eBrandz Blog

How has your Life been after Google’s Penguin Update? – Diagnose, Recover, Rebuild

Google’s Penguin update, sounds familiar? Let us go back in time. What was the Penguin update?

It was an algorithmic update that was announced on April 24, 2012. This update targeted those websites that violated Google Webmaster Guidelines. It aimed at lowering search engine ranking of those websites that used black-hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, using duplicate content and spamming. It approximately affected 3.1% of English search queries and 3% of queries in languages like Chinese, Arabic and German.

But just as Google has a solution for everything, this too had a solution. Google released a feedback form. This was designed for two categories of users- one who wanted to report web spam and others who think their website is innocent but has still been hit by this update.

As a data refresh to the Penguin algorithm, an update was released named Penguin 1.1 in early June this year. Since the previous update affected a major chunk of search results, this refresh according to Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam affected less than 0.1 % of English searches.

Moving on…

The Problem- what is the diagnosis and what are the steps to detect it?

1. Trace the day you got hit.
2. Were the site-wide links hit or only specific pages? Also see:

  • Did every page lose its ranking?
  • Can you rank a new page for a lower competition term?

3.Once you do that, find out the problem areas of your website.


Why was your website affected?

This is not very difficult to guess:

  • Over-optimized anchor text.
  • Too much low quality content.
  • Use of too many off-quality link.


If your website is found to have more than 65% of inbound links with Anchor Text matching keywords, then you certainly need to consider some recovery lessons from the examples below:

1. WPMU.org

Ross Hudgens of Search Engine Land worked with WPMU.org to recover by:

  • Removing many site-wide footer links (approximately 15,000).
  • Miscellaneous on-site issues like canonical URL’s

The graph below shows WPMU.org’s Recovery:

2. So does that mean, Penguin penalty is linked to the URL? Will copying the content onto a new URL help? Will it rank off the content and what’s left of the domain authority?

In a “MFA Test” by Ian Howells of slideshare.net , he say “Sure, you can.” Here is the proof:

He then tested if a 301 from the “penalized” page will pass the ranking hit to the new URL? His finding say that it surely can and within 5 days. See the graph below:

Some more findings of test:

  • If your penalty is just on the page level, you can start over with the same domain.
  • If your homepage has been targeted, then it might be a matter of big concern for you. You will have to control your links like WPMU did or get them removed.
  • No “duplicate content” notice will be issued if you simply copy paste old content to a brand new page.
  • You cannot, however, keep those links by using 301 (into your new URL).

How can you rebuild your website’s ranking?

  • If your homepage is safe, then start moving the affected pages to new URLs without using 301 redirect and go back to link building.
  • For solid links to your old (now dead) URLs, you will need to get them changed to your new URL.
  • Don’t want to move pages? Find spam links and get them taken down and then wait for the next update.

In this case, will canonical tags, 302 redirects, cross-domain 301 tag work or creating new alternate home pages help? We are yet to see this. Have you already started taking recover lessons? Let us know whether they were fruitful.