The Bloggers Guide to Recovering from Google Penguin

Google is always keeping site owners guessing. Just when you think you’ve developed a strategy to master search-engine marketing and shoot to the top of the search results, Google introduces changes that send you right back to the drawing board.

Google has rolled out yet another update to its ever-changing algorithm, and many bloggers and site owners have been left reeling. The latest change — the Google Penguin update — has put more focus on the incoming link profile for a site, and more than 1 million sites have been notified that their site was considered in violation of these new standards.

Here’s a breakdown of the key changes for the new Google Penguin update:

google penguin

Link Profile

Google has started evaluating not only how many links a site has, but the quality of the links, as well. Examples of poor links can include:

  • Directories
  • Parked domains
  • Link exchanges
  • Links in footers
  • Consecutive links with no descriptive text
  • Links from low-quality sites
  • Links from unrelated sites

Essentially, Google is looking to penalize sites that have a large number of links it considers to be irrelevant or spammy, such as sponsored links. Other links that raised flags for Google included those from guest posts on unrelated or spammy sites, article marketing sites, and reported phishing or attack sites.

Anchor Text

Sites who have a good link profile are still being dinged for the anchor text that is being used for those links. Google penalized sites that had too many links using exact match keywords rather than the brand name or url.

From analysis of the changes on various websites, it appears that the sites who were penalized had exact match keywords being used in anchor text for at least 50 percent of their incoming links. Sites who used their site title or URL — such as — or other more general terms such as “click here” or “this post” for their anchor text had a more favorable link profile.

Now that you understand the new changes from Google Penguin, what can you do to make your site safe from losing page rank? Here are a few ideas:

Start Pruning Your Links

If you have been performing your own marketing and SEO, you should know where your backlinks are coming from. If you haven’t been doing a good job of keeping track, you can find the information through your analytics or an SEO analysis tool like SEO Moz. If you use an SEO company, ask for a report of your link profile.

Evaluate the links, and start removing links from any sites that will be deemed suspect by Google. If you can, manually remove your link — such as those from blog directories or link exchanges. Get rid of paid links that aren’t placed contextually within a post.

You may have to contact site owners to ask them to remove your link, especially if it was part of a guest post you wrote, or if the blog owner linked to one of your posts as reference. This could be awkward, but you’ll suffer more in lost traffic and earnings if you don’t do it. If the site owners reject your request, you can notify Google of your attempts to remove the links so that they may not be counted against you.

Diversify Your Anchor Text

Stop focusing on only one or two keywords for your backlink marketing strategy. Diversify the keywords you use, and be sure to include non-keyword anchor text, such as your own brand name or URL. Be sure to keep a spreadsheet of your backlinks  that includes the site, the type of link, and the anchor text used for the link. It will help you to identify whether you have enough variety in your keyword use for your anchor text so you know when you are in danger of getting flagged by Penguin.

Be sure to check out organic links through your analytics and to note the anchor text used there. Contact site owners if necessary to request a change, or be sure to diversify your own efforts to offset it.

Diversify Your Link Profile

Relevant links from authoritative sites are what Google wants to see. Getting links from top sites within your niche will help you far more than hundreds of links from unrelated or spammy sites.

If you are unable to remove lower-quality links, or you want to keep the links you have worked to build even if they are not up to Google standards, you can offset the negative links by building up strong backlinks within your niche. Creating a diverse link profile will help protect you from any losses from your weaker links.

Keeping your site at the top of search results requires you to keep up with Google’s changes and to change your marketing strategy wherever necessary. To ensure that your site maintains a healthy page rank after the Penguin update, you need to analyze your link profile and your keyword performance to see if there are any weaknesses in your marketing efforts. Ensuring that you have a diverse link profile and use a variety of keywords and non-keywords for your anchor text will help you survive Google’s latest update.

Have you noticed a drop in your site’s page rank since Google’s Penguin update? Tell us why you think it happened in the comments!

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  • Aasma

    Hi Maria,

    Thanks for sharing such useful and essential tips, though I haven’t noticed any drop in my ranking after Penguin and I’m quite happy. I always work to get variety of links and generally avoid directory links, I think that’s the reason I haven’t got any hit from Penguin.

  • Nichole

    Google is really holding necks. I don’t know much about this penguin but now it really made sense to me. Thanks for the post. This really helps.

    • Amit Shaw

      Nichole, Penguin Is Bird :P
      BTW Just write for Readers not for SEO and Don’t try any Blackhat seo thats it. So Google’s Zoo Animal will not affect your site ever.

    • Pete Goumas

      Yes, Google is really holding necks. Google wants everything to be geniune. Thanks for the post, Maria. I really learnt some very important points from this post.

  • Jack Sander

    The algorithm updates have affected many sites, therefore we have to build more links, but also focus on diversity. Although it might take time to build more backlinks to our blogs, the results would be durable.

  • Maria Magher

    Aasma, I think you are right that you have avoided being hit because you maintain a good profile and avoid directory links. I think some sites can benefit from directory links, but you have to be sure that your overall link profile is varied with quality backlinks.

    Amit, agreed that you should focus on writing good content that is valuable for your readers! That will help your site rank better every time!

  • Raicho

    After making a crackdown on the quality of the article, now it is the turn for the links. I like this development; this means Google wants everyone to do what is right and that is to ensure the quality of sites.

  • Becca

    You are right to an extent; the intent of Google’s update was just that. But unfortunately many genuine and sites with quality content are being hit by it which is a matter of concern.

  • Maria Magher

    It’s true: A lot of legitimate sites got hit with this update. It shows the importance of paying close attention to all aspects of your SEO strategy. The emphasis should be on quality not just quantity of links.

  • Mario M.

    Jeez! Google has made it very difficult for professional bloggers who are looking for some great SEO. Though I don’t write much technical stuff, I guess I should focus on these tips!

  • Tina

    Google finally decided to penalize low quality links. It’s always been known that QUALITY links matter, so the recent changes are hardly surprising. I just wonder how exactly Google takes links into account. What if a competitor posted links to a site on all sorts of crap sites? Such links used not to be taken into account because the assumption was you can’t be responsible for links to your site. If these links are counted against you, this is unfair and opens vastly the door to abuse. If these links are neglected, then this is the way it should be.

  • Maria Magher

    Tina, unfortunately, negative SEO attacks are a real possibility. However, if you do find that a competitor is building up negative backlinks to your site, you can take steps to protect yourself by asking to have the links removed or by reporting them to Google. It’s a time-intensive process (and a real pain), but you’ll end up protecting yourself from Google’s wrath.

  • Brian

    I got slammed by the second penguin update. It’s funny, all I read was that the sky was falling, and I just went along thinking I snuck by, lol….silly me.

    Got whacked for having the same anchor text, mix up the keywords, mix up the keywords, and then……mix up the keywords.

  • Isaac

    Super info! I’d rather follow your tips mentioned in this article Maria than seeing a drop of traffic just as For me, it’s always important to ensure that a site is growing deservedly and naturally. I’ve never been too fond of putting”pressure” on Google to rank your site high by using spammy or irrelevant methods. Again, you’re so right!