Google has confirmed that it is not too late to review your backlink profile for your website and remove any bad backlinks (i.e., disavow) before the next version of Penguin (4.0) is released later this year.
This point is important due to how the Penguin algorithm works. As it is not real-time, Google will use a snapshot of data and then use that to run the algorithm, which will then roll out to the SERPs.
The snapshot could be taken a month or two before Penguin being released, and with Penguin predicted to roll out this year, it doesn’t leave much time to fix your backlink profiles.
The question came about in response to a rather cool tweet from Sha Menz, who asked: “If my disavow file were an icicle & it fell in the Arctic, would it be too late for a Penguin to hear it?”. Gary Illyes at Google responded that “no, it’s not too late.”
@ShahMenz no, the arctic is full of those adorable things! (I think?)— Gary 鯨理／경리 Illyes (so official, trust me) (@methode) October 28, 2015
Update: Next Penguin Update to be Realtime by the End of the Year
Gary Illyes has also recently confirmed that the new Penguin 4.0 would be likely to be launched by the end of the year:
@Andrew_Isidoro yes— Gary 鯨理／경리 Illyes (so official, trust me) (@methode) October 28, 2015
While we are almost sure that Penguin will be real-time with the next update, you can never be 100 percent sure when it comes to Google Updates. As a result, we would still recommend reviewing your backlink profiles as a matter of urgency.
How to Review your Backlink Profile
The scope of this article does not intend to go into very much detail about how to check and, if necessary, disavow your backlinks. Essentially, though, what you will need to do is collate all the data from Webmaster Tools, and other third-party services (i.e., Moz, Majestic SEO, Ahrefs) and review the quality of all the backlinks you have.
You should then seek to remove or disavow all those spammy backlinks. It is a little more complicated than it sounds. Still, when we suffered from Negative SEO (third parties creating 1000s of low-quality backlinks pointing to our website) early last year, we turned to CognitiveSEO.
CognitiveSEO collates backlink data from all the different third party services (so much cheaper overall) and then has a tool that helps you determine the low-quality links. You can then use that tool to create and submit the disavow file.
What used to take days of hard work can now be done in just a few hours. You can read more about that tool here.
While we do not maintain a subscription to them, we do subscribe for 2 or 3 months each year (spread out over the year) to use this tool correctly.