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How To Recover From Google’s Penguin Update

Google makes us learn the hard way

Anyone in the SEO business felt as if they were struck by a lightning in late April 2012, when Google introduced their Penguin update. The Penguin update altered the way the algorithm for ranking pages worked, as well as the detection of pages which were fraudulently over-optimized, according to Google. After months and months of SEO campaigns, many saw their website’s positions skyrocketing down to unimaginable oblivion, and people soon began to discuss taking countermeasures and doing damage control. To learn how to do exactly that, we have prepared this article. 

In its essence , the Penguin update examines mostly the site’s inbound links profile, checking it for things that seem out of the ordinary.  What has been stopping Google from doing it until that update has been the complexity of the task, and the way to find a way for a machine to properly determine “suspicious” or “doubtable” in terms of inbound links.  For example an insurance website getting links from an adult website means that the link is completely out of context, and was inserted there solely for the purpose of counting one more inbound ink for the insurance site, for SEO and nothing more.  Keep in mind that this is the key to the problem’s remedy, but let’s first discuss other issues.

Were you affected ? How to know for sure?

The most often used way is by tracking your site’s statistics for the time period when Penguin was introduced. Look for decreases in traffic, or if you keep regular measurements of your site’s ranking, check your archive for drastic decreases near April 2012.  If you’ve undergone significant changes in your SEO campaign during that time, or several months earlier, you might want to consider that a valid reason for your penalties, especially if the turn in your strategy was a more aggressive SEO approach.

Analyze further and find the exact problem

As mentioned above, Google penalizes your site on the basis of inbound links which look “out of the ordinary”.  So the natural place to start your investigation would be to open up a tool of your preference (Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer are good choices), export your inbound links list, along with the Anchor Texts and the number of the link occurrences. Browse through the list carefully and look for anything that would seem inappropriate , both as anchor text and as source website. The peculiar websites should pop out, one by one, revealing what you’re actually penalized for.

Start damage control , ASAP

Make it your top priority to remove any harmful links that might have gotten you penalized.  Links from pages with a low MozRank, those with little Domain Authority, or simply those who come from sites which can’t possibly have anything to do with yours. Contact administrators, if you can’t find another way to remove the links. Be meticulous and unforgiving, even if it has taken you months to acquire such links.

A new beginning

To avoid being penalized by Google again , you need to make sure you correct your former mistakes. And that can only happen once you realize that your inbound links profile should comply to certain “standards”, they’re not official, but they have been proven to provide you protection against suffering penalties:

  • High link type diversity. Your links should come from various types of websites – web 2.0, social networks, blog comments and posts, forums, static websites. The more different types ,the better.
  • High domain diversity. This means that links to your website should be from more different domain names. This necessitates less usage of article marketing in optimizing your link profile.
  • High anchor text diversity, meaning that you won’t abuse one particular keyword. Use variations for your own good.

Now that you’ve learned what exactly causes your site to lose grounds on the ranking front, and how to do proper damage control, you will probably get on your feet in no time. Just remember, make it look organic, and always stay on the white-had side of SEO.



  1. Great Article…Thank you.

    I have been an I.T. administrator for years but have nver dealt with website design, blogging or SEO. So this is all new to me.

    I did notice that when I clicked on the link for Admin Word Count Column WP states it has not been updated for over 2 years. Is it still a valid plugin or should I look for something else?

  2. Thank you so much for the list. I stumbled on this article after reading difference between all in seo and yoast. I shifted from all in one seo to yoast but not able to get the focus keyword concept. Anyways Thanks for the information

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