Penguin 2.0 Update - Link Risk Management


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Penguin 2.0 Case Study and Link Risk Management

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Penguin 2.0 Update - Link Risk Management

  1. 1. LINK RISK hithard – Deep Diveinto anotherPenguin 2.0 VictimMEDIABASEGMBH
  2. 2. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHATTENTION1. Don’t forget to signup for our Penguin Deep Dive notification list to not miss all the other plannedGoogle Penguin 2.0 case studies!2. Our next LRT Associate Training takes place Jun 3-6. Get one of the last spots if you’re up forprofessional training (like Harald, the author)3. This analysis uses our Superhero Plan extensively. This premium plan allows you to performanalysis for your or your competitor’s sites. For small businesses we now also have the new LRTstarter plan.4. If you like this, also checkout our other Penguin 2.0 Penalty Deep Dive into HOME24 and thePenguin Penalty of as well.MEDIABASEGMBH
  3. 3. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHIntroductionThis is true for us as well. As promised during Penguin 2.0 launch and the previous Penguin 2.0Deep Dive here is the next detailed look into a Penguin 2.0 victim. We will look at CheapoAir.comand many details of their back link profile, just like any good SEO consultant would do.This research will look into Advertorials, Sneaky Redirects, Site wide Links, Weak Links, Off topicLinks, Penalited Link Selling Networks and so much more.There’s a lot to learn in here, and I’m psyched to present you the next case-study only a few daysafter Penguin 2.0 hit the world, globally.MEDIABASEGMBH
  4. 4. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBH1. Drops of that really hurta. Sharp Drop for “Cheap Flights”b. Sharp Drop for “Cheap Tickets”c. Sharp Drop for “Flights”d. Sharp Drop for “Cheap Airline Tickets”e. Sharp Drop for “Cheap Hotel”MEDIABASEGMBH
  5. 5. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHOn May 23 2013, Markus Tober from Searchmetrics published the first Penguin 2.0loser. As u can see, lostabout 28% after the update was rolledout on May 22.In this list u can see the top losers after thePenguin 2.0. update:
  6. 6. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHLooking at Search metrics SEO Visibility, we notice a MASSIVE dropafter the Penguin 2.0 release.MEDIABASEGMBH
  7. 7. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHDrops of that really hurt• So which important keyword rankings did lose to fall that deep in SEO Visibility?
  8. 8. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSharp Drop for “Cheap Flights”Let’s look at some keywords with high search volume in detail:
  9. 9. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSharp Drop for “Cheap Tickets”
  10. 10. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSharp Drop for “Cheap Flights”
  11. 11. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSharp Drop for “Cheap Airline Tickets”
  12. 12. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSharp Drop for “Cheap Hotel”
  13. 13. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSharp Drop for “Plane Tickets”
  14. 14. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHDid only lose some good rankings or lots of traffic as well?As we do not have access to their analytics data we don’t really know for sure – but looking at thefollowing screenshot that will answer the question:The blue line displays the SEO Visibility, the green one reports the Paid Visibility (Ad words).It is logical to assume that increased its spending on Google Ad words after theirloss in rankings in order to get some traffic back.Let’s dive deeper into it and find the reasons why was hit so hard.From what we know by now, the following reasons could have been the triggers. Let’s look at eachone in detail and see how you can dive deep into every detail below the iceberg.
  15. 15. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBH2. Possible Reasons droppeda. Are too many links with exact match anchor they reason for the drop?b. Did too many site wide links caused the drop?c. Are too many weak links the reason for the decline?d. Are too many links from own company networks the factor for the drop?e. Are too many links from de-indexed websites the reason for the fall?f. Did malware links cause a drop?g. Are off topic links the root cause for this Penguin 2.0 drop?h. Did Advertorial Links cause a Penguin 2.0 penalty?i. Are “naturally” automated links the cause?j. Homepage Redirects as cause for the Penguin 2.0 Penalty?k. Unnatural Link Velocity causing this Penguin 2.0 Penalty?
  16. 16. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHa.) Are too many links with exact match anchor they reason forthe drop?• Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links with exact matchanchor text?• Let’s look at the 3 keywords with the highest search volume in more detail:• Keyword: cheap flightssearch volume: 1,241,66position before Penguin 2.0: 8position after Penguin 2.0: 11• Now we will use the Link Research Tools to analyze the anchor text ratios.• For this task we will use the Quick Back links Tool (QBL). This tool provides you with avery quick list of top back links plus some basic SEO metrics for a domain or page.
  17. 17. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 1: Enter the Domain you’d like to analyze and activate the site wide links filter (we don’twant our results skewed for now):
  18. 18. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 2: Go to the anchor text tab and sort by count:(we want to find out absolute numbers, old-style, although that doesn’t mean the most links helpedmost, this view shows us what the SEO tried to target)The graph above shows us that has 266 links with the exact match anchor text “cheap flights”(2,7%).Is this ratio already too high after the Penguin 2.0 update?Well, there is no general answer for this question. In order to answer this question we have to look at somecompetitors and their link profiles.To find out if 2,7% exact match for the anchor text “cheap flights” is already too much for this particularindustry, we will start the LRT Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA).The Competitive Landscape Analyzer compares any site to its competition for any keyword you want basedon a number of metrics you select.
  19. 19. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 3: Enter your URL into the first box and then find up to 10 competitors either manually or byhitting the “Find Competing Pages” as below.
  20. 20. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHType in the keyword you’d like to compete with the Top10. Also select the particular searchengine, country and language.Now the CLA fetches the Top10 ranking sites in and displays their URLs to compare.You can choose between analyzing Domain Backlinks, Page Backlinks or Subfolder Backlinks. Aswe want to dive deep we are going to analyze the Domain Backlinks. We’re also going to use the“Link Boost” function that will allow us to analyze up to 12,500 strongest links instead of 2,500.Before we start our report, we also have to activate the site wide link filter in order to skip sitewide links after 5 links found per domain. This would skew our results too much.
  22. 22. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 4: Remember: We are using the Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA) to find out, has already too many exact match links with the anchor text “cheap flights” inits link profile (2,7%.).To find this out, the first thing we have to do is to classify all keywords within the followingkeyword types:a. Brand Keywords (brand name, URL)b. Compound Keywords (a mix of Brand and Money Keywords)c. Money Keywords (These are the keywords people usually want to rank for e.g. “cheapflights”)d. Other Keywords (All keywords that don’t fit in the above categories e.g. “find here”, “clickhere”)
  23. 23. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHMore about keyword classifications and other examples can be found here.Note: to get a representative and meaningful output you have to classify at least 90% of yourkeywords.
  24. 24. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 5: In the next step we will move to the keywords tab and look at the results of our keywordclassification process. As we can see on the chart, has 66% Money Keywords whilethe total average of the other 10 competitors at only 29%. This is twice as much as the competitorshave, and doesn’t look like “blending in”, does it?Also if we look at the brand bar and the compound bar we can see that has a veryunnatural link profile compared to their competitors!
  25. 25. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHThis report shows a link profile comparison of against the Top10 websites rankingfor the keyword “cheap flights” on Google.comWe did further link profile comparisons for 3 more important keywords of in order toget a better understanding of its link profile.The workflow for the other keywords is the same as described above. Many keywords were alreadyclassified, but of course new variations could pop up, obviously.These are the results for the keywords “cheap tickets”, “cheap airline tickets” and “airline tickets”.
  26. 26. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHKeyword: “cheap tickets”Brand vs. Money Keyword distribution for “Cheap Tickets” on
  27. 27. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHKeyword: “cheap airline tickets”Brand vs. Money Keyword distribution for “Cheap Airline Tickets”
  28. 28. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHKeyword: “cheap flights”Brand vs. Money Keyword distribution for “Cheap Flights” on Cheapoair.comIs this really overdone exact match anchor text the reason why was hit by Penguin 2.0?Well, I think this is not the only reason but it is part of it I suggest – so let’s dig deeper into it.
  29. 29. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHb.) Did too many site wide links cause the drop?Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many site wide links?Let’s find out!Step 1: For this task we have to start the Quick Domain Compare Tool (QDC)
  30. 30. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 2: After a few seconds we get a nice comparison chart:To get the average amount of site wide links/ domain, we have to divide “Backlinks to Domain”by “Domain Popularity”.The easiest way to get the average amount of site wide links is to use the Juice Tool (Bulk URLAnalyzer) and select the SWR (Site wide Ratio) metric, that you have in other tools like BLP andCLA as well.
  31. 31. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 1: Switch to “Detail Analysis” Mode, enter the domains you’d like to analyze, activate the“Link Ratio Metric” and run the report:
  33. 33. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHThe result page shows you the site wide ratios of all domains in question:
  34. 34. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHHere are the site wide link ratios in detail:Domain: www.cheapflights.comSide-Wide Links: ~ 79 links/ domainDomain: www.travelocity.comSide-Wide Links: ~ 56 links/ domainDomain: www.tripadvisor.comSide-Wide Links: ~ 170 links/ domainDomain: www.expedia.comSide-Wide Links: ~ 84 links/ domainAnd our candidateDomain: www.cheapoair.comSide-Wide Links: ~ 38 links/ domainAll competitors of have a very high ratio of side wide links. has acomparatively small site wide-ratio. Therefore, having too many site wide links doesn’t seem tothe reason for the Penguin 2.0 hit in this case.It is important to mention that these values are just an average. Much more important than theratio of a domain’s site wide links is their quality. We will look at that a bit later.
  35. 35. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHc.) Are too many weak links the reason for the decline?Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many weak links?As we know, a link is not just a link: you need links which have power and trust to stay on top. Somaybe they have too weak or untrusted links?Let’s check it out!Step1: If you want to get a quick overview of Power and Trust across the whole domain you cancheck out these three columns from the QDC report you’ve just created.Again, as in the first case study Christophe released about the Penguin 2.0 (see also in the case of the power is WAY higher than the trust!
  36. 36. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 2: To dive deeper into that topic we can use the CLA report we created before to look at thekeyword metrics and the Power*Trust signals.Again, it is essential to do this for each keyword! So once again, let’s look at our looser keywordsand check out if Penguin 2.0 hit this website because they have weak links!Keyword: cheap flights
  37. 37. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHKeyword: cheap tickets
  38. 38. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHKeyword: cheap airline ticketsAs you see in this charts the Power*Trust spread looks very unnatural / but remember as wedid the CLA we also did set a site wide filter – maybe that is the reason.
  39. 39. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSo lets measure the quality of all Inbound links including’ all site wide links, let’s start again theCompetitive Landscape Analyzer:Step 1: As we did before, let’s start the CLA in “Quick Analysis” and find the competing websites.
  40. 40. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 2: As we’d like to find out more about the quality of the site wide links, this time we do NOTtick the site wide links filter:
  41. 41. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 3: Because we didn’t select the site wide links filter this time, there would be more keywordsto categorize in total. But because we’ve already categorized a certain amount of keywords forthese particular domains within our last report, we don’t have to classify the same words again.
  42. 42. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHAfter classifying, we receive the following results:Keyword: cheap flights
  43. 43. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHKeyword: cheap tickets
  44. 44. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHKeyword: cheap airline tickets
  45. 45. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHTo find out about the quality of a domain’s site wide links, we have to compare the Power*Trustratio of a link profile including site wide links to a link profile excluding site wide links. As you aregoing to see by comparing the above results with the findings of our next chapter, cheapoair.comhas some strong site wide links (e.g. the rate of Power*Trust 8 – 12 links for the keyword “cheapairline ticket” INCLUDING SWR stays at 67%, without SWRs the rate stays at 36%)So did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many weak links?In this case I would say NO if you compare it with the other top ranking sites.Although hasn’t got more weak links than its competitors, I would suggest it hastoo many strong links!This link profile seems unnatural, it literally sticks out like a red flag compared to the others.The Link profile looks very unnatural! So as you can see, it looks like even lots of strong links caninfluence your link profile in a negative way if your link profile differs heavily from yourcompetitor’s link profiles.
  46. 46. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHd.) Are too many links from own company networks the factor for the drop?Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from own companynetworks?To be specific: Do they have many big multi-national company websites from their major (e.g.,, ) that are all linking toeach other out of the footer?Step 1: To solve this task we pick the Top10 competitors for the keyword “cheap flights”. This listwas created with the CLA tool.
  47. 47. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 2: To find out if the websites are having footer links which are internally linking to eachother, we have to visit each URL and check it manually.These are the results for the TOP10 websites ranking for the keyword “cheap flights”: footer links: YES footer links: YES
  48. 48. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHwww.tripadvisor.cominternal footer links: YES footer links: differentSite wide-Footer links are present for, and but theyare “hidden” behind a JavaScript link in the footer.That used to be a way to avoid passing link juice, a method something referred to as “Page rankSculpting” and definitely something that some shady sites do sometimes for a lot other reasons. DidGoogle object this?
  49. 49. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHOn top of that they have a language dropdown for all sites with FOLLOW has got internal footer links, but less than its competitors. Therefore I would sayNO, didn’t get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from own companynetworks.The question arose because of the consideration that Google maybe sees company network linkingas a form of link network and therefore devalues some link power.But in the case of, this can’t be the reason because has almost nointernal footer links. It doesn’t look too bad, but that JavaScript-stuff is questionable in both intentionand effect.Until now, it seems that was hit by Penguin 2.0 because it has built far more moneykeywords than its competitors and although they have some good and strong back links, theirdistribution seems very unnatural.
  50. 50. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHe.) Are too many links from de-indexed websites the reason for the fall?Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from de-indexed websites?With the Penguin Launch in April 2012 Google started de-listing link networks heavily. From thatmoment, Google heavily continued to unmask and de-index link networks.So if you have lots of back links from de-indexed websites you could be in trouble!But how can you find out if you have de-indexed websites linking to you?The easiest way to find out is by using the LRT DTOX Tool. It is part of the Link Research Tools butalso stands on its own ( supports you in researching all links to your website and cleaning up all toxic ones.Step 1: Again, as in the other tools we used in this Penguin 2.0 case study, we just have to enterthe URL to get started.As we don’t know if got an “unnatural links warning”, we will select “Don’t know” andstart the tool in “classic mode” (More advanced users can also upload their already disavowedlinks. These links will then be marked as ignored. Save that for later).
  52. 52. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 2: Now as we are looking for the de-indexed links, we will use the filter in the grid and selectthe rule “TOX1”:
  53. 53. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHWow! has links from 148 pages that are not indexed anymore!That’s quite a lot and could be one of the reasons why Penguin 2.0 hit
  54. 54. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHf.) Did malware links cause a drop?Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many malware links?As I heard, some black hat SEOs are practicing shooting toxic/malware links at a victim as negativeSEO tactic successfully after Penguin 1.0.Let’s look at this in detail:If you have lots of malware infected sites linking to you, you can be in trouble!In order to answer the above question let’s use the DTOX tool again.Just change the rule filter from “TOX1” to “TOX2”:As you can see, has 182 pages linking to them that are reported to contain malwareand virus! All of the 182 links are only from 24 websites in total. This doesn’t look like a crazy signalfor a negative SEO attack in my opinion, yet. But it should be cleaned up anyways.
  56. 56. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSo what could do to clean up this malware link mess?1. If the link is of TOX2 type (This means those links are “deadly risky”) find out to which page ofyour website the malware infected website is linking to.To get this information simply enable the “To URL” Row in DTOX Grid:This will show you to witch of your subpages the TOX2 pages are linking to:If they are linking directly to the home page there is not much you can do, but if the mal infectedsites are linking to subpages, you could try to change the URL. Therefore the link is going to run toa 404 page and won’t count anymore.That would mean no negative link juice for you anymore.
  57. 57. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBH2. Disavow these links! Go to the Rules Tab and select TOX1 and TOX2:Click on Export Filtered Data as: Google Disavow Links:
  58. 58. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHDownload the disavow file:
  59. 59. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHGo and upload the disavow links to Google!3. Try to get rid of these bad links:Keep in mind: Even if you disavowed all spammy links it would be good to remove them as well.Don’t’ forget: the disavow file is just a recommendation to Google not to count these links – so forthe long run it is more safe to get rid of them completely.
  60. 60. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHg.) Are off topic links the root cause for this Penguin 2.0 drop?As we know, it is getting more and more important to get the right links from the right websites.Also with Penguin 2.0 it is going to be more important to have links from topic related websites.Once again let’s dive deeper into the link profile of and let’s check out if its linkprofile consists of a lot of off topic links.To solve this task we are going to start the LRT Back link Profiler (BLP). This Tool helps you toanalyze the back link profile of your website through crawling the anchor text and link status foreach link as well as metrics that help you determine the quality of your back links.Step 1: We copy into the URL/Domain analyze box and also set a Link Boostof 5x to make sure we get the maximum number of links (50000).Next we have to select the right metrics to check out from what kind of themes the back links arecoming.To get the theme metrick it is important to activate the “Basic SEO stats” check box.
  62. 62. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHStep 2: After hitting the “Run Report” button it can take several minutes to get all the data, becausethe BLP Tool is crawling each link to make sure the link is still existent and gather cool stuff likeredirect-traces.After receiving the data we go to the “More” tab on the very right side above and click on the“Theme” button.
  63. 63. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHFinally the BLP report shows us the link profile for sorted by theme as you can seein the following chart:It looks like has most of its links from travel websites which should be perfectly fine.Once again I want to point out that one of the most important factors for a good ranking is to have anatural link profile which in fact means to have a similar link profile as your competitors. Blend inand outperform them just a little, as Christophe uses to say.Hence, even if has most of its links from topic related websites, I want to have alook at the theme ratios of its competitors.
  64. 64. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 3: To compare the theme ratios we are going to start the Competitive Landscape Analyzer(CLA) once again. In order to get the “Theme of a Domain” this time we have to run the CLA in the“Detail Analysis” modewe also need to select the right metric see below:
  65. 65. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHNow let’s have a look at’s important keywords:Keyword: cheap flights
  66. 66. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHKeyword: cheap tickets
  67. 67. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHKeyword: cheap airline tickets
  68. 68. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHAs you can see in the charts above, has way more related topic links from the travelspace compared to their competition!Therefore, we have to answer the question, if got hit by Penguin 2.0 because ithad too many links from off topic websites? NO!The paradox: had too many links from related topic websites. “Too many” means toomany compared to its competitors!Or in other words – the mix wasn’t natural enough.Those bars subtitled “Other” are links from many other themes, LRT knows 100 or so, and itappears that the spread is way better for the competition than it is for Cheapoair.To get an idea of the spread, we can use the complex filter in the table, exclude Cheapoair, andpossible dive thru all those other themes manually.
  70. 70. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHAnother option is to use Excel – the only powerful tool for SEOs before Link Research Tools waslaunched and use the raw data in a simple Pivot Table. So we download the filtered data completelyinto and XLSX to do that.What we get is a breakdown of over 400 combinations of themes in the links, and that’s why theywere grouped together in the chart – or can you image a chart with 400 bars – unreadable.
  71. 71. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSo at least one competitor had links from sites about Shopping, Military, even Sex Education. Well– that’s what a natural link mix looks like. Noise.To avoid confusion, that’s just noise. For reference here are the most popular topics of those“Other” links.Theme of LinkNumber ofLinksTravel 7362Business/Economy 1821Computers/Internet 1649News/Media 1438Education 1131Blogs/Personal Pages 1008Search Engines/Portals 789Reference 781Entertainment 601Sports/Recreation 569Shopping 447Real Estate 382Health 369Financial Services 318Government/Legal 282Web Hosting 246
  72. 72. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSociety/Daily Living 207Newsgroups/Forums 194Malware 186Religion 161Suspicious 155Political/Activist Groups 154Vehicles 144Domain parking 139Job Search/Careers 117Restaurants/Dining/Food 111Blogs/Personal Pages,Computers/Internet 94Reference, Travel 80Reference, Education 68
  73. 73. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHh) Did Advertorial Links cause a Penguin 2.0 penalty?As Matt Cutts announced in one of his last videos(, Google is going to take action againstadvertorial posts as well. Refereed to Google’s quality guidelines, advertorial posts have to have nofollow status.On the basis of this consideration we are going to try to find out if has lots ofadvertorial links and if these links have follow or no follow status.Let’s get started by having a look at the BLP report we have done before and let’s check if we canfind some advertorial links with exact match keywords.
  74. 74. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 1: We start a BLP report and as soon as the report is finished we will go down to the linkdetails section.Of course it would take far too much time to go through all the 9518 back links. Therefore I willshow how easy you can apply filters in order to see only the relevant results. As we are looking foradvertorial links, it is very likely that the type of the advertorial links is to be found in “In Content”.So we go to the “Link Location” tab and select the “In Content” filter:The application of this filter will shrink our prospective advertorial Backlinks from 9518 to 988!Well this is still a high amount of links we are unable to check manually whether it is an advertoriallink or not. That’s why we will apply one more filter. Now we are assuming advertorial links aremostly located on pages with a high Power*Trust.Thus let’s apply the Power*Trust filter.We will set it from 12 to 20 to get the strongest websites listed.
  75. 75. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHAnother easy way to find advertorial links is to apply the “Site Type” filter, set this filter to “News”and sort the results again by using the Power*Trust Filter as well.
  76. 76. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHBy checking the links I’ve found I noticed that some articles look like advertorials but aren’t markedas advertorials and the links within the supposed advertorial are having the status “follow” insteadof “no follow” (see Google Guidelines for advertorials). In general we found very few articles thatcould be advertorials. That’s why I assume follow advertorial links are not a link building tactic use of advertorials are probably also not the reason why got hit byPenguin 2.0.
  77. 77. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHi) Are “naturally” automated links the cause?Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had a natural link profile that looks like it wasbuilt with automated link building tools?Google told us that Penguin 2.0 will be a spam penalty. So let’s look at some metrics that can be ahint on what parts of the link building process have been made automatically by using set andforget link building tools like XRumer or Linkvana.Once more we will start our analysis by looking at the CLA report in detail mode. We will pick thefollowing metrics to get the data we need to dive even deeper.In order to see if has used set and forget link building tools, we have to analyze itsforum and blog back links. Therefore select the link metric “Site Type” in the CLA report:
  78. 78. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHSo will get the following results:Looking at this chart we can see that the “Site Type” link ratio of blends perfectly fineinto what their competitors have. If would have lots of spammy links out of forums orother sources we would be able to see this in the chart (forum posts would be a categorized as“Other”) If you’d like to analyze “Site Type” results in more detail you could make a BLP report.There you can filter by “Forum” to dig deeper.
  79. 79. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHAlso the host IP address can be an indicator for using spam software. To see if hasa lot of Russian, Chinese or other foreign country links that are known as typical spam link sourceswe have to select “Hosting IP address country code” as well as “Hosting IP address city”:This chart shows us, that the overall spread is o.k., doesn’t have a lot of non-US ornon-EU links. But seems to be more active in Europe than its competitors. Only56% of its links are from US based sites. This distribution could lead Google to the conclusion is less relevant for the US market than its competitors, therefore Google maybeadjusted’s ranking. But there is no sign of Black hat Link Building, it’s rather a morediverse spread across countries. A bit odd tough if they only market to the US, CA and UK.
  80. 80. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHj) Homepage Redirects as cause for the Penguin 2.0 Penalty?Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had lots of sneaky redirects from old pages tothe homepage?So let’s check if we can find some sneaky looking redirects for!Step 1: Let’s start a BLP and apply the “Link Type/redirect” filter:As we can see we found only 24redirected pages. Most of them are not even transmitting link juice.
  81. 81. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 2: Let’s have a deeper look at the links transferring link juice:The first 3 links in the table above are URLs from the URL Shorting Service These links seemnormal.The links from the other pages are also o.k. pages – I was expecting some other domains that havebeen redirected to to pass link juice like expired domains or out of date projects thatredirect to in order to get some link juice for this website.Hence, the answer is NO. Sneaky redirects can’t be the reason why to got hit byPenguin 2.0.
  82. 82. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHThis means that Google won’t let pass any link juice from this kind of 301 redirect.To make sure not to lose your link juice, redirect all your 301s to another relevant subpage insteadof the start page.Currently the default suggestion in the Link Juice Recovery Tool (LJR) is the homepage – andChristophe confirmed – he already works on changing that, as it is no longer the recommended wayto recover link juice as it was for years.Does this mean, that internal redirects could pose a problem now? Yes. This needs furtherinvestigation as internal redirects have been common practice for years.Also, we find that the non-www version 301-redirects to the www.cheapoair.comSo when pulling all links going directly to the URL (which we know isredirected to we find a lot more.101 redirecting pages to be precise. All but 3 are passing link juice with a 301. And they don’t looktoo sneaky, it’s just typo domains.Important Hint: On May 21 John Mueller from Google confirmed that from now on Google will treat301 internal redirects in a different way: Google will treat 301 redirects that redirect to ahome page as a 404 error page ( the confirmation here in the video starting around minute 22.
  84. 84. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHBut then over a 100 redirects in 301-redirect chains maybe triggered another flag in the newPenguin 2.0 algo anyways? We see above that first 301s to andthen off to’s a lot of redirects to digest. And we can agree, that it would make sense to eliminate that 301-chain anyways and let them all go to the www version.Did this cause a Penguin 2.0 problem? We don’t know, but it could be possible, as redirects seemto be interpreted differently in Penguin 2.0 anyways.
  85. 85. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHk.) Unnatural Link Velocity causing this Penguin 2.0 Penalty?Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because its link velocity has been unnatural?One of the key metrics we haven’t looked at yet is the link velocity.After the release of Penguin 1.0 Christophe already discovered domains that had big drops in theirlink growth got hit hard.To find out if has had a natural link growth we are going to use the Competitive LinkVelocity Tool (CLV) to compare the link growth of and its competitors. Again, we willuse the keyword “cheap flights”.
  86. 86. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHStep 1: Start the CLV, enter the Domain and select up to 10 competitors. First we have a look atthe Link Velocity of the last 30 days:As we can see at the link velocity trend (Domain Popularity) of, the website had agood and healthy link growth.
  87. 87. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHThe only abnormality I noticed was that has got far less text links as most of itscompetitors.Hence, a negative or to fast link velocity is not the reason why got hit by Penguin2.0.
  88. 88. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHConclusion of this Penguin 2.0 deep dive for cheapoair.comIn most of the cases getting hit by Google’s Updates has more than one reason.In this case study, we analyzed different possible causes for the loss in rankings of analysis brought the following results:a) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links with exact matchanchor text?I would say YES. has much more money keywords than its competitors.That’s a classical case of over-optimization. There are no general lines to draw in SEO – whateveryou estimate, could be wrong estimated. To be on the safe side it is essential to compare your ownlink profile with the link profile of your competitors on a regularly basis (as we have seen above withthe Competitive Landscape Analyzer). In this case, cheapoair.coms ratio of money keywords wasup to 66%, almost as double as its competitors for the keywords analyzed. So in my opinion, it isvery likely that got hit by Penguin 2.0 because of this factor.b.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many site wide links?NO. The study has shown that hasn’t got too many side wide links. On thecontrary, it’s side wide links ratio is below the average of its competitors. Therefore, too many sidewide links can’t be the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.
  89. 89. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHc.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many weak links?Well, the answer of this question is NO. But I would suggest it has too many strong links! has lots of good and strong links but again the important factor is that thedistribution of the links has to be quite similar to the competitors. Although hasstrong links, its’ link profile seems unnatural because the distribution of its strong links doesn’t fitinto the average distribution.d.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from owncompany networks?The answer is NO. has got internal footer links, but its competitors have them aswell. Therefore is probably not the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.However, those JavaScript-blocked links could trigger some spam signal and the question really is– who needs those?e.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from malwareinfected websites?I would say YES. has 182 pages linking to it that are reported to contain malwareand virus. The Link Detox tool (DTOX) classifies these links as “deadly risky”. Cheapoair.comshould have cleaned this mess up. This factor can be yet another reason why got hitby Penguin 2.0.
  90. 90. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHf.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from de-indexedwebsites?I would say YES. has 148 links from pages that are not indexed anymore. That is aquite high value and therefore might be another reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.Deindexed websites can be sign of a problem, because that usually means Google deindexed thewebsite for selling links or other violations. We could see 1000s of website from article link networkssince the first Penguin update. Of course if there’s a website that blocked Google intentionally itwould be deindexed too, and a false positive, but then – who in his right mind would NOT wantGoogle to index his website?g.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from off topicwebsites?The answer of the question is NO. On the contrary: has too many links from relatedtopic websites compared to its competitors. Again, to make sure not to be a victim of Google’sUpdates it is essential (!!!) to compare all factors of your link profile with your competitors. As youcan see in this case, too many topic related links can be the reason why got hit byPenguin 2.0.
  91. 91. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHh.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many advertorial links thatdo not pass any link juice?NO. has very few marked and non marked advertorial links. So having too manyadvertorial links can’t be the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.i.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had a natural link profile that lookslike it was built with automated link building tools?NO. has very little links from non-US or non-EU websites. But hasmore links from EU websites than its competitors. Google might conclude that isless important for the US market than the competitor websites- This factor can also be one reasonwhy got hit by Penguin 2.0.j.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had lots of sneaky redirects?NO. hasn’t got redirects from expired domains or out of date projects in order to getsome extra link juice. Therefore, having sneaky redirects can’t be the reason why cheapoair.comgot hit by Penguin 2.0.
  92. 92. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHk.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because its link growth has been unnatural?NO. The link velocity trend of, seems very normal that means the website has agood and healthy link growth. Therefore an unnatural link growth can’t be the reason got hit by Penguin 2.0.In my opinion, has far too many exact money keywords, lots of links frommalware infected websites, a quite unnatural Power*Trust link profile and an unnaturalamount of links from related topic websites.These 4 things triggered the algorithm, I suppose.What steps should take to get out of the Penguin2.0 trap? has to get rid of its entire malware infected links by following the instructionsexplained in chapter f.) of this has to try to compensate it’s link profile:
  93. 93. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHa) Fix the Keyword has to build more Brand and Other Keywords. Be careful! It is a big mistake to stopbuilding money keywords from one day to another. This can be seen by Google as a signal forunnatural link. Therefore still has to build money keywords but it has to set its linkbuilding ratio for money and compound keywords at 5-10%.
  94. 94. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHb) Fix the Power*Trust IssueAccording to this chart, needs to get some Links with Power Trust 0-3 and 13-21.Also this activity has to be as natural as possible.Depending on the case, compensating a link profile takes months!
  95. 95. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHMEDIABASEGMBHThis case study was written by Harry Tschuggnall and reviewedand approved by Christophe C. Cemper for publishing asCertification work.A word from Christophe C. CemperCase closed for now. Enough work to do and definitely even more to look into (redirects!).This analysis was conducted and post written by our LRT Associate Harry Tschuggnall, Founder ofMediabase, an Austria based SEO and Link Building Agency. I highly appreciate and recommendthis work for reading and further research and therefore grant Harry our Certified LRT Professionalstatus by approving and publishing his research on our site.This is Harry’s next step towards the Certified LRT Expert level which is pre-requisite for theCertified LRT Agency certification. But until that is reached and Harry can reap all the benefits fromit, I can already whole heartly recommend you to work with him when you get a chance!
  97. 97. LINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHLINK RISK MANAGEMENTwww.mediabase.atMEDIABASEGMBHContact me if you have questions:Harald Tschuggnallwww.seo-training.comwww.mediabase.atTwitter: @seo_mediabaseGoogle+: