October 4th saw Penguin 2.1 released by Google (on a Friday afternoon too – just to make sure webmasters had something to do that weekend). Collectively, the SEO world shuddered and prepared for the worst. However, for some websites, especially for those previously hit by Penguin or Panda, there was some very good news in the mix – they reacted positively to Penguin 2.1, i.e. they recovered.
First of all, Penguin is the Google filter which checks a websites backlink profile. Specifically it is looking for spammy back-linking, but older versions of Penguin (1.x) focused on the home page, while with Penguin 2.0 and up it is looking at the website in a more holistic fashion.
The bottom line is if you had been overusing keywords in your anchor text, buying up cheap links from spammy sites, or having a back link profile that shows you went from zero to hundreds of thousands of links in a month or two, then you got hit.
So why have some sites recovered from penalties Penguin previously gave them?
We have to understand how Penguin is being run: it is some form of filter or tag, which runs independently of the main Google algorithm. Once you have been put through Penguin, it decides on the quality of your back link profile, and if you are one of those unfortunate few, you are tagged. When the main algorithm is run, it can see if this tag is present or not, and if you have been tagged you are ranked accordingly, i.e. not highly no matter what you do.
Recovering from Penguin is a case of identifying and correcting the issues with the site which you believe have caused the penalty to be applied. For this, check your Webmaster Tools for any messages to give you an indication or hint. You will also need to review the site and start digging to find the links which have caused the problem.
Once you have uncovered the bad links, you need to get rid of them. Much has been made of Google’s disavow tool, however I believe that should be used only as a last resort. Try getting the bad links removed manually first, and then, and only then, use the disavow tool.
Now, assuming you have cleaned up the issues which triggered Penguin in the first instance, you are going to have to wait until the filter is run again. This can be a problem for webmasters because we don’t know when Google will run it until they actually do. Typically, there is a new Penguin every couple of months or so, but there is no set schedule. However, we just won’t know if the remedial work will be effective until there is a further iteration, so it is a case of being patient and having to wait.
For those websites which have previously been penalized by penguin, running the filter again on October 4th brought them the good news they had been hoping for – they started to recover. The reason is simple: they had done the remedial work required in identifying backlink issues and cleaning things up, and when Penguin was run again they obtained either a full or partial release of the tag.
Penguin is a Google filter which is looking for spammy, manipulated backlink profiles.
Penalties for getting caught by Penguin are very severe, with traffic loss typically over 50% and usually 90% or more.
Recovery from Penguin is possible; however you must identify the issues, perform the remedial work to correct them and then have the patience to wait for Penguin to be run again and hope you got the problem fixed.