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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Google Labels Penguin Update a Success & How to Recover If You’ve Been Hit

Posted by @ 7:20 pm

Google’s Penguin Update has been a hot topic in the SEO world for around three weeks now. With widespread reports of ranking penalties and false positives, Google’s Matt Cutts has chimed in on the debate labelling the Penguin Update a success.

“It’s been a success from our standpoint”, Cutts said.

When asked about the issues of false positives (people who feel they’ve been unfairly hit by Penguin when they weren’t doing any spam) Matt went on to clarify,

“We’ve seen a few cases where we might want to investigate more, but this change hasn’t had the same impact as Panda or Florida,”

“No algorithm is perfect. While we’d like to achieve perfection, our litmus test is, ‘Do things get better than before?’”

Matt also went on to clarify that penguin was designed to be quite precise, only acting against pages where there was a high confidence of spam being involved.

So what should you do if you were hit?

Google have said that those hit by the penguin update will need to make changes to their website or link profile in order to recover.

As we’ve mentioned before, bad linking practises seem to be a major cause of this penalty. Some of the things to look out for include,

  1. Paid text links using exact match anchor text: For companies that want to rank for a certain term (such as “red widgets”) one way to accomplish this is by buying links from other websites with that exact matching anchor text. This is against Google’s guidelines, as Google would consider this a paid link that exists solely to manipulate PageRank, rather than to provide any value to visitors.
  2. Comment spam: Two things proved problematic for websites trying to unnaturally rank for specific keywords: signatures in comments that contained exact match anchor text; and people who used a spammy user name (e.g., Best India SEO Company) as exact match text.
  3. Guest posts on questionable sites: Although guest posts are a legitimate way to earn links to your site, sites dinged by the Penguin had links pointing to their website from sites filled with low-quality articles where the focus was on the anchor text rather than the content.
  4. Article marketing sites: Thin content featuring links with exact match anchor text were another common factor among affected sites.
  5. Links from dangerous sites: Do you have inbound links from sites that have been flagged for malware, numerous pop-ups, or other spammy issues? This was another factor that caused websites to lose their Google rankings, so links to and from web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” are a danger.

If you’re looking to clean up your link profile one technique you can try is called link pruning. This basically involves identifying poor incoming links to your website and taking steps to remove them.

Here is a basic outline of the steps to take,

  1. Identify: You need to gather a comprehensive backlink profile for the site in question. There are several tools available that would accomplish this, including Google Webmaster Tools Backlinks Report, Majestic SEO Site Explorer and SEOmoz Open Site Explorer.
  2. Investigate: Go down the list of backlinks to find the rotten ones. It’s a time intensive step that requires you navigate to each link to evaluate its quality. After a while you may start to get a sense of what’s bad by the URL of the linking page alone. If you opt for using Majestic SEO, you have the benefit of their proprietary ACRank, a quality score that you can use to judge link value.
  3. Send Requests: Create a template email requesting link removal that you’ll send to the webmasters in charge of the links identified as low quality. The template should candidly explain that you are an SEO or site owner trying to recover from a Google penalty and would he or she please remove the following links. List the URLs where the links can be found, the URL on your site they point to, the anchor text ─ all the info needed to easily find the link you’re requesting removed. To send the request, you may find contact info on the site, you may need to do a whois search, and you may need to do some sleuthing to get names and email addresses.
  4. Follow Up and Repeat: Expect to receive four types of responses to your requests:● Remove link and tell you.
    ● Remove link and not tell you.
    ● Not reply or do anything.
    ● Will remove the link if you pay them. 

    In the case of the first, verify by going to the page where the link was and if the link was removed, check it off the list. If you haven’t gotten any response back from a contact in 2 weeks, check to see if the link has been removed. It may or may not. If it’s been removed, cross it off the list. If it hasn’t been removed, send a follow-up request.The process of link pruning requires multiple cycles. Each successive cycle will see more links removed. If you run across a webmaster requesting payment for link removal, let’s just say there’s a search engine who will be very interested to hear about this.

  5. Communicate with Google: Throughout this process you must keep detailed records of your actions. A spreadsheet with columns for the linking URL, the contact name, the contact email, the date a request was sent, and responses or actions taken by the linking site. In the end you will not be able to extract all dubious links from the site but you will want to be able to show you’ve done everything in your power to extract manipulative links from your backlink profile.

Have you been impacted by Penguin? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Matthew Elshaw Matt is a marketing professional at, an international search marketing firm. Matt's passion for online marketing began at university and has proved invaluable in steering product development and marketing initiatives at the company. Matt is a regular contributor to the ineedhits search marketing blog.

View Matthew Elshaw's profile

Discussion (13 - comments)

[...] boosting their rankings. Now some small businesses say they are scrambling to avoid …Google Labels Penguin Update a Success & How to Recover If You've Been HitSearch Engine Marketing (blog)What If The Google Penguin Update Inadvertently Killed The Web As We [...]

By As Google Tweaks Searches, Some Get Lost in the Web – Wall Street Journal | Affordable Seo Blog - May 16, 2012

[...] Google Labels Penguin Update a Success & How to Recover If You’ve Been Hit May 17th, 2012No Comments [...]

By Google Labels Penguin Update a Success & How to Recover If You’ve Been Hit « Miami Beach Web Designer - May 16, 2012

[...] Google Labels Penguin Update a Success & How to Recover If You’ve Been Hit [...]

By Google Labels Penguin Update a Success & How to Recover If You’ve Been Hit | RM2 Project - May 16, 2012

how about google just do a bettr job of not counting spam links, removal is impossible with spams sites, becuase they are not managed but spammed.

By frend - May 17, 2012

[...] Engine LandWhat If The Google Penguin Update Inadvertently Killed The Web As We Know It?WebProNewsGoogle Labels Penguin Update a Success & How to Recover If You've Been HitSearch Engine Marketing (blog)SBWire (press release) -Business 2 [...]

By Penguin or Panda? How To Determine Which Google Algorithm Update Impacted Your … – Search Engine Journal | DC2NET Links - May 17, 2012

[...] been a success from our standpoint”, Cutts said. “No algorithm is perfect. Read more on Search Engine Marketing (blog) Google's Matt Cutts Talks Search Result Popularity Vs. Accuracy By Chris Crum · May 8, [...]

By Google Labels Penguin Update a Success & How to Recover If You've Been Hit | Corsi SEO » Posizionamento sui motori di ricerca - May 17, 2012

[...] Killed The Web As We Know It?WebProNewsVirtual-Strategy Magazine -SBWire (press release) -Search Engine Marketing (blog)all 37 news [...]

By Google’s Penguin Update Continues to Smack Small Business – Marketing Pilgrim | DC2NET Links - May 18, 2012

Over the last few weeks I have noticed a large number of highly ranked (#1) pages disappear.

If I am to follow the new guidelines, my question is this…

SEO practices encourage you to view your competitors links. By mirroring/enhancing there practices, how can you tell if your competitor link is deemed as bad?

By Driver With Van - May 19, 2012

On the net since 1998, with high-listing pages on educational, that is serious non-fiction topics, has been badly slammed by Penguin.

We never cloak, (knowingly) use dubious or dangerous links let alone after purchasing them, the only paid for text links are provided by AdSense, we follow Google’ guidelinse on placing ads preferentially ‘above the fold’.

Our page views have dropped by 50% and Google AdSense income similarly.

I cannot see how this helps Google, both with their income and with their wish to promote excellent with original content.

As for chasing spam links, as someone else said, they’re spam links so difficult to track down and ask for help – why should they? They benefit from original and high quality sites.

By xavier hildegarde - May 19, 2012

It may take awhile to go through your links, find the bad ones, and get them removed but the process is well worth it. Google continues to get tougher with penalties. It’s better to start recovering from them now.

By Nick Stamoulis - May 21, 2012

So what are you saying then that it is possible to knock a competitor off the SERPS by simply building lots of bad links to his site?

I thought that was just a rumor back in the day that you could do that but now it seems as though its true and doable.

Also, I can’t see many of the auto approve directory owners removing the links for free. I am sure they will ask payment for that and rightfully so why shouldn’t they? It’s an administrative task isn’t it? So should require an administrative fee. This is where all those auto approve link directories and article directories are making their money now, by charging people to remove their content. All the while any half wit can knock me off the SERPS with a few thousand dirty backlinks. Surely its not that black and white is it? As black and white as a penguin!

By Mike Bike - May 21, 2012

Dear sir
My name is Javid and I launched my site about 8 months ago. (
We started with 30 articles in a day and we have 7thousands of them by now.
Lately (about first of april) I have read in some websites and weblogs that if you make the tags No index you will obtain much better traffic from Google, so with Robot and No index tags I removed our tags.
It was about april 20 that there were no tags from our site in Google anymore.
Then about 2 days later our visit and ranking fell down suddenly.
I also took a few photos that show our decline in visiting in april25 and april26.
And there were no change in this situation for about one month, for instance we publish an article for the first time and after some hours the other websites which copied our article get a better ranking than us and apparently all of our input is from Google images.
We faced a great fell in word searching either.
Now here is the question, what can I do with this?
Is it happened because of making No index all of the tags in my site?
Is it happen because of Google Penguin?
We had about 10 thousands tags that were removed from Google even though it is normal to have so many tags in Persian websites.
I added too our site name in all of titles of the articles.
Our content were like this before:
But I’ve changed it to:
Article Title- Title of Site
And 6-7thousandsa more of these changes
I have sent a revised form but it is not answered yet.
Some weblogs says Matt cutts recommended to launch a new site
How if I set up a new domain and take a back up from my site there?
What is your suggestion for me?
If you need any more information please just let me know.
I have find your blog from Google and looking forward for your answering.
Here is some pictures from us in Google Webmaster Tools
My traffic from Google fell to one third and most of my visits are from Google images.
Yours Sincerely

By javid - May 26, 2012

[...] over 1 innocent site owner that relies on his website for every 5 spam sites they erase.  You website is your baby and you woke to find out that Google Penguin update threw it out with the…has been rumored to be the over optimization penalty update and will whack a site that appears to [...]

By Penguin Assaults Blogs and Designers? - August 12, 2012

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