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Google Penguin Update Refresh & Recovery Provide Hope For Webmasters

Will we start seeing more recoveries now that Google is refreshing Penguin?

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Google Penguin Update Refresh & Recovery Provide Hope For Webmasters
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As previously reported, Google announced its first Penguin update since the original over Memorial Day weekend. Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, tweeted about it, saying, “Minor weather report: We pushed 1st Penguin algo data refresh an hour ago. Affects <0.1% of English searches."

Have you seen search referrals drop or rise since this update? Let us know in the comments.

The good news, whether you were hit by Penguin the first time or this time, is that you can recover. We’ve now seen that this can happen, and since we know that Google will continue to push data refreshes for Penguin, there should be plenty of chances to do so. Just think about all the Panda refreshes we’ve seen since February 2011.

We recently reported on WPMU, a seemingly quality site with plenty of fans on social media channels, which got hit by the first Penguin update. The site has now made a full recovery.

Here’s what the analytics looked like after Penguin:

WPMU analytics

Here’s what the analytics look like now:

WPMU Analytics

It’s worth noting that Cutts was aware of this site, as James Farmer (the site’s owner) was able to get it brought to his attention, following the initial Penguin update, via an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. Cutts had provided some examples of the kinds of links that were likely hurting it. This was all discussed in our previous article, but to summarize, WPMU distributes WordPress themes, and a lot of blogs, including spam blogs were using some of them, which included links back to WPMU in the footer.

Ross Hudgens from Full Beaker provided some assistance and advice for Farmer, and blogged about the experience at SEOmoz. He notes that Farmer opted to ask blogs to remove the links, rather than applying nofollow to them, but it was actually an internal change that Farmer was able to make, which ultimately might have had the greatest impact on the recovery. Hudgens writes:

The most perilous piece of WPMU’s link profile came from one site – EDUblogs.org. EDU Blogs is a blogging service for people in the education space, allowing them to easily set up a subdomain blog on EDUblogs for their school-focused site – in a similar fashion to Blogspot, Typepad, or Tumblr, meaning that each subdomain is treated as a unique site in Google’s eyes. Coincidentally, this site is owned by WPMU and Farmer, and every blog on the service leverages WPMU theme packs. Each of these blogs had the “WordPress MU” anchor text in the footer, which meant a high volume of subdomains considered unique by Google all had sitewide “WordPress MU” anchor text. In what might have been a lucky moment for WPMU, this portion of their external link profile was still completely in their control because of WPMU ownership.

In what I believe is the most critical reason why WPMU made a large recovery and also did it faster than almost everyone else, Farmer instantly shut off almost 15,000 ‘iffy’ sitewide, footer LRDs to their profile, dramatically improving their anchor text ratios, sitewide link volume, and more. They were also able to do this early on in the month, quickly after the original update rolled out. A big difference between many people trying to “clean up their profile” and WPMU is time – getting everything down and adjusted properly meant that many people simply did not see recoveries at refresh 1.1 – but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all if the effort persists.

Farmer was also able to get one of the blogs that Cutts had initially pointed out the links from, to remove the links. According to Hudgens, he also did some other things, which may have played a role in the recovery, such as: implementing canonical URLs to clean up crawl errors and eliminate unnecessary links, fixed some broken sitemaps and submitted them to Webmaster Tools, fixed some duplicate title tag issues (which Webmaster Tools reported). He also submitted the site to the form Google provides for those who think they’ve wrongfully been impacted by Penguin. Twice.

It’s also possible that the exposure this site has received in the media, and in front of Matt Cutts could have helped. We’ve certainly seen penalties come from such exposure.

Not everyone will be able to get such exposure to make their cases as strong to Google, but Google does look at the submissions to that form, so if you’ve determined that you’re in compliance with Google’s quality guidelines, and you still think you were actually hit by Penguin, that’s a good place to start your recovery efforts, but you’ll probably want to continue to dig as much as you can.

Look at all of Google’s quality guidelines. Are there any areas where Google may think you’re in violation? Make the proper changes. Cutts recently pointed to the following videos as recovery advice:

He also said the following tips from Marc Ensign “looked solid”:

  • Create a blog and consistently build up your site into a wealth of valuable content.
  • Work with a PR firm or read a book and start writing legitimate press releases on a regular basis and post them on your site.
  • Visit blogs within your industry and leave valuable feedback in their comments section.
  • Link out to other valuable resources within your industry that would benefit your visitors.
  • Share everything you are creating on 2 or 3 of your favorite social media sites of choice.
  • Position yourself as an expert.

Virginia Nussey at Bruce Clay put together an interesting step-by-step guide to “link pruning” which might help you clean up your link profile, and ease your way to a recovery. She recommends setting up a spreadsheet with the following headers: Target URL, Source URL, Source Rank, Source Craw Date, Anchor Text, Image Link, ALT Text, Nofollow, Redirect and Frame. Then, she recommends adding the following to the spreadsheet, for webmaster contact info: Owner name, IP Address, Owner Address, Owner Email, Owner Phone Number, Registrar Name, Technical Content, Name Servers, Net Name, Created, Updated, Expires, Data Source (what site/registry was the resource for the contact gathered?).

From there, it’s just about sending removal requests and seeing what happens. Hopefully lawsuits aren’t part of your strategy.

We’ll have more discussion with Farmer to share soon, and perhaps he’ll be able to shed a bit more light on his own Penguin recovery. In the meantime, if you’re been hit, perhaps you can view his story as one of hope and inspiration, before you go starting over with a new site (which Google has also suggested as a possible option).

Penguin will be back again. You can recover. Remember, there are always other non-Penguin signals that you can try to improve upon too. You certainly don’t want to forget about our old pal the Panda.

Google called Penguin a success even before the latest refresh. What are your thoughts about it now that we’ve seen an update to the update? Let us know in the comments.

Google Penguin Update Refresh & Recovery Provide Hope For Webmasters
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  • http://www.seoindiacompany.org/ Ash

    Thanks for the information I am also facing this problem for all my cleints. I will try to follow your instruction lets see what happen.

  • http://www.redlinecompany.com Rob

    Good post. Nice to hear that it is possible for some sites to recover from the Penguin update.

    I agree with what others have said in that let’s hope this isn’t only about spammy link profiles as this does mean that people can cause major damage to their competitors using negative SEO practices.

    It would be great if Google could provide users with a little more information though instead of allowing people to remain in the dark, not knowing what has caused it and how they can recover.

    I think this has been a big lesson to many though and once again highlights that age old phrase “build your site for users, not for Google”. It’s important to not become so overly dependent on Google traffic and utilise other sources including social media.

  • http://www.kentuckyspecialfx.com Mike Bisch

    We noticed a immediate sharp drop on our home page www.kentuckyspecialfx.com which now may be temporary from what were seeing but a lot of our other pages actually received a step up in regards to our movie prop replicas items which was always a battle for us.
    So far most of the updates Google has done over the past year seems like we kind of get a balance on all the updates in regards to off the wall traffic searches but while we have received a tiny bit of less traffic it seems like some of the traffic may be more focused.
    It’s kind of hard to tell right now because we have been updating our site all week so only time will tell in the long run just how true the effect will be.
    It’s kind of hard to know what effects stuff has on us because we sell seasonal halloween prop and decorations but be also have move and game prop replicas that sell year round and with our site it’s a balancing act.
    We do have the upper hand verses a lot of other fly by night sites since our site has some strong age to it and its easy to follow for the most part.
    I do wish Google would give us a little more credit and ranking in searches since our site has more age and is updated more frequently than others in our field.

  • http://www.zonaide.com ZonaIde

    Google Update Pengun is my charge, let alone have to fight really hard in the SERP. appropriate solution is to maintain quality of the article itusalah best advice

  • max

    its a nightmare to do any business with google this are amateurs who continuously do a abstract fight about the emperors mustache or the storm in the water glass, its a puzzle why they do all this things since search results were much more relevant last year before they started panda. now I see too much mess around and head shaking search results. If this guys are just too hyperactive they should go on vacation and leave the things alone because only changing things because of the sake of changing is ending into nightmares, I think this guys have lost the touch to ground.

  • http://www.procalisxonline.info http://www.procalisxonline.info

    This is good. At least people are discovering the causes of the Penguin slap. After reading a post by Dori Friend, I started to implement certain strategies she pointed to. Although my sites are not yet where they were before Penguin but I have seen them jump.

  • http://www.crendo.com/ Crendo

    Within the last couple of months we’ve completely redone our two main websites, one for web design and one for photography. We went with wordpress as a content management solution for both. Whether or not having a simple way to blog, update descriptions/titles/headers and just plain change things around will get us higher in the search engines after Penguin is yet to be seen, but after 15 years of building sites by scratch and trying to optimize every line of code, I’m loving not having that hanging over my head any more. Now I can focus on finding non-scammy backlinks and writing good posts, which I think was Google’s target all along.

  • http://www.jafaloo.com Jafaloo

    Is there anyone here who has seen better results on Google search after so called penguin updates. I think before these algorithm updates, Google search was giving better results, but now in some cases I am not satisfied with the quality of the search results. Is there anyone who is also feeling so?

  • Carl Rydin

    If Google were serious they would simply remove the value of links. They say content is King, and want to give minor sites a chance. They talk about one thing and do the opposite. Google used to say get links to your site. Google have single handed created the link frenzy which they now are going against.
    Moral of Google is: If you are big they will help you as pointed out in the article. All other small sites get no help, and are left totally in the dark!

    To Google – Get rid of the link bullshit if content is king!

  • http://www.a1-hiddencamera.com Sharon Macdonald

    We spent 3 long years building our small business online and have in fact spent thousands of dollars paying Google for adwords. We have never spammed or paid for links or basically done anything against the guidelines. For all our hard work Google dismisses us after penguin like a piece of trash. How unfair. Down with the monster.

  • http://www.otssolutions.com Hiya

    Hi all,

    Is it possible that penguin can effect the site now. AS in May there was tremendous increase in business leads and traffic and ranking….and now suddenly it is going down,,….is that penguin effect or something else..Please let me know

  • Rohit Singh

    thanks for given us very informative information…..

  • http://penguinrecoveryservice.com Sinbad Konick

    That’s a great post..i will surely try these strategy of yours..hope those will work for me..and will beat penguin

  • http://www.blog2monetize.com/ Jonas

    so basically what we really need to do is to remove all your links on every site which in google’s eyes are spam sites.

  • Sivagopi

    Hi suppose say my site is http://www.example.com. There are around 5000 links that containing the anchor text example.

    And the site is affected by penguin. Do you this this is one of the case for the hit

  • http://tuvidaunreto.com/ Anthony

    No doubt that is true, but the problem I have small websites that do not know where to act. Perhaps this example is clear, but might not have so few examples of recovery. That alone is an indication of something.

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