With huge Google algorithm updates, come fantastic rumours and panicky clients. I decided to cut through the clutter and do a post about the good and bad news for SMB’s after the release for Penguin 4.0. We’ve had a bit of time now to see the effects in play and spot the opportunities you can take advantage of.
Let’s start with a brief background. The Penguin algorithm first saw light in April 2012. Websites that had acquired links in an unnatural way, thus giving them an advantage in search rankings, finally met their match. Following Penguin’s roll-out, these websites lost their rankings as a result of Google penalties. Webmasters who thought they had rigged the game to their advantage had no choice but live with the fact that Google had gotten smarter.
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) October 2, 2016
Just beginning this September, with the Penguin 4.0 update, the bad link-busting algorithm is officially a part of the core algorithm. So every time Google crawls and indexes your website, Penguin does its work too. Before this, Penguin got a periodic refresh, with webmasters not knowing when their Google penalties would be lifted. They were basically left in limbo, with websites that lost organic SEO traffic overnight, costing website owners tons of revenue.
One crawl or index, and Google would know if something unnatural or spammy was going on with your links.
Now, Penguin 4.0 is real-time. With every crawl or index, Google knows if something unnatural or spammy is going on with your links. Can you spot the opportunity here?
One more difference is the “granular” fashion with which Google now devalues spam. Where Penguin used to penalize entire websites for spamming, the real-time version looks at specific pages where the bad links are going. This brings both good and bad news.
The good news
- As this update affects all websites, the implications are fair for everyone; competitors and partners alike.
- Changes to your link profile will have an instant effect. I think some testing is in order.
- This update separated the boys from the men. If you got hit by the update, your SEO provider was using grey or black hat tactics. Recovery will be easy if your SEO provider knows what they are doing, so pay close attention.
- Its granular nature means if a particular page in your site gets hit, the rest of the website is unaffected. You just have to work on the penalized page to get back up in the organic rankings.
The bad news
- Going back to the Penguin 4.0 algorithm’s granular nature, you may not immediately find out what’s wrong with the page that got hit. These are micro-penalties which, by their very nature, are harder to find — it’s like that needle in a haystack. Any of the various subdomains and subdivisions of your website can get penalized. Again, it’s about separating the men from the boys here – a good SEO specialist will know what to do here.
- Recovery is quick, which means getting hit by a penalty can also happen quickly. Tread slowly as your SEO decisions could change your business overnight.
- You’ll have to monitor your backlinks more religiously now. This means whatever little rest you were getting pre-Penguin 4.0 is now gone. Add this to your list of to dos every day.
But, let’s not put the bad news at the forefront of this change. Here’s a quick video on how Google Penguin recoveries are rolling:
Capitalize on the opportunities
There are ways to remain positive in this era of the real-time Penguin. Here are some ways to keep and increase your rankings:
- Monitor your search positions constantly. Email alerts on position changes should be in order. Monitor keyword rankings and do a comparison. Find out whether there are keywords in all of your significant subdivisions that are experiencing sudden drops, and have your webmaster investigate these drops. When you earn new links to you site, monitor the effects on your rankings so you can start making a list of link strategies that work.
- Update your backlinks. This is the time to be vigilant with your links. Regularly perform a clean-up. A lot of people in the SEO community are asking whether the disavow tool is still worth its juice. While some may argue that using the disavow tool may not appear to make much sense anymore, it does not hurt to still use it. For example, if you’re having trouble identifying where the spam is coming from, or it looks like the work of a bot and you can’t immediately figure out how to stop it, the disavow tool is your best friend. What matters is you update your disavow file regularly.
- Audit your entire website for bad links. This means going deeper under the hood. Every subdivision, every subdomain, every language version of your website, everything—they all need some backlink auditing. Some of the tools you can use are AHREF, Majestic, and Open Site Explorer.
As long as you stay prepared and vigilant, and avoid techniques geared towards spamming search results, you shouldn’t have too many issues with the Penguin 4.0 update. In many ways, this is all positive, because Google is making it difficult for shady SEO techniques to gain any real traction. After all, the best part of using the internet for business is its power to level the field for all players.