To save us from the spam, Google has rolled out updates to its algorithms, and its most recent heavy hitter is the updated Penguin — Penguin 4.0 — that came out this September. Now, if you’re a savvy marketer or content creator paying attention to the future of SEO, you’re probably aware of a few big changes since its sync-up with Google’s core algorithm. But to cover my bases, here’s a quick rundown of what’s new:

The algorithm is more specific in its tracking, so rather than looking at entire sites that bad links direct to, it’s looking at the individual pages on different subdomains themselves. Everything is in real time, which means as soon as a page is updated, its ranking can change. Updates to pages that link to it can affect its ranking, too.

And Penguin 4.0 is universal, and the rules apply to everyone. To help you play by the rules (and win the game), I wanted to share some advice my content marketing team and I have learned so far:

1. Audit subdomains and website pages regularly. Because Penguin 4.0 is more specific (nitpicky, even), you’ll need to pay even closer attention to your content if you want to avoid penalties. All of your website’s pages and subdomains need to be checked regularly, not just your main site. Every page matters, so make it a point to comb through your subdomains to ensure your content and links are still on the up and up.

2. Keep a closer eye on your backlink profile. Good links have been important for a long time, but they matter even more now — which means bad links carry more weight, too. Run a backlink analysis to make sure your backlink portfolio isn’t inadvertently putting you at risk or damaging your chances of ranking higher.

And sure, because the algorithm is in real time, you can recover faster from a potential penalty, but you should still take steps to avoid it. And contributing guest content to reputable publications or third-party sites can help you do that. Not only will you have a better shot at reaching your audience (especially if you use social media and other tactics to improve your content distribution), but you can also start building more quality backlinks.

3. When in doubt, go back to basics. No one’s ever ruined his online presence by practicing good SEO, and that’s because practicing good SEO is always a good idea. It’s an industry standard that everyone would be smart to follow, and especially with Penguin 4.0 taking closer aim at shadier tactics, good SEO is more important than ever.

So link to relevant, educational content that builds on the content you have, use keywords with intent, and monitor how your keywords rank in your analytics to see where there’s room to optimize your efforts. If you do ask for backlinks, only ask trusted partners, and if you notice that your brand has been mentioned in a credible site, try to get a link to your site from it.

That said, I don’t want you to think I’m advocating passive tactics to get your content in front of the right eyes. Practicing good SEO and staying up-to-date on changes are important, but they’re not usually enough on their own. You have to constantly and actively distribute your content if you want your audience to see it.

One of the biggest content marketing trends of 2017 will be a focus on content’s distribution and engagement. Algorithms will take those factors into consideration, and that means marketers need to do the same.

Content is everywhere, and its quality is all over the place. But people are sick and tired of fake, shady, and spammy content. These kinds of updates and regulations will only become more common, and we need to embrace them if we care about our audiences.

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