It has been a few weeks now since Google announced the introduction of Penguin 4.0. This latest version revolutionized how we all think about Penguin, as it now runs real-time as part of the core algorithm. This means that the filter will impact websites with poor link building strategies during a regular crawl. Similarly, websites that correct their errors and build quality backlinks will no longer be penalized once their website is crawled again. It the past, it could take months, or even years, for Google to re-run the filter. In our last post, we discussed how Google now limits the penalties to a more granular level. Rather than influencing the entire domain, Penguin 4.0 issues a more measured impact. In the weeks since the release of the latest version, more information has been uncovered about the filter and how it operates, helping us better understand Penguin 4.0.
Penguin devalues not demotes
Google has announced that Penguin 4.0 will adjust how they penalize sites. To understand Penguin 4.0, it is necessary to make a distinction between ‘demotes’ and ‘devalues’. To demote a web page, Google would lower the rankings of that site. Devaluing, on the other hand, refers to ignoring the attempts to artificially inflate ranking. The latest Penguin update focuses on devaluing. In other words, rather than sites receiving a direct penalty that lowers the position of their website, the low-quality links that attempt to boost the ranking are ignored. Since the site will now have fewer inbound links, its position may drop. So, it might seem like a direct penalty if the page rank drops.
Google uses link labels that users can check
Google has confirmed that the search engine uses link labels - a system of classifying links. These labels can vary, including ‘footer link’, ‘Penguin-impacted’ link, and “disavowed link”. A ‘footer’ link describes links in the footer of the page, thus not in the main body of the content. These do not carry as much importance. A ‘Penguin real time’ label indicates links penalized by the algorithm. Finally, a ‘disavow’ label indicates that the link is in a disavow file, meaning you've indicated to Google that you want their crawl to ignore the link. Links can have more than one label, which together determine the value of that particular link. Google then uses this calculated value to help rank sites. The Google manual actions team also uses these labels to guide them on when they should dive deeper into the content to determine whether there is a need for a manual action penalty. Gary Illyes also says that you can see these internal labels for the links and anchors.
So disavow is again, basically, just a label internally. It’s applied on the links and anchors. And then you can see that, as well. Basically, you could have like a link from, I don’t know, WhiteHouse.gov, and it has labels Penguin RT, footer and disavow. And then they would see that — they would know that someone or the webmaster or content owner is actively tackling those links.
This also demonstrates the value of using the disavow tool - it lets Google know that you work to fight webspam.
Google only checks the source site for link value
Most SEOs do understand that Google is mostly concerned about the source of poor links, rather than the destination, but there have been some rumors that Google also evaluates the target site. Google has confirmed that they only look at the source site. As Gary Illyes said in an interview with Barry Schwartz: “But it [Penguin] looks at different things on the source site, not on the target site, and then makes decisions based on those special signals.” This should help make site owners more confident as they link to other sites around the web.
Once they understand Penguin 4.0, how can brands move forward?
Penguin 4.0 was added to the core algorithm to improve Google's ability to filter out spam and provide users with high-quality websites. The key to succeeding with this filter, therefore, is to focus on creating links that benefit the end user. This means linking to relevant and valuable sites and cultivating links from other pages of similar caliber. The BrightEdge Platform has core capabilities to help you comply with this algorithm and link to relevant, high-quality sites. Our Backlink Checker suggests opportunities to request quality backlinks. You can also use it to evaluate your existing backlinks. Given what we now know about Google’s backlink labels, distancing yourself from any spammy sites by disavowing them can be very useful in the identification of webspam and poor quality sites. As we all work to understand Penguin 4.0 and the latest Google updates, BrightEdge will continue to look for insights to help you improve your own SEO strategy.