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Link Spamming in the Age of Google Penguin 4.0 by @ChuckPrice518

by on August 14, 2017

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Some argue that link spam is booming due to the Google Penguin 4.0 release.

There seems to be a perception this iteration of Penguin is kinder and gentler to spammers.


This, in turn, has purportedly led to a link spam renaissance.

However, to fully understand the current algorithm, it’s helpful to understand the history of Penguin

The History of Google Penguin

Penguin, when first rolled out, was unlike any previous Google algorithm update. Introduced on April 24, 2012. It was designed to combat and demote websites engaged in link schemes.

Here’s how the Penguin algorithm has evolved:

  • Penguin 1 rolled out on April 24, 2012 (impacting around 3.1 percent of queries)
  • Penguin 2 rolled out on May 26, 2012 (impacting less than 0.1 percent of queries)
  • Penguin 3 rolled out on October 5, 2012 (impacting around 0.3 percent of queries)
  • Penguin 4 (AKA Penguin 2.0) rolled out on May 22, 2013 (impacting 2.3 percent of queries)
  • Penguin 5 (AKA Penguin 2.1) rolled out on October 4, 2013 (impacting around 1 percent of queries)
  • Penguin 6 (AKA Penguin 3.0) first rolled out on October 17, 2014 (impacting less than 1 percent English queries). On December 1, 2014 Google confirmed that the update was still rolling out with webmasters continuing to report significant fluctuations.
  • Penguin 7 (AKA Penguin 4.0), the latest version rolled out on September 23, 2016

The Original Google Penguin Algorithm

Google’s Penguin algorithm ran independently from the core algorithm prior to Penguin 4.0. It was the first time that Google placed a negative value on spammy links, rather than just ignoring them.

Penguin updates and refreshes were completely random. This created a huge problem for websites demoted by Penguin. Even after cleaning up link spam, little, if any, improvement ever occurred before an algorithm refresh.

The Google Penguin 4.0 Algorithm

Penguin 4.0 is now baked into the core Google algorithm.

Bad links are once again, for the most part, ignored, rather than assigned a negative value.

Because Penguin now runs in real time, it won’t take several months or even a year to recover.

The Net Effect

Because the latest Penguin algorithm runs in real time, one should, in theory, be able to determine pretty quickly if a particular link scheme is working.

Without the risk of adding negative value to a link profile, some webmasters are taking a more aggressive approach to acquiring spammy links.

There’s no question that some have had success in manipulating the algorithm.

That said, people have been successfully manipulating the algorithm since its inception, and I question whether it’s really any worse now than ever before.

3 Popular Link Spam Techniques

The most egregious link spam seems to come in three forms.

1. Guest Posts

It’s a safe bet that you get emails like the following one that I received, on a regular basis:


I am a full time guest post service provider. I charge one time for permanent post.

I have more than 2000+ sites (DA 30+,DA 60+ and above) where I can publish articles at an affordable rate.

Some sites of my list-

  • com
  • com
  • com
  • com
  • org
  • com
  • org

If you are interested please contact me. Waiting for your response.


Redacted Name | Online Media Publisher

Redacted | India

You know who else gets these emails? The Google spam team.

Even if these links do provide some value today, (which is debatable) the likelihood of them providing any lift over the long haul is nil. Guest post abuse has been on Google’s radar for years and anyone who engages in the practice does so at their own peril.

2. Private Blog Networks

Once again, I have to look no further than my Inbox for an example:

Hello Fellows,

Would you like to take advantage of PBN Links and more than 30+ types of links and social media optimization spread over a wide range of anchors?
We continuously working for ranking over 600+ sites from the last couple of years found more active now; would you be interested in giving it a go?


Here’s What You Get When You Purchase:

– Unique Hand-written contents – The most important factor
– Natural indexing blogs – We don’t ping them at all
– Trust flow and DA are high enough to bring your site good juice (The Average Domain Authority 20 – 25+ and Trust Flow 10+)
– Every Link is Unique IP and we have a variety on links lookup.
– Whois Protected and NO Footprints
– Popular crawler blocked.

Coupon Code: LINKED

Your business – your gain!



Tempting, right?

My favorite part is the discussion of no footprints (like every site being whois protected and blocking “popular crawlers”)

Do you seriously think Google can’t spot PBNs? The chance of building long-term success with a PBN strategy is slim to none.

3. 301 Redirects

Most PBNs are built using expired domains with legacy backlinks.

Some webmasters don’t bother with the trouble of building out a network and choose instead to simply redirect an expired domain to their site.

I recently had had a prospective client find out the hard way how this can backfire.

The Myth of the Toothless Penguin

If you were paying close attention above, I mentioned that bad links are, for the most part, ignored. But not always.

Even before Penguin rolled out, Google had spam filters in place to detect and demote websites engaged in spammy link activity.

Those filters still exist, today, as chronicled in this email exchange with a prospective client:

Hey Chuck,

I hope you’re doing well. I’ve got an ongoing contract gig with a small business called Redacted.com. As you can probably guess from the name, they help people with (redacted – insert the trophy phrase of your choice here) I’m proposing an approach to SEO for their site and want to include link building as a tactic. They’ve used someone else for that in the distant past… But I’ve always liked you and the results you’ve been able to get, and would at least like to propose using your company to them.

Could you let me know what your pricing looks like these days for doing link building …


Prospective client

My reply:

Hi Prospect

Great to hear from you. I’m certainly familiar with that highly competitive niche.

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