Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

May 17, 2012

Penguin Recovery Posts Are Lying To You.

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:23 pm

Note: I did a Google+ post on this earlier, but I wanted to go a little bit more in depth here.

If you’ve read any major SEO blogs lately all you seem to read about is the so-called “penguin penalty.” Mere hours after the penguin update hit several articles titled “how to recover from the Google Penguin penalty” started showing up all over the web.

Isn’t it amazing how so many people are willing to show you how to fix something before they’ve even fixed it themselves? I’m sure those quickest to log in to WordPress and spew out something with the word Penguin in it were rewarded with lots of panicked clients, but I worry about the advice those clients received.

Penguin Isn’t a Penalty

There’s that word again. You keep using it but I do not think it means what you think it does.

For starters, it’s time to stop thinking about Penguin as a penalty. It’s a change to the ranking algorithm designed to not reward spammy techniques. Penguin most likely isn’t penalizing you as much as it’s just not giving any weight to some of your links or keywords on the page if it deems them likely to be spammy.

Unlike how most true Google penalties work you can’t just remove the spammy things, file a reconsideration request, and expect your rankings to immediately bounce back. They most likely won’t.

Simply removing bad links is NOT the way to recover from Penguin

In the rush to become the Penguin experts several SEOs posted Penguin recovery articles that suggested if you remove the spammy links everything will be fine. This caused many other SEOs to obsess about every one of their incoming links to the point where they even started serving takedown requests on questionable sites who linked to them. Those people are idiots.

Think About It Logically

Let’s think critically here: if Penguin were a penalty based on bad links it would completely open the floodgates for negative SEO and anybody would be able to take down any site they pleased. I don’t want to debate the whole concept of negative SEO. I’ll just say that yes negative SEO is possible but it’s not possible by just firing up scrapebox or xrumer and pointing a ton of links to a quality site. That won’t work – and it won’t work because Penguin isn’t really a penalty; it’s a ranking factor.

So then, why did my site lose rankings?.
Chances are, your site stopped ranking because many of your links stopped counting. It looks and feels like a penalty, but it’s really just a change in your link graph. When @rhea from Outspoken Media put up a Penguin Poll on Facebook a few minutes ago (yes, I wrote this post in 20 minutes) we started chatting and she gave a great example. I’m lazy so I’m just going to copy and paste that. Here’s what she said:

Devalued is the key. It’s what we’ve seen [specific example removed]… When you hack out the spam network, it makes sense that the value of the entire site would fall by X% vs a -30 penalty or something else like that, which isn’t applied site-wide.

That makes perfect sense to me. Suppose pre-Penguin you had 1,000 links pointing to your site and 300 of them were all forum signatures with the anchor text of “knockout gas umbrellas”. Penguin comes along, notices those 300 forum links that all look the same and stops giving them weight. It’s only natural that you’d no longer rank for the term “knockout gas umbrellas” since you just lost 30% of your incoming links! Or to look at it another way, the main reason you ranked for that term was probably because you had 300 spammy links.

Your Expert Is Wrong

If you hired one of those “experts” who wrote about penguin recovery on day one there’s no doubt he’d notice those forum links too (after all, he IS an expert.) According to the blog posts though, his advice would probably be to immediately remove them all. That’s not a bad idea and it won’t hurt you in the long run, but it also won’t bring your rankings back. Even if you remove all the bad links, you still have 30% less links than you had before!

If you want to ensure your rankings to come back you’ve got to make up for those spammy links that Penguin hacked off.

Chances are if you were hit by Penguin you weren’t hit sitewide. If you were (and no longer rank for your company name or website URL for example) it’s probably something other than Penguin at play. If you look at the keywords you were hit on, you’ll most likely discover that the only reason you ranked for them in the first place is because of your spammy links or keyword stuffing. Now that the spam isn’t counting your rank is back down to where it would be without them. (and likely where it was before you did your spamming.)

So what would I do if I were hit by Penguin? If there were spammy links that I controlled (like forum signatures or link wheels) I’d probably go ahead and remove them since they’re clearly not helping me. If there were links I couldn’t control though I’d ignore them and focus my efforts on building more high quality links to replace the low quality ones that Google’s no longer counting.

Of course if you were doing that from the start you wouldn’t be worrying about the Penguin update at all now would you?


  1. Fact. Matt Cutts announced on April 24th that Penguin was rolling out over the next few days. That alone means anyone claiming they got hit by Penguin ON April 24th is full of crap -they may or may NOT have been hit by Penguin that day.

    Fact. 53 algo changes in April. None of the others was given even an approximate date, only “in April”.

    Fact. Most sites that have crappy SEO are just as likely to have been hit by a unique combination of multiple updates as they are to have been hit most severely by any single update.

    Fact. Penguin specific fixes cannot be judged unless performed in an isolated test, and results can only be seen after a next Penguin update. Which to all of our knowledge, has NOT happened yet.

    Fact. Even in an isolated test, there could be a bazillion other Google updates, tweaks or adjustments that could have happened in the mean time to cause a false-positive correlation to Penguin.

    Fact. This has ALWAYS been the case with just about EVERY update Google has EVER rolled out, except certain aspects of Panda, which I do happen to have multiple case studies on for sites I’ve audited post Panda, and slightly few aspects of the previous year’s MayDay update given how monumentally big they were.

    Fact. The bottom line in all this is People need to stop pretending to be Google Update Psychics and start just calling asshat SEO for what it is, regardless.

    Comment by Alan Bleiweiss — May 17, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

  2. Fact: Google never calls Penguin a penalty. They call it an algorithm change… so my biggest pet peeve is people who keep saying they got penalized. they didn’t.

    Comment by Ryan Jones — May 17, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  3. I can’t agree with you and Alan anymore than I do. No one has any idea what they’re talking about when it comes to Penguin, regardless of how much data they have. I think it is beyond silly to look at anchor text and inbound links as a way to diagnose what is going on. Anyone who has been hit with this update (or, as Alan has noted, the other 53 updates in April) has been deserving a smack to the face.

    As Alan said:
    Fact. The bottom line in all this is People need to stop pretending to be Google Update Psychics and start just calling asshat SEO for what it is, regardless.


    Comment by Halvorsen — May 17, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

  4. I disagree to the extent that we should be analyzing the data and adjusting accordingly. I also believe that this was a devalue, to Ryan’s point and less of a penalty. Therefor, removing a ton of links won’t be the fix. It shouldn’t hurt, so do it, but don’t place all your bets on that. Diversify and grow your links. Naturally. Through something amazing and helpful. Earn your placement for the query.

    Comment by Rhea Drysdale — May 17, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

  5. Rhea, I agree that we should be analyzing data and adjusting accordingly, which is what we should always be doing. And as always, sustainable best practices solutions.

    Comment by Alan Bleiweiss — May 17, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

  6. Not saying I live and breath what Matt Cutts says but he did in fact say in an interview with Danny Sullivan, “What that means is that if some of your site is deemed Penguin-like, all of it may suffer. Again, recovery means cleaning up the spam. If you’ve cleaned and still don’t recover, ultimately, you might need to start all over with a fresh site, Cutts said.” What that tells me is that there is more to Penguin than the links you all are referencing. If the final recommendation is to build under a new site there is more to the puzzle than external links losing value as long as we’re assuming what Mr. Cutts says is truthful.

    Comment by Joel (@webaddict) — May 17, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  7. If getting hit by Panda and/or Penguin and/or any forthcoming updates requires us to scrap a site and completely rebuild it…that’s when Google is getting a little ridiculous. It would be like a cop pulling over everyone who is speeding. It would be like watching a basketball game where every foul is called. The search experience would be completely awful at that point. And punishing everyone is also illogical, especially when it comes to big brands. If I’m operating in the gray areas of link building and longtail landing page creation as a way to game the system, it’s also likely that I have the budget to do a lot whitehat SEO correctly. And I probably have a budget to do a lot of other types of effective brand marketing. And I probably also have the budget to build a great site, invest in conversion optimization, and provide amazing value to my visitors. If Google punishes all of those sites *and* all of the obvious spam sites, the SERPs would be empty. Well, actually, not entirely empty. It would probably be full of Google+ profiles and post. Oh wait. We’re almost there already.

    Comment by @kerrydean — May 17, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

  8. Hi Ryan

    Interesting post.
    I was wondering this week if some of the people who were “hit” by penguin but didn’t get the spam email via WMT were actually hurt as a result of link devaluation.

    My “feeling” (and that’s really all it is) is that it’s probably a combination of that and a bunch of (or few?) other things.

    I don’t “wonder” if getting rid of a ton of links really quick is a good thing. As google, I would look at that as unnatural too. They don’t want us “gaming” the system so to get rid of a million links really quick would be “gaming” the system. Would it not? Or, if we’re gaming the system ungame our game does that make it ok?!

    It’s really just ridiculous. Totally silly!!!!!

    Could this be where we’re going?!… A process/regulation thingie that we have to put our sites through every year (and at start up) to make sure it complies with guidelines. If we fail to do it and fail to meet current guidelines THEN we get penalized, devalued, dropped or whatever. It would be more like other businesses that need inspections, etc. Sure it’d be a pain the butt and REALLY sad given the fact that SEO has made sense for the past few years but at least we’d know what the hell is going on.


    Comment by susanna — May 17, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

  9. Google is partly responsible for the confusion. If you tell webmasters to submit reconsideration requests b/c of unnatural linking and then they disappear for their brand, clients don’t care if technically it’s a penalty or algorithm update. (And, btw, losing a percentage of links isn’t going to cause you to disappear for your brand. Causing a site to disappear for its brand is much more punitive in nature.)

    Back to clients and site owners … They really don’t split hairs over terminology like we practitioners do. And since SEO isn’t an exact science with regulated standards and agreed-upon nomenclature, I always find someone coming in and castigating others over semantics a little odd. To a client losing $10k a day because their money pages have disappeared off the face of the earth, they just want to know how to bounce back.

    And when SEER disappeared for its brand a few weeks back, Wil was specifically told by Matt about low-quality directory links pointing to a site that was redirecting to SEER, which he cleaned up. And this post (http://bit.ly/Je6lQo) also talks about their high-authority site that was hit b/c of links in WordPress templates they created that were used by splogs.

    As for the bouncing back process, try submitting a reconsideration request without making an earnest effort to clean up your link portfolio. I think it would be foolhardy. We were specifically instructed to create a Google Doc that we could share with Google’s Web Spam team for a client (whose spammy links pre-dated their engagement with SEER) in addition to filling out the reconsideration request. And even after cleaning up as many spammy links as they could fine – or at least requesting to have them removed – their request was denied.

    So I think we need to be careful about doling out prescriptive advice that’s not backed with considerable testing (anyone hear of a double-blind study?), anecdotal evidence, and verifiable results. It’s the only way that we, as an industry, will mature into a more scientific discipline with some guards that keep us balanced and accountable.

    My thoughts from the cheap seats.

    Comment by Annie Cushing — May 18, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

  10. “…even started serving takedown requests on questionable sites who linked to them. Those people are idiots.”

    If you know you have spammy links, and Google knows you have spammy links, and you have the opportunity to have them removed, you’d be an idiot for not doing so. Its only one part of the fix but I sure wouldn’t leave them out there.

    Comment by Tony Spencer — May 18, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

  11. But sending a DMCA takedown request is NOT the method to do it. If somebody else created the link to you, you’ve got no power to have them remove it other than politely asking. There’s no law against linking and it’s not a copyright violation. The “idiot” part applied to those abusing copyright law to try and have links removed from sites.

    Side note: while not a good penguin recover strategy, this CAN be a very good negative SEO strategy. I’ll leave that at that.

    Comment by Ryan Jones — May 18, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  12. Ohhhhh, sorry I didn’t know you were referring to DMCA.

    Yeah DMCA abuse is not cool.

    Comment by Tony Spencer — May 18, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  13. Let’s all be honest SEO has been way too easy for way too long. The fact that you could manipulate Google’s algos so easily (and quickly) I might add, is just a testament to how crappy the SERPs had become. As much as the lazy part of me hates it, the other side says bring on the new challenges associated with (creating content for users not bots).

    Comment by Keith Brown — May 18, 2012 @ 4:09 pm

  14. oh, manipulation is still pretty easy. Just not in the same way it has been in the past. True story: when Penguin hit I was at SMX Toronto. Since I couldn’t take my laptop up with me to present I left it in the back of the room auto building links to one of my more spammy sites. My goal was to try to see if I could get it penalized. My automated built about 10k links for me during that session. Result: I went from #12 to #2 for the site’s main term almost overnight. Now, I’m waiting to see if the next penguin / panda / whatever refresh finds it and penalizes. I’m kind of curious to see what happens.

    Comment by Ryan Jones — May 18, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

  15. I agree…. a lot of people are treating this update as a penalty when in fact it’s not. A penalty means you did something wrong and if you fix it you can recover.

    With this update they are just devaluing spammy techniques that you’ve been participating in. The only way to recover is to just use better SEO strategies.

    Comment by Chris — May 19, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  16. What does GOOGLE say it is? Penalty or Algo update? And what the F*** is the difference. And really, who freekin’ cares.

    CAN you or CAN’T you recover. That’s really all anyone cares about….

    My gosh am I ever irritated with semantics….

    Comment by susanna — May 19, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

  17. Trying to change or ‘fix’ the past may be a fool’s errand. Just move forward with higher-quality, more effective, less heavy handed tactics.

    One nice think about Krap-links — So many of them fall out of existence whether it’s Pligg, Scuttle or Directories. Many forum profiles/accounts get axed if your not active or log in after x number of days. So in many ways, the lowest-quality backlinks will decay out of the link graph soon enough anyways.

    Comment by Glenn B. — May 20, 2012 @ 1:53 am

  18. Nice post, I agree 100% too many people are quick to respond to Penguin way to quick when they have not been hit directly.

    I think the best style of response will be in 2 months when people actually have a proven case study for some one who has been hi by Penguin. Their is no point doing guess work.

    Comment by James Norquay — May 20, 2012 @ 4:48 am

  19. I think lazy SEO is a thing of the past. While there may still be ways to manipulate Google after Penguin, I think the rate of new major algo changes by Google will increase significantly. I admit I’ve fallen victim to lazy SEO via blog networks.

    Truth is, no one knows what they’re talking about – if they did they wouldn’t have time to post on SEO blogs because they’d be sailing the world on their yacht.

    But the best advice I’ve seen is what Wil Reynolds said, “Do shit that a real business would do.”

    Comment by Marc — May 20, 2012 @ 8:54 am

  20. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for people to believe that Google could indeed pass negative juice from links they deem “bad”. Though I will admit that I had been of this same mindset until Penguin was released. And I did my homework.

    Yes, I have participated in some link building. Pages on my site that were ranking (and drawing traffic) contained a variety of backlinks. Some decent quality. Some natural. Some built by me. Some not so decent quality. With Penguin the rankings dropped. These pages are now getting OUT-ranked by pages on my site with no backlinks, and virtually NO on page content at all. For the very same keywords that used to rank on my “optimized” pages. Even if some of the links had been devalued, these optimized pages should STILL out-rank the pages with no backlinks and no content.

    You may be able to convince yourself that this is for another reason. But it’s clear to me that Google is willing to penalize specific pages of my site — not just pass less value for certain links — but actually penalize a page for the link portolio to that page, causing LOWER rankings that it would have received just for devalued links.

    The good news is that you can recover. I have been experimenting with different techniques on pages where I lost rankings, and am already regaining rankings on a couple of them.

    And if the google apologists and negative seo deniers continue with their “google would never pass negative juice and negative seo isn’t possible”, you’re only harming those who trust your opinions.

    Comment by Amber Lee — May 20, 2012 @ 10:01 am

  21. Great post Ryan.

    So, as per the discussion above, this is not a penalty and its an algo change. The spammy links have been devalued. umm wait..

    there is more to the penguin story..
    I am seeing other unrelated pages from the same site, ranking on page 8 or so, for the penalized keyword. In some cases, these unrelated pages are also penalized for their respective terms. So, all this is one crazy jumble.

    And if this was an algo change, why is this applied sitewide? I mean, I have genuine pages for which, no links were built, but still they are wiped out.. why so? Ideally, as per the algo, only the spam hit pages should be suffering.

    Consider you are running a revenue sharing genuine article directory under the same domain. You have 10000 members having adsense on their articles. Some blackhat members, tried hard to rank their articles and pushed all the crappy links to their articles. So, now the penguin will come out wipe out the whole site, and destroy the livelihood of the rest of the genuine members as well?

    Google is so smart!! *sarcasm*

    Comment by Vaibhav Deshpande — May 20, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  22. Opinion: This article is a great reminder not to be reactionary.

    Fact: At some point you need to make a decision and act upon your best guess at fixing the problem.

    I haven’t seen this discussed, but it seems that Penguin is a page-level algo update rather than domain-level?

    Comment by Dan Kern — May 20, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

  23. Dan and Vaibhav, it certainly has been my personal experience that it’s a page level penalty and not site wide. And others ARE talking about this. I don’t doubt that some have been hurt site wide, though probably for different reasons that I was hurt page specific.

    It’s typically a mistake to deal in absolutes. Penguin is more complex (as you would expect) than just a single issue that effects everybody the same way.

    And Dan, am in complete agreement that it’s a mistake to be reactionary. I want to understand it and fix it. Not complaining (other than the fact that I think Google has opened Pandora’s box to negative SEO).

    Comment by Amber Lee — May 21, 2012 @ 10:54 am

  24. Makes sense. I also do not see it as a penalty. Google penguin does devalue over optimised links as well as on site seo factors like internal links that are over done as well.


    Comment by Dewaldt Huysamen — May 22, 2012 @ 2:49 am

  25. I disagree on the basis of seeing several sites affected; some yes maybe were just devalued links as keywords dropped to page 2 or 3 but some of our sites with extensive diverse links completely dropped beyond page 10 on all long tail and big keywords.

    If profile links or article links were devalued it would not be enough to push those sites of mine into the nethworld. It is clear we got some penalty and they all share the same issue; too much keyword anchor text.

    Comment by erick recors — May 22, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

  26. Great title Ryan- other than the few anchor text diversity studies that had some real legwork involved, all of the recent article remind me of all the Panda recovery articles that have been written – almost all of them worthless (except for the few pointing out that engagement metrics seem to be the common denominator).

    The above the fold “penalty” and the Panda “penalty” are algorithmic and seem to run every month or two; my impression is that Penguin is just part of the normal rolling thing Google does and isn’t a periodic process.

    Whether Penguin is truly an algorithmic “penalty” or not…I think you probably have it right here – seems like more of a devaluation of links than penalization of a site.

    Comment by Ted Ives — May 22, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

  27. Hello Jones, I fully agree with you. I got kick penalty by Penguin last month on my other WordPress theme website and do not fall back to its original rank. This convinced me that it is not easy to recover the penguin. If it falls might take a long time to wait for the next update penguin.


    Comment by TambelanBlog — May 22, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

  28. Thank You Ryan, great clarification. We needed that 🙂


    Comment by Liz — May 24, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

  29. I disagree, I think that Penguin is a penalty. If it’s not, how can you explain why you now see blogger blogs with zero original content and thin scraper sites ranking high for keywords, whilst sites with good original content have been pushed so far down that they aren’t in the top 100? If this was merely a devaluation of links and not a penalty, the drop wouldn’t be so drastic.

    Another reason I believe its a penalty is because I have sites which have very few backlinks built to them and they either didn’t get negatively affected by Penguin or they only moved down about 1 page. The sites which had a significant amount of links to them got hit.

    Comment by Mellow — May 27, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

  30. Ryan,

    I built a bunch of spammy sites a few years ago when super IM guru B. Johnson marketing this course called Auto Content Cash. I left most of the sites running because at one point I was making more a month on the sites than a paid for the trashy course. Little by little, all the Google animal updates cleaned house on my spammy sites. I stopped making crappy sites 2 years ago and started building a few high quality sites that are very rewarding to build. Those sites have not been negatively impacted.

    Comment by mark — June 7, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  31. If Ryan had data, he would see that the effect certainly was site wide and not simply a devaluation of links. He is just as bad as the “experts” he is trying to prove wrong.

    Comment by Zach — June 8, 2012 @ 11:53 am

  32. Our small business website was completely deindexed from google for limited link building and “keyword stuffing” from Penguin, I’m sure. I’ve done all that I can do, I believe, to fix the problem. I really feel that the changes google are putting in place only benefit large, corporate web efforts who can higher experts to track all these frequent changes. Who knows? Google’s changes will probably be a measurable drag on the US economy as all this effort will be expended to fix things that were okay in the past. As I run our “IT Department” (again were a very small company), I’ve sworn not to use any additional google tech products until a more reasonable and predictable google regime is in place. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised google favors large corporations and doesn’t care about small business. It’s one of the largest corporations around.

    Comment by Brian — June 10, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

  33. If you have data, you’re more than welcome to share it. I’d love to see it.

    Comment by Ryan Jones — June 15, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  34. Ryan,
    Thanks so much for this post. We need to spread around this information because there is so much talk about penalty and what to do. You are spot on when you say, “Of course if you were doing that from the start you wouldn’t be worrying about the Penguin update at all now would you?” That’s exactly how I feel. Again, thank you and keep up the amazing info/SEO direction.

    Comment by Casey Camilleri — June 20, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

  35. The Ryan’s post is nice and sensible apart from naive assumption that before 24th of April for many years Google was that stupid that would give high value to 300 signature links, what’s more from the same forum website.
    Google was stupid to some extend (see the massive SEO market) but for many years already wasn’t giving much value to duplicated links or links from poor link directories.

    It is hard to believe any SEO specialist writing any advices if his/her income is dependent on webmasters SEO decisions.
    Has anyone tested checked “carry on creating links” advice?

    Comment by Milosz — July 2, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  36. Google may may call Penguin a update, but by the time you remove ALL bad lininks, clean onpages and also create some good links and YET dont see at least a 60% recovery, then YES its a penalty.

    Comment by jeremias — July 8, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  37. All those who are saying that Google is penalizing “bad” website owners need to read rockerfeller foundation’s Scenarios for the future of technology. Just Bing it. The file has all the plans that the “big guys” have for all of us. And yes, one of them is making Internet totally useless. The main plot is to bring more spams in front while burring the real content deep within. Star from its page 39.

    Comment by Shane — July 11, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  38. The best thing about posts like this (from a personal point of view) is the span of comments and feedback that engaged readers provide. When thinking specifically about the Penguin update (not penalty, although those who will have been ‘penguined’ will I’m sure feel penalised) for me it is not just links. Of course having a lot of problematic, low quality, non thematic relevant links with limited URL variation and no user value will be a big issue.

    Over optimisation (I appreciate the fact that holistically ‘optimum’ cannot be ‘over optimum’ but you get the point); lots of exact match anchor text, lots of footer links, lots of high key term frequency on pages, little fresh, unique and value add content and high volumes of links per page will also be issues associated with Penguin.

    As for a recovery strategy it is as it always has been – if you have completed actions that are looking to game the system for quick wins then undo it and undo it now. If you have historically been lucky with limited competition and managed to attain great rankings without much effort then appreciate the past situation you were in but recognise that this time is now over. Like it or not if you want great results you have to work for them, if you want longevity with your online success then you have to work even harder.

    Maybe if everyone stopped gaming the system we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now with Google and multiple listings, stupid volumes of updates and fluctuation in SERPs that has probably never been seen before.

    Comment by Lee Wilson — July 12, 2012 @ 4:40 am

  39. Just want to thank you for our comment Lee. I’ve been following the comments on this post since it was created and I think yours is the best on here!!!

    This part made me kind of sad though:
    “If you have historically been lucky with limited competition and managed to attain great rankings without much effort then appreciate the past situation you were in but recognise that this time is now over. “

    Comment by Susanna — July 12, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

  40. yeah that’s too good..you written it as detailed as possible about penguin recovery nowadays it’s tough to find articles like those..thanks for the nice share..

    Comment by Sinbad Konick — July 12, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

  41. Hi all,

    I got hit by something the other day. I have a newish site (couple of months old) with basically no backlinks.

    I listed it in some business directories, all pointing straight at the home page. Not many, maybe 10 directories.

    So my other pages have no links.

    My keyword is in the domain name, in fact, it is the domain name.

    Within a month (less), I’m on page one with my home page.

    I get offered 1000 low-quality links for free, so figure I’ll give it a try. Nothing happens, couple of weeks go by.

    2 days ago, my home page is gone. I searched to page 10, nowhere. About 5 of my other pages are in there, starting at page 2, with about 3 of them on page 3.

    It’s definitely the spammy links that did it. Penguin swept through and I got hit. Call it a penalty, call it an algorithm change, whatever.

    Spammy links from irrelevant sites was my downfall.

    All I care about now is how to reverse the damage and get back on page 1.

    Any ideas? I’m thinking just to focus on the page that’s on page 2.

    Comment by Greg — July 13, 2012 @ 12:39 am

  42. I’m not an SEO. I’m a lawyer with a very small practice and limited budget. I’ve done some link building, mostly articles. Most with anchor text.

    My site was hit hard on April 24th and I have been doing two things furiously ever since: 1.) creating new content even to the point of making what I hope are helpful videos for potential clients; and 2.) trying to figure out what the hell I did wrong to get hit.

    Interestingly, my rankings weren’t hit for things like “bankruptcy attorney” etc, so my main/home page is doing the same for the most part., but that wasn’t how I was getting a lot of traffic anyway. My blog posts had taken the hit. Conversely, my “tag” pages rose, but those were getting me calls either. And then I came across something about tag clouds being considered spammy (even saw a Cutts’ video on it). Turns out I had a huge tag cloud on all of my post pages, about two hundred tags. I honestly thought readers would use them to jump to other articles. So, about two weeks ago I got rid of the tag cloud and decided the hell with it and gutted all of the tags as well.

    Now, I’m just waiting and hoping for some words of encouragement that eventually things will bounce back. I’ve put my videos on YouTube, Vimeo, and Tumblr. I’m writing much more in depth posts. I looked at some of my early posts and was embarrassed by how thin they were. I’m also trying to figure out how to get more engaged with bing, because it seems to like me.

    I have my fingers crossed. Nothing is more disturbing than a phone that doesn’t ring.

    Comment by Peter — July 14, 2012 @ 8:25 am

  43. Hey Susanna I’m glad you liked my comment.

    The part regarding:

    “If you have historically been lucky with limited competition and managed to attain great rankings without much effort then appreciate the past situation you were in but recognise that this time is now over. “

    … doesn’t mean that some rankings wont still be available with limited efforts as there will always be some niche industries where you can get great results with limited investment in time and resources it just means that if you want to future proof your SEO efforts as much as possible and try to get the very best results you will probably have to work harder now than previously.

    There are many reasons for this including; increasing levels of online competition, the rise and rise of the Internet globally as well as the ever changing SEO environment imposed in many ways by Google changes to algorithms, manual penalties etc.

    I guess my comment was looking to say the bets results will be harder work because you are striving for the very best – but there will always be quick win opportunities out there it is just a case of selecting the right wins for you and making sure that any quick wins do not undermine future successes online.

    Hope this helps, Lee.

    Comment by Lee Wilson — July 16, 2012 @ 6:37 am

  44. Your post regarding enough safeguards has been put in by google for negative seo or that the links are only devalued and not negatively effect a site may be true if the any of the sites would have not gone below their earlier white hat levels before links were added. the WPMU.org case itself is a solid proof that there is a penalty or negative effect of these links. So, infact negative seo is also a valid hypothesis. Also, why do you think google changed their wordings regarding negative seo

    Comment by ash — July 30, 2012 @ 5:04 am

  45. Great post Ryan. I’ve suspected the spam links were simply devalued otherwise you would have a whole industry start around spamming competitors.

    Comment by Sean — September 28, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

  46. Ryan, with all respect you’re just plain wrong. you are spouting out theory but you have no hard evidence. I, on the other hand, do have hard evidence. My site was hit by big G’s 5th Oct penguin. I lost my rankings. my site had only been live for 6 months. Before being hit I was ranking #4 for my target word phrase.

    ~ I did all the link building (hundreds of Pligg spam links) to get this ranking myself.
    ~ All links pointed at home page.
    ~ I had no natural links

    Since being hit I have tried to recover and while doing so I have observed Google’s behaviour with regard to my site.

    ~ I removed many spammy pligg links where possible and changed anchor from ‘exact match’ to branded/url
    ~ I manually built many new links for high quality relevant sites (forums, guest blogs, social book marks) to my home page.

    RESULT: rankings recovered by about 70%
    BUT my home page still does not rank. Before I was hit, it was only my home page that ranked but now the same rankings have transferd onto random sub pages for the very same key words that my home page once ranked for. My site only has about 7 pages. Even more weirdly Google keeps changing which of my sub pages ranks for my primary key word.

    The evidence indicates that it is a penalty. My home page is unable to rank due to penalty. Luckily the penalty does not transfer to (poison) inner pages and so inner pages do rank. Inner pages did not rank pre-penguin but have adopted the rankings from home page due to site relevancy.

    What I expect to see with the next penguin refresh is my rankings to return to my home page once Google lifts penalty.

    Comment by Fion — January 4, 2013 @ 6:16 am

  47. I do not agree with you on Penguin not being a penalty. Does not matter how much Google devalued the link backs of one of my sites which was ranking in top 5 in last 10 years with a very competitive terms, the site would not end up in #700+ I would agree with you if the site stayed in top 50-100 but top 700+ rankings.
    We found out that bunch of people out there stealing our articles and news, and using them on their blogs with our dofollow links. Some of them spin our articles and use them. We wrote at least 2000+ articles in last 10-12 years for that site.

    Comment by Hakan — March 28, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

  48. LOL, what’s hilarious is, when you look at most of these so-called ‘SEO Experts’ and their websites, they can’t even get their own websites out of the Google Gutter, so how on earth are they going to fix yours?

    Comment by Rachel — May 11, 2013 @ 7:32 am

  49. I wonder how Penguin really affects a website. For example for one of my websites the rank drop was from page 1 to page 2, yet for another website the rank drop was from page 2 to page 4.

    Are there more levels of the so called penalty. Could I recover more easily from page 2 back to page 1 comparing to a website that got a rank drop to let’s say by 10 pages?

    Comment by ninja-egames — May 23, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

  50. For me it was quite a big hit for 2 websites – 50% traffic went down, revenue decreased by 60%, but I got a little recovery for some keywords in this 24 hours.
    It was like a major earth quake for the whole niche – higher authority websites got to the first places, ranking with “tags” – if you can believe that. wikipedia and other wiki’s also got top 3 positions.

    Acording to this article it seems that the online games niche got hit quite hard:


    Comment by online-mariogames.com — May 24, 2013 @ 10:52 am

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