Back in 2015, I wrote a post on how you should prepare for Google’s upcoming real-time algorithm update. Almost a year later, on September 23rd, Google officially released Penguin 4.0, a real-time algorithm update that targets link spam, rolled out to all languages.

With the launch of the algorithm update, Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analysts at Google, stated that Penguin is just one of more than 200 signals Google uses to determine ranking for websites. While this may be true, links are still considered to be one of the most weighted factors in the ranking of websites on Google’s search engine results page (SERPs).

So, being that links are still important to the success of your website on Google, and low-quality links are still being targeted within Google’s core algorithm, link building (or removing) should be a top priority for SEOs, even after the rollout of Penguin 4.0.

What We Know About Penguin 4.0

Penguin 4.0 operates as part of Google’s core algorithm, still targeting link spam. What sets this update apart from the other Penguin versions is that it runs in real-time. This means the effect of Penguin is refreshed in the SERPs as Google re-crawls and re-indexes a page. However, this means that future Penguin updates will not be announced.

Another important component of Penguin is that penalties will now theoretically target specific pages instead of devaluing the ranking of the entire site. The algorithm will now weigh each link individually to limit the impact on spam links.

Link Building Post-Penguin 4.0

Since the initial release of Penguin back in 2012, the SEO world went into a panic regarding links. There was much speculation on what was considered a “bad link” or what was the permissible ratio of branded vs non-branded anchor text. In a sense, link building got flipped on its head and there was not much solidity on the matter.

Jump forward to 2016, SEOs have had a chance to perform tests and reveal some solid cases that provide more insight on links for what is working and what can cause harm to a website. Below are some link strategies that can positively impact your site post-Penguin.

Disavow Bad Links

Whether you had previously built spam links to your site or hired an SEO agency that may have executed on this practice, it won’t hurt to evaluate your backlink profile. Link explorers like Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, etc. can help you get a bigger picture of the backlinks to your site. Each link should be evaluated to determine if it is negatively impacting your site.

Some of the evaluation can be automated, but applying some manual effort will help you scrub the bad links without losing the valuable links. After you have compiled a list of spam links, you can upload these to Google’s Disavow Tool.

Target Industry-Related Blogs/Sites/Directories

While you should still be cautious when acquiring new links, obtaining a link from an industry-related site can be very impactful to your backlink profile. These links are very relevant to your website and show Google that you are involved and an authority in your niche community.

Since these links are relevant, webmasters from the industry-related sites may be more willing to include your site on a resource page or accept an article contribution from your company.

Share the Link Love

Contrary to popular belief, linking out to other sites does not leak link equity from your site. In fact, you can leverage this tactic to do email outreach to let the source know you mentioned them in your post for a possible reciprocal link in a future post of theirs or even a share on their social media profiles.

This strategy can work really well if you included a link to a source on one of your guest posts from an authoritative site.

Moderate Exact-Match Keyword Anchor Text

The proportions of link anchor text for branded and exact-match targeted keywords has been highly debated. The first Penguin algorithm update penalized sites with over-optimized anchor text causing SEOs to stray from using any kind of exact-match keywords.

If a majority of the anchor text in your backlink profile is exact-match keywords, this can be harmful. However, there is a need to have some of these target keywords in your backlink anchor text. If it is possible to choose the anchor text on your link, consider using target keywords within reason.

Affiliate Links Are Your Friend

Being a business of any size, you probably have vendors that you work with or whose service you utilize. As a satisfied customer of your vendor, you can leverage your relationship to ask if you can submit a testimonial for their product or service.

You can include your brand name and a potential link to your site in a testimonial. Again, it is important to evaluate the site you are targeting to make sure there are no Penguin-related penalties affecting the site that could impact yours.

Penguin 4.0 is a great opportunity for webmasters to see faster positive results by cleaning up backlink profiles and building more quality links. While quality link building today can be a lengthier process, it is a task that needs to be implemented in your digital marketing strategy to improve your SEO.


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