Since the introduction of Google Penguin in April 2012, hundreds of thousands of sites worldwide have been penalized for spammy web activities and unnatural links causing severe lack of search engine visibility for its targets, sometimes causing them to vanish off the SERPs altogether.
Penguin has released a number of updates that can effectively “un-penalize” sites that have moved to correct their mistakes or misdeeds (through the disavow tool or removing spam). Conversely, new sites that have not been previously caught might fall into the jaws of Penguin’s trap. Sites that have thrown up “false positives” (Google may have penalized them incorrectly or without enough justification) may enjoy being released from the penalization.
In a nutshell, webmasters that have been punished can make all the right moves to improve their page to escape further penalization, but they will not enjoy any improvement until the next Penguin update happens. So if you get hit by Penguin in January, you can expect to remain penalized until Penguin is run again. If Penguin runs again in March, the site can expect a three month waiting period until it can get any relief. And as many webmasters who follow search rankings know, there was over a year of waiting between Penguin 2.1 and Penguin 3.0.
The latest Penguin-related news
Obviously, SEOs would like to see more frequent updating of Penguin. The last update Google confirmed was in October 2014. Although Google has claimed that their updates would be occurring in real-time, the search engine mogul still continues to do manual “pushes” of them. That is, rather than releasing an update that will show you within a week if you have been hit and allow you to improve your site and gain immediate results, sites need to wait for individual pushes of the updates.
In January, Google announced in a G+ Webmasters hangout that updates should be moving a lot faster with respect to an update cycle. According to spokesman John Mueller though updates may not be monthly, it is expected to be faster than the last. According to Mueller, Google can’t promise that it will announce the updates – confirmation from the company will depend on how big the update is, along with other factors.
How can sites recover in time for the next Penguin Update and avoid being hit again? To understand how to recover and continue to keep your site safe, you have to understand the nature of Penguin. Because its aim is to reduce spam, you need to find the spam in your backlink portfolio and deal with it appropriately.
Google does make it possible to recover from both a manual (done by a human) or algorithmic penalty, but taking the necessary steps to recover your site from a penalty is time-consuming and it is smart to invest some time into making sure that you don’t get hit again, especially if we are not sure when the next update will be.
How to begin recovering from a Penguin Penalty
To recover from an algorithmic update, you want to use you Google’s “disavow” tool. Find all of your existing spammy or poor quality backlinks using a variety of professional tools that show you what you are dealing with, like Ahrefs and Moz’s Open Site Explorer and put them in a disavow file to upload it to Google. Be sure to remove the duplicates to save yourself time and energy before you analyze them, and take the time to read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to learn which links are violations.
Remove problematic links that you have control over, and reach out to webmasters to have links removed that you don’t have control over. After you have done everything that you can to clean up the links, throw the remaining troublemakers into the file and disavow them. This tells Google you don’t want these links counted when they evaluate your site.
Once you have gotten your links back into ship shape, it is important to monitor the state of your backlinks continually. There are a couple of reasons why you want to do this. First, even if you have successfully recovered from a penalty, you can always get hit again. Second, your site will continue to get new backlinks all of the time, and some will always be coming from bad neighborhoods. Finally, there is the possibility of negative SEO – competitors pointing unhealthy backlinks at your site.
Keep in mind that although you can only have one disavow file per given sub-domain you can adjust this file whenever you like, meaning you can add or remove old links as you choose. A good link from the past can now be a bad link, and a bad link may now be a good link.
Getting hit with a Penguin penalty can cause countless hours of hard work and misery. Compounding this misery is the fact that although Google has said that updates to Penguin should be real-time, we are still waiting in the wing for speedier updates. When it comes to your business, playing the waiting game is no fun. So play your cards right, and take a proactive stance – monitor your links and make sure you know what is going on behind the scenes of your website.