Cillian Bracken Conway
18th Nov, 2015

The holidays are fast approaching, and businesses are hard at work coming up with ideal marketing strategies for the busiest time of the year. But now, it seems that consumer demands and industry competitors are not the only things they have to watch out for this season. They will also have to deal with a whole new penguin update.

Penguin 4.0 to Come Later this Year

Last month, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes announced on Twitter that the company is planning to release a new Penguin update before the end of this year. His tweet confirmed long-running speculation among online marketers about yet another revamp to the well-known algorithm.

Gary Illyes tweets confirmation of new Penguin update later this year.

Gary Illyes tweets confirmation of new Penguin update later this year.

The Penguin Update, originally rolled out in April 2012, was designed in an effort to fight spam link strategies. Its main mission was to monitor and maintain the quality of the links in a website. At that time, spammy links were so prevalent, and the release of the update caused major changes in the digital marketing industry. Websites that were employing black-hat practices were removed from search results and received several penalties. However, for websites that follow Google’s guidelines and use good online marketing strategies, their search rankings are expected to improve, with higher chances of increased site traffic. Several improvements have been done to the Penguin update over the past three years, and every time it’s rolled out, significant changes happen to Google’s search engine results.

What’s New with Penguin 4.0

There’s a lot of speculation as to what changes and improvements Google has placed into this new version of Penguin. But one thing is quite certain; the company aims to make it a real-time algorithm update. This means that it will always be “on” and crawling websites. If Google finds that a spammy link on a website is disavowed or removed, the algorithm will process it right away and send webmasters information on how to fix the issue.

This way, website owners, businesses, and advertisers will be able to quickly recover from any penalties Penguin might give. On the other hand, this could also mean that websites would end up with a penalty just as fast.

It’s interesting to note that even though Google has been adamant in saying that spammy links and other black-hat online marketing practices don’t really affect search results anymore, they are still coming up with new ways to combat such tactics. Perhaps this is because they know people who want to cheat the system will always exist. But at least, Google is making it even harder for black-hat advertisers to top search results and succeed.

Preparing for Penguin 4.0 and the Holiday Season

While there is no definite date yet on when the new Penguin update will be released, we can assume that it will happen very soon. After all, it’s barely two months before the year ends, and Google has already confirmed that we will see the update before 2015 ends. The question now is: how can you make sure your business is prepared for this update while you are busy getting ready for the holiday shopping rush?

  • Review your link profile
    Re-checking and cleaning up your link profile may not be your top priority at the moment, especially in the middle of all your holiday promotions, but it is something you need to invest time in now. Check all the links in your site and see if they are of high quality. Disavow any links you find that are even just a little suspicious to avoid being slapped with a penalty for spam when Penguin 4.0 finally drops.
  • Improve your anchor texts
    Making sure your anchor texts do not contain exact-match keywords is extremely important as well. This may be the oldest tip in the book, but you might be surprised at how many advertisers forget to re-check this part of their links. The most ideal anchor texts are those that look natural and have aptly distributed keywords. Another tip is to ensure that you have different kinds of external link formats. Vary them by URL, long-tail keywords, brand, and non-descriptive keywords.
  • Improve your internal links
    Once you’re done with external links, it’s time you focus on internal links. These may not directly impact your search rankings, but Penguin updates typically focus a lot of attention on them so it’s just logical to optimise them, too. This time it’s easier since you have the most control over them. When improving links within your website, make sure you connect related pages together. This will not only improve the quality of your links, but also enhance the browsing experience of your users. Go for varied anchor texts. Opt for non-descriptive text over exact-match keywords. Make sure you maintain a hierarchy of the links as much as possible.
  • Look for unusual changes in your backlinks
    Another thing to keep in mind when you’re looking through your backlink profile is to check for any unusual changes. These may be characterised by abrupt spikes in your line graph as well as by having more-than-usual referring pages. These sudden changes may look unnatural and will most likely catch Google’s eye. If the links are indeed spammy, you might get a penalty. If you find these suspicious and unnatural links, be sure to disavow them immediately.

While all of the strategies mentioned above can be done manually, there are a few tools that can save you the hassle. Deep Crawl and Screaming Frog are just two among the hundreds of useful apps out there that are designed to help digital marketers ensure the quality of links and protect you from Penguin 4.0 penalties.