Last week, SearchEngineLand.com broke the news that Google’s Penguin – designed to identify and downgrade sites whose link building practices violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – has been updated to version 4.0 and is now operating on a real-time basis.
Google’s latest update means that Penguin will be more responsive to corrective actions (such as use of the Disavow Tool in Google Search Console). That’s a good thing.
This change will have a big impact on sites whose proprietors quickly correct the result of bad link building practices. In the past, weeks and months could elapse before such corrections were acknowledged by Penguin. As Google wrote on its Web Master Central Blog,
Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the internet, many of Google’s algorithms would take that into consideration very fast, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed. With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page.
Google also announced that Penguin’s operation would become more granular, with future ranking devaluation decisions to be “based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.”
How marketers should respond
Penguin 4.0’s only job is to detect “unnatural links” so it’s vital that marketers take a close and continual look at their inbound link profiles and take any steps required to disassociate themselves from suspect links. Such links are often acquired when a shady SEO agency cuts corners in the link building process (most often, by simply buying the links, often from overseas providers or domestic private blog networks), or – more controversially – when competitors resort to so-called “negative SEO” tactics, a practice intended to paint the target site as an illicit link builder.
Google’s latest update means that Penguin will be more responsive to corrective actions (such as use of the Disavow Tool in Google Search Console). That’s a good thing. Even better, the update may also result in making negative SEO campaigns – which remain popular among certain ethically challenged business people – less effective, because it will be easier for targeted sites to quickly clear their names with Google.
Are you Penguin-safe?
You need to ensure that Google doesn’t think you’re part of a Link Scheme.
Google has very clear guidelines about such schemes, intended to manipulate PageRank, in its Google Search Console help area. If you’re doing any of the following things, you are directly exposing yourself to Penguin’s anger:
1. Buying or selling “follow” links that “pass” or carry Page Rank
These (“follow”) links are often colloquially referred to as “hard links”. This prohibited practice includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links, exchanging goods or service for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”. These kinds of links are, by definition, “non-editorial” and must be “earned” by being “voted for” by 3rd party sites for reasons of pure merit alone.
(Penguin 4.0 isn’t the only mechanisms Google has at its disposal to hunt down paid links; in 2016, Google’s legions of human reviewers have targeted at influencer marketing schemes – often seen in the “Mom Blogger” marketing vertical — which function in similar fashion.)
2. Participating in reciprocal link exchanges
Once very popular on the Web, reciprocal link exchanges have morphed into “private blog networks” (PBNs) in which an individual or group of individuals controls a large number of “independent” domains that are a sham for a single business entity. Participating in such networks is risky and several such networks were delisted or deranked in the past several years. Unfortunately, PBN link building packages remain popular items on Black Hat SEO forum sites. Avoid these like the plague: while many promise “zero footprints,” the linking patterns produced by such relationships are easily detected and punished by Google.
3. Using large-scale rich anchor link campaigns
Overly verbose (and even “overly precise”) anchor links attract negative attention from Penguin 4.0, especially when they appear in very large numbers. Such distributions look (and are) “unnatural,” which means that using them will quickly make your site a target.
4. Using automated link-generation robots
You can easily find these tools by searching on “automated link generator.” Promising to “blast out” links at mega-scale, their patterns are easily detected by search engines. Don’t – under any circumstances – use this self-defeating SEO shortcut.
At the risk of repeating something that we’ve said hundreds of times on this blog, it’s essential that any SEO links acquired stand the test of time. SEO is a slog – a slow, upward climb that can take many months to achieve. Content marketers know that most articles they create will fail to attract high-value follow links, despite their best efforts to attract same.
While it pains many webmasters to hear this, gaining the kind of high-quality editorial links required to build genuine, long-term site credibility takes time, effort, and expense. For those that can’t wait – or can’t muster the resources to create linkworthy assets — PPC channels provide the best alternative.
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Source: Social Media Today