Penguin 4.0 is a big deal for SEO providers. We’ve been waiting for it about two years now, and all this time, speculating on how it could shake things up in the SEO industry. Historically, the industry has reacted to Penguin Updates with varying degrees of dread—with good reason.

On September 23rd, Google announced that Penguin 4.0 was part of its core algorithm. This is not your typical Penguin rollout. For the first time in the history of Penguin updates, Google made a bold prediction about how the industry would feel about the newest Penguin update known as Penguin 4.0. Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, indicated that this new Penguin 4.0 algorithm devalues spam links but does not demote the website, and he believes that “people will be happier.”

In October, following the September 23rd release of Penguin 4.0, we conducted a survey to find out if the industry is indeed “happier” with the new real-time algorithm that devalues links, rather than demotes websites. In our survey, we asked 51 SEO agencies, “How do you think Penguin 4.0 will affect the SEO industry?”

To Disavow Links. Or, Not to Disavow Links

In addition to his statement that people would be “happier,” Illyes said that there is now “less need” to disavow links for Penguin specifically.

We know that after previous Penguin updates, many SEO professionals wondered, should I disavow links? So, we wanted to find out how SEO professionals made decisions about disavowing links for Penguin updates, prior to Penguin 4.0.

Should I Disavow Links Post Penguin 4.0?

Now that we know how the industry reacted to Penguin updates prior to Penguin 4.0, let’s take a look at what’s happening post Penguin 4.0, particularly because Industry discussions indicate that SEO professionals are still asking should I disavow links?

Wait, What?

Before Penguin 4.0, when Google more or less encouraged link disavow, 35% of our survey respondents said they submitted link disavow files for their clients. Though Gary Illyes said that after Penguin 4.0 there is “less need” to disavow links for Penguin specifically, 48% of our survey respondents say they will submit disavow files post Penguin 4.0. Why would they do that?!?

Chad Hill, Semify CEO, Weighs In

While 48% of our survey respondents say they will submit disavow link files post Penguin 4.0, it is also worth noting that 20% of the respondents said that they are not sure. If I had to read between the lines, I would guess that people are picking up more on the “real-time” nature of Penguin 4.0. In the past, the process of disavowing seemed futile because it was unclear how much Google used the data to reverse demoted sites. We would expect less need for disavow because the move to devaluing means that bad links would at worst not count and with the Penguin 4.0 not actually lead to an overall demotion.

In fact, one respondent said: “I like the real time aspect of it, so that when disavowing links, it doesn't take until the next update to recover.”

This respondent is focusing more on the real-time nature instead of the fact that Penguin 4.0 will devalue the links.

The Semify read on Penguin 4.0 is that the bigger news is that we don’t need to worry that too many bad links can lead to a demotion. Demotions will only come in the form of manual actions with a notification through search console.


Semify has been anticipating Penguin 4.0 for at least one year. We agree with the majority of our respondents that Penguin 4.0 is good for the SEO industry for several reasons:

  • It ends the debate on when Google will update or refresh Penguin. The industry can focus its attention on more interesting issues.
  • With Panda and Penguin now real-time in the core algorithm, it ends the days of big ranking drops with algorithm updates. Businesses will have a better read on the effectiveness of their SEO programs and SEO providers.
  • Websites that had been hit by Penguin 3.0 or 3.1 and worked over the past two years to improve their tactics saw improvements in rankings and traffic.
  • Devaluing links is a more reasonable way to deal with manipulative links. With this approach the value of a link will not be negative. This should end many people’s concerns about negative SEO.

Semify would like to thank all of the agencies that participated in our survey. For more information about our SEO After Penguin 4.0 survey, or questions about our SEO Reseller Program, please contact us at