Link Building

To Disavow Links Or Not: Is It Necessary in a Post Real-Time Penguin World?

The more relevant sites linking to your domain, the better it is for your rankings, correct? But, what happens to your site when non-relevant (or worse, spam) ones decide to start linking to you instead? These irrelevant sites linking to you could end up pulling down your ranking, and you can get penalized by Google for it. To avoid this, Google gave an amazing solution to this problem via the Disavow Tool in October of 2012. With this, one could separate the good from the bad backlinks.

This is also one of the reasons the launch of Penguin 4.0 on September 23, 2016, was a welcome change among site owners everywhere. While it took quite some time for Google to finally release the update, many would agree that the wait was worth it. In a nutshell, Google released the Penguin update to detect spam automatically. More impressively, the Penguin 4.0 update runs in real time when it comes to recognizing your site cleanup efforts, thereby eliminating the effect of your site being suppressed up until the next time they run the algorithm. That is, Penguin 4.0 stops your site from getting demoted when a spam is detected. Instead, it will just devalue that link and allow you to move on without benefiting (or suffering) from its presence.

While this update is definitely impressive, a crucial question now comes up among site owners: Is it still necessary to disavow links now that we are in a post real-time Penguin era?

What is the Disavow Tool?

The Disavow Tool has long been regarded as a necessary precaution for every site owner. Basically, it gives publishers a voice to tell Google that there are external sites they do not wish to be associated with. This is especially crucial whenever the search engine giant is ranking websites since number and quality of backlinks are two of the factors considered.

What happens is that a site owner creates a file that indicates the URLs or domains they do not approve of backlinking to them, and this is then uploaded to Google. When Google starts to crawl the web and stumbles upon the specific URL or domain included in the disavow file you gave them, these will no longer be included in the calculations when ranking your website. Apart from that, the Penguin algorithm will also disregard the links when it evaluates whether or not you’ve been web spamming.

What is Penguin 4.0 and what does it do?

Google launched Penguin as a webspam algorithm. It does not just specialize in links or domains but evaluates your site’s participation in any web spamming activity. It is essentially a filter exhaustive enough to isolate sites that are engaged in spamming the search results using measures that are against Google’s policies. Penguin is more powerful than the regular spamming methods used by the search engine.

Consequently, sites deemed as “spammy” would be punished regardless of their remedies after their violations. It would only be until the next instance that the algorithm is run that Google would note the changes – a process that could have months in intervals.

The release of Penguin 4.0 completely changed this system.

With the latest update, the corrections and changes from “spammy” sites could be noted in real time. This means that sites tagged with faulty or bad backlinks or domains no longer have to suffer for months until the next time the algorithm is run. So during the regular recrawling and reindexing of pages by Google, the sites could easily and quickly be added or removed from the spam list because Penguin 4.0 provides real-time updates.

Whole websites would no longer be demoted when web spamming activities are detected. Instead of doing this, Google would simply disregard or devalue the spammy links and exclude them in the calculations for site rankings. Ultimately, this latest update eliminated the punitive aspect of the algorithm.

The Dilemma and Google’s Response to the Disavow Tool

With the release of the Penguin 4.0 update, many publishers feel that the Disavow Tool has become redundant. In the beginning, this tool was provided by Google to supplement Penguin. However, the devaluation abilities coupled with the non-demotion of sites caught web spamming push site owners to question the purpose of disavowing.

Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller says that site owners should disavow links when these are incredibly problematic. However, you can simply just not disavow links that are no longer relevant to your site. Mueller basically says that if you are conducting site maintenance or applying some changes to your site, then you no longer need to include disavowing links in your list of things to do. With the launch of Penguin 4.0, site owners would only need to use the Disavow Tool for pressing matters like spotting an alarming link or domain associating with your site.

You also no longer need to disavow for links associated with items or services you no longer offer. Mueller notes that it’s normal to accumulate backlinks from various sites that you may no longer deem relevant right now, but was appropriate to your company’s needs at the time. In short, site owners would only need to focus their disavowing efforts to problematic links and keep the status quo when it comes to previously relevant links.

The Takeaway

In the past years, the SEO landscape has changed considerably. With the release of the Penguin 4.0, disavowing links may have just turned into a thing of the past. However, it never hurts to be absolutely certain that nothing is hurting your rankings. So, disavow when needed, but trust that Penguin 4.0 has your back.

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