What is a Google Penguin Penalty?
The Google Penguin algorithm targets specific types of “black hat” SEO tactics, when these tactics are found a site is punished, demoted and sometimes blacklisted.
This is often called by people in the SEO industry ‘a Penguin Slap’!
Penguin is one of a series of Google updates; others include Panda, Hummingbird and Pigeon.
The Penguin update specifically targets spammy backlinks and bad linking practices.
Penguin is an algorithmic penalty and not a manual penalty, but often these go hand-in-hand.
Outlawed Penguin tactics include:
- Blog comment spam – e.g. posting comments to low quality and/or irrelevant blogs
- Exact anchor text matching – e.g. ” Lawyers London”, “Car Repairs Birmingham”
- Forum spam – e.g. adding comments/links repetitively and/or on irrelevant forums
- Link automation – using link automation software and/or private blog network methods to obtain links
- Links in low quality or non-industry specific directories – general directories or those built purely for SEO have been targeted.
- Paid links – Links which are known to have been paid for (excludes “no-follow” links) e.g. buying/selling links
- Sitewide links – These are links on every page of a site and as such classed as “unnatural”, e.g. linking to your company from every page on a blog
A timeline for Google Penguin
- Penguin 1.0 – April 24, 2012
- Penguin 1.1 – May 26, 2012
- Penguin 1.2 – October 5, 2012
- Penguin 2.0 – May 22, 2013
- Penguin 2.1 – October 4, 2013
- Penguin 3.0 – October 17, 2014 – Penguin 3.0 Still being rolled out – gradual approach.
What were the effects of Penguin 3.0?
- The Algorithm is said to have affected around 1% of English language searches
- Sites that have removed/disavowed toxic backlinks from earlier penguin releases are likely to be rewarded
- Sites with newly discovered spam/toxic backlinks are very likely to be demoted
- Sites responding to Penguin 3.0 with a backlink cleanse won’t notice any results until a future iteration of Penguin
- Google may have discounted certain links/sites entirely. If links were relied on for previous rankings then the rank will drop
How do you know if you have a penalty?
You may notice a sudden drop in rankings, traffic, enquiries or sales for previously well performing keywords.
What are manual penalties?
- A penalty generated from a manual review, often called “actions” or “adjustments”
- Usually you will receive an Unnatural Inbound Linksmessage in Google Webmaster Tools e.g.
- You will also received a Manual Actions Penaltymessage in Google Webmaster Tools e.g.
How to recover from a Google Penguin Penalty
#1 – SEO Backlink Audit
- Find a list of all the backlinks for your site
- Check if the links are indexed
- Where indexed decide if you want to keep or discard. This requires a skilled SEO practitioner (based on various factors, e.g. relevancy, quantity of links and SEO authority)
#2 – Remove Spammy Backlinks
- For all discarded links, create a contact spreadsheet
- Contact all site owners requesting that your spammy backlinks are removed, follow-up and keep a record of all responses
- Update your contact spreadsheet where site owner removes the links
#3 – Disavow Request
- For any links not removed in the above exercise, add these to a disavow file
- Decide whether to disavow at an individual link or at a domain level
- Submit your disavow.txt file in Google Webmaster Tools: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main
If you also have a manual penalty…
- Create a Reconsideration Request, explaining the problem with links to any corrective work you’ve done e.g. contact spreadhseet, screenshots, Disavow file
- Submit your Reconsideration Request in Google Webmaster Tools
- Wait for a response, typically 2-4 weeks
- Repeat steps 1-3 above if unsuccessful. Google will usually provide examples of remaining spammy links
Do I need to do anything else?
Don’t forget that any links you have removed probably once benefitted your SEO, so you won’t necessarily see a full recovery. You will need to work hard to optimise your website properly and carry out user-focussed, quality-driven marketing – here are a few ideas:
- Improve the design and user-experience
- Improve the page load speed of your site
- Understand your keywords but don’t obsess about them
- Build a solid SEO architecture (titles, meta data, URLs, etc)
- Develop unique, interesting and meaningful content (think about your keywords)
- Blog regularly with interesting news, insights and thought pieces – encourage sharing
- Build exposure, brand awareness and influence by engaging with people on social media and relevant blogs
- Build a database of local and industry specific press and media contacts and deliver targeted PR campaigns
Don’t forget to audit for other penalty types e.g. Penguin.
Recover by hiring a professional service to fix your Penguin Penalty
Or if you don’t have time, inclination skills to undertake the above steps, you can consider a professional service such as Opace’s SEO audit and link removal service.
Visit https://www.opace.co.uk/seo-audit-and-link-removal-service for further information.
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