Penguin 2.0 Recovery - A Walk Thru


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Follow Mike Huber as he walks you through a step by step process on how to recover your website rankings after a Penguin 2.0 Penalty from Google.

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  • Today’s webinar is about recovering from Penguin. It is a walk through of the steps to take with an overview on tools to use and the actual process of using the disavow tool and sending in a reconsideration request.Along with the process, I’ll share some tools with you. Some are free and others require a subscription. My hope by participating in this webinar, that you understand the process better, learn about some tools that you can use and have action steps you can take to improving your rankings.So, How did we get here?
  • Life has certainly been interesting for webmasters and SEOs for the past 2 years. It’s like we’re playing whac a mole with Google. Consider all these updates.Penguin was introduced on April 24th, 2012. There have been 4 Penguin updates and the algorithm is now on version 2.0 (May 22nd, 2013)Panda 27 tweaks Plus updates for specific things like:PayDay Loans, Crowd Sourcing, Phantom, and a new Panda dance on June 11.Because we are here about Penguin, let’s talk more about that.Google described Penguin as “another step to reward high-quality sites” and eliminating webspam. It specifically targets unnatural links.And remember, these are all baked into the algorithm. Here’s a list of the updates. Shout out to for creating this list.
  • 27 updates so far and a Panda ‘dance’ on June 11th.Panda update infographic:
  • At this point it is important to note if you have been affected by an algorithmic penalty or a manual penalty. The manual penalty is issued by Matt Cutt’s webspam team and the algorithmic penalty is done automatically through the various updates. Getting back on track is the same but a few extra steps are required for the manual penalty.It’s really important to note what has impacted your site. You want to make sure you are solving the right problem. With all the updates and tweaks Google is doing, make sure you take the time to rightly identify the problem.So what caused your traffic drop. If you haven’t received a manual penalty, it could be as simple as many sites that are linking to you no longer have PR and have been taken down from the blogpocalypse.
  • If you’ve gotten this message in WMT, it’s because you have some spammy links. If you got the message, it’s because Google knows you’ve manipulated your back link portfolio. You’ve got bad links. The key is now to get them taken down. In most cases, these links aren’t helping you anyway.
  • So what caused your drop?These updates have been going on for quite a while now, so make sure you know which one(s) have impacted your site performance.
  • This guy is not going away and the updates/tweaks will continue. What can you do?First things first. Many webmasters have done a great job creating great content but they took short cuts by building links. The types of links that provided value 6 months to a year ago, no longer do and in many cases now negatively affect websites….and that would be why you’re attending this webinar today.There are different fixes for the different updates and you want to make sure you are mobilizing for the right one…oh, and by the way, you may be a victim of more than one.There are tools that can help you determine the root cause of your traffic drop.For example:
  • Fruition.netYou can sign up to use the tool free on 2 websites. It will give you a percentage of positive or negative impact based on your traffic and the launch of each update.
  • The Panguin tool is another free tool that will overlay the algorithm updates with your traffic to give you an indication of the impact. With both tools you will need to allow access to your analytics. If the drop in traffic coincides with the updates, there is a very good chance you have been impacted by the algorithmic update rather than a manual penalty.
  • Your site may have been impacted by a manual penalty. You would have gotten a notice through WMT or you will have noticed that none of your keywords are showing in search. A way to determine if it’s your full site or just a page/directory is to do a site: search for your root domain or for a specific page. Many webmasters have built links to their ‘money’ page and the manual penalty might be for just that those pages or it could be sitewide.This is an example of a site that has 327 pages indexed. If it had a manual site wide penalty, it would show 0 results.So you’ve determined that it is PENGUIN and either a manual or algorithmic penalty…now what? It’s time to do a backlink analysis. This requires an in-depth look at links pointing to your site and there are a number of steps if followed correctly will help lift your site rankings.The entire process is about analyzing your back links and getting rid of spammy links.
  • If you have over-optimized anchor text, chances are they are your main ‘money’ keywords. Do a check in Google to see if these keywords are still ranking. If you can’t find them in the top 50, shake hands with the Penguin.Your top anchor text ratios should be branded anchors, naked URLs or generic anchors. If not, you are either ripe for a penalty or you already have one.The higher your over optimization, the more work you need to do. The caveat here is if you have site-wide links from very large site, removing these can shift your ratios quickly.Dilute your over-optimization by pruning, reclaiming links and adding new links.Here are the specific steps in the process:
  • There are a few key steps that all sites need to take ASAP to prevent future penalties. This is the list and I’ll break down each step.Don’t randomly prune links from your portfolio. Go about this process examining the links and their overall quality. If you built them yourself, then you have a very good idea of what you’ll find. If you paid for links, I’m sure you’ll be in for a surprise.You need to heavily analyze your inbound links, flag unnatural links, organize them, and start the removal or pruning process. The size of the project completely depends on your own link profile. Some sites contain a few thousand links to analyze, while others contain hundreds of thousands of links (or more).There are many tools available to check your backlinks. We use a number of them as you can’t get a complete list using just one service. Some of the subscriptions are relatively inexpensive but other aren’t. We generally use 3-4 separate sources to get the most complete list of sites available. From our experience, Majestic gives you the most complete list. In the end, you want to make sure you have the most complete list possible.Here are some of the tools we use.
  • There are a few key steps that all sites need to take ASAP to prevent future penalties:Download all your links from Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO you might want to use Cemper Tools as well. De-dup your list and then do a visual of each site. Don’t rely on metrics alone. Many sites look good in terms of the numbers but when you actually look at the site, you can tell it’s set up for link building purposes. Some of the metrics are spoofed. For example a site that has a very high ratio of links/unique domains…stay away from. Many sites change hands and the original content has been supplemented with payday loans, porn or other negative content.Carry out a full manual audit of all the links to your siteDisavow any links you think are bad, ideally at the domain levelRemove any bad links by contacting the sitesRemember that Google specifically doesn’t like keyword anchor text, links that look paid, links from dodgy sites that sell links or any other unnatural link patterns.If a site looks bad then remove the link from it; if a site looks good then the link has to be natural.Do a search for backlink tools or backlink analysis tools and you’ll find dozens.This leads to the first tool we use, EXCEL. We combine the lists into an EXCEL document and then slice and dice as needed.EXCEL has built in features that allow you to quickly strip down the URLs to the root which will allow you to de-dup your list.
  • Start with the ‘source’. WMT will give you a rich list of backlinks…then move to some of these others tools.
  • A very popular and easy tool to use. Solid metrics available.
  • This is another great tool but you’ll need to subscribe in order to get rich data.
  • A very expensive and versatile tool.
  • This is an awesome tool. You can get a quick read on your profile for free. You have to have a subscription to export any data.All of the tools I just mentioned have CSV export features. You want to take all these lists and combine them into one document. Make sure you line up the columns and then de-dupe the URLs. EXCEL is a great tool to use for manipulating the data and de-duping your list.
  • The de-dupe tab is on your top navigation. The de dup process is simple. Just highlight your data area and follow the wizard on the which column to use and the unique reference column. If you download this presentation, just click on the image and it will direct you to a tutorial URL on this process.
  • We also like to have the ‘root’ URL in the spreadsheet. You can quickly strip out all the specific landing page info by using the ‘text to columns’ tool in EXCEL. Just highlight the column and enter the delimiter which in this case is the forward slash. EXCEL does the rest.Now that you have your list, what are you looking for…specifically…
  • Highlight your text and select ‘delimited’…click next
  • Just make sure you have enough open cells to the right to break apart the URLs.
  • Look for links that seem unnatural. Does the site look like it’s built for link building or does it look commercially viable? Use common sense here. If it looks paid or spammy to you it will to Google as well.Generally speaking, these are good rules to follow when pruning. They are not absolute. For example, a site might have 0 PR but it’s awesome…and new.
  • Isolating and removing site-wides can have a dramatic impact on your anchor text ratios. We use spreadsheets with conditional formatting to help organize and prioritize the data.
  • Many webmasters built their link portfolios around Exact match or commercial anchor text. This is what the update will find and penalize. If your portfolio contains obvious commercial keywords, you should take a hard look at removing them or at least reclaiming the with long tail terms or naked URLs. If you’ve already been penalized and lost rank for these terms, then it is imperative that you prune these links and reclaim anchor text for the links you want to keep.Pay particular attention to site-wide links. If you have site-wide links using exact match, remove them. They provide a lot of leverage to removing your penalty. Removing site-wide links works especially well.
  • Depending on the number of sites in your list, this analysis can take hours, days or weeks to go through all the links. Remember, no matter how good the data seems to be, looking at the site will give you the richest information about the quality of the link. If the link looks paid or unnatural, you need to either remove the link or reclaim the link. Most natural links are branded terms, long tail terms or naked Urls. If you have links that are predominately money terms, you should prune these or reclaim them.No action:The site is down/doesn’t exist. Just record the statusThe site is great and the link appropriate – no action.Prune the link - if the site is bad, prune it. This site needs outreach requesting removal.Reclaim the link – if the site is good but the anchor text is over-optimized. You may want to reclaim it. Reach out to the webmaster and request the link be updated to a branded term or naked URL.No Follow – There may be times when you would prune a link but you know the site is sending you referral traffic. In cases like this, you can request that the webmaster no-follow the link. By doing a no-follow, you are telling Google the link is not there to pass link juice or manipulate rankings.It’s time to take a look at the sites…
  • This is a great free tool. You’ll find it at: urlopener.comThe only caution is if you are opening a lot of URLs at one time, you may engage the Google password filter from hitting them too often. Just load the URLs and hit, open. They will open in consecutive tabs for easy perusal.Along with this tool, you’ll want to have a few browser tools.
  • The Moz Bar works in both Chrome and Firefox. It’s a great tool that shows you the PR/DA/PA. Also, check out the links to linking domains ratio. This is a critical metric if a site looks really good as far as metrics but the visual inspection reveals that’s its pretty spammy. The domain could be spoofed by a large links/domains ratio. For example, I’ve seen 2MM links to 300 domains. I’d prune a site like that.
  • Add SEO Quake to the MozBar and you’ve got all you need to do a rich check on the site. Remember if you’re using a bulk URL opener that you’re hitting Google and other systems rapidly. With.You’ve got everything you need…so let’s check a few sites to get a feel for what is acceptable and what needs to be pruned. this tool and you can check traffic, Social Media, PR and more
  • Last post was made in May. The website name and tag link have nothing to do with the content. The content covers such a wide range of topics that there is no specific focus. That’s good if you’re a news organization but a blog should have a focused content play…these kinds of sites are the remnants of the blogpocalypse. They will eventually lose their rank and drop from the index. There is no longer a revenue play so the webmaster will just let these expire or auction them off. In the meantime, they are hurting your backlink profile.
  • The last 5 post are about:Music – a great glockenspeil at musician’s friendA new massage school in ChicagoPhotography schoolAlec Bradley CigarsPassportsYou can’t be an expert on everything and these are the exact kinds of sites that Google is looking for.
  • In many cases, as you do the visual check, you’ll see that you have links in your porfolio that have actually been taken down. When putting your disavow list together, we mark these as removed.
  • Sites like these come up as questionable but with a PR of 4 and a domain authority of 49, I like it. The other reason it shows as suspicious it is on the same IP block as a number of other sites. This is a ‘business’ case so don’t worry about it.
  • Just looking through the URLs, you’ll identify sites that should be pruned. For example, we are in the process of doing a backlink analysis and link pruning project for a client and we found the site: As you can image from the name of the site, it’s not something you want to be associated with. Many times we’ll find sites in foreign languages. We found quite a few sites like this doing our own backlink analysis. I don’t understand a word of the site, but I can tell just from looking at the images that it’s about SEO. I would keep this. You’ll also find foreign language sites that just looking at the images, they should be pruned.These are just a couple of examples. If we had a lot more time, I could show you many, many more but let’s get to the actual pruning process.You’ve determined which links are bad.Documentation is very important. You want to track everything and the more information you can include, the easier it is to do the disavow and reconsideration.Make sure you have the anchor text and actual page of the site where the link resides. Your removal request to the webmaster will include both. It makes it easier for the webmaster to remove the link. Remember, the webmaster has nothing to gain really? They need to take their time to remove the link/post. Many webmasters are starting to charge for this. Here is an example we received recently.
  • You’ve identified the bad links, now you need to go about documenting your pruning steps.Now you’re going to want to find the contact information. There are a number of tools you can use to do this.
  • There are a lot of ways to find contact info. Search the site first for an email address or contact form. If there isn’t one there, use a whois tool…GoDaddy has one, has one or use toots like to find contact information.If you can’t find the contact info, document that and you’ll include that in your reconsideration request.
  • Be professionalBe politeThey have nothing to gain from removing your link.Google – link removal requests if you need ideas on how to craft the email.Depending on how many removal requests you need to make, you’ll want to make sure you track all your correspondence and even use automated tools to help.You could simply use EXCEL and concatenate columns to build your email or you can use systems like:
  • Lots of FREE with MailChip and they have an import feature. There are many other programs as well, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Sendblaster, etc.You will get some interesting responses from webmasters…
  • Removeem is a pretty good tool. Don’t expect this to be totally automated. It’s the most tedious part of the process.What can you expect as responses? The most common response is no response! Just document that you’ve sent out the information and have gotten not response.This is the next most common response.
  • One word….DONE….or REMOVEDYou will also get requests for money to remove the link. Don’t pay to have the link removed…just make a note that webmaster asked for payment and include that in your reconsideration request.
  • Remember, the webmasters have really nothing to gain and if they know their site is sending negative signals, they want to get the most money for their time.Now that you’ve done your due diligence on pruning, it’s time to use the disavow tool.
  • The disavow tool was launched in October of 2012 and many SEOs differ on the benefit of using the tool. If Penguin is truly, algorithmic, then why use the disavow? Actually it does work. We’ve used this for some of our clients and their sites have bounced back.
  • Does the disavow work? Ask Matt Cutts….
  • To use the tool you must create a .txt file
  • The information in the file will look like this. There are a number of tutorials and post that will give you specific details on formatting. Make sure you follow the formatting parameters.
  • Here’s a line by line excerpt.Notice the domain: (colon) it’s for the entire domain…for site-wide linksThen the specific URLsAfter you upload, you’ll get a success message.
  • Now it’s time to move on to the reconsideration request.
  • I highly recommend you watch this video prior to submitting the request. Members of the webspam team will walk you through what to do. It’s very helpful if you’ve never done it before.
  • We recommend filing a reconsideration request after using the disavow tool. We have had experience with client’s rankings improving after the reconsideration request and there are a number of posts validating this as well. You’ll find links to it in your WMT.
  • THIS FIRST and then go through slide….Remember, if you received a manual penalty, a real person is going to read this reconsideration request. If no manual action was taken on your site, then you’ll receive an automated response. It generally takes 2-3 weeks to receive a response and could take longer.It’s not enough to just tell them you’ve cleaned things up, show them in a Google doc, documenting all the outreach and tracking you’ve done. Be thorough. This is where your hard work in documentation is going to pay off.
  • Put together a Google doc for your reconsideration request with data that will show the webspam team that you’ve done your best to have links removed.Include the domain, info about the removal or the fact that you can’t reach the webmaster and what your results are. Include the link to the Google doc in your reconsideration request.
  • First arrow…drop down of your sites in WMTSecond arrow….Tell us more about what happened…this usually where the webmaster drops the SEO company in the grease, throws them under the bus…etc.
  • Again, I mentioned we’ve had solid success with getting clients out of a penalty and you’ll find post of other companies detailing the same. SEO Wizz posted great examples recently.
  • So now what….
  • We’ve all built bad links…it’s time to stop that.
  • …but link building still works…we do a lot of earned link building here and continue to generate success for our clients….tactics have changed but link building still works.
  • READ the Slide, thenStay up to date on the landscape. A great site to find what Matt Cutt’s is up to…
  • Penguin 2.0 Recovery - A Walk Thru

    1. 1. Mike Huber VP Client Services @mjhuber
    2. 2. 27 + Updates Version 2.0
    3. 3. www.verticalmeasures.com
    4. 4. www.verticalmeasures.com
    5. 5. You’ve received a notice You’ve noticed a drop in rankings You’ve noticed a drop in traffic HOW TO TELL IF YOU BEEN AFFECTED
    8. 8. Panda Penguin Phantom Pirate Update Above the fold update A Manual Penalty A Recent website redesign/update OR…
    11. 11. PANGUIN TOOL
    12. 12. MANUAL PENALTY Search –
    13. 13. Do I have links from spammy sites? Is my anchor text over-optimized? Do I have site-wide links? ANALYZE YOUR BACKLINKS
    14. 14. Download your backlinks from multiple sources De-dup your list Organize and sort by link value/metrics Determine the ratio of anchor text to total links Visually inspect each site Determine sites that need to be pruned or reclaimed Upload disavow file File reconsideration request Review links periodically. Write great content. THE PROCESS
    15. 15. Webmaster Tools Majestic SEO Open Site Explorer Link Research Tools (Cemper) Ahrefs PULL YOUR BACKLINKS
    18. 18. MAJESTIC SEO
    20. 20. AHREFS.COM
    22. 22. TEXT TO COLUMNS
    23. 23. ROOT URL
    24. 24. USE THE WIZARD
    25. 25. ADD YOUR DELIMITER ‘/’
    26. 26. • Site-wide links and blog roll links • Obvious Paid links • Text ad links • Sites not indexed in Google • Low quality sites • Sites that look like link building sites • Generic directory links • Forum comments • Bio links • Links on non-relevant sites • Links on sites with Viagra, Pay Day, Casino content • Over optimized anchor text WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR
    27. 27. SITE-WIDE LINKS
    29. 29. You have 4 choices to make • No Action • Prune the link • Reclaim the link • No Follow the link DECISION TIME
    30. 30. QUICK URL OPENER
    31. 31. MOZ BAR
    32. 32. SEO QUAKE
    33. 33.
    34. 34. MOMMY BLOGGERS
    35. 35.
    36. 36.
    37. 37.
    38. 38. Identify the ‘bad’ links Make sure you have anchor text and landing page info Find contact us information Craft an email Send the email to the webmaster Follow up 2x times Document your results PRUNING PROCESS
    41. 41. MAIL CHIMP
    45. 45. A BIT PRICEY
    46. 46. DISAVOW TOOL
    48. 48. UPLOAD YOUR FILE
    49. 49. # hash tag for any text notations (to all links from entire domain) (to disavow a specific URL; good for .blogspot, .wordpress, etc. - you don’t want to disavow all links from there) THE .TXT FILE
    50. 50. # Each site in this list was contacted but they ignored the removal request; the sites that have agreed to remove links have been removed from this list and we're diligently following up. LINE BY LINE
    51. 51.
    54. 54. Tell Google you reviewed their quality guidelines You’ve cleaned up your links Explain to Google what you’ve done to clean things up. You’ve performed outreach to get links taken down. What were you able to accomplish. Tell them you made mistakes. Be professional and have a pleasant tone. Make it clear you are committed to the T.O.S. Tell them what you are going to do in the future. ELEMENTS OF RECONSIDERATION
    55. 55. SAMPLE DATA
    56. 56.
    57. 57. SEO WIZZ - EXAMPLES
    58. 58. SUCCESS
    60. 60. Many tactics have changed • Article Marketing • Commenting • Posting content in ‘networks’ • Site-wide links, blog roll links Tactics that work • Earned links • Guest Blogging • Reclamation • Resource links LINK BUILDING STILL WORKS
    61. 61. Build great content, the kind that people link to naturally. Add content often Use a variety of formats, text, graphics, photos, video Earn your links GREAT CONTENT WORKS BETTER
    63. 63. QUESTIONS? Contact: 888-476-1881 More Traffic. More Leads. More Business.
    64. 64. NEXT WEBINAR… How to Discover Hundreds of Powerful, Low Cost Content Ideas for Your Business Presenter: Arnie Kuenn, President, Vertical Measures Learn about: • How to use fast, free online market research tools • Real world examples of discovering content that works • Some realities about content marketing Check out our website at for registration information. 08Aug 11am PST 2pm EST
    65. 65. Determine what impacted your site: Panguin Tool - Fruition - Backlink Checker/Compiler WMT - Open Site Explorer - Majestic SEO - Link Research Tools - AHREFS - EXCEL De Dupe Tool - Text to columns to get the root URL - Quick URL Opener - MozBar - SEO Quake - Find Website Contact Info Email Software Mail Chimp - Constant Contact - Vertical Response - Removeem - Follow Matt Cutts - RESOURCES