search marketing

How To Recover from Penguin 2.0

Written by Kurt Steinbrueck

Harry Potter wants you to join him in helping raise $700 billion so the U.S. banks can remain openDid you get hit by a penguin?  Google just released their Penguin 2.0 update and lots of websites are seeing their rankings drop.  So, what do you do if your rankings have dropped?

Don’t despair.  There is hope.  You can recover.

First, it would be good to understand what Penguin is.  Links are very important in Google’s ranking algorithm and they don’t like people manipulating link as this leads to search results that may not be very good.  Penguin is an algorithm that Google has released which seeks to find and devalue or penalize spammy links and paid links.    If you’re not sure what is meant by spammy links, I have a previous article that explains What Kind of Spammy Links Is Google Going After with Penguin 2.0 that I’d encourage you to read.

My Rankings Dropped!  What do I do?
2/52 - It's Raining Men!If you’ve seen a significant drop in your rankings, you may have been hit by Google’s Penguin update.  The first thing you should do is investigate to make sure it’s Penguin that caused your rankings to drop and not something else.  After all, there are lots of things that can cause your site to drop.  Go to your Google Webmaster Tools account and look through your link profile to see if you have an unnatural link profile.  There are also several software tools that can help with this investigation. (if you’re not sure what an unnatural link profile is, see this article)

Recovering from Penguin 2.0:
Ok, let’s say you have an unnatural link profile or you just know that you’ve been doing a bunch of spammy link building.  How do you recover?  The first step is to try to get any spammy links removed.

  • repair-300Get rid of any paid links that pass link juice, especially links on private blog networks. 
  • Get rid of any spammy forum posts, especially forum profile links.  You can usually just login and delete your posts/profile.
  • Try to have any spammy blog comments removed. Keep in mind, blog commenting itself isn’t spamming, but when you have a bunch of “Great post, I love what you do here [insert link with keyword here]” posts, those are spam.
  • Look into site-wide links. First, consider whether the links themselves are valuable (are they sending real traffic). If so, just ask the webmaster to make the links no-follow. There’s no need to lose real traffic. If the links aren’t producing traffic and, perhaps they are on a suspiciously low quality site, then try to have them removed.

For any of the 4 above types of links, if you can’t get them removed, then you can use the disavow tool Google provides in their Google Webmaster Tools. Keep in mind, however, that you’re dealing with people who have more important things to do than remove your links. So, if you don’t receive an immediate response, give it a little time and send a few requests over a couple of weeks. If after a month or so you haven’t gotten a response, then you can use the disavow tool.

Submit a Request to Google:
Once you have removed as many spammy links as you could (documenting it as you go) and used the disavow tool for the links you couldn’t get removed, then contact Google to have them re-evaluate your site.  You can do this in your Google Webmaster Tools account.  Be sure to provide them with documentation showing that you’ve removed links and have been trying to get the other spammy links removed and that you used the disavow tool.  Google is going to want to see that you’ve taken real steps to correct the issue.  Then wait.  You should get a response, but it may take a while.

It Might Not be a Penalty:
The last thing I’ll add is that you do not need to submit a request for Google to review your site unless you’ve receive a notice of a manual penalty in your Google Webmaster Tools account. This is usually a message from Google telling you they’ve detected some unnatural links. If you haven’t received a message, then you probably don’t have a manual penalty and you’re just dealing with the algorithm. So, a request to Google won’t do you any good. They’ll just tell you manual action wasn’t taken against your site. In that case, you just need to do your best to guess how many links to remove and, more importantly, start building good, natural links. I’ve done an algorithm recovery for a client where we didn’t remove any links, we just built a bunch of good links until their profile looked natural again and they recovered quite well.

About the author

Kurt Steinbrueck

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .


  • Kurt – The links in the beginning are not working. Just wanted to let you know. Thanks

    I don’t see where this update in Google has helped particular searches and was wondering if they are rolling it out over time. Some issues I see – on the first page of SERP – same company listed twice with two different web pages under the same domain. Or companies that have two different domains in the same space exchanging links to push their two sites to the top. While this may be borderline okay, it is unethical – especially in the church market.

    • Thanks for the heads up about the links. They've been fixed.

      A company having multiple websites may or may not be spammy. Obviously, if the multiple websites solely there to target specific keywords (e.g.,, etc.) then that's a spam issue, but it's not really a penguin spam issue. Penguin is about spammy links. So, if each of those sites had legit links, they wouldn't run afoul of Penguin. Panda, the Exact Match Domain update, and some others (including Googler manually reviewing sites) are more apt to handle that kind of spam. The links between the two would probably get devalued by Penguin, though. So, either Penguin missed the sites you're seeing (which is entirely possible) or the links between the two sites isn't the cause of their high rankings.

      As for a company having two pages of their one site in the top rankings, that's usually taken care of by Google's main algorithm. They don't like having two listings from 1 site in the top ten. That said, it really depends on how competitive a keyword/niche we're talking about. Keywords with few results and niches with few compeitors will often still have multiple results in the top ten for a single site. Matt Cutts did say they are working on that, though. So, you should see this less and less in the coming months.

      Lastly, in regards to whether Penguin is being rolled out in stages, I don't think so. There's been no indication that Google is doing that, but they have said there will be more updates coming out in the future. My guess is that we'll get a few refreshes over the rest of the year and at some point they will release Penguin 3.0. They may also just integrate Penguin into the main algorithm like they did with Panda.

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