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Penguin 4.0: To Disavow or Not to Disavow? That is the Question.

May

By Dustin Williams

Last September, Google officially announced that an update to their Penguin algorithm was being rolled out. This update, known as Penguin 4.0, was highly anticipated by search engine optimization (SEO) professionals. Many SEO experts—especially those who were tired of penalties and seeing low-quality sites ranking through manipulative linking strategies—were excited by the update. Those who were gaming the search engine with shady linking tactics, however, had much to be fearful about. Despite concerns, SEO professionals generally looked forward to this update because Google had indicated it would make Penguin part of their regular algorithm, which updates in real time.

How Google’s Algorithm Updates Impact Your Website

Since the first launch of the Penguin algorithm, webmasters have been paying more attention to what kinds of links are pointing to their website. One of the pieces of the Penguin algorithm is evaluating links based on certain metrics and penalizing websites with a high percentage of low-quality or irrelevant links. The penalty is a punishment from Google for suspicion of manipulative link building practices, which violate their guidelines. While this effectively punished those websites involved in shady link building practices, it also presented an opportunity for SEO specialists to engage in negative SEO to get competitors’ websites removed from search results.

With Google penalizing sites for low-quality links, and negative SEO a real option for those who practice black hat SEO strategies, webmasters now needed to do the following:

1. Continually monitor and evaluate the links pointing to their website.

2. Regularly update and submit a link disavow file to report and devalue low-quality links pointing to their website.

It also became good practice to make sure alerts from Google Search Console were received whenever a manual action was taken against the website.

The launch of Penguin 4.0 changed these approaches in a couple of ways.

1. The 4.0 update moved Penguin into part of Google’s real-time algorithm, which continually updates throughout the day. This means webpages are evaluated by Penguin every time Google crawls and re-indexes any page of the website. Those pages can then be subject to ranking improvements or penalties based on the factors Penguin evaluates. This also means that webmasters don’t have to wait for another algorithm update to be pushed out to see penalties lifted and rankings restored.

2. Penguin 4.0 is more granular, evaluating links on a page-by-page basis and devaluing links to individual pages, rather than penalizing the whole website. It is important to note here that the algorithm used to penalize websites calculates based on the quality of links pointing to a site. Now Google “managed to devalue spam instead of demoting” said Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, in an interview with Barry Schwartz, News Editor at Search Engine Land. This means that Google devalues the questionable link instead of demoting the page (or website) being linked to.

Disavowing Links

Does this now mean that it isn’t important to monitor and submit low-quality links to be disavowed by Google? Not necessarily. “For Penguin specifically there’s less need, but if you see the crap, you can help us help you by using it,” said Illyes. “Manual are still there, so if we see that someone is systematically trying to spam, the manual actions team might take a harsher action against the site,” added Illyes.

Penguin 4.0 once again changes the approach to monitoring who’s linking to your website. It’s no longer as critical to the health of a website to disavow low-quality links, but it is still important to be aware of who’s linking to you. If low-quality links are pointing to your website, submitting them to Google to be disavowed helps them become aware of possible low-quality websites to remove from their index.

Need help monitoring your website or getting your brand discovered online? Contact the SEO experts at FORTHGEAR today for a free consultation!

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