What is the Penguin algorithm?
The Penguin algorithm, first launched in April of 2012 was created to find and demote websites who have created unnatural links in order to rank higher in Google. If your site noticed a significant drop in rankings or traffic on any of the following dates then there is a good possibility that Penguin is affecting your site:
- April 24, 2012
- May 25, 2012
- October 5, 2012
- May 22, 2013
- October 4, 2013
- After October 17 – After this point Google announced the the algorithm would roll continuously. This makes identifying a Penguin hit a little harder.
Are all SEO made links “unnatural links”?
It is possible for an SEO company to obtain links to your website that are natural. The most common ways to do this in ways that are acceptable to Google would be to attract attention to fantastic content on your site. For example, a good SEO company can help you create resources that are valuable to your community and then find ways to encourage websites to link to that content. But, if you have had an SEO company “build” links for you then there is a high probability that those links are against the Google Quality Guidelines and can get you in trouble with the Penguin algorithm. Here are some examples of unnatural links:
- Links in directories that were created for the sole purpose of getting a link.
- Links from bookmarking sites.
- Links from low quality article syndication sites.
- Links from widespread guest posting campaigns.
- Paid links that do not have a “nofollow” tag attached to them.
Is it possible to recover from Penguin?
Yes! But it is not easy. In order to escape the Penguin filter, here is what has to be done:
- Backlink audit – You need to have a thorough audit of all of your backlinks. It’s not enough to just go after the worst offenders. The only sites that we have seen recover from Penguin are ones that have done an EXTREMELY thorough link cleanup. When we do a backlink audit we gather your links from a number of sources and manually review each site linking to you and make a recommendation on disavowing.
- On site changes – We know that backlinks are the most important part of Penguin recovery. However, Google employee John Mueller has said that there can be on page webspam factors as well. We will evaluate your home page and several inner pages to determine whether there are issues with cloaking, keyword stuffing and other known webspam issues. You may also be interested in having the MHC team do a full site quality audit.
Can *any* site that is affected by Penguin recover?
No. In some cases, the only reason why a site was ranking well previously is because of the power of links that are now considered unnatural by Google. That link equity will not be regained by disavowing. If a site does not have good natural links then it is possible that Penguin recovery may not happen. Each of our Penguin recovery service plans starts with an assessment on how likely it is for you to recover. If recovery is unlikely then we can make suggestions in regards to whether it is best to start over fresh with a new domain (and how to do that) or whether there are other options for your site.
Do you have experience recovering Penguin hit sites?
Yes. We have seen a number of sites successfully escape the Penguin algorithm. In some cases we have seen dramatic recoveries such as this:
This was a large brand with a very good link profile and a site that naturally attracts links. They got into trouble with the Penguin algorithm because of a large number of purchased links. We did a thorough link audit and filed a disavow in September of 2013. The site saw good improvement with the October 2013 Penguin refresh and then started to see the benefit of the new links that they had attracted since first getting hit with Penguin.
Here is another example of a smaller site that was affected by the May 22, 2012 Penguin update and saw a Penguin recovery On October 4, 2013 after doing a thorough cleanup:
In other cases, we don’t see a full recovery, but we see evidence that the site has escaped the Penguin filter and can now gain the benefit of new links that they earn:
Who does the audit work?
The vast majority of the work for each Penguin recovery site we handle is performed by Dr. Marie Haynes. Dr. Haynes is known as one of the most knowledgeable people in the world in regards to the Penguin algorithm. She writes regularly on Google Penalties and Algorithm changes for Search Engine Watch and Moz. She regularly answers forum questions in the Moz Q&A, Seochat forums and the Google Webmaster Help Forums on Google penalty issues. Marie has spoken at Pubcon in and also SMX on the topic of Google penalties and the Penguin Algorithm.
Some of the initial backlink audit work may be performed by employees of HIS Web Marketing who have been trained by Dr. Haynes. The audit is completely reviewed by Dr. Haynes and she also performs the on site section of each audit.
Do you guarantee Penguin recovery?
No one can guarantee recovery from the Penguin algorithm. Our initial assessment will tell us whether recovery is likely, but because there is so much that isn’t known about Penguin, recovery can not be promised.
What happens if your initial assessment suggests that Penguin recovery is not possible?
We will be very honest with our suggestions. If it is not wise to proceed with a backlink audit and disavow, then we can provide advice on starting over and further consulting as necessary.
What if Panda is a factor for my site?
If your site is affected by the Panda algorithm, then this is a separate matter to Penguin. Our initial assessment will have a brief look at some Panda factors but it is not a complete Site Quality Audit. If necessary, this is available, but at extra cost.
Do you do linkbuilding and further SEO for our site?
Our agency is currently 100% dedicated to penalty work. As such we do not do link building and ongoing SEO. However, we have companies that we can highly recommend to you if necessary.
Why should we choose you?
There are very few firms that can honestly say that they have done work that has resulted in Penguin recovery. Many people know in theory what needs to be done, but we have actual concrete evidence of what has worked well in the past. We are honest, dependable and reliable. You will find our communication excellent. Penalty work is the only work we do and we are VERY good at it!
Helpful resources for Google’s Penguin algorithm:
- You’ve been hit by Penguin! Should you start over or try to recover? – SEW article
- Penguin recovery – should you be removing links or just disavowing? – SEW article
- 5 reasons why a Penguin hit site may not recover – SEW article
- Can you safely redirect users from a Penguin hit site to a new domain – SEW article
- Is that directory link unnatural? – SEW article
- Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet – Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird – Moz article
- What is an unnatural link? An in depth look at the quality guidelines – Moz article
- The difference between Penguin and an Unnatural Links Penalty – Moz article
- Are SEOs destroying small businesses? A Penguin Story – Moz article
- Google’s disavow tool