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Google has recently updated its search ranking algorithm.

Updates are nothing new of course. Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm to deliver better and more relevant results for its users. In fact, the search giant is said to change its algorithm hundreds of times per year with the occasional major update.

So what makes the latest Penguin update particularly important? And how does it affect businesses that rely on search engine traffic?

Here we answer these questions in more detail by taking an in-depth look at the latest algorithm update.

What is Penguin?

Ranking for competitive keywords is incredibly lucrative.

But the problem was that many webmasters were gaming the system by engaging in manipulative practices to boost their rankings. Some of these tactics included:

  • Building low quality links using automated software
  • Buying links from questionable link networks
  • Engaging in link exchanges from spammy sites
  • Building too many links with the same anchor text

As a result, spammy results were clogging the search results and even outranking more authoritative sites.

Google responded by releasing a new standalone algorithm update in 2012 called Penguin. The update aimed to penalise sites engaged in spammy link building practices by reducing their rankings. Some sites were even removed entirely from the search results.

Penguin was highly effective at reducing spam.

The problem though was that it operated on a periodic basis. So if your site was negatively affected, it would remain penalised until the next update ran which could take months or even longer. And that was also assuming you took steps to remove spammy links. Even then you would still need to wait for the next refresh.

But the latest update changes everything.

Penguin is Now Real-Time

Refreshes are a thing of the past.

Penguin is now part of the core algorithm and updates are made in real-time. Google made the following announcement in a blog post:

“…Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page.”

This means that pages are automatically assessed by the Penguin filter as they are recrawled and indexed. If your site was caught participating in various link schemes, you can expect to recover more quickly by removing the offending links. But the opposite is also true as building spammy links to your site will result in a penalty just as quickly.

Penguin Devalues Offending Pages

Previously, a Penguin penalty meant that the entire site would be affected even if only a single page was found to have spam. Google has indicated in its announcement that the update would be more granular:

“Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.”

The new change indicates that updates would be made on a more granular level (e.g. by page) instead of targeting the entire site. Offending pages with indications of spammy link building will be targeted with the latest update. But other pages may be left alone or updated accordingly.

So what do these changes ultimately mean for business owners?

The update makes it clear that Google remains as vigilant as ever in its goals: To deliver the highest quality results without any compromises. This means eliminating as much spam as possible while rewarding sites that provide value. Both of which the Penguin update tackles by processing in real-time.

Here we look at what to pay attention to moving forward.

Build Quality Links From Relevant Sources

Links still matter.

But where you get them matters even more.

A sudden influx of thousands of links to your newly built site raises a red flag, especially if all those links are from questionable sources. A single link from a relevant site in your industry carries far more weight than a ton of spammy links.

So how do you build quality links?

Here are several strategies that work:

  • Create engaging content: Quality content gets noticed and shared. B2B marketers that blog on a regular basis also generate 67% more leads than those that don’t. Aim to be a comprehensive resource in your industry to build credibility with your audience. And your content will attract quality links in the process.
  • Guest post on relevant sites: Guest posting is another effective strategy which involves submitting quality content to relevant sites in exchange for a link back. Matt Cutts may have previously said that guest posting was ineffective but what he was referring to was using spammy networks that accept any and all submissions. Guest posting is still very much alive and continues to be a great way to build quality links.
  • Build a following on social media: Facebook alone boasts over a billion active users. Other networks including Twitter and Google+ also have a considerable number of users. Building a following on these platforms undoubtedly requires a good deal of effort. But it can also help build quality links to your site, both from the platform itself and even from your followers as they discover your content.

Keep your link building efforts consistent and you can expect your rankings to rise in the process.

Monitor Your Link Profile and Remove Spammy Links
If you have noticed a drop in rankings, you may want to conduct a link audit.

There are a number of tools you can use to view inbound links to your site including:

Note that these are paid services but you can also see some of your links from Google Search Console. Once you identify spammy links, now what? The next step is to get them removed from your link profile.

There are two ways to do this:

  • Contact the webmaster directly and send a request for the link to be taken down
  • Use the Disavow tool to tell Google to ignore certain links to your pages

Even if your site still maintains a strong position in the search results, it is still a good idea to regularly audit your backlinks using the tools mentioned above. Then take steps to immediately remove any suspicious links from spammy sites.

The Penguin update is now part of the core ranking algorithm and it brings several new changes.

Unlike its predecessors, the update runs in real-time so removing spammy links should have a much quicker impact in terms of regaining rankings. And only offending pages are affected versus the entire site. The update makes it clear that SEO shortcuts no longer work. Moving forward, focus your efforts on building quality links to your pages and creating useful content for your audience.

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