Four years ago, Google made waves when it rolled out its Penguin update.
Before that, marketers were going wild getting links to their site trying to raise their position in the SERPs. Some were even paying for links and getting results.
But Google put a stop to all that with Penguin, the algorithm update that cracked down on spammy links and over optimization with linking.
Site owners had to scramble to clean up their link profiles, either asking low-quality sites to remove their links or changing up the anchor text used on their links.
Some were able to recover, and some took a permanent hit to their page rank.
Over the years, Google released updates to Penguin that refined linking strategies and aimed to improve the quality of sites. In 2015, Google promised a new update “soon,” but nothing materialized until now.
Here’s what we know about the new Penguin update and how it might affect your site:
Changes are Made in Real Time
In the past, sites that were penalized by the Penguin algorithm changes had to wait until a new update was released before they could recover their rank.
That could have been months or more than a year to wait.
Now, the new Penguin makes changes to site profiles in real time. Therefore, if you make changes to fix the issues that caused your penalty, you will be able to recover much more quickly.
In general, the next time that Google crawls and indexes your site, you will get a more favorable review if you have made the desired changes.
Individual Pages can be Impacted
The Penguin updates have always impacted a site as a whole – until now. If portions of the site incurred some penalties, the whole site was demoted in search.
The new Penguin takes a more individual approach. If a specific page is causing the problems, only that page will be demoted, not the whole site.
Sections of the site can also be impacted without bringing down the whole site.
This can be problematic, of course, since you can easily rank for pieces of viral or influential content. However, it is good news for many since older content or specific sections (like a links page or resources section) would be the areas of the site most vulnerable to penalties.
If a page or section of your site is flagged by the update, you can take that as a sign that you need to make some changes and review the rest of your site to prevent any further penalties. Basically, you should consider it a warning and a call to clean up your SEO.
You Don’t Have to Disavow Links
Many marketers emailed site owners to remove links or change anchor text to deal with Penguin penalties in the past. If they were unable to get these changes made, they could submit a report to Google disavowing specific links so that they would not bring down the site.
With the latest update, marketers do not have to disavow links in order to avoid these consequences.
Instead of demoting the site, the new Penguin just devalues these links. That means that they do not help the site, but they also do not hurt the site.
You may still need to use the disavow option if your site is under manual review, but you won’t need to use it to deal with all issues flagged by Penguin.
Links are Now Labeled
Sections of your site have always been distinguished by Google. But the new update shows that Google has clear labels for these sections and attaches them to your links.
For example, your links might be labeled as belonging to the footer, to a category or to the main navigation bar.
The placement of your links will give them more or less value. Therefore, a link that sits in your navigation bar will likely have more weight than one that appears in the sidebar.
The more weight a link has, the more important its value will be. If the link is in a prime placement but is of poor quality, it will be a missed opportunity taking up prime real estate on your site.
There’s not much you can do about the labeling of your links. However, being aware of how Google looks at the placement of your links can give you pause to be sure you are getting the best quality links in the best locations on your site.
Ultimately, the latest Google update isn’t likely to make a big splash for most site owners. You should have already implemented changes in response to the original Penguin, so you should be riding out this newest update without any issues. However, if you haven’t made changes, now is the time to make sure your site is in order.