Article

Nick Wiese
Nick Wiese 17 November 2016

To Disavow or Not To Disavow: What Penguin 4.0 Means For Your Business

Penguin 4.0 finally became a part of Google’s core algorithm on September 23rd. By and large, reactions to this newest version of Penguin have been much more positive than others in the past.

That’s because Penguin 4.0 has a real-time algorithm that is able to better differentiate between spammy links and spammy websites. In the past, webspam algorithms demoted entire sites because of a spammy link or two -- sometimes, through no fault of the site’s owner. To exacerbate everyone’s frustration, even when errors were fixed, companies would usually have to wait until the next update in order for their site rankings to improve.

But Google made a daring prediction with this newest Penguin update. Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, announced that Penguin 4.0 manages to just devalue spam without demoting entire websites. It’s also granular -- meaning that it’s much more detailed -- and it updates in real time. He also thinks people will be much happier with the results.

So what does this mean for you?

According to HubShout’s link disavow survey, around 35% of SEO experts submitted disavow files for their clients’ links in previous versions of Penguin. The majority of those link disavow files (44%) were submitted for clients whose rankings were impacted by prior Penguin updates. And although 56% of experts saw an improvement in ranking for their clients’ sites after submitting disavow files, 30% had to wait six months before that improvement started to take place.

Essentially, all of this means that Penguin 4.0 is much better at distinguishing between a weird, spammy link to your website and a website full of spammy content that’s possibly being used for an ulterior motive. Before, your site’s ranking may have been affected by a spammy link that directs to your site. Now, this newest version of Penguin won’t penalize your site for these links.

Does this mean you don’t have to disavow links anymore?

Yes and no. It’s true that there’s much less of a need to disavow links with this version. Penguin 4.0 is better at recognizing bad links and your site isn’t likely to receive a ranking demotion because of them. Illyes stated as much, but he also added that if webmasters find spammy links directing to their sites, they can still help Google by disavowing them.

However...

It’s interesting to note that, despite the fact Google has said there’s significantly less need to disavow links, 48% of survey respondents said that they will submit disavow files for Penguin 4.0. Though this strategy might seem to be counterintuitive, this may be due to the fact that the concept of disavowing may be more impactful now than in previous updates.

What do we mean by this?

Basically, in prior versions of Penguin, disavowing links seemed a bit ineffective. That’s because Google wasn’t very clear about how much of this data was actually used to reverse site demotions. Because recovering from a ranking demotion took a long time, even SEO experts weren’t sure how much disavowing was taken into account.

But now, updates to the algorithm happen in real time. So -- in theory -- submitting disavow files could yield a very fast result for a site that’s been impacted by a spammy link. Of course, Google has said that Penguin 4.0 is better at detecting these links in the first place and therefore won’t penalize sites nearly as much for them. But the main point is that disavowing certainly can’t hurt, and it’s probably much more effective with this newest update.

In conclusion…

With this newest update to the Penguin algorithm, you won’t have to worry as much about bad links resulting in a ranking demotion. But if you are experiencing ranking issues due to bad links, disavowing is much more effective than before. So if you find spammy links that direct to your website, you should still submit a disavow file for them.

Ultimately, you’ll probably find that Penguin 4.0 is a good thing for your business. Updates to the algorithm happen in real time now, so your company isn’t likely to experience a huge ranking drop as a result of an algorithm roll-out. Plus, you’ll have much better insight on how well your SEO is working for you.

Even though we had to wait two years for this update to happen, it’s one that was worth waiting for.

This article was written by Sammi Cohen, a premium writer for HubShout.

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