I’m betting that was your first reaction to seeing your Google rankings tank, right?
But then you found out the steep drop was due to Google Penguin.
And that’s when the real panic set in.
Listen carefully to what I’m about to say because it’s super important…
The game’s not over for you.
And it’s not as complicated as you might think.
Today, I’m going to show you one of the quickest ways to properly execute a Google Penguin recovery campaign.
What You Need to Know About Google Penguin
I’ll spare you the history lesson because it’s not important.
What is important is knowing how Google Penguin, in its current state, operates and how it affects your site.
Here are the facts that matter:
- Penguin is now part of Google’s core algorithm (as of Penguin 4.0). This means two things: 1) Penguin is always on, and 2) when a discrepancy is found it will affect your site immediately.
- Penguin will not always affect an entire domain. If one or more of your pages get hit with a Penguin-based penalty, it doesn’t mean your entire site will be penalized. That said, it’s also true that if Google finds violations in enough places on your site, they may very well penalize the entire site as a result.
- Penguin is not a manual penalty. It’s not run by people. It’s algorithmic-based. There’s no person reviewing your site for link schemes and keyword manipulation. Penguin treats all sites equally and it’s not specific to a single site.
And here’s what these facts tell you:
- Penguin is always searching your site for discrepancies.
- When it finds a discrepancy, it will immediately take action and penalize your site.
- That penalty may or may not affect your entire domain. Which means, you should monitor all of your site’s pages for rankings drops. If not, a Penguin-based penalty could slip through the cracks.
- There’s no submitting a form to Google to correct a Penguin penalty. You simply fix the issue and let it resolve itself when Google recrawls your site.
What Does Google Penguin Target?
Google Penguin targets two types of SEO manipulation: link schemes and keyword stuffing.
A link scheme is an act of generating large quantities of links from low-quality and unrelated websites with the specific purpose of rank manipulation.
Common examples include:
- Forum spamming. Creating backlinks on forums unrelated to your site or spamming your backlink in forum post signatures or posting your backlink and never interacting on the forum.
- Private blog networks. Setting up a network of low-quality blogs for the express purpose of channeling all links back to your main site.
- Paid links. Paying someone to place followed links on their site that point back to your site.
Keyword stuffing is the practice of intentionally filling your page’s content with a high quantity of the page’s target keyword for the sole purpose of manipulating both site relevancy and search engine rankings.
Common examples include:
- Repeated and unnatural use of a page’s target keyword within the content of the page.
- Using a large number of city names within your page’s content to manipulate local search results.
If you expect or learn that your site is affected by a Google Penguin-based penalty, one or both of these types of SEO manipulation will be the culprit.
A Quick Google Penguin Recovery Guide for the Panicked SEO
Now, let’s find out how to quickly execute a Google Penguin recovery campaign.
Based on what we just discussed, to recover from a Google Penguin-based penalty, you must remove the following:
- Unnatural links you control
- Unnatural links you do not control, and
- Excessive amounts of keywords
Let’s break each one down.
1. Remove Unnatural Links You Control
First, let’s clarify what I mean by “unnatural link” and “links you control.”
Just like it sounds, an unnatural link is a link that doesn’t appear natural in Google’s eyes.
In other words, it’s a link that:
- Doesn’t appear to be naturally placed.
- Isn’t relevant to the site it’s linking to.
- Doesn’t add any value to the audience.
Unnatural links are placed on a page for no other reason than to help boost the recipient page’s search engine rankings.
These links are easy to spot.
A few of the most common culprits include:
- Paid links
- Automatically generated links
- Links from private blog networks (PBNs)
- Foreign TLD links
- Low-quality directory links
- Exact-match anchor text links
Links you control are links that you can access and remove yourself, regardless of who originally created the link.
Here’s a common example:
Let’s say that back in the day you signed up for several forums (some of which weren’t related to your site) and created profiles with links pointing back to your site.
That’s a link that you control, meaning that you have the power to both access and remove that link from your forum’s account profile.
All you need to do is access the place where you created the link and remove it.
Going with the same example, this would involve logging back in to the forum, navigating to the profile page where you created the link, and deleting it.
But what if you can no longer access the site where you created the link?
In that case, you’ll treat it like an unnatural link that you do not control.
2. Remove Unnatural Links You Do Not Control
If unnatural links you control are links you can access, then unnatural links you don’t control are links that you can’t access and remove on your own.
This can include links like:
- Paid links
- Links from spam sites
- Foreign TLD links
- Low-quality directory links
- Links from negative SEO attacks
The good news is that you can still remove these links from your site.
All it takes is finding the links and then taking the necessary actions to either have them removed by the referring sites or disavowed.
a) Find Unnatural Links You Don’t Control
The only efficient way to find these types of links is to perform a link audit on your site with Monitor Backlinks.
We’ve written an in-depth guide about it that I highly recommend you take a look at.
But for starters, if you haven’t already, sign up for a free trial of Monitor Backlinks here to follow along with the next steps.
Then, head to the Your Links module and focus on the following:
1. Exact-match anchor text links. Exactly what it says; links that use the same keyword phrase as the page’s target keyword.
2. Spam Score. This tells you the likelihood that a link is unnatural. Anything 8 or above should be suspect.
3. TLD. Look for any link with a foreign-language top-level domain (TLD).
4. External Links. Look for any page that has an external link count higher than 100.
After you locate the unnatural links, your next step is to remove them from your link profile.
b) Ask the Site Owner to Remove the Links
You should first try and get the link removed by the site’s owner or webmaster before you ever consider disavowing it.
And the way you do that is by sending them an email.
Typically you’ll find their contact info on their site. But if for whatever reason it’s not on there, then you can also use a tool like ICANN WHOIS to look it up.
Once you have the info, send them a brief and courteous email that 1) explains why you want the link removed, and 2) politely asks that they remove the link.
There’s really nothing else needed after this point.
If they contact you back and agree, then great!
But if not, then you’ll need to disavow the link from your link profile.
c) Disavow the Links
Disavowing a link involves telling Google to ignore it when considering your site for ranking in search results.
Luckily, Monitor Backlinks makes this quick and easy!
Just choose the links you want to disavow (either the individual link or its entire domain)…
…and add them to your account’s disavow list:
From there, go to the Disavow Tool module and download your disavow file to your computer by clicking the “Export Disavow Rules” button:
After that, click the “Send to Google” button to go to Google and submit your disavow file:
Boom! You’re done.
3. Edit Overly Optimized Content
Eliminating keyword stuffing is the final step of a Google Penguin recovery campaign.
The question is:
What’s the best way for you to remove overly optimized content?
There’s no one correct way to do it…
But my recommendation is to do the following:
- Read through the content, keeping an eye out for your target keyword.
- When you come across an instance of your keyword that feels forced or out of place, remove it and replace it with a word that makes more sense.
In most instances, that’s all you need to do to recover.
However, in extreme cases, you may want to incorporate the use of a tool like MySiteAuditor that will automatically review your content and notify you of any keyword-related issues.
Now, you might be wondering what the perfect keyword ratio is.
Well, there isn’t one.
But a personal rule I shoot for is to use the keyword 1-3 times for every 1,000 words (which includes in header tags).
You should also replace unnatural keywords with LSI keywords, which are keywords related to your target keyword.
You can easily find LSI keywords by searching your page’s target keyword in Google, scrolling down to the bottom of the first page of results and looking at the “Searches related to…” section.
Choose a couple, sprinkle them into your content and you’re good to go!
What to Expect After a Google Penguin Recovery
Let’s start by talking about what you shouldn’t expect:
- Your site to shoot back up to the top of Google for all of the previous keywords you were ranking #1 for.
That’s simply not going to happen, at least not overnight.
Instead, understand that results aren’t immediate and that your rankings will seldom be as high as they were before the Google Penguin-based penalty.
Sure, some keywords might approach or, in some rare cases, exceed their previous high ranking.
But a vast majority will fall short. And that’s okay. It’s to be expected.
Regardless of where your keywords should happen to fall after you’ve recovered, one thing is for certain…
You should focus heavily on getting more quality backlinks to your site’s top pages in order to boost their exposure and help drive them back to the top of Google.
Google Penguin Recovery Wrap-up
This guide was created to give you everything you need to know to start recovering from a Google Penguin penalty right now.
But you also need to be prepared for any future Google Penguin (or other algorithm-based) updates.
And the best way to do that?
Keep your link profile clean of any low-quality, unnatural links.
And of course, that’s where a tool like Monitor Backlinks proves to be invaluable.
Use it to regularly manage, monitor and track your site’s entire link profile, remove unwanted links, and get notified as soon as any potential unnatural links try and sneak their way onto your site.