Even though we are looking into the future, systems and algorithms such as Google RankBrain and Fred, it still sometimes necessary to look back in the past and check Google algorithms that preceded and has a big impact on our rankings.
Google Penguin, launched in 2012, is one of algorithms that severely changed the landscape of SEO and still affects us.
In fact, the news for the latest update came in October 2016 making it very relevant and up-to-date. It’s also a part of the core algorithm and is happening in real time now.
What is Google Penguin?
How many times has a website owner approached you saying: “I think I have a Google penalty”?
For a while, “SEO penalty removal” was a query that everyone was typing. During this time numerous sites that were regarded as industry leaders took a nosedive. Together with Panda update, it became bane of internet companies.
Google Penguin penalties became commonplace and webmasters quickly found themselves in a bad spot.
So what was the big deal with this algorithm?
It was created as a response to spammy link building and spammy usage of anchor texts.
Basically, this algorithm was able to detect link spam patterns and penalize websites. It would collect data and devalue backlinks and the owner would have to remove these low quality links.
Penalty was both manual and algorithmic.
Penguin algorithm was very restrictive and it was common for a blog to lose majority of its traffic overnight due to a Penguin penalty.
You can read all about Penguin update on Search Engine Land.
Why is Google’s Penguin still important?
Although Google has switched to some other systems and is trying to work on machine learning and use user engagement stats as ranking factors, links are still the main factor behind Google rankings.
This means that quality links are as necessary as they always were and even though some time has passed since the latest update, you can still get hit if you implement a spammy strategy.
I always advise my clients to check every link they get and avoid anything fishy. Best way to approach link building is to start from the top: create quality content and start pitching people for backlinks. This is the best way to have a healthy link profile with a proper distribution.
Links will always remain an important ranking factor given how reluctant people are to link to you. If someone gives you a vote of trust in a form of a link this means that your page truly rocks.
Other systems are much easier to be manipulated. This is why you will always have to remain mindful of links you’re getting.
How to know whether you’ve been hit by an SEO penalty?
First indication that you’ve been hit by Penguin is to experience a significant drop in traffic.
How to notice this?
By checking your Google Analytics.
If the traffic drop occurred at the same or similar time when update rolled out, it is safe to presume that you’ve been hit by the latest Google Penguin update.
Best way to recover from a Penguin penalty is by analyzing your anchors and links and removing/changing the shady ones.
When it comes to anchor text, over-spamming one and the same phrase can be a clear indication to Google that you’ve been forcefully building links. Once again, solution is to get those links removed.
Before I start explaining step-by-step process, I need to emphasize that the best solution is to hire a Penguin penalty recovery agency.
Fees are usually not that high for amount of job that an SEO expert is willing to do. You can also rest assured after intervention that there are no toxic links plaguing your site.
How to detect precise Google Penguin issues?
As you can presume, it is necessary to start with a thorough analysis.
First, you need to detect precise keywords and then links that are posing a problem.
There are a lot of tools on that market which can help you out with that. Penguin penalty checker is one of them. There are also a lot of guides on the web that explain how to find unnatural links with CognitivesSeo tool.
Anyway, given that Google Penguin is with us for some time, the market has already developed programs that can help any webmaster with their quest.
Ultimately, if nothing else works, you can do analysis with Google Analytics. Here, you can see rankings for different terms and how they changed. Any changes (think drops) should be attributed to a manual penalty.
An important note here is that if you’re being hit by a manual Penguin penalty you will receive a message in Google Webmaster Tools which informs you about the issue. In this case you’ll have to submit a reconsideration request after you have cleaned your link profile.
Have in mind that you shouldn’t be preoccupied with all traffic. You should only focus on keywords that have been built in an unnatural way.
Which links are bad and which ones are good?
Here is what most website owners get wrong.
Penguin penalty removal shouldn’t include all backlinks pointing to a page. Instead, you need to remove links from low quality websites and websites that are notorious for malpractice.
Best tool you can use for this?
By far, AhRefs is the best tool for detecting backlinks. It is much quicker than some other programs such as SEMRush or Moz.
Retrieve a list of all the links that are connected to a particular keyword. Now, you need to go step by step and analyze all the websites from which you’ve gotten a link.
How to know whether a link can pose a problem?
If you’ve build links normally, it is to be expected that you will get a lot of links from low tier websites. However, it becomes a problem if you only have links from small websites and none whatsoever from medium and top-tier ones. This is a clear indication of abuse. In order to regulate things you should remove weak ones as soon as possible. Best way to do it is by checking website stats such as domain authority, LRT and other relevant metrics.
Lots of irrelevant topics on a website
There are still a lot of websites that accept payment for linking out. This is a part of their online marketing strategy. These websites have lots of different stuff posted on them most of which have no connection to their primary business/topic. If you’ve received a link from a website that writes about lots of different topics or is not from your own industry, it can be a red flag for Google.
Some of these websites do not even hide they’re involved in link schemes. They will have section for guest posts or paid posts. Anyway, they will have sentences stating that website is allowing payment for links. Steer clear from such domains.
How to remove unnatural links?
Here’s the thing that will eat away most of your time.
In order to remove backlinks, it is necessary to contact website that has linked to you in the first place. Sometimes this can pose a problem as penalties are not always caused by webmaster’s malpractice or lack of morale. Sometimes they are a result of a negative SEO campaign.
So how to remove this backlink?
Contact website owner.
Like any other pitch on the Internet, it is necessary to be polite and forthcoming. Give that you’re the one asking for a service, you will have to behave properly. Otherwise, the whole situation can get complicated and you will have to ask for third party’s assistance in order to remove troublesome backlink.
Luckily for website owners, rules have changed a bit in 2017.
Nowadays it is more or less enough for you to disavow a link without having to remove it.
This reduces work you have to do.
How to prevent future Penguin problems?
When it comes to Penguin link removal, most people focus on the issue at hand. Although this is a good approach and necessary in order to continue with your work it is far more important to look ahead.
As a Google penalty expert this is what I would recommend:
Avoid link schemes
Google becomes smarter by the day. It will be much easier for this search engine to notice malpractice in future and it is only matter of time when even things such as guest posts will become a liability. Change your link building methods and stay away from link schemes.
When doing email outreach make sure to pitch the big sites
There is no reason for you to build crappy links. Blog owners usually think that by paying lots and lots of money they can boost their link profile by publishing sponsored posts on small websites. This is wrong! In fact, when it comes to links, best links are free ones. Authoritative websites don’t need your financial support as they already have a different source of income. Focus on getting links from big websites. Small websites usually follow the big ones and are inclined to link to them and their resources (your website) without you even asking. At the end of the day you will have a diversified link profile without paying a dime.
Check your links regularly
Best thing you can do to prevent buildup of bad links is to regularly check your link profile with a tool such as AhRefs. As soon as something fishy appears, make sure to remove it. This doesn’t only prevent Google penalty but it also prevents occasional drops in traffic.
Perform manual link building
Some websites outsource SEO to unreliable companies without a good track record. These companies start building bad links leading to penalization of the website. Make sure to do link building yourself or hire an SEO agency you can trust.
My last Google penalty advice is: be conservative.
When something looks too good to be true it usually is. Good link profile is a product of hard work. Without it, you cannot get the wanted results.
That doesn’t mean you should frantically remove links pointing to your website. Just be mindful of ones that you’re getting.
If you are uncertain about building backlinks to your own site, contact me and I’d be happy to create a custom SEO plan for your business. My company has a vast experience when it comes to revoking Penguin penalties.
As someone that was providing SEO penalty removal services during the worst period of Google Penguin, I can tell you that bad link removal is something you should do even if you’re not penalized.
Real-time Penguin is here to stay and there is no real reason to risk your business by building crappy, toxic links.
Make sure to base your business on real values, real content and real links. Have in mind that this is something that multiplies and proper behavior and sound practices will get you far.
What is your experience with Penguin penalty removal? Are you paying close attention to your link profile? Share your experience below or drop me a message on some of my social media profiles.