Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.
Your links are now evaluated shortly after every crawl. You might not have to worry that much about negative SEO, since Google devalues spam links instead of penalizing your whole site; but I said “that much” because still, bad links are bad, and they are harmful to your rankings. Maybe not on a sitewide level, but a page that is flooded with backlinks could get some serious spanking if the influx of such links isn’t monitored.
Penguin 4.0 Changes The Playing Field
Before, we can identify if we are hit by a Penguin algorithm penalty if we experience a sudden drop in traffic after a penguin rollout. (Manual actions may cause a drop too, but will discuss that on another article). Today, if you are running a site with very high-traffic, you will less-likely spot a penalty without checking traffic for each page, since your website will be penalized for bad links pointing only to a specific page and not site wide. It may have very little effect on other parts of your website
This means that to be able to identify if your website is in fact penalized, you should keep a close eye on your individual page rankings apart from closely monitoring organic traffic changes. This will require a little more effort on your part, but will save time in trying to figure out what the hell happened (key phrase: individual pages).
For most websites however, 90% of the inbound links are pointing to the homepage. This may be a problem if you did serious effort on manually building links back in 2011, and you managed to go undetected up to this point (which is highly unlikely). Kidding aside, tools such as Majestic SEO will help you identify recent links that could have caused a drop in your rankings.
Recovering From a Penalty
The simplest way to recover is still to use the disavow tool. Make it a habit to check which websites are linking to you and avoid acquiring links from spammy sources such as social bookmarking websites, article sites, and fishy link farms. Update your disavow text file if you think a website that is linking to you will do more harm than good.
There are metrics such as a website or a page’s MozRank that you can use to identify if a link is bad for your website. Remember though, that these metrics are not all that you need to gauge a website’s credibility. Some sites with a low score might be good for you if they fall under the following criteria:
It is where your target audience is, so it is only logical that you submit a link to it. Local directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages are great examples.
A previous customer posts a blog review about how good your product/service is. Google’s AI isn’t able to take over the world just yet since it isn’t that intelligent enough, but it sure can identify if it’s a positive review from a credible source.
If you are still in the dark ages of SEO and you still believe that a massive linkbuilding strategy is what you need, maybe it’s time to evaluate your strategies or your client definitely needs to direct his digital marketing budget to someone else.