The Google Penguin Update and How to Recover
The recent Penguin update, which started to roll out on the 17th of October, has left most of the SEO community wondering what Google wanted to achieve. A damp squib is the most common reference to it and recoveries have been muted with little traffic increase to the sites that have recovered.
Google, as usual, wrapped a couple of other updates into the same weekend. Their spam update and filter erased a lot of low quality sites from the search results. However some of these sites have just redirected to new domains and are seeing traffic again, so Google has some work still on this front.
There have been agreements, and disagreements, that a slight Panda update also started on the 16th. I witnessed changes late on the 16th and early on the 17th before the spam update created shock.
Google has said publicly that the update is a slow roll out, and another Googler John Muller said it had finished processing. Interesting to see different messages from Google on the same topic, it is believed that this is designed to confuse – it does.
Penguin Penalty or Link Filter?
It is important to note that Penguin can be noted as two distinct flavours. There is the definite manual penalty where you have a notice in Webmaster Tools. The second is harder to diagnose as it presents it self as a drop in rankings not coinciding with Panda or other updates. This is filtering due to low link quality and anchor text issues. This stage looks like it can be fixed quicker without the site moving on to a full manual penalty. However after clean up I recommend a reconsideration request.
Listening to the talk online there has been few, if any, reported full recoveries. What I have seen are websites rise in the search ranking but only by 20 to 30 places. None of the websites I am monitoring are managing to break through the third page with any of their major keyword terms.
I have seen only one definite recovery from Penguin and that is now more than 1 year ago. This site had a manual warning in Google Webmaster Tools. There were lots of low quality links that used over optimised anchors. A previous provider had used their own private blog network; this network had all blogs on one server and none of the blogs had links from other sites.
The links were removed and a reconsideration request was accepted a couple of months before the Oct 2013 update. After that update the site moved up slightly; an outreach campaign that lasted another 4 months ended with the website back at the top of the first page results. My take away from that experience was to expect the improvements to be gradual over a few months.
How to Recover From Penguin
For some websites it is not worth the time or money to attempt a recovery. If you do not have a strong brand or a well known domain name it can be much cheaper and quicker to start again. One of the early fixes for Penguin was simply redirecting the site using 301 – a permanent redirect. Google quickly closed that loop hole. Shortly after that I tried to 302 redirect, (temporary redirect), out of a penalty however the links and penalty followed over in Webmaster Tools.
When I start the recovery process for a new site I download all links from Webmaster Tools and Majestic, (using both current and historic indexes). I run the links through a link checker, either Advanced Links Manager or Scrapebox.
Problem links have the attributes of being located on a low quality website and targeted anchor text. All of these problem links are uploaded to Buzzstream. I then use Buzzstream to find contact details and contact all the problem sites.
Because the reconsideration request form on Google will only accept a limited file size it is advisable to use a Google doc for all details for the request and allow Google access. I try to remove as many links as possible; only disavowing will not result in a removal of the manual penalty.
A couple of weeks before submitting the reconsideration request I ping all the URL’s that have had the links removed from. This encourages Google to crawl those pages quicker and index the page again without the link in place.