When Penguin 3.0 was introduced – many webmasters were seeing their hardly won SEO gains fall completely off the radar and the reason for this was that Google had started demoting sites based on the quality of links that were pointing to them.
Basically, if you had hired the services of a somewhat less-than-ethical SEO firm who promised to get your site to the first page of the organic listings by means of a vast link building campaign – which in turn used links from spammy websites in an attempt to boost your positions – Penguin 3.0 would severely punish you!
In order to fix the damage, a webmaster would then need to work out which links had been placed on low quality websites and then go about removing them manually – before placing any spam links which could not be removed manually (lost login details, etc.) into a Disavow File which would then be sent to Google for further analysis.
With Penguin 4.0, rather than demote a site for low quality links, the algorithm simply devalues bad links instead. This means that any good links are still used to calculate PageRank – with Spam links being automatically ignored / assigned zero value.
Of course, if you have been served any penalties for a particular link – then it will still need to be removed manually – but it now seems that the vast majority of spam links will no longer need to be disavowed – which makes life much easier all round for everyone.
When questioned about the difference between Penguin demoting a site and devaluing its links, Gary Illyes had the following to say:
“Traditionally, web spam algorithms demoted whole sites. With this one we managed to devalue spam instead of demoting AND it’s also more granular AND it’s real-time. Once the rollout is complete, I strongly believe many people will be happier, and that makes me happy”
Gary was then asked whether or not the disavow file was still necessary, to which he replied:
“For penguin specifically there’s less need, yes, but if you see the crap, you can help us help you by using it. Also, manual actions are still there, so if we see that someone is systematically trying to spam, the manual actions team might take a harsher action against the site.”
All in all, it seems that Penguin 4.0 is a great step forward which requires much less interaction than its predecessors for those trying to rectify any ranking penalties.