The new Penguin 4.0 update was significant. That is inarguable. What do you have to do in order to make the most of this update from a SEO standpoint? Simply put? Not a whole lot.
Originally announced in Spring of 2012, it was stated this new algorithm update, which was designed to battle web spam, would impact as much as three percent of all queries. The official explanation stated this algorithm targeted web spam as a generality, however, since the biggest losses were from those who engaged in manipulating link schemes, the algorithm punished sites with bad link profiles as opposed to assisting in the filtering of spam.
More recently, we have seen the frustration on the part of the website owners who were penalized after waiting more than a year to update. After all of this adversity, Penguin 4.0 was released. The entire SEO community knew the new update demoted sites with bad links and it wasn’t until the next update that an affected site could recover.
The expected outcome was clear: a site would suffer a penalty, the website owner would have to send requests to have offending links removed, those which could not be removed would be disavowed, and then one would have to wait. This process got more complicated with the new update, not because the algorithm became more complex, but because the people at Google became much more confusing.
There were only a few expected major changes expected with this update. The first would be that Penguin would run in real time. Webmasters would no longer have to wait for the next update to see results of their improvement efforts, instead, changes would be evident much more quickly. It is also more granular, meaning is can now impact sections of a site or individual pages within the site in addition to the domain as a whole. Pretty straight forward, however, when the folks at Google began giving advice and adding details to this update, it became more complicated.
Disavow files is one of the largest culprits of this confusion. Based on statements from Google’s Gary Illyes, a disavow file would no longer be required when dealing with Penguin-related ranking issues. This was due to a change in how the program deals with bad links: it now devalues the links themselves rather than demoting the site they’re linking to. This is good since it will devalue those which would bring your site down in rankings. Statements from Illyes on Twitter has countered these features and then countered again, making it practically impossible to keep the facts of the update straight.
In a podcast done by Illyes on Marketing Land, it is explained that under Penguin, it isn’t the target site of the link that matters, it is the link’s source. This does not include the links themselves, but other signals a page send to indicate that it’s likely spam. In other words, when you are judging inbound links, be sure to look at the source page and domain of those links.
There is one new side to this update. Google has replaced a previous link weighting system with a labeling system. It appears that where previous content as a whole may have been placed under an umbrella, now a link is given one or multiple labels.
Penalties with 4.0 are handled differently, as well. While the main focus is to avoid penalties, Penguin does not impose or require trust delay in recovery. Once you fix the problem and your site is recrawled, you’ll bounce back.
The ultimate takeaway from this new upgrade is simply this: The more things change, the more they stay the same. The majority of the changes made do not directly affect how you as a user run your SEO through Penguin, but the changes made ultimately affect the process positively.
Image By Ben Tubby (IMGP8815) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons