Google’s Gary Illyes on Real-Time Penguin, Negative SEO & Disavows


Google's Gary Illyes on Real-Time Penguin, Negative SEO & Disavows

Here's what Gary Illyes said when asked about negative SEO attacks and whether you should disavow links that you didn’t build to avoid a ranking drop.

Google Mobile Index, Penguin Destruction, Machine Learning & More – This week in search, Google said they are launching their mobile only index within months and moving the desktop index as a secondary index. Google Penguin 4.0 is completely live now. Gary Illyes said Penguin can act to discount all your links, which can be devastating. Google said they are ready for those who try to manipulate Penguin 4.0. Google said Penguin looks at the link source and is not machine learning. Google algorithms do give labels to links, such as footer labels, disavow and Penguin labels. Google said Panda algorithm demotes, unlike Penguin that now devalues. Google said the use of machine learning in their algorithms is complicated. Google say look to measure unlinked citations. Google said international and multilingual links are not spammy by itself. Google Search Console launched a new AMP testing tool. Google AdSense is launching a new design for their portal. Finally, I published my monthly Google webmaster report. I am offline Monday and Tuesday of this week for a holiday. That was this past week in search at the Search Engine Roundtable.

Google To Launch Mobile Index In Months, Replacing Desktop Index As Secondary :
Google: Penguin 4.0 Now Completely Rolled Out :
Google: Penguin Can Discount All Your Links, Good Or Bad :
Google: We’re Prepared For SEOs Trying To Manipulate Penguin 4.0 :
Google: Penguin Looks At The Page Where Your Links Come From (Link Source) :
Google: Penguin Doesn’t Use Machine Learning Within The Algorithm :
Google Algorithms Labels Links As Penguin, Footer, Disavowed & More – Googlers Can Look Up Link Labels :
Google Panda Algorithm Does Adjust Rankings Down Unlike Penguin :
Sitelinks Demotion Tool Within Google Search Console Has Been Removed :
Google’s Use Of Machine Learning In Ranking & Spam Algorithms Is Complicated :
Google’s Algorithms & Signals Don’t Forget, They Collect History :
Google May One Day Count Unlinked Citations For Search Rankings :
Google: International & Multilingual Links Are Not Seen As Spammy :
Google Search Console Launches Simplified AMP Testing Tool :
Google AdSense Publisher Portal New Design Going Live :
October 2016 Google Webmaster Report :

Penguin 4 (2016) RELEASED! Proof the disavow does not work

The NEW “rolling” Penguin has been tested and released (sep 2016). Disavow test cases show it does nothing good. [email protected]

Penguin 4.0: Google’s Gary Illyes and Stone Temple’s Eric Enge Discuss

Google’s Gary Illyes and Stone Temple’s Eric Enge Discuss Penguin 4.0 and its Implications at Pubcon Las Vegas in 2016. For more information, please visit and

Republish with a permission from Pubcon


Eric: Yeah, okay. So if somebody was hit by a Penguin in the past, by now, they should have recovered because it’s been out for a few weeks.

Gary: Or have all their links discounted.

Eric: Well, the links are discounted. You can’t change that. So that’s not really a penalty but it’s actually…

Gary: I think one aspect that people don’t realize or one thing that people don’t realize is that, if you had only bad links, then Penguin or this Penguin release will not help you. Yeah, will not help you. The fact that we removed the old penalties from Penguin 3, I think, we are not counting like…we don’t have version numbers but I think it was 3. Basically, the Penguin 3 was still demoting. Recently, we removed those demotions and if the site or the sites ranking didn’t change, then that means that Penguin 4 pretty much discounted all the links and then you have to either look at what links do you have and disavow, remove links standard process or…no, actually, that’s what you have to do.
Eric: So is there an aspect of Penguin 4.0 that if you…that’s what the industry calls it, by the way, in case you didn’t know. And so is there an aspect of Penguin today where if it sees a site that has a particularly large set of poor-quality links, that might raise a flag to the manual spam review team?

Gary: So I don’t work on the manual actions team. As far as I know, there is no such flag. Basically, we or they can see which links were affected by Penguin and they might want to take a deeper look at other sites link profile if they see that the vast majority of the links are bad. But generally, I don’t think that we have any mechanism that would just raise a flag for them.

Eric: But if you have a lot of bad links for your site or you think you have bad links, should you proactively go clean them up and disavow or not worry about it if it isn’t because you did something wrong?

Gary: So I’m tempted to say that you don’t have to worry about it but people will worry about it anyway. I think it’s a good habit to every now and then take a look at your links and just see like where your links are coming from. And if you don’t like something, then disavow it. I think that’s good practice and just remember that a disavow tool is really, really powerful. So try not to disavow links that could be good or pay lots of attention at what are you disavowing because you can easily hurt your site with a disavow tool.

Eric: There used to be classic advice out there which was, gosh, what you ought to do is take your links and actually try to get them removed from the site where they were and…

Gary: It’s still the best advice.

Eric: …this is a huge amount of email to go out to people. Is that still something that makes sense?

Gary: Yeah. I mean that’s still the best advice but I think we realized that that’s often not feasible and that’s why the disavow tool was created. But I think the manual actions team’s recommendation is still to first go out and take down the links that you can and then use a disavow tool.

Eric: So if you have a manual penalty, then it actually makes sense to try to do those, actually getting removed because the spam team that reviews this will actually appreciate the effort effectively. So that’s one of those hidden parts of doing…of trying to recover from a manual link penalty. If you can remember, you’re sending your reconsideration request into human beings and you wanna actually make them feel enthusiastic about you.

Gary: Just to make sure, manual actions or reconsideration requests will never ever help with the Penguin.

Eric: Correct. Yeah. Agreed.

Gary: Okay.

Google’s New AI Search (This isn’t good..)

Google recently launched SGE (Search Generative Experience) which gives users an AI Snapshot inside the search results. What does this mean for users? What does this mean for website owners? And most importantly what does this mean for SEO? Let’s dive in.

SGE – This stands for search generative experience, and its currently powered by a variety of LLMs (similar to BARD) – but has been fine tuned for search – to generate answers and identify the best results based on search terms.

What are the implications of this for users?

Well, in my personal opinion I think this creates a much better experience.

With this new SGE experience, we have a phenomenal summary presented to us, straight to the point with the ability to continue exploring in those 3 recommended results or the ones beneath OR ask a follow up question in a chat style conversation.

Now to the important bit – How would this affect us as website owners?

I personally think that this will most likely lead to getting less clicks. Especially for informational topics. Now – we’ve already seen a massive chunk of informational keywords leading to zero click searches because of featured snippets, – but this is that but on steroids.

It’s extremely complete, we have a nice paragraph summary – , but unless I have specific questions about this topic, if i’m just looking for a generic quick answer i won’t really be clicking into anything – another 0 click search.

And the comparison of what the search currently looks like:

Again, while this featured section is helpful, i think the SGE is goign to lead to a lot more 0 click searches.

I also think that affiliate sites will take a tumble, since with SGE Google is becoming the aggregator of aggregators. – currently we have affiliate sites that will do the top 10 best mountain bikes for example, but SGE could potentially learn from your website and simply present the ecommerce links directly in the answer – as they’ve shown for this result

This will probably be the same for travel aggregator websites, things like yelp, or tripadvisor , honestly any review or guide to sites – since a lot of the local businesses will be selected by SGE directly in search

On the other hand I think the actual websites that are providing the services, or own the local businesses, or products that are being recommended – the actual original providers of that data will now be front and center since it looks like SGE might be bringing people directly to your sites

So does this mean that SEO as a traffic source is dying?

So the first thing is that we’re still extremely early in the process, SGE will be launching as an experiment in the next coming weeks, and will take a while before it fully rolls out, so its definitely possible that the search experience gets tweaked.

Secondly – Google still wants websites to get plenty of traffic. – I remember a couple months ago, when we were first talking about Bard, Everyone was talking about the fact that Google wasn’t linking to any websites in the Bard Result – here’s the video:

But with SGE, even though the AI snapshot takes a big chunk of real estate, Google is still including the top 3 results which is a solid amount of visibility. I’m sure if Google wanted to, they could’ve not included the top 3 websites – Google wouldn’t want us website owners to not be incentivized to get traffic, since that would mean that we’d stop creating content and the AI couldn’t feed itself to provide results. So websites will definitely continue to get traffic.

Lastly, I think that the actual search experience can’t always be summarized or synthesized into a few paragraphs or a few results. In the bike example that they showed in the presentation while the AI does successfully bring up a few relevant results in bikes, me personally i’d take a lot more convincing than just the top 3 results with different characteristics.

While the follow up chat definitely improves the experience – I’d want to read real reviews from people and compare and contrast all the different characteristics that might not fit in the AI snapshot. SO – While the AI can definitely be helpful I think we’re underselling how much we value people’s inputs and opinions on our choices especially when they’re subject matter experts or have real experience with a topic

0:00 Google Announces SGE
0:14 What is SGE (Search Generative Experience)?
0:29 What does this mean for users?
1:28 How does this affect website owners?
4:09 The winners of these changes
4:26 Is SEO traffic dying?
6:17 Let’s discuss in the comments!

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