Sean Butcher

Preparing for Penguin 4.0 – Things You Should Do Before the Algorithm Update

Google Penguin

Penguin is an element of Google’s algorithm which was first launched in 2012. It was rolled out to combat the spammy practices that many websites were using to gain an advantage in Google’s search results; namely from spammy link building on low-quality and/or irrelevant sources.

Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes recently mentioned in a Twitter conversation that it’s highly likely we’ll see the next Penguin algorithm update before the end of this year. As we approach the end of November, it means that the newest instalment of Penguin is imminent.

A real-time Penguin update is likely

It’s been around a year since Google rolled out an update to its Penguin algorithm; a pain for many who are suffering from an algorithmic penalisation due to their past link building activity, and who have lost a lot of their traffic as a consequence.

Now it’s highly likely, given earlier confirmations from those at Google, that the next iteration of Penguin will run on real-time updates. This means that the algorithm will, potentially, be able to detect the presence of spammy backlinks almost immediately.

Why a real-time Penguin algorithm is a good thing

I believe real-time Penguin updates will be great for a couple of major reasons:

  • Websites will no longer need to wait for long periods of time to recover from an algorithmic penalty. Currently those who make the long, sometimes painful efforts to clean up their backlink profile need to wait for the next update, which can mean a year (or longer) with big losses in traffic and potentially business & revenue. Now these recoveries should be far quicker, perhaps almost immediate
  • A constantly updating Penguin algorithm will lead to cleaner link building practices and a focus on naturally acquired links, making Google and the web in general a better place for everyone

What can you do before Penguin 4.0 rolls out?

If you’re concerned about the effect that the upcoming Penguin algorithm update is going to have on your website, here are a number of things that we would recommend you do…

Make sure you anchor-text is natural

Spammy link building practices of old dictated that backlinks were more effective when the anchor text used the keyword that you wanted your website to rank for. However, best-practice would be to have a wide range of linking anchor text in your backlink profile, with a large percentage of this relating to your brand and/or URL.

This is now one of the key things that Penguin looks for when determining whether your backlink profile appears natural. It’s therefore important to gain an insight into whether your website is using too much anchor text if you want to minimise the risk of being penalised.

Using a tool such as Majestic allows you to access a list of all of your backlinks and the anchor text that is being used. You can then look to make changes where possible to achieve a more natural-looking backlink profile. It even gives you this word-cloud so you can easily visualise the terms being used to link to your website.

Torpedo word cloud

Remove links from spammy sites

Some websites are of such a low quality that it is potentially dangerous to keep them in your backlink profile. In this case, they are best removed completely.

Approaching the website directly is the recommended method if you are looking to get a link removed. Before submitting a Disavow file, Google suggests that you make every effort to get the links you no longer want to count towards your rankings removed manually. Where this is not possible, or the website is looking to take advantage of your situation (e.g. asking for payment), you can use the Disavow tool (which requires a Google account) to inform the search engine of your intentions, and can even submit evidence the prove your efforts to clean up the links.

A tool such as Moz’s Open Site Explorer can be used to assess the authority of the backlinks pointing at your website. If you are unsure of the difference between a good and a potentially harmful link, we can assess your backlink profile and make recommendations on which ones to remove and which ones to keep.

Focus on linking domains rather than linking pages

Another sign of a low-quality backlink profile is the number of backlinks relative to linking domains. This means that there should be a similar number of links to domains, as opposed to lots of links from few websites.

One practice commonly used in the past was to gain a sitewide link in a sidebar or footer from another website, meaning that a link to your website appeared on every single page. This then grew every time they published a new piece of content, which could result in hundreds, if not thousands of links from a single website.

Whilst this may be ok where the linking site is highly relevant and is linking to you to help it’s own users, it is important that each situation is assessed to determine whether the link could be deemed as unnatural by Google.

Take time to develop content worth linking to

It may sound obvious, but creating well-written, informative content is a far more effective way of acquiring the natural links that search engine algorithms love than the unethical, spammy practices that lead to the Penguin algorithm being launched by Google in the first place.

Therefore, it’s vital that you take time to create content that your users are looking for. Craft a variety of content that appeals to all stages of the buying cycle, whether that be blog posts, resources, industry news or highly informative product information. Also ensure that you invest enough effort in your content to develop your brand, and persuade users to return to your website as a source of information time and time again.

Stop any risky practices, right now!

With the next Penguin update highly likely to be one that runs in real-time, it’s now more important than ever to ensure that any link building practices that could be deemed risky and unnatural are stopped completely.

With Google potentially able to detect spammy links in a backlink profile immediately, the risks of an algorithmic penalisation are highly likely to hit soon after the untoward activity has been carried out.


If you’re worried about Google Penguin and would like an expert to evaluate your website’s backlink profile, contact Torpedo today.

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