Joining me for episode 50 of TWiO were Zach Stone, Mark Thomas, Marcus Miller, Laura Hogan, Kaspar Szymanski and Felipe Bazon.

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DAVID BAIN: We celebrate the half century of TWiO episodes, Google have just announced that Penguin is now part of the core algorithm – thank you Google, I can’t wait to find out what you’re going to announce for episode number 100! Welcome to This Week in Organic, Episode Number 50.

Broadcasting live on the Authoritas Facebook page, you’re watching This Week in Organic, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news. Sign up to watch the next show live at

Hello and welcome, I’m David Bain, Content Marketing Director for and each show I’ll be joined by some knowledgeable, opinionated folks to discuss the latest happenings in anything that impacts organic traffic. And as for you in the live audience, get involved. So there’s a chat on the Facebook page and you can always use the good old #TWiO hashtag on Twitter. I’ll try and keep an eye out for that and include any comments as part of the live show. But let’s find out more about today’s guests, where they’re from and what’s grabbing their initial thoughts on today’s Penguin announcement. So, starting off with Zach.

ZACH STONE: Hi, my name is Zach Stone. I work for Foster Web Marketing as a Senior Marketing Strategist here. We specialise in the legal industry and we’re located just outside Washington DC. I’m really interested in how the Penguin update will affect both positive and negative link-building practices. So is this going to open up the door for people to really risk…

DAVID BAIN: Positive and negative link building practices. Hopefully we’ll get Zach back in a second there, but let’s move on to Mark.

MARK THOMAS: Good afternoon everyone. So my name is Mark Thomas, I work for a software company called Botify. I’m currently based in London, although our headquarters are in Paris. So it’s rather a momentous day, as David has said. I’m always intrigued to see how the industry reacts, so I find myself glued to Twitter to watch everyone’s observations on the latest update. The question for me is whether people actually recognise a bit of an improvement, although it might be some time for some of the Penguin issues to be lifted from their site, so I’m expecting things to be a bit flat, personally, but we’ll see. We’ll watch with bated breath.

DAVID BAIN: We will indeed. So thank you for that, Mark. Good to have you here. And also with us today is Marcus.

MARCUS MILLER: Hi folks. My name is Marcus Miller. I’m head of Digital Marketing at Bowler Hat. We’re based in Birmingham, UK. We specialise in search marketing, so SEO pay per click. On the Penguin front, I think it’s just going to be interesting to see how it plays out over the next few weeks really. I mean we’ve worked with a lot of folks that have historically had problems, the kind of things we’ve probably all seen, but they’ve really put the cleaning work, they’ve put the work in, they’ve cleaned up, they’ve got good PR based links, but they’ve yet to see full resolution of the issue. So it’ll be really interesting to see if these guys now, you know, rise back up to where they should be or whether there are still issues or whether it’s like Penguin 3 and a bit of a non-event. I’m on the fence; you have to think how long this one has been in the incubator. We should see quite a lot of change, but more than anything I’m hopeful for the guys that are doing things the right way, they see resolution for those issues.

DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. Well hopefully you won’t be on the fence for too long. Might be a bit painful there. And also with us today is Laura.

LAURA HOGAN: Hi, are you alright? I’m also a Brummie, so you’ve got two Birminghams on the call and I’m Head of Search at Ricemedia and we’re a search and social marketing agency. So we do SEO, PPC and social media. For me with Penguin, I’m interested about the disavow side of it, so we’ve actually seen quite recently a lot of people seeing a positive impact from a fresh disavow, how that’s going to play out now, with the update and now with it being part of the core update.

DAVID BAIN: That’s a great angle. So thanks for that, Laura. And also with us today is Kaspar.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: Hi, my name is Kaspar Szymanski and thanks for having me. I’m one of the two SearchBrothers, being our agency, the other one is Fili Wiese, also a well-known character in the industry, I suppose. Now we’re based in Dublin and Berlin, Germany and in terms of what we’re going to be talking about today, I’m thrilled. This is something we’ve been waiting for for a really long time. Similarly to what Laura said and a couple of the other guys, we work quite a lot with disavow files, we work for quite a lot of sites that try to find their way back into Google’s grace and I’m very optimistic that this is going to give us a chance to display results to clients and get our clients really back in Google’s good grace much, much faster in comparison to, say, the last twelve months or so. So this is a good thing, we are very much looking forward to that.

DAVID BAIN: Great, okay. Well hopefully you’re still going to be saying that in a month’s time or so, Kaspar.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: I’m pretty sure about that, yeah. But I’m happy to come back on the show again.

DAVID BAIN: You’ll be welcome back, because I’m sure you’ll be giving wonderful opinions today as well and people will be clamouring for you to be back. So good to have you hear and also with us today is Felipe.

FELIPE BAZON: Hi guys. My name is Felipe Bazon, I’m from Brazil. I work for an SEO agency here and I’ve been doing SEO for about ten years. Just as a matter of fact, I learned to do SEO back in the UK about ten years ago. My thoughts about Penguin 4.0 are that like a few of you guys I’m still on the fence here, especially because we see in Brazil that [unclear – 0:05:59.4] explored and you guys in the UK or in the US. But I want to see about this new update at page level, because they said that this would be more granular and from my experience here, I’ve seen that we’ve done some work in the specific pages and we’ve seen results like disavowing links for a specific page and getting back the rankings. So I don’t know how much of that will affect or change SEO as we do now or who will look at links. That’s my opinion about it.

DAVID BAIN: Great, okay. Well thanks for joining us, Felipe. So just in case anyone hasn’t heard, Google have announced two main things about Penguin. First of all Penguin is now real-time and also Penguin is now more granular. So Penguin’s data is refreshed in real-time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after Google crawl and re-index the page. They’re also more granular, so they’ve going to be aiming to devalue spam, by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting the ranking of the whole site. But we’ve heard everyone’s initial thoughts on what’s happening, so let’s delve into things a little bit deeper here. So Zach, you’re… who was that Kaspar?

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: That’s Kaspar speaking, yeah, hi. They actually said one more thing. I take great pleasure really in reading carefully what’s being said and done, being involved in corporate communication for a really long time, they also said stop asking for anymore updates, because they have stopped coming. And that’s one thing that is very specific in that announcement made by Gary and I think it’s an important point to remember. That means that we have now a little bit more security, now it’s real-time going forward, we can anticipate for the algorithm to improve significantly. But whatever imperfections are there, do not expect any announcements on ones that are going to be fixed. That’s an important point for our business and our industry, I believe.

DAVID BAIN: Just to clarify that particular aspect of the announcement, do you think he was referring to just Penguin or organic search updates?

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: Personally I do believe this is in reference to Penguin only. Of course there will be an on-going webmaster outreach operation. Of course there will be all the people that we got used to, who enjoy interacting with us, talking to us. I’m talking about Gary, I’m talking about John. I’m pretty sure they will maintain communication, two-way communication, with the industry. However, I do not think there will be a great many announcements going forward with regard to where Penguin stands, where it’s going. And that’s something we have to learn to live with as an industry, I suppose.

MARCUS MILLER: Do you know, I think that’s probably a good thing, because folks obsess over these updates a little bit too much. Particularly clients, they’re waiting and they’re kind of paralysed to some extent, waiting for the next little bit of news. So that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It allows us to be more marketers and to sprinkle the kind of search on top of everything else that we’re doing, rather than to be just, you know, chasing these sort of algorithmic components.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: Absolutely what Marcus said, absolutely plus one. I do believe the focus on getting the job done is very important as in comparison to trying to focus on the news, most recent thread or most recent information to be shared. I think it’s a good thing for us.


MARK THOMAS: Will it be good for business, do you think?

MARCUS MILLER: We had an internal discussion, do we want to seek business from people who are hit by this current Penguin algorithm update? And we decided no, we probably don’t. From these historical things that we’ve seen, where people are spending all this time trying to dig people out of a hole, we don’t necessarily want to take out other people’s trash. If people are recovering or they’ve done good work, if people get really hit by this, unless I think that they’re a company that has been misled by an agency that’s told them they’re doing work of one kind of variety but were doing something else, then we’re not necessarily going to aggressively go after that kind of work.

LAURA HOGAN: Do you think we’ll see penalties be lifted quicker though, now? That’s the thing, because obviously before we had to wait for the next Penguin update to really see the benefit of the work we’d done in clean-up, but now if it’s part of the core algorithm, I reckon we might see changes quicker for clients than we previously have had it.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: Sorry for interrupting, penalties and algorithms are two different things, even though for a lot of clients they feel very much the same. So penalties won’t be lifted faster or slower just because an algorithm has been [unclear – 0:11:20.3]. The algorithm will have no impact on manual spend actions, which is what we commonly refer to in the industry as penalties. I just want to clarify, because a lot of clients and maybe you guys can relate to that, a lot of clients, for them it feels the same really whether they are being penalised or whether they are impacted by an algorithm. For them it’s all the same. But in the way you’re dealing with the situation, that’s a whole different ballgame and they don’t exclude each other. The site can be impacted by an algorithm and be penalised at the same time.

MARCUS MILLER: I guess you’re talking about the manual penalty versus the kind of algorithmic dampening. I mean I agree with Laura really, hopefully if there are these algorithmic issues, and they are related to historical bad links, removing those links, you should see an iterative improvement. Maybe if you move one really, really bad link, will we see some kind of positive impact from that? Will we see… I like to think that this time it won’t be so punitive, because there was lots of kinds of collateral damage in historical updates and small businesses, they were paying for cheap for SEO, they’ve been wiped off the map really because that’s just the way their agency was working. I think at this point in the game, businesses have to take responsibility for the search work that they… the people that they employ. However, there are still a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that aren’t always, you know, what they look to be. So people who are in a hole, I’d like to think that hopefully this does help them get out quicker.

LAURA HOGAN: Yeah, 100%. I’d like to think that Google don’t do what they did a few years ago and be super harsh. Because I remember one of the previous really big Penguin updates, this was when you actually submitted a response, a reconsideration, and Google would respond to you, there were times that they could come back and flag links saying that they were spam links that actually were really good natural links. Quite often press coverage in a local newspaper. And you’d just be banging your head against the wall thinking well actually this is a legit, really good link and I just hope that Google don’t revert back to that with this update and make it a bigger thing than it should be. Because we should be building good links. We are, most agencies are building good, strong links for clients and I think a lot of clients are scared of link building and I think even within the industry we’re scared to talk about link building and the benefit you can get from it and I don’t want us to kind of step back to that, when actually there’s so much good we do with link building. Even Brighton SEO at the start of the month, there were so many really good examples people were talking about of things they’ve done. I don’t want us to take ten steps back because of this update.

DAVID BAIN: That’s one of the first things that Zach said. Zach you obviously said is this going to be negative or positive for link building? So what were you meaning by that?

ZACH STONE: Basically what I meant by that is I’ve seen clients who have, for example, the granular part of this, where previous companies were really trying to make the rank for this keyword or these types of phrases, specifically and they would focus on building low quality directory links using their business name as a keyword, as opposed to actually using the business name and that kind of thing. It was really hard to get out of that because you’re waiting, waiting, waiting and you’re not sure if things are going to turn around, but I think it’ll be really interesting to be able to take certain subsets of bad links that you see or different types, whether it’s content spinning or low quality directories and take them out in chunks and see what kind of effect that might have as opposed to just taking out every type of negative back link. Now we’ll be able to test that a little bit more and not just submit and wait. So I just kind of think it’s interesting that it’s more granular now that you’re going to be able to see an effect of maybe a service being affected and not just the website as a whole.

DAVID BAIN: Marcus, at the beginning you were quite hopeful that the real-time nature of this update might mean that clients perhaps could see quicker changes and you indicated that it was quite difficult for people to come out of a historical penalty and it may be easier now. So what are your thoughts on that?

MARCUS MILLER: I think if people were paralysed by this belief that they had to wait for Penguin and that they were penalised by Penguin, they don’t have that excuse anymore. If those issues fell away and people are confident that they haven’t got manipulative or dodgy links out there, then folks can concentrate on more solid marketing activities that have that kind of SEO kick as well. So I like to think it will be positive, things will move forward. But we will see. I’m sure that the SEO industry at large will find other things to obsess on about links. Maybe it will be artificial intelligence and how Google is evaluating links real-time now, but we will see.

DAVID BAIN: That’s one of the things that Mark said. You’re interested to see how the industry reacts. Do you think the industry will be feeling quite positive about things at the moment?

MARK THOMAS: One half. I think so and I mean even whilst we’re on air I’m watching Twitter and Dr Pete Myers and Glen Gabes of this world are busy chatting away and Google has made it clear that they’ve still got to crawl significant volumes of the web before any of this works its way out, so there’s a lot of that initial excitement, but I’m sure we’ll see lots of interesting articles in two or three weeks, to really debrief what changes happen. I mean a lot of the expectation is that those that have been suffering for a couple of years will see some improvement, is probably a prediction. I’m curious from the panel just to think are there situations where they are expecting people to get found out for issues at this point? I feel like this kind of renaissance of technical SEO as Mike Keen coined it, has seen people really turn their backs on bad practice. So I find it unlikely that a major brand is going to suddenly have an Interflora moment with being penalised on scale, personally. I find it unlikely, but can anyone think of scenarios, maybe lots of migrations taking place, disavowed files being forgotten to be moved and stuff? Can that come back?

MARCUS MILLER: I think there’s still a lot of spam at the street level. The smaller businesses and in certain industries. And this is where I think the algorithm will have to be intelligent, in that it will have to say, okay, so if it’s bit coin gambling or poker tips, do they assess links the same way as they asses links for a flower shop or some other industry? It will be an interesting few months. What’s a spam link one industry, is that a spam link in another industry? We still pick up customers every single week and you look at the historical work that’s been done, even very recently, and it’s not good. It terrifies me. I’ve been in this industry for a long time now and seen businesses ruined, almost, you could say, lives ruined by algorithms and by… although people aren’t innocent, it made a lot of money, there are all these moral issues here as well, you know, so I just hope that the people who have put in the good work get the kind of result that they’re looking for.

DAVID BAIN: Laura, you were first to mention the word disavow, how does this actually correlate with disavow and what kind of impact are you seeing through disavow at the moment?

LAURA HOGAN: I mean as recently as a couple of weeks ago, we’ve seen positive ranking increases from implementing a disavow for clients and what I found actually to be really interesting was, I think it was Paul Madden did a conversation about disavow at Brighton SEO and he was saying that there’s some instances they’ve seen in their stats where people have reavowed links from a historic disavow and have seen a positive increase from that as well. I’m not confident in doing that myself yet, because I feel that disavow is there to remove things that you think are low quality and completely irrelevant to your client that you don’t want associated with your brand. But it’s interesting that people are actually now going back and taking links out of the disavow to see if it gives them an increase. I think it might backfire.

MARCUS MILLER: You’ve got to tinker, haven’t you, and it’s nice to have some little sites that you own that you can play with and say, okay, let’s disavow everything and see what happens. Let’s put half of them back in, let’s just take out forum links, let’s just take out, you know, guest posts or something and see what happens. But again taking those lessons and applying them to another industry, or even another location, I don’t think it always works like that, you’ve got to look at the individual business as well. It’s super tough and you’ve got to be super granular. It’s very hard to take one lesson from one job and apply that to the next, we’ve found.

LAURA HOGAN: We manually do disavows. I know there’s a lot of tools out there that can help you with it, but I just find that you get the best disavow file by doing that – it takes a long time, it really does, but you know you’ve got it right there and you know you’ve got the right kind of links. But what amazes me is the amount of our clients that don’t know the terrible back links they’ve got. And they’ve had agencies previously and they just don’t realise the low quality ones that are there. It’s quite scary that clients don’t know what links have been built for them historically, because I’m sure you’re the same, but as an agency we’re very transparent and we show our clients everything we do for them and all the links we build. So it’s really concerning and I’m talking about quite big brands as well, not just your local business.

MARCUS MILLER: It’s scary out there when you start to dig in.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: If I may add my three cents on top of that, not only the back link profiles tend to be scary, but also the type of disavow files that have already been submitted and are formatting.

MARCUS MILLER: That’s even worse.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: At times upon sanitising certain already submitted and presumably decent disavow files, we are in the position that we figure out okay 90% of the disavow files are actually not something that is doing any good.

LAURA HOGAN: We’ve seen a disavow file before where somebody has actually disavowed their own website, that’s my favourite one.

ZACH STONE: I saw someone who disavowed WordPress entirely, so that was just unbelievable.

DAVID BAIN: Well Paul Madden’s example was the BBC.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: Let me jump in right here, you have to disavow, in some verticals you have to and the reason for me saying that is not because of WordPress, I’m a big fan personally myself, but you have to go in with a hatchet against the sites that are being notoriously abused. And unfortunately WordPress is one of them and Blogspot is another one of them.

[unclear – 0:23:12.2]

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: It really comes down to obviously the vertical, the niche that you work with, you have to read through their back link profile first. It comes down to the language as well, but when we talk about, essentially pre-hosts, because that’s what they are, it’s really essential to look how spam policy, website policy it’s being done, and in some markets and some languages pre-hosts are really free for all and the darker characters of our industry just take it down and basically take it over. And unfortunately it seems that WordPress and Blogspot are amongst these that are rather poorly policed, which is rather curious in my book given that both are very, very big and Blogspot belongs to Google itself.

MARCUS MILLER: You’ve got to think that it should get to a point, a level of maturity, where a disavowed file doesn’t matter. Where a bad link is automatically discredited and it can’t provide a negative or positive aspect to make sure there’s no kind of… should website owners really have to be policing the links that point to their site? Is that a worthwhile spend of marketing time and effort? Or is that just an SEO job? It’s a difficult question. Personally I’d like to think that you can, I mean we’ve done tons of disavow work in the past. Some has helped, others have done nothing, we’ve had no consistent kind of… nothing I’d hang my hat on at all. But I’d like to think that you can get to a stage with this that you just don’t have to disavow, you just do good work for people and the good people rise to the top and the people that don’t do good work fall back. Surely that’s where we’d like it to go, with all of this artificial intelligence and advancement.

DAVID BAIN: I’d just like to get Felipe’s perspective on the Brazilian market, compared with the rest of the world as well, because you were saying, Felipe, you started off in the UK. You’re now doing SEO in Brazil and you’ve been in the industry for about ten years or so. So what do you find, if anything, are the differences? You mentioned that perhaps there might be some kind of delay in updates, what have you experienced yourself directly?

FELIPE BAZON: In some cases, especially when we talk about big rollouts like Penguin and Panda, we seem to see, well I follow everything that goes out in the UK and the US and I seem to see that things here in Brazil seem to impact us like a little later. Okay, but going on to what you guys are saying about disavowing and so… we’ve had some experiences here. As Marcus was saying, it’s not something that you can hang your hat on, because we had positive results and negative results, but what we’ve been seeing these past few months is that when you submit it is a rogue file, Google is processing much faster and the results are like when you can see improvements in rankings depending on the case. Like we’ve done a job recently and we disavowed these bad links that disabled this website app, and after Google processed the file, we noticed a rank improvement. But I think we are focusing too much on the disavow side of things and not talking about the quality of links that we need to get. Because here with my team, we see the last strategy that I used was to evaluate. If I get a new client and I see that new page has a bad link profile my job is to generate a few better links to it, before going to the disavow. I see disavow as my last resort, when I say I’ve done it, I think I have good quality links, and then I go to disavow them and my view about, not only about what’s going on now, right now, about Penguin 4.0, but as a whole, as a strategy in SEO. I don’t really look into, I know disavow is important, but it’s not something that is my top priority here.

DAVID BAIN: So who does it the opposite way around? Who takes on a new client and the first thing they do go to the disavow file?

LAURA HOGAN: We’d check the disavow file within the first couple of months, just to see firstly if one has been done, because you’ll be amazed at the amount that haven’t. So once you have a quick look in Majestic and you see that they’ve got terrible links and then they don’t have a disavow. So to me it’s like a foundation work nowadays because it’s quite difficult to have a client come on board and find that they don’t have any bad links. It’s quite a sweeping statement, but I think most people do have some negative links, especially in-articles and those kind of ones, because if you they’ve had an agency beforehand, then we always check straight away.

DAVID BAIN: And Laura, do you think real-time Penguin will make you check disavow even more regularly in the future?

LAURA HOGAN: Yeah. We tend to do it quarterly, for current clients anyway, just to make sure there’s nothing crept up that we haven’t done that somebody else had done, just to make sure there’s nothing there. But I think it’s probably worth checking every couple of months now. If there’s a volatile client that you know has historically had quite a bad link profile.

ZACH STONE: I agree. We also take a look very early at the disavow file and when I was talking about WordPress, I was really looking at the domain and disavow as opposed to individual URL disavows and I think it’s a little dangerous to disavow an entire domain like WordPress, just because there could be positive links that you’re missing out on because you’re blanket covering this entire website or group of websites that can come from there negative, but we definitely clean up the house and then you start decorating it with awesome links. You don’t just start putting stuff in there and not focus at what’s already been happening and got them to where they are now.

MARCUS MILLER: 90% of clients that you take on have done some historical SEO. So you have to do a situation analysis. Whether that includes the disavow or not, you’ve got to look, do a basic audit, look at their site, understand the content on the site, understand potential linkable assets on the site and definitely understand the link profile. Because unless you do that audit and understand the current state of play or the current situation, you can’t possibly know how to move forward in a kind of, how to prioritise tasks.

FELIPE BAZON: I agree with you guys, just to complement what I said. My point is we do disavow links, but we feed down, from my point of view I think that other things are more important to do before going to the disavow file. We can look at the technical side, improve content and new links, then I think you [unclear – 0:30:33.9] things are going right then I disavow links, obviously you start looking at the link profile. My team look at it and [unclear – 0:30:46.2] link profile, but there are technical issues, there are content improvements that we can make. Let’s fix that and then move forward to disavowing links. I’m not saying like it’s not on the top of my list, but we do look into that.

MARCUS MILLER: I agree. Every job is different, unfortunately.

DAVID BAIN: So we’ve got a few different comments coming in. We’ve got Nadia saying I think you touched upon this in your industry to industry linking comment, but referring to the granular level with this update. Do we think the fact that pages are likely to be penalised, i.e. services and not websites being that companies will have to really think about the page they have a link from or the website itself. Anyone want to comment on that?

MARCUS MILLER: Penguin 2 already seemed quite granular. Penguin 1 seemed more home page, Penguin 2 seemed it had that granular element to it. We didn’t see any major difference on Penguin 3, so when they said granular, I tend to think they’re referring to the inbound links and the granularity of individual links more so than pages. It already has a page level aspect and a keyword level aspect, so it will be interesting to see that clarified by what we see.

DAVID BAIN: Also watching is Paul Madden and Laura you obviously commented on his talk at Brighton SEO, if you search for Brighton SEO on YouTube you can see his talk at number one there, because we produced a live show for that. But Paul is saying that disavow works very well, we see that clearer that anyone I’d say, real-time Penguin is a good thing, keeping your profile clean is more relevant today that it has ever been. And Paul also saying that quarterly is sensible, every two weeks is easier if you’ve got a large profile. Detection analysis of new links is also hugely important now. So at least quarterly I guess is the general thought on regularity of disavow viewing. So, any thoughts on that, Laura?

LAURA HOGAN: Yeah, definitely. It’s good to do it quarterly, it’s like there are tasks you should do every so often and just keep refreshed and make sure that all the foundations are there, because as one of the other guys said earlier, there’s no point doing some cracking good work if actually there’s something holding you back and there’s something negative there. It’s the same with your technical health, you want to keep reviewing that every few months to make sure that there are no errors cracking up there, hampering all the good work that you’re doing.

DAVID BAIN: We’ve also got Andy Simpson saying, ‘Good point on the initial audit and a plan going forward. I always educate the client on the good and the bad that’s been done in the past.’ Is there any scenario where it’s worthwhile keeping some things from clients or do you need to talk about everything to them? What are your thoughts on that, Marcus?

MARCUS MILLER: You’ve got to be 100% transparent. I mean particularly if you find things in the history that you think are going to hold you back. I mean there’s no two ways about it, because what you don’t want to do is… take on a client in August this year, there’s tons of historical problems, they’re doing okay, they get hit by Penguin now for links that were built eighteen months ago, and then it’s your problem because you’re the current agency. So that initial audit situation analysis, gosh it’s critical. But absolute transparency as well. And education of the client. Help them understand what it is that they’re buying or what they… help them to be able to ask you those difficult questions. We tend to find people appreciate that. There are not always nice messages you’re giving people when you’re telling them, ‘Look we’re really worried about all this. It’s thousands of pounds that you spent historically and we want to get rid of that.’ But I’d rather deliver that message and something goes wrong and we can say, ‘Well look guys, we told you.’ Than something happens and all of a sudden it’s our problem.

DAVID BAIN: Does anyone actually think that this real-time update may even change the way that some SEO is done?

LAURA HOGAN: I hope it changes it so that SEO is done for the better and the agencies that are still doing the spammy links stop it.

DAVID BAIN: Name people. No.

MARK THOMAS: Can I just throw something else in there? One of the factors that seemed to trip people up in, say, a HTTPS migration, so I’ve often read, there were some famous examples where overnight they seemed to…well somebody had forgotten to move the disavow file seemed to be the problem. I think John Mueller flagged this up at one point, that you had to move the disavow file from HTTP across. Do you think there’s a lot of chances that through migration changes that naturally occur on sites in the last few years, people have just forgotten and should really go and check round about now? Would that make a difference? Would they already have noticed?

MARCUS MILLER: In all of those historical issues…we see sites where a web developer redesigns a site and when you really dig into it, there are four or five versions of that site, four or five sets of redirects over the years and you’ve got to go all the way back and the disavow is no different. You’ve got to honour the historical work that has been done, and then say, ‘Okay, here we are, this is where we are now. How do we move forwards?’

DAVID BAIN: Talking about moving forwards, you’ve got Carolina Perez saying with the new Penguin what’s the future to link building? So does it actually change the way that link building should be done for certain industries?

LAURA HOGAN: If you’re doing it right, then no, it shouldn’t. If you’re targeting those really high quality sites, if you’re using your content in the right way to get links, if you’re going after your own link brand mentions, if you’re just producing really good quality content, whether that’s graphics, quizzes, blogs, whatever, that people want to link to, then no it shouldn’t change your strategy at all. If you’re doing really shady techniques, then yes.

ZACH STONE: We like to call it link earning, instead of link building, because you’re really just trying to develop quality content and the ways to get or attract links, not try to build them yourself. So whether that’s your offline efforts that can turn into links online or just developing great quality content that people want to link to, it really is about earning those links, not trying to build them.

MARCUS MILLER: The link schemes page on the Google support site, says it pretty much perfectly. The best way to get other sites to create high-quality relevant links to yours is to create unique relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Now that’s a little bit optimistic, you’ve still got to grease the cogs and let people know about that great content. But most historical problematic link building is done completely back-to-front, they don’t create something of value on the site and let people know about it, you have a site that has a very low kind of value footfall print and then you try and build links that just don’t add up. So there should always be more value within the site than there should be in the link profile, because people don’t know about it yet. It shouldn’t be that difficult for Google to crack this really.

DAVID BAIN: So what about the Penguin filter itself? Does anyone have any views on how it’s evolved over time and how this real-time update is likely to impact how it might evolve in the future?

MARCUS MILLER: I’d like to think there’d be more kind of real-time learning. I think the real-time aspect is the most important aspect here and hopefully it will be less punitive and people will just see problems fall away rather than have an actual kind of penalty levied against the site that they can’t easily come out from.

FELIPE BAZON: I think this real-time update, where you prevent those websites that come and go, like spammy websites and build some links to it, like low quality links. I see this here in Brazil, you get this website, all of a sudden it appears in your search for your keywords and you know the guy just put the website on, build some links to it, low quality ones, it has a little bit of a short lifetime, but it does happen. I think this real-time and Penguin being part of the core algorithm will prevent those kinds of spammy websites that come and go.

MARCUS MILLER: Absolutely, I totally agree. So spammers have had a two year Penguin holiday, so you won’t be able to build kind of burner sites, so you think this may only rank for six months, twelve months or whatever, but we’ve got another one three months behind and another one three months behind. Hopefully it should deal with some of those kind of issues.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: I like to be optimistic and see the direction going here going forward, but based on the past years really I think we have to realistic that it won’t be perfect. And they will always be side-slipping through the cracks. It’s obviously very challenging to bring to the client’s attention, especially if that’s exactly the sites they don’t want to see ranking because of the competitors. But that’s probably something we will have to continue addressing going forward. I don’t expect perfection. Not in a system this complex. There are just too many languages, just too many different verticals. I mean markets are tremendously different. They differ in volumes, in the type of links that are being built, how they are being built, it’s really completely different. Even neighbouring countries are very different. So there is just no way they can get it perfectly right straight away.

DAVID BAIN: Talking about links, Paul Madden has just made another quick comment saying this kind of anchor text is a proxy for the intent and therefore risk of any given link. Anchor texts are still powerful, but it’s a huge component of general risk now. I have a weekend of algo-tweaking to get on with. But what about link text being quite a risk? Does anyone have any thoughts – is it still appropriate to be aiming for a fair amount of keyword rich links? Or is brand text generally what you should be aiming for nowadays.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: It depends on how comfortable the risk levels are to clients. I mean if we’re talking patron/peasant links it’s clearly a risk to have the keywords anywhere near the link, so it’s really up to the client. As long as you’re completely transparent about it, as long as you educate them and make sure they understand what risks are associated, that’s their call. But the risk is clearly there.

MARCUS MILLER: And what are you linking to, that’s the thing as well, isn’t it? If you’re linking to some huge piece of content on the site, not the home page, I mean I’d like to think that most people on this call are just going to look at the clients many keywords and fire links at the home page of the site. Surely it’s more about the authority of the linking site and the context and there’s so much to consider. The text of a link helps imply the context of the site. So as long as they are natural and varied and you’re not forcing it…just be sensible, play safe.

LAURA HOGAN: Yeah, they have their place. Especially, say if you’ve got a specific product that you’re trying to look at that’s a popular product, it’s going to naturally get links and maybe in that case doing some anchor texts around the name of the product is relevant. It’s perfect for that situation. But as you’ve just said, it’s thinking about the context behind it and whether it’s there. I mean we’ve found that interlinking on your own site with anchor text links has had value and has had benefit. I only want to do a tiny plug, but in my Brighton SEO talk there are a few examples. So one of our clients is a wedding venue client and we did some exact match texts on their home page to their deeper pages on their own site and we not only saw click through rates increase, but we saw a term like top Google without any other external link building to it. It’s thinking about the context behind it. I think using it on your own site is perfectly safe, but when you start looking at other sites, we see it all the time, you see a comment where someone called Michel Kors Watches, that kind of stuff. That’s the thing that’s going to get you hit by Penguin. But, say, for example there’s a really good forum about your products and you’re like, okay, yeah, we’ve got a product here that’s really relevant.

MARCUS MILLER: I’ve yet to see a good comment from Mr Cheap Viagra!

DAVID BAIN: What are your thoughts on anchor text and brand and keyword rich linking, basically?

MARK THOMAS: I focus always on on-site optimisation and good variants of key words for your anchor text.

DAVID BAIN: Internal links, you’re talking about?

MARK THOMAS: Yeah, exactly, internal links. To be honest it’s not my specialism, so I’m listening to the other guys and just hearing their comments, but I think you’ve got to use common sense with this stuff and figure that it’s pretty…when Kaspar is talking about the things that are difficult to calculate for Google, variants across markets, some of the things that keyword work is probably some of the easier stuff for them to pick up on.

MARCUS MILLER: Absolutely. I think as well if you’ve been putting together a piece of content that links to another great piece of content, and it mentions [unclear – 0:45:08.2] that needs expanding on, so you link to another piece of content on the target site and one of the keywords happens to fall within that string of text that you use as a link, well great. If you’re manipulating it and taking out stock words then, you know, you’re an idiot. There’s no nicer way to spin it as this point in time. It’s just got to be natural. What works best for the user who should be reading that piece, that article? Always try and apply that human element to it and stop trying to think like a machine, a learning system that’s probably cleverer than all of us.

ZACH STONE: In the US what I see a lot in the legal industry are blog posts or content pieces that, at the very end, it’s the same exact call to action, every single time – ‘oh, if you’ve been injured in an accident, contact one of personal injury lawyers’ and then links back to the service area, whatever it might be. And it’s the same exact thing over and over again, and some of that content, it doesn’t make sense to have that kind of call to action. Mix up the call to action with gated content, or offer or have some kind of social call to action or mix things up. I see so many people focusing so much on just that specific keyword they think is going to bring them all the business in the world, but they have no idea where that traffic is or how to get it.

MARCUS MILLER: Make it right for the human and then give it 10% for the SEO or for the search engine and if you defer to that you’re probably okay, probably.

MARK THOMAS: Hopefully this is all the end of a chapter, an era, Google has come good on clearing up spammy practices in terms of link building. I think there are other areas and social spamminess, there are plenty of other areas we may have to look towards next I think, it could be interesting as well. But the coming months, not to sound like I’m pushing our conversation on, but there is so much other stuff to now focus on, AMP, interstitials are going to be punished in January and some really surprising large sites that still have really poor practice. So I think it’s such an enormous volume of good technical work that we should all be concentrating on, of course, but I feel it’s been a really therapeutic final chapter for a lot of people, but I hope this draws a line and I’m no comedy writer, but I was thinking this was like Gary’s monkey update, he finally gets the monkey off his back about naming this update as arriving before the end of last year. And I’m just kind of thrilled to see that every software company can run late with upgrades. In some ways it’s been a good moment for me to see a nine month delay for someone else. There are my thoughts.

MARCUS MILLER: Hopefully it is the end of chapter and good links will work and bad links won’t work and a search engine works like it’s supposed to work and we’ll see. It’s something else for us to obsess over late at night while we’re reading our phones, when we should be asleep.

DAVID BAIN: Well I reckon that just about takes us to the end of the discussion today. So just about time for maybe a single takeaway from everyone. So if you can maybe think about one aspect of what we’ve discussed today in terms of what our viewers should go away with and actually think about a little bit more in terms of likely to be relevant and impactful for their businesses. So hopefully you can all have a little think about that. But we’ll go through everyone here, so let’s start with Zach again. So just remind everyone who you are and where you’re from and your takeaway, that would be great.

ZACH STONE: Zach at Foster Web Marketing in Washington DC and I think the big takeaway here is this is just Google moving towards cleaning up the web and I’m really excited to, potentially in the future, it’s not going to be tomorrow or a couple of months from now, but see a better service for the internet, for Google and start actually focusing so much more on doing positive things and I think that really is going to benefit everyone if we’re thinking about ways to earn those good quality links and stop thinking about ways to trick the system and build links that are only meant to trick search engines and not the user, our jobs are going to be a lot more fun, they’re going to be a lot more interesting and creative and focus less on a clean-up service and more of a proving good quality content ideas and marketing tactics.

DAVID BAIN: So if your job is only about tripping up people or tricking search engines at the moment, then look for another job – that’s your advice to people. Thank you, Zach, and also with us today was Mark.

MARK THOMAS: Hi. So just to repeat, I work for Bosify and we, just as a short plug, combine call data, so simulating a call across your site with you logs and I think actually that could be really interesting stuff and I hope that we’ll see some interesting stuff for clients in that comparison. The thing that’s stuck with me today, the thing that I’m kind of unsure about, is this emphasis on granularity that Google has used, because like Marcus said, there was always an element of granularity to Penguin, so why make that comment, what may we see that’s different, particularly on large websites? I don’t know. It’s kind of interesting. So that’s given a variety of takeaways, I think, the granularity thing is the point that I’m still kind of…we’ve smoothed over it, but I’m just not quite so sure.

DAVID BAIN: I don’t think everyone is 100%, but it’s great to have different opinions, anyway. So thanks for joining us, Mark. And also with us today was Marcus.

MARCUS MILLER: Hi, folks. My name is Marcus Miller, my company is called Bowler Hat. I’m Head of Search. My takeaway would be just do good marketing. Try and understand where your customers are, see what you can go to help them and sprinkle the SEO on top of that.

DAVID BAIN: Sprinkle the SEO fairy dust. Thanks for joining us, Marcus, it was great to have you on. And also with us today was Laura.

LAURA HOGAN: Hi, I’m Laura, Head of Search at Ricemedia and for me the key takeaway is just go for your links. If you’re doing link earning, as I am now going to call it, thank you, properly then you have absolutely nothing to fear. Use good quality content, don’t try and bring people to a site without content there to do it.

DAVID BAIN: The user signals will come back and get you. Thank you, Laura, great to have you here. Also with us today is Kaspar.

KASPAR SZYMANSKI: Hi, this is Kaspar Szymanski of I always like to think that I like to share a little bit of actionable advice every time I get an opportunity to talk to peers and online people, so here is my thought, skip the middle man. Build links for traffic, do that, don’t think page rank, go for traffic straight away. Once you have that you have an alternative going forward. Thanks for having me.

DAVID BAIN: Great advice. Thanks for joining us, Kaspar. And last, but not least, Felipe. Thanks for joining us.

FELIPE BAZON: Okay, thank you guys for allowing me to participate on the show. I’m Felipe Bazon from Brazil. I’m Head of SEO for SEO Marketing and my takeaway is I wouldn’t stress too much about Penguin 4.0. If you are doing the right thing up to now, building links, quality links, working with good-quality content and focusing on your target audience, you have nothing to worry about. Just keep doing what you’re doing and you’re not going to be impacted by it.

DAVID BAIN: Superb, okay. Thanks very much, Felipe. I’m David Bain, Content Marketing Director here at, the data science driven SEO and content marketing platform for agencies and enterprises. Now if you’re watching this show as a recording or listing to it, remember to watch the next show live. So head over to Sign up there and be part of the live audience for the next show. But for those of you watching live, we also have an audio podcast of previous shows. So again, go to that url – and you’ll receive the podcast links from there too. But to finish off today, let’s take a lot at a video actually from my colleague Lauren, reviewing Market Share, a brand new platform that we’re launching here at Authoritas.