This is what ordinary people think of when they hear the word “penguin”:
While this is the penguin image for those, who were “lucky” enough to face it in internet marketing:
A strong fall in Google traffic and ranking decreases. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about – Google Penguin – the latest Google algorithm upd ate to penalise websites that doesn’t meet some of Google’s requirements.
Well, you’ve probably know about these requirements the Google Penguin update was released. So many articles were written about its nature and its reasons for awarding penalties. That’s why we aren’t going to rewrite anything familiar or well-known. In this article you will just find real-life experience of Google Penguin recovery and the conclusions which came to us after more than two years of work.
Conclusion №1. There is no “Penguin” without “Panda”
Despite the fact that “Panda” and “Penguin” are responsible for different areas (“Panda” for a sites content, “Penguin” for its link profile), there is a prevailing opinion that these algorithms are connected. Simply speaking, “Penguin” is just an update of “Panda”.
You can’t remove a “Panda” penalty by only working on your link profile – you must pay attention to your content as well. In cases where your whole website was penalised manually, then it’s obvious that it could be enacted and removed only by a real person. It means that this person comes to your website and assesses your effort put into your websites improvement. Have you deleted some bad links? That’s nice. Have you boosted your content? That’s even better. Have you improved both navigation and usability? That’s great! In this case the inspector understands immediately, that you became aware of your mistakes, and your confession lead you to enact reforms in your site.
Conclusion №2. 301 redirect is not an option
Right after the release of “Penguin”, SEO experts invented a very smart and quick way to recover fr om this penalty – using a 301 redirect. The instructions were simple: create a new website with the same name but in other domain – se t up 301 redirect fr om all the pages of the old website to the pages of a new one.
This method was effective for some time, because the new website was not penalised, but it doesn’t work anymore. All you can get is a timeout of 2-3 months before a new penalty comes along. Sometimes it even strikes a website in few days.
Conclusion №3. Google wants to know you are willing to improve
“Why would I spend time improving something, if the Disavow Links Tool does a great job for me?” – some say. “No, it doesn’t,” – says our experience. The Disavow Links Tool is a secondary weapon, not a primary one, and it must only be used when it’s impossible to delete links manually – it’s very important to know that.
Delete all rented links, get in touch with the owners of websites containing non rented links, explain the situation and ask them to delete them before using the Disavow Links Tools.
You must let Google know that you’ve at least tried to get rid of these links and you did your best, but you’ve failed because of something you can’t influence or change.
These instructions may sound obvious, but, are being ignored by many people, it helps to speed up the process of penalty removal.
Conclusion №4. The more often you send a request, the more time it takes to get a response
One more thing that we’ve noticed during our work on “Penguin” recovery is that the more often you send a request to overview manual penalties, the more time it takes to get a response. The first time you get a quick response, within a week, for the second time (if the problem was not solved) it will take about 1-2 weeks, third time – 4-5 weeks and so on.
Is it punishment or just a bad coincidence? It’s hard to tell for sure, but we’ve come to the following conclusion: it’s much better to clean your link profile quickly and remove a penalty in one or two requests, if you don’t want to waste several months. Yeah, that’s right – sometimes we had to wait longer than two months for manual penalties to be removed.
Conclusion №5. “Penguin” recovery doesn’t guarantee traffic’s return
Shhh, keep quiet (just like the others do) – the return of traffic after removing a penalty is not guaranteed. Surprised, huh? You’d better find a comfortable seat, because we’ve something nasty to tell you – in most cases that traffic doesn’t return. You have to work on your site to get your traffic back. Penalty removal gives you this opportunity, nothing more.
Well, we have finished discussing the theory, let’s get to the practice. What exactly should you do to get rid of a “Penguin” penalty? Follow these instructions:
- Analyse your website’s visibility in Google Webmaster Tools and traffic and views in Google Analytics. The first sign that your website is penalised is a strong fall in these metrics.
- Go to “Manual Actions” in Google Webmaster Tools and look for new messages.
- There is no “Penguin” without “Panda”, as it was mentioned above, so don’t forget about improving your content together with working on links. Go through all the pages of your website and check their usefulness. Remove duplicated pages and spam text. Rewrite anything that should be rewritten. Check your website’s structure – is it correct or not?
- Go to “Links to Your Site” in Google Webmaster Tools and click “More” in the “Who links the most” section.
- Click the “Download latest links” button to download a spreadsheet of these.
- Go through this spreadsheet to find any low-quality links.
It’s very important to understand that Google has no straight criteria of low-quality links to disavow. We use the following criteria to define them:
High supplemental index ratio. Use this guide to calculate a supplemental index ratio:
- Use this code to check the total number of Pages Indexed – site:www.site.com
- Use this code to check the number of Pages in the Main Index – site:www.site.com -inallurl:www.site.com
- Supplemental pages = Total Pages Indexed - Pages in the Main Index
- Divide the number of supplemental pages by the number of total pages indexed
If a link has a high supplemental index ratio, then it is probably of low-quality.
Wrong subjects. Does anyone have doubts that there’s spamy activity when a website about breeding chickens links to a website about mining shovels? As a rule, such links are placed in a footer or in other subtle places. It is necessary to be very attentive, because sometimes links come from a piece of content, but they are placed absurdly and oddly. Go ahead, read the following text:
“…the famous farmer John Doe, who respects mining shovel manufacturers so much, says that the most important thing about breeding chickens is…”
Relevant content should be studied as well. It happens that a piece of copy is written about obvious things to serve as a “shell” for a rented link. The first warning sign is that the text is too short for an article. Let’s continue our previous example:
“Mining shovels are developed to mine. You can’t mine with a usual shovel, so use mining shovels to work in mines…”
Poor layout and design.
Well, the most important signs of bad links is the placement of keywords in anchor texts. Links, containing keywords in anchor texts don’t work anymore and may become the reason for penalty.
- If there is a contact page or a feedback form on a site, then ask people, who are responsible for content filling, to delete these links. It is likely that not all websites will have such pages or forms. Don’t expect feedback from all of them. Even fewer people will agree. However, don’t lim it yourself to solving this problem and don’t waste your time – just put this information in a file that you’ll send to Google. Moreover, if it is known that internal links were bought, then try to get access to accounts in exchange systems (if you don’t have them) and stop link-buying. It can be done if they are rented, but if they are permanent, then you’ll have to contact the platform owners directly.
- Categorise links. I strongly recommend to differentiate and tag links of this or that category using colors, and then use a filter, because files which you send to Google should be categorised.
It must be a .txt file with the following structure:
For example, we had the following categories:
# site.com owners removed the following links
# due to our request
# contacted owners of the below listed sites
# on 11 and 12 April but got no response
# contacted owners of the below listed sites
# on 11 and 12 April but was declined
# the following links were impossible to delete
# because there were no contact details or they were fake
# the below listed pages lead to 404 pages
# or contain no links to www.<yoursite>.com
Links should be entered exactly how they appear in a spreadsheet downloaded from Google’s Webmaster Tools. Pay attention to the screenshot above, one of the lines begins with “domain:” instead of “http://”. “Domain:” allows you to send a request to disavow an entire domain, not just a certain link – don’t include “http://” in this case.
- After completing your file, go here, choose your site and click “Disavow links”.
Then click it again on the warning page.
Click “Choose File”, attach your .txt file and click “Submit”.
- Go back to the ‘Manual Actions’ page (see the very first screenshot) and press the “Request a review” button. Write a request letter and click Request a review – this way you’ll inform Google’s staff that you’ve sent a request. It should look something like the following:
“We have checked internal links back to our site to identify the links of low-quality and sent you a disavow list”.
You can write a more detailed cover letter. For example, like this one:
We are requesting a penalty review for the second time. Our agency was directed to this site by another “seo expert”. We had found a lot of unnatural links, tried to contact the owners of those websites to delete these links, but in most cases we didn’t succeed, because these links were placed through link exchange systems. As a result we’ve managed to get access to accounts on exchange systems of this project. It turned out that despite our recommendations, website owners continued buying links. Using these accounts, we’ve managed to get rid of such links. We had an explanatory talk with our customer, and he was told why link buying is neither ‘best practice’ or a good option. We ask you to remove the current penalty. We pledge not to use various cheating methods to improve PageRank anymore. In the attached file you can find a list of links that, in our opinion, don’t meet Google’s requirements. Please do not take them into account when calculating the sites ranking.
- If your request is approved and the penalty is removed, then you’ll get the following message:
- If Google finds external links not mentioned in your list, then you’ll get another message:
In this case you’ll have to edit your list of links. You should do the following:
- Include and check links mentioned in the message.
- Download the list once more and compare the new list with the current one – you are likely to find some new links. They must be checked and included in your file. Perhaps you’ll notice that those new links come from the same sites that already had low-quality links – this is wh ere the “domain:” prefix comes in handy.
- Update your .txt file according to the fresh data and send a request one more time.
Repeat until you’ve achieved a complete victory.