Google Penguin Update: This Person Has A “Huge Recovery” Story

    October 9, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google has been pushing major updates left and right in recent weeks, and plenty of webmasters are feeling the effects for better or for worse. In late September, Google announced the EMD update targeting low-quality sites with exact match domains. Later, we found out Google had also rolled out a new Panda update around the same time. Business owners who saw their referrals from Google decline had enough fun trying to dig through that and determine which update they were actually hit by (this should have been easier for those who did not have exact match domains).

Before the dust settled on those updates, Google went on to announce a new Penguin data refresh on Friday, after months of anticipation. So far, we have not seen many recovery stories, but we have seen one. We also haven’t seen a whole lot of people claiming to have been hit by the latest refresh (though there have been some). We have, however, seen plenty who have been working on trying to recover from previous Penguin launches, but have not been able to please the algorithm this time around.

Have you seen changes from the latest Penguin data refresh? Let us know in the comments.

When Google’s Matt Cutts tweeted about the Penguin refresh on Friday, he said it would “noticeably” affect 0.3% of English queries. He later tweeted that the refresh would be completed that same night. That means that the effects of the refresh should have already been felt by any webmasters affected.

There has been at least one reported recovery from this round of Penguin. Marketer Donna Fontenot claims that she has one client that saw a “huge recovery”. Here are some comments she made on Twitter:


Additionally, Fontenot has been talking about the recovery in the Cre8asite forums (via Search Engine Roundtable). There, she writes, “Long story short, they needed to get rid of excessive footer backlinks, links that looked like paid backlinks (and some were), etc. The really tough part? Getting the client to be patient and wait for another Penguin update to roll around so we could determine if the efforts were going to help or not. Six months later. SIX MONTHS. To a client, six months of waiting is forever.”

“No one got those terrible links for them,” she says later in the thread. “They accumulated the links themselves over several years. But I can attest that they didn’t go out and get new links to get out of this penalty. They strictly went through a huge process of getting rid of backlinks that looked like possible suspects for a penguin penalty.”

She admits that she was concerned (while waiting for Penguin to roll out again) that she was having her client get rid of too many backlinks, adding, “What if I had them remove links that were actually helping rather than hurting? Then, when Penguin waddled back through, even if the penalty was lifted, it was possible that they wouldn’t recover because now they would be missing links they needed to keep their rankings. Luckily, that didn’t happen.”

While in this case it may not have happened, this is still a legitimate concern for those trying to clean up their link profiles. From what we’ve seen and heard, there has likely been a great deal of overreaction when it comes to sites getting rid of backlinks. Many sites spent time and effort getting rid of links that they would have otherwise liked to have kept, but elected not to in the off chance that they could be hurting the site in Google. More on all of that madness here.

It seems fairly likely that following Fontenot’s story, people will continue down a similar path. Still, there are some out there that doubt her story. Alan, commenting on the Search Engine Roundtable post, says, “No offense but there are a lot more non-recovery stories than recovery stories…Unless I see proof I won’t believe her.”

Another reader adds, “I agree, I would like to see some proof. A ton of people got rid of links and never recovered. If it was that easy we would be seeing recoveries all over the forums. That is not the case.”

While we’re not holding our breath, perhaps Fontenot will put together a case study about the recovery for the benefit of other webmasters and SEOs. Here’s what she said about that when asked about the possibility on Twitter:

The fact that footer links are the main component of Fontenot’s claimed recovery case is interesting. As you may know, Google recently updated its webmaster guidelines. One of the new changes is the addition of “widely distributed links in the footers of various sites” to the “link schemes” section of the Quality Guidelines section.

Keep in mind, the Penguin update is specifically aimed at targeting sites violating the quality guidelines. This is the exact quote from Google’s original announcement about the update, which Cutts also linked to in his latest announement: “The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.”

Back in May, we reported on another Penguin update recovery story, which also apparently had a lot to do with footer links. Read that story here.

In the forum thread, one member, Dr. Marie, writes, ‘Donna, yours is the only recovery I have heard of so far. I am thinking that sites who have excessive footer links pointing at them can recover because in many cases they can get the footer links removed and therefore remove a huge percentage of links. But, for sites that have participated in widespread article spam with links pointing back at their site the task for removal is way too huge. Plus, the webmasters who host these article sites are less likely to respond to requests for link removal.”

Member Jonbey adds, “When people have these footer links etc. are they usually pointing at the homepage? I was thinking for any links pointing at internal pages you could just change the URLs of those so that the links point to 404’s instead.”

Fontenot’s response to that was, “Jon, in my client’s case, yes, the footer links generally all pointed to the home page.Some of my client’s main phrases (very competitive btw) actually ended up even better than before Penguin. Instead of being #2 or #3, for instance, some are at #1 now. And in case you were interested, Penguin had originally moved their rankings down into the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 100’s, and below. So it was a major fall, and now a major recovery.”

What do you think?

Have you seen or heard of any signs of recovery from the latest Penguin refresh? Let our readers know in the comments.

  • https://twitter.com/brickmarketing Nick Stamoulis

    I’ve worked with a few sites that were hit by Penguin and I do agree that, from a client’s perspective, 6 months is an eternity. My approach was to slowly remove those “bad backlinks” while simultaneously replacing them with new, quality links. If 1/3 of your link profile disappeared in your efforts you clean up your link profile you have to replace it with something!

    • http://www.seoworkers.com/profile.html John S. Britsios

      Very good point Nick!

      Looks like Donna’s client had links that carried no weight at all, and the good links in that period gained some extra power.

      Don’t you think?

  • http://todaweb7.com/ Guadalupe

    Well I’m happy with the changes you are making google as my pages in my case not have been affected by google!

    But I’m tired of you make so many changes in the search engine ….


  • http://cozumelmexico.net Bob Rodriguez

    I have not seen any changes in our rankings but I have noticed something that I believe is incredibly relevant.

    When I use my most popular search term, i.e. “Fantacy Island”, the serp’s that come up are different depending on the IP address (I travel a lot) and among different computers within my IP address. I recently visited someone on the island and asked them to use my most popular search term. The results were so dramatically different that I began to question my position globally.

    I have a theory; Let’s say that you click on your competitors sites on a regular basis to keep informed as to how your competitor is doing. After a while you notice that your competitor is creaping up on your most popular search terms!! This has a tremendous psycological impact; It makes you not want to click on your competitors!

    Since Google is in the business of gaining revenue based on placing you above everyone else in the serps; you are less likely to continue clicking on these sites for fear that they will rise above you.

    The results would be obvious. Less click fraud; pure and simple.

    I would love to hear what WebProNews thinks about this theory.

    • http://www.tipsinablog.com Danny

      Bob, there are a number of factors that would affect the search results you were getting( for your search term) in different locales(various ip’s, computers,etc)…..

      If using someone Else’s PC, you would be getting their own Google historical, personalized search results…(Google personalizes search results..(this usually happens when logged into a Google account.)…..

      Also, if they(when using someone Else’s computer) or you were logged into a Google account, the results can often be very different than when logged out…(not always)….

      You get different results when using different browsers…sometimes totally different…

      Sometimes you may be ranked up on top of page one in the Google search results, only to find out that you are down on page ten(more or less)…Alternatively, you may think you are stuck down near page ten, yet, the reality is, you are actually ranked up on page one or two in Google(This would also apply to other search engine(s) results, in some ways…

      Using an accurate keyword Ranking or SEO tool to check your rankings, can make a lot of difference, and there are plenty of free and paid options out there….

  • Justin

    google not need our sites anymore. webmd, wikipedia and youtube it enough for them to show it as organic results. Since peoples unable to find normal sites – number of adwords click will increased dramatically (as decreased quality of such clicks). It will funny to see where matt cutts will work after few years.

  • John Romaine

    I got all my rankings back (and gained a heap as well) within days.

  • http://pravalikadesigns.com sudhakar

    We got many keyword ranks back with double traffic.

  • http://www.donnafontenot.com Donna

    I realize how hard it must be to believe someone’s recovery story without seeing details, but all I can say is that people who know me, or have known of me throughout many years, know that I only report on true recoveries, because to do otherwise would just simply be harmful to our industry, and to all the SEOs out there that I consider friends. I don’t know why my particular recovery story is one of a very few. I expected lots of recovery stories would be reported. I’d give details if it was one of my own sites, but my client doesn’t need or want to be in the spotlight, which is completely understandable. I can’t make people believe. You either do or you don’t. I have zero reason to fake this. No, I don’t want to go into the business of getting people out of Penguin-hell, so reporting on this recovery serves me no purpose. It’s just for information…that’s what I’ve been doing for so many years. Sharing info.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      Hi Donna,

      Thanks for sharing this. I personally have no reason to believe you’re not being truthful. I just felt it was worth pointing out that some people are skeptical. I can certainly see your point about your client not wanting to be in the spotlight. I’m glad you’ve been kind enough to share the info.

      • http://www.donnafontenot.com Donna

        Oh I totally understand the skepticism – and the frustration! I totally get it. We, in this industry, have every reason to be skeptical. It’s just the nature of the beast.

        • http://robertjduncan.me Robert Duncan

          Donna, you stated that they fell back to position 50 – 60 – 70 – etc… ?

          But a true Penguin hit would push you back in the 400 – 500 range.

          It seems that might have been a different issue like keyword stuffing.

          • http://www.donnafontenot.com Donna

            Not sure where you get the idea that there’s a specific fall range, but in any case, the site lost its rankings on the day penguin hit, and regained them on the day penguin hit again. Pretty difficult to assume there’s anything other than Penguin involved in such a case.

    • http://www.seoworkers.com/profile.html John S. Britsios


      I do not doubt at all that you could help your customer to recover from the Penguin hit.

      But I still feel like the post here is kind of misleading.

      To be specific, every site has a unique link profile, so we cannot place all web sites in one pot.

      It is said here that building new links was not required. I do not doubt that. But that again is not the case for every web site. Do we disagree?

      It is true that people do not know which links need to be removed, and I have seen many webmasters removing links that were really good, and they shot themselves in their own foot. If they do not get new links, shouldn’t they expect a decrease in their rankings after recovery?

      All that said, every taken strategy depends on the individual link profile, and if the link pruner can tell the difference between organic/natural and inorganic/unnatural links.

      Still congrats Donna! Good job!

      • http://www.donnafontenot.com Donna

        I only outlined what my particular case was. I have no clue if other things might be required for other sites. Nothing I’ve reported was meant to mislead anyone. It was a simple case of sharing what happened. Totally agree that all sites are different and each might need a different strategy. Seriously, y’all, I’m not claiming to have any secret knowledge. I had no idea if the steps we took would help or hurt. I was pleased to see the recovery, but it’s by no means some great accomplishment. I just happened to pick the right things to do, I guess, mostly based on a gut feeling. And I shared what I did, so others might benefit.

  • http://ephedrinewheretobuy.com Mike Budd

    I have seen no change and I just hope that I will never see it, meaning that we spend a lot of time writing quality content for our readers so we hope to be out of scope of any Google “animals updates” 😉

  • http://wheresmyseat.net Mike

    Smashed again…….One of these days, I’ll figure out what the Hell I’m doing wrong!

    • http://www.wine-fi.com Robert

      I hear your PAIN Mike ! It looked ok for a bit and then in the last week CRASH & BURN !!!

      I had removed several affiliate links (California Tax thing) so you’d think google would be happy about that. Always tried to avoid the funny SEO stuff, no trading links with web sites that didn’t complement mine… But NO, let’s squeeze the little guy even more till they go out of business.

      Let’s all be on the same page here, GOOGLE IS NOT SMALL BUSINESS FRIENDLY !!!!

      Gonna go now and drown my sorrows in a couple of good bottles of Wine and party like it’s Dec. 20th 2012 !!!

  • http://www.whathalogenoven.co.uk phil

    It looks like a mixed bag of how websites are doing, but whatever happens google could come up with another update and all could change again

  • Robert B

    About a week ago, went to do my weekly check of where my site stands with aol, bing, google and yahoo. I was ranking on 1st or 2nd page on all. Now, with aol AND google, not even showing up in the first 10 pages. Moral of story? Do not buy links! You never know the source of those links. I bought some several months ago and found out more than a few were from tacky adult sites. Guess i deserved the slap from aol and google.

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    For the last year it’s been a roller coaster for me.
    There was a dry period, early on, where I got nary an Adsense hit … followed by a four month run where all seemed back to my normal … followed by a dry period again, then back to normal.
    The nine days of Oct. find me back to the dry spot again.

  • http://www.225seo.com Seo services mcallen

    Google always make some update and it will affect for search engine optimization process that is not great news for optimizer people.

  • Can Celik

    Long story short, we needed to get rid of thousands of inorganic links spread via a wordpress plugin. We were able to remove about 600K links in a short time. Now we have about 100K links which we cannot get it removed anymore. Sent few emails and reconsideration requests to Google explaning and proofing how those links got there but nothing changes :(

    I’m tried of too many changes as well. Every update now means how bad the google algo was before.

  • http://turismo-in.it/ Turismo

    in the future only few backlink and more good?

  • http://wirelessandmobilenews.com/ Lynn Walford

    There was a 30% decrease in traffic since Friday for Wireless and Mobile News. I don’t know why. There are no ads above the fold. It could be the update. We were not badly hit by the first Penguin update. However, during an interview, yesterday, I was told be the interviewee that his website lost 85% of traffic.

    Wireless and Mobile News is still in tailspin from the original Google Panda update, that created a 75% loss in traffic. For an entire year scraped content ranked higher than the original.

    Now, scrapes of our RSS feed are ranking higher than the original webpages.

    It appears Google is not fixing things for independent Mom & Pop publishers but continues to push searchers to the big guys where they make more money.

    I have a laundry list of things we did to try to recover. When you write about a recovery, it would be helpful to also tell us what was done.

  • alex

    keep pushing your f…. luck google, bing is coming strong

  • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

    We are very highly ranked for our search terms with very little backlinks. I think those that practice dodgy tactics are the ones been punished.
    Really 600k backlinks WTF!!!!

  • http://www.thecatholictravelguide.com Gloria Grove

    My number of visitors has actually gone up over the last several weeks, not sure why. I only have a small number of daily visitors (100) but starting a couple weeks ago it began to increase to about 150 per day. I am not sure what accounts for that–any ideas?

  • http://www.byfchat.com Jay

    Before the first Penguin update I ranked very well on the first page for many of my main targeted phrases, for about 3 years. The day the update rolled out I all but vanished. From the search results.

    I was under penalty for many months. Right after I was penalized I completely changed my site, to no avail. Today, I have been completely reinstated on my previous rankings, and actually rank better on several phrases than I did before.

    I assume there was a penalty lift in this last update, and I am VERY pleased with that.

  • Alan

    All businesses need a stable working environment. What Google is doing, by constantly changing, is creating chaos and involving many in nugatory work. This is inflicted on the sector they rely upon for their own income. Eventually this attitude will come back to bite them.

    Why not 1 set of changes per year?

  • http://tweettreats.yolasite.com Brian W

    The GFC hit hard in my neighborhood, and when time came to renew Domain names for their next season, I could no longer afford the (what should be an) Insignificant fee to renew, so my Domains reverted to subdomains, which was never a problem before. Many of the recent Google Changes have impacted this in a serious way, I have come to the point where I simply give up trying to keep on top of the changes, my financial state has yet to recover from the GFC, it put things behind by a staggering amount, and continual changes by Google just make things harder to recover, so, I’ll wait it out until I can afford to do the necessary work to reclaim what was lost.

  • http://www.tipsinablog.com Danny

    Donna and Chris, I am guessing those “bad footer links” Google is going after, are the ones that serve no actual purpose to enhance the site(not theme(site topic) or context related) and are just to lead people “off site” or to a lesser extend towards a sales page…

    Also, people should beware when choosing a website theme, template, design, etc) as there are quite a few that have affiliate links(from the themes supplier, creator) hidden within/behind) the actual outer visible link(you can use a free program that strips those link bare, exposing the hidden affiliate links)….

    Another thing is that, many sites(sadly) are still using sneaky re-direct links(in posts) whereby, the site(location) the person is sent to has no connection(is often totally non related) to what is described in the alt text of the link….(often some sales page of a non related product)…..

    Oh, and I think it’s still too early to make any solid judgement regarding overall recovery stats of websites….

    Many of The effects of those recent Algorithm updates and refreshes(and the EMD) etc, will have continued overlapping influence, for a little while longer…before balance is restored…and people can weigh up “where they now stand” ….as far if there are really any lasting affects in the long term…

    Many sites will obviously bounce back, and will then need to “put their crash helmet back on again” for the next round…

    Google never sleeps, and neither should we….

  • http://www.yuvisa.com 雨薇莎导购


  • John

    Footer links are now bad? What links are GOOD?

  • http://sander-martijn.com/ Sander-Martijn

    I have seen a minor recovery. I used to be on page 2-3 for my targeted keywords “New York Fashion Photographer” – a rather competitive set. Just as I was trying to figure out how to get to page 1 in a legitimate way, Penguin caused me to drop below page 10 for reasons I couldn’t figure out. After this latest round I’m back up to page 5 – Not a total recovery but definitely an improvement.

  • http://www.classifieds2india.com/ Free Classifieds In India

    we got many keywords and pages are cached by Google and increase the traffic :-)

  • Steven G

    To me this whole Panda/Penguin thing isn’t about quality, not 100%, and not as Google would like us to believe it is. I mean Google has always had to balance making money and being a search engine company. I mean Google has profits to focus on as well as trying to give people results of what they’re searching for. I just think over time Google has moved towards a more ad heavy approach for the sake of meeting Wall Street expectations on earnings. They’re moving in a direction that if you had told them years ago they would be heading in, they would have scoffed at the idea. Yet, here we are today with Google making record profits, not by better search results, but by doing what they said they would never do, which is favor their own websites and flood their pages with ads. They can deny it all they want, but I’ve seen it first hand and so have others. So much so that when the FTC rules on if they are going to proceed with an anti-trust case in the next month or few, I think they’re going to go forth with it.

  • http://ebookissues.com/ Brian

    I have lost ground on a number of my websites and blogs, in some cases the number of impressions have dropped by as much as 80%, although I also have some that have held their own or even improved slightly. I have used article marketing in the past to put lots of links to my sites by posting articles in multiple article directories, once a relatively good tactic. I thought it might be that these links have now been disregarded, but then I noticed a site that I don’t actively market in any way, other than trying to post good content (a hobby blog), saw a 55% drop as well and I have not actively sought any back links for the site, other than through a little social signal type promotion.

    I can see no clear culprits personally, so for now I am just waiting to see if they recover on their own, I have neither the time or the inclination to go looking for links that may be affecting the ratings or SERP positions especially as I don’t know if that will improve things. I suspect, that as someone else says, Google’s poor economic performance may be the real reason they have apparently slapped some of my sites, possibly by diverting traffic to places they will earn more money.

  • http://www.memphishomes.pro david

    This sounds like a minor penguin penalty. For my affected sites, they disappeared completely for the affected terms.

  • Sharon

    My keyword rankings have been rising quite dramatically in some cases and overall looks like a recovery. However it is very difficult to tell for sure, my site is very seasonal. The 6 month period from penguin to refresh covers quite exactly my biggest months. Hits have been in the tank throughout, but suddenly holding up when they should be dropping. I am very anxious to get to spring to see the true result.

  • David

    I’m part of the .03%! My organic google traffic dropped by over 50% after Oct 5th. Working on clean up of poor directories, and changing up my anchor text

  • http://www.aranzamendezdesign.com/ Arlene Aranzamendez

    Congratulations to her! Actually, I also have a client who has been badly affected by Google Penguin update because of over optimization for his website content and stuffing targeted keywords pointing most of it on his homepage. But when I change the keyword density and remove the footer links and internal links that points to his homepage, there’s actually an improvement. But still, it way too far from top 20. So, I’m hoping it will fully recover as soon as possible.

  • william margita

    3 members on Board at Google are former Amazon
    thats why every thing from books to yes – sex toys
    goes to Amazon

    xxx – to imbd.com also owned by Amazon

    this is all to push the Kindle fire with Google droid os

    at the same time wipe out all small business

    also check your PPC

    google changed most small business with a penaltiy to make you pay more
    Amazon pays the lowest – despite the word and ranks hire

    this is the future

    1. stop using google products
    2. stop paying google for rankings

    first they took your info
    now they will take your money


  • http://www.besthealthfoodstore.net Cliff

    We were hit with an unnatural links warning in April 2012. We have since removed hundreds of blog and article posts. We paid an SEO expert to get the warning removed and he couldn’t do it. So, then we submitted hundreds of bad links with the Google disavow tool. We waited a month after submitting the disavow links tool, and a couple months after deleting hundreds of links. Google denied our reconsideration request again on Dec. 4 (for the 5th time). All we can figure is that we were too successful at getting our site to the top for some powerful keywords and Google just doesn’t want us to get those rankings for free. What the hell else can we do to please the google gods? Oh, wait, they’re working with Amazon to take over the Internet. I think it’s time for government intervention to take this monopoly down.

    • http://www.seopackages.co/ Samuel

      We have seen the same thing. Some clients have come to us for help recovering and we have removed, in some cases 95% of links with google coming back with the same copy and paste answers, even after using the disavow tool.

      It’s not consistent though making me think that the copy and paste replies are done buy low paid workers in third world counties that run a quick scan and then hit reply.

      We have successfully recovered some sites with minimal work and changes. At least if they are going be @ss’s about it they could at least be consistent!

  • http://www.seo.com SEO tips

    Fruitful information I must say. It really helped me out to understand the whole concept.

  • sharonlemana

    A penguin is an algorithm that was introduced by Google to fight spam on the web.. Once the site is affected by it, immediately the rank goes down and then, it is very difficult to recover.. For more information about it have a peek here ..