Understanding how to recover from a Google Penguin update

google penguin updates datesUnderstanding how to recover from a Google Penguin update, simplified. We all know the damage a nasty corporate penguin can do to a business, just last year alone we had an influx of new clients contacting us to help their websites recover from a manual action or Google Penguin update.

We have listed below the known dates of all Google Penguin updates since the first Google Penguin rollout in April 2012.

This doesn’t include suspected Penguin refreshes in late 2014 around December. Since then Google are rolling out continual updates on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.


Dates of Google Penguin updates

  • Penguin 1.0 on April 24, 2012
  • Penguin 1.1 on May 26, 2012
  • Penguin 1.2 on October 5, 2012
  • Penguin 2.0 on May 22, 2013
  • Penguin 2.1 on Oct. 4, 2013
  • Penguin 3.0 on October 17, 2014

Thanks to search engine land for their work on this.

If your website dip in rankings coincides with any of these dates it is likely that your website was affected by a Google Penguin algorithm update. Speak to us about our Penguin Recovery service

Taking action against Google Penguin – What to do next?

killing google penguin

How to kill the Penguin

If you believe that your site has been hit from a Penguin update you’re already on the road to recovery. Burying your head in the sand isn;’t going to magic your rankings all back trust me on this you’re going to need to be proactive and fix these issues.

1.) The first step to recovering from Google Penguin Penalty

Link auditing of all inbound and outbound links to your website. Some people only concentrate on newly acquired inbound links but we’ve discovered that even historic links added years ago can haunt you later on. In fact in one case with a hypnotherapy clinic in Manchester we found the historic links which had been forwarded to another domain to remove them which where then forwarded back to the new domain due to an error on behalf of the hosting company which had a clean link profile, in fact no links at all were the issue. Once these were removed the penalty was lifted. In this case it was a manual action and a Penguin attack.

Link auditing toxic links

Link Auditing is the process of manually checking each back link to your site to look for potential spam or even high quality links that contravene Google’s guideline policies on link building to manipulate search rankings.

We recommend using a specialist link tool to search for all in bound links. We prefer ahrefs.com as our choice of link checking tools. Webmaster Tools also has been updated recently and we see newly added links showing in as little as a few days so make sure you check out Webmaster Tools.

Knowing which links are toxic and you need to remove

It’s not as simple as just removing any link you see. Google isn’t just looking for nasty domains such as buybestlinks.com anymore it is far more sophisticated, because let’s be honest SEO’s and the link building community has found ways to cheat the system.

Link auditing – It’s all in the detail

Analysing each link takes a great deal of time and expertise. We look for very specific data that would trigger a Google Penguin penalty from link building. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Anchor Text over use for ‘money terms

If you see a majority of the links pointing to your site with anchor text like ‘cheap hotels’ ‘dentist London’ ‘pay day loans’ get rid! Play it safe don’t leave it to chance.

  • Site-Wide links: The odd site-wide link could be seen as organic but if your link profile is showing a majority of site wide links such as footer or widget links pay attention to these, they maybe the reason for your penalty. In 2014 we saw sites that had really good links from reputable sites but had too many site-wide links. Removing site wide links lifted the Google Penguin penalty almost instantly.
  • Link Quality: Do your links come from a reputable source or are they posted on irrelevant websites/blogs/forums? In 2012 this was one of the first Penguin updates to track these spammy links out.
  • Contextual back links: Okay i think this has been covered a million times but for those not aware link contextuality is key to successful and safe link building. Avoid spun content that can’t be read by a human being without being drunk. Google’s filters can easily spot this kind of manipulation and if you spot any links with spun or junk content delete delete delete or disavow

The process of trying to remove toxic back links

toxic back links

Removing toxic back links

Depending on your websites position, a manual action usually requires you to reach out to webmaster and remove individual back links before your reconsideration request will be successful. However an algorithmic Penguin penalty you can use Google Disavow Tool to tell Google you are aware of these low quality or manipulative back links and wish for them to be ignored.

Trying to find contact information for a website to remove a link

whois domain contact details to remove back linksIt is best practice to try and remove the links altogether which means trying to contact whom ever added the links in the first place. As I suspect though the previous SEO has probably been fired by now and are unwilling to help. Which means you have to contact the webmaster of each site and write to them with the details of the link on their site and your request to remove them. Let’s imagine you have 1200 links to your site from 800 referring domains. That means 800 email contacts you have to source which is no easy task as a lot of the spammier sites hide their contact information from public view. This includes using whois tool but .com domains can be hidden all togehter for instance which means no contact information. We have gone to great lengths for clients in the past using social media or generic info@ admin@ enquiries@ links@ to each domain. So you’ve taken 4 years to write 800 customised emails, and have attempted to contact them at least 4 times with dated records and notes which you can provide Google with. It’s a HUGE test ahead of you.

Fortunately we offer a link removal service where we use all our know how and team of link removal professionals to reach out to each website on your behalf and ask them to remove the links for you. All you have to do is sit back and wait for the results.


If in doubt DISAVOW

google disavow tool

Okay that was a bit misleading we are not suggestion to go and disavow all your back links that’s not advice we’d recommend. But from from an experience SEO’s perspective when you’ve hit a dead end and you aren’t able to remove any more toxic links and you know which ones are the issue – DISAVOW.

We have recovered more websites that have been hit by Google Penguin updates using this method alone than any other.




Learning from the past and moving forward to prosper in organic search

If there’s one piece of advice i could give to you it would be learn from the problems you’ve experienced. Remember any site can prosper online again even when they’ve had multiple Penguin penalties just as long as you correct them and walk down a new path.

Hopefully you have found this blog useful and feel free to share as you need. If you have any questions just drop us an email.