A Google Penguin Penalty Recovery Guide

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If you have a website, then you definitely know about Google Penguin, the codename for Google’s algorithm launched on April 24, 2012 by Matt Cutts and his team to fight Web spam.

And, in all probability, you have thought about hiring, or you’ve actually hired, an SEO expert to keep your site safe from Google’s spam-fighting algorithm updates.

Google Penguin debuted with the intent of reducing spam by decreasing the search engine ranking of websites that violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Avoiding any techniques that manipulate those guidelines is the best approach to keeping your website off Google Penguin’s hit list.

Penguin checks website link profiles for mainly the following:

  1. No. of backlinks
  2. No. of nofollow links
  3. No. of dofollow links
  4. Links from C class IP sites
  5. Anchor text:
    —Branded
    —Direct
    —Keyword-rich
    —Varied keyword
    —Contextual
    —Commercial
  6.  Sitewide links
  7. Author bio link
  8. Contextual link
  9. Relevancy of website where the link is coming from
  10. Number of backlinks of other inner website pages
  11. Links from bad neighbors
  12.  Links from news sites
  13. Links from authority sites
  14. Links from .edu and .org websites
  15. Paid links

Google has never mentioned which Off SEO techniques it considers good or bad, but not manipulating the Google Webmaster’s Guidelines has been consistently reiterated. When websites don’t follow those guidelines, often they are penalized by Google Penguin.

Once you’ve been slapped by Penguin, it’s difficult to have the penalties revoked. But it’s not impossible. This step-by-step Google Penguin penalty recovery guide will help you to dig yourself out of those costly penalties.

Check the Google Webmaster Tool

Whenever a website is targeted by Penguin, a message automatically at the site’s webmaster account. You can easily check for this message in the “Manual Actions” section, in the left sidebar.

Eleven types of manual actions described by Google. For the purposes of this article, let’s look for the “Unnatural links to your site—impacts links” memo to see whether your site has been hit by Google Penguin.

Go to the ‘Links to Your Site’ Section

In the Google Webmaster Tool, go to the “Links to Your Site” section and download the “Latest Links” via CSV file. Within the file, you’ll view the latest links that were crawled by Google’s bots. Sort them by site name so that links from the same domains are listed together.

Paste all of this info into a Google Drive spreadsheet through your official Gmail ID. (I’ve created a link evaluation spreadsheet you can use to analyze all of your listed backlinks.)

Once you add all the backlinks into the spreadsheet, you’ll need to find the contact information of the referring sites, such as an email address or query form. You can typically find this info by…

  • Checking the footer/header of the website
  • Finding a “contact us” page
  • Locating an “about us” page
  • Looking at the bottom of the website’s privacy policy
  • Searching at the bottom of the terms of use/service page
  • Using Whois IP lookup

Once you have the contact details, place them into your spreadsheet. In some cases, contact information will not be present for you to find. If so, simply add “contact not found.”

Evaluate Your Site’s Backlinks

Here comes the hard part. How can you determine whether backlinks are good or bad? There are no fixed guidelines, but you can analyze websites with the following SEO parameters in mind:

  1. Domain authority
  2. Page authority
  3. Moz Rank
  4. Moz Trust
  5. Citation flow
  6. Trust flow
  7. Social signals
  8. Domain age
  9. Website content
  10. Page Rank (nearly devalued)

By checking each of those 10 parameters, you’ll be able to conclude whether the website has authority or merely cranks out worthless content or spam.

Once you’ve analyzed the website, check each link’s anchor text and note where it’s located: Spammy anchor text will be less branded and will have exact match keywords, and you’ll want to avoid sitewide links (running throughout the website) unless they are useful for site visitors.

Next, classify all your backlinks as “good” or “bad” in your spreadsheet.

Contact the Webmaster

Contacting the webmaster to ask he or she remove a bad backlinks pointing to your site is by far the most important step in the Google Penguin recovery process.

You should create an email template that easily shoots off emails to the webmasters you’ll be contacting. Below is a quick email template you could use or modify to fit your specific situation.

Hi,

Hope you are doing well.

I am trying to remove some backlinks pointing to my website, [INSERT YOUR URL HERE]. I would really appreciate your help in removing this link. Here is the info…

Your website links to my website here: [LINK TO THE PAGE WHERE THE BAD LINK EXISTS]

It points to this URL on my website: [INSERT THE URL THE BAD LINK IS POINTING TO]

And it uses this anchor text: [INSERT ANCHOR TEXT HERE]

If you could please send a confirmation note letting me know that the link has been removed, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance! I hope to hear from you soon.

Warm Regards,
[YOUR NAME HERE]

Google appreciates when you do this hard work, because doing it shows that you care about your website and would do what needs to be done to make it succeed.

After sending the first removal request, wait for a week or two to send it again. Wait for a month to see the webmasters’ responses, and update your spreadsheet noting who has removed your backlinks.

It’s common for people to skip this step of contacting webmasters and instead jumping right into the next step. But doing so probably won’t be beneficial for anyone. To revoke a Penguin penalty, contacting the webmasters is vital.

Create a Disavow Sheet

When you contact webmasters to remove backlinks, some of them will likely fail to respond. And there may also be no clear way for contacting them. But since these links are potentially harmful to your rankings, Google helps out with its Disavow tool.

In this situation, you can easily put all the backlinks or domain names in a disavow sheet (.txt file) and submit it to the Google Webmaster tool. It’s suggested that you use this tool only as a last resort for removing links that are potentially harmful—and only after contacting the webmasters to request removal.

Send a Reconsideration Request

Last but certainly not least, you’ll need to send a reconsideration request to Google. Doing so is possible only if you’ve found a “Manual Action” message in your Webmaster tool. Through the “Request a Review” link, send a reconsideration request that includes the public URL of your link evaluation spreadsheet.

If you have classified all the backlinks correctly and followed the above Google Penguin penalty recovery guide steps honestly, then good news will likely be on your way from Google within 2-3 weeks. Good luck!

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Five Years of SEO: The Panda and Penguin Updates

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Five Years of SEO: The Panda and Penguin Updates

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panda-n-penguin

As one would expect almost every expert mentioned either the Panda or the Penguin Update or both as changes that have been most important within Google in the past few years.

James Carson feels they changed the industry significantly:

“They’ve significantly changed the way that SEO can operate. Previous to this, exploiting loopholes through content farming and link networks was a significant undertaking in the industry. Nowadays continuing to exploit these is seriously risky.”

What are they?

Let’s first take a quick look at what these changes are before we discuss the impact.

The Panda Update: Content

panda-battle

In 2011 Google rolled out its first Panda Update. Unlike you might think based on all the angry Panda pictures going around the web, the update had nothing to do with an animal. An engineer at Google with the last name Panda developed the essence of the update. Like with Pagerank this update was named after its originator.

The Penguin Update: Spam and links

penguin-update

The Penguin Update was first rolled out in 2012 and has been rolled several times since. The update focuses on links. Websites that violate the Google guidelines (don’t buy links, no link schemes etcetera) were ‘punished’ by Google for doing that and thus lost rankings.

About the updates

The Panda and Penguin updates both were measures to fight spam and bad content. They didn’t improve the searchers experience with features, but with better results. For an SEO these meant ‘extra work’. Or as Anders Hjorth puts it:

“Sadly, the other most important changes all seem to have a negative ring to them…”

The negative ring that Anders is talking about is the fighting of the spam and the penalties that came with it. The ‘negative’ part here has to do with the SEO’s job, the searcher ‘only’ benefitted with better results.

Our very own editor Barry Adams is known for his strong opinions on the “matters of Google”. And in this case he doesn’t disappoint us. Barry feels Google is using webmasters for their own benefits:

“Google has switched the burden of spam detection and removal from themselves to webmasters. Google was apparently not happy it had to spend so much effort to keep spam out of its SERPs, so it decided to ‘delegate’ that to website owners instead. Through expert use of tools like manual penalties, webmaster tools messages, propaganda, disavows, and algorithm updates, Google has changed the SEO ecosystem for its own benefit.

Aligning with that, Google is increasingly placing the burden of making sense of content on webmasters as well. Through techniques like structured data Google is making sure it’s up to webmasters to tag their content appropriately, thus reducing the effort Google has to spend on understanding the content it finds on the web.

Google has broken the unwritten rule of web search: “websites provide content to search engines, and in return search engines provide traffic to websites.” Increasingly, Google is taking websites’ content and not giving traffic back. Knowledge box SERPs, ever more common, are stealing traffic from websites that publish original content, and the new site search box is another example of Google’s nefarious tactics to steal traffic from websites so it can show more ads.”

Former Googler Kaspar Szymanski doesn’t share the harsh opinions from Barry, but points at how these changes have changed the way the industry looks at content:

“While Penguin changed the way we look at link building, Panda had a profound impact on content. Few future oriented businesses today would even consider any content spinning tactics. Instead content marketing seems to be on everyone’s mind and it’s almost like there was never anything else but that. As a result of this two famed algorithms and countless little updates that will never reach this level of visibility it seems like overall the industry matured and that online marketing focus, search risk management and SEO strategy development became important parts of an integrated business model of today.”

His fellow countryman Andre Alpar agrees with Kaspar:

“Penguin and Panda have moved the whole industry to a higher level of quality which means that more investment into SEO is necessary to get your voice heard when it comes to generic search terms.”

We can say that Panda and Penguin have had a huge impact on the SEO industry as well as on the SERPS. Going through forums where SEOs gather will show you lots of discussions where SEO’s are talking about these updates. It has become top of mind in the past few years. In the SERPS the effect has been visible as well with some sites completely disappearing and others losing rankings.

How did you survive the Panda and Penguin Updates? Tell us in the comments or tweet:

Be sure to read the other articles in this series:

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Bas van den Beld is a speaker, trainer and online marketing strategist. Bas is the founder of Stateofdigital.com. — You can hire Bas to speak, train or consult.

State of Digital

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