when it comes to Penguin 4.0. Yet, we are glad that we can share such analysis with you, case studies from which all of us can learn a lot.

As for the future, our task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.

And this is why, come what may, in order to prevent any penalty, you need the right tool to help you:

  • Know how your link profile looks like, as well as your competitors’
  • Get rid or Disavow your Unnatural links as they appear
  • Regularly monitor your backlink profile
  • Be alerted as you as unnatural link activity is spotted within your website.


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