Anyone involved with search engine optimization understands the need to adapt to changes. With over 200 signals involved in the Google algorithm, small changes can happen on a day-to-day basis. On occasion, though, major changes will happen, adjusting the way site owners operate their SEO campaigns. The new Penguin 4.0 update is one of these significant shifts, with Penguin now becoming part of the core algorithm.
What is Penguin?
The first Penguin update occurred in 2012, aimed at tackling spam and linking methods that breached their webmaster guidelines. The goal was to improve the quality of search results by removing sites that achieved rankings through negative link building schemes. Undesirable tactics could include automated link building, doorway pages, comment spam, and any other manipulative practices. Google added a method to report spam sites, while later introducing the Disavow Tool to have unwanted links removed from your backlink profile.
What Are the New Updates?
Penguin 4.0 is a significant update as it now works in real time. Previously, Penguin would refresh at scheduled times, so a site owner could make improvements to their website, but then have to wait for an update before their rankings recovered. With the new update, changes can occur immediately after sites are crawled. This will be a benefit for many sites as they can recover from issues far quicker. However, it also means you might incur a penalty before you have even noticed a problem in your backlink profile. With this move to real-time updating, Google will not be announcing future changes to Penguin.
The other change is to make Penguin more granular. While Google have not given much detail about the impact of this measure, they do suggest it will lessen the influence of spam on an entire site, with spam signals being used to provide a finer adjustment to rankings. Potentially, this could mean that Penguin is better equipped to deal with spam links directed at individual pages, avoiding a broader sitewide penalty.
Can I Still Use the Disavow Tool?
The disavow tool is still available, so you can request backlinks are not counted through webmaster tools. The first option, though, should be to request the linking sites remove any unwanted backlinks first. The difference with the Penguin 4.0 update is that changes should take place far quicker than in the past. Disavowing links is not something to ignore, with the potential for damaging results if spam sites start linking to you in great number.
How Will This Impact My Site?
Updating in real time means unnatural links could impact your site, or a competitor, far quicker, so you might notice changes to rankings before you realize what is happening. However, you can also fix any problems and see the changes sooner than in previous versions of Penguin. While the granular changes will likely have an impact on individual pages receiving spam links, the level of impact is still unclear. For all site owners, though, the important thing is to try to earn quality links, while also monitoring your backlink profile for any suspicious activity.
Penguin 4.0 is an important change, but shouldn’t really impact the best SEO practices you will have been following. Many sites will find the refresh will alter their rankings, both positively and negatively, but future results won’t have the same kind of waiting time involved. As has been the case for a while, site owners need to focus on gaining quality links, while also monitoring backlinks for unwanted links to disavow. There will undoubtedly be more algorithm changes to come, but solid content creation and promotion will ensure you avoid most of the problems created by spam linking.