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:
@Marie_Haynes I can tell you that one client that I've been helping deal with Penguin saw a huge recovery now that Penguin finally ran again
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:
@Marie_Haynes Hmm. Maybe. If I can find some time. That ever-elusive time.
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.