What is Google Penguin?
I had this message from a very good friend of mine in the UK, This was our conversation, it may be useful to some people. I think what was happening here was that the site had been hit by the Google Penguin slap. This was the worst update ever by Google. It rolled out as Penguin 1.0 in April 2012 and last week Penguin 2.1 was put into affect. The slap is caused by over use of anchor text in backlinks. The worst message you can ever see in your Google Webmaster Tools is this:
I don’t know if the site in question has received this message, but I would put money on the fact that they have. If you do not have Google Webmaster Tools installed you do it now and it will show this message if you are guilty of having unnatural backlinks.
Matt Cutts warned back in May 2013 that Penguin 2.0 was coming which was scary as hell. But at the end of July he did mention that Google would be giving more and more information about the type of links that it doesn’t like. This is totally true and if you read to the end of this post you will see that this has been an advantage to me. Since seeing this I have decided to try again to get my Penguin slap revoked.
The prognosis of a site that has been slapped by Penguin is not good and as you will see below, I was hit too and I have not yet recovered.
My conversation about Google Penguin and (some) recovery advice
Adam: “Rick a mate of mine r*******.co.uk a customer of Google has been attacked and 30000 bad comments attched to his business thus taking him out of Google, he raised a grievience with Google 5 mths ago and nothing been done. Do you know a front door back contact with Google that could help him speed this up or is it something you could help him with in exchange for alot of money?”
Note: The grievance Adam spoke of was probably a ‘reconsideration request’ – without doing any action yourself Google will ignore you. This is understandable as many people were hit by penguin as a result of themselves doing bad automated SEO and backlinking. It’s not sufficient to say “It wasn’t my fault my competitor did it to me!”
Rick: “the comments shouldn’t take him out of Google, or do you mean he was commenting to build backlinks to his own site?”
Adam: “If you said having looked that you could sort this out within (DAYS) for (Some hundreds of POUNDS) I will put it too them, they are trying to sell the whole business for some vast sum so this is timely and has some urgency so if you can there is lots of cash available.
Rick: This was the Google penguin slap. By looking at http://tagcrowd.com/ I can see they have probably had a history of caning the phrase ‘c******e recy***g’ in anchor text backlinks, the spam backlinks are probably a red herring. It’s too easy to say that a competitor was trigger happy with Xrumer and did negative SEO. It is more likely that they bought an Xrumer Fiverr gig and aren’t admitting it! I did the same with m***********.co.uk and the phrase ‘m********e h**e’, Google Penguin caught me too and the earnings went from £66k/year to about £10k. Unfortunately I’m still fucked from it, so I can’t help anyone until I have helped myself.
I’m actually trying again right now with a new reconsideration request, so I’ll let you know how I get on. Meanwhile the best thing they can do is complile a massive list of backlinks using Google Webmaster tools, MajesticSEO (might have to get a 1 month subscription for this) and a month trial of Moz.com. My list was nearly half a million URLs. Once they have this list (in a text file) I have some software that can help identify the bad links by sorting them into branded links, anchor text links and generic links. The process after this is long and tedious, you need to try and get as many problem links taken down as possible by hand. Those that can’t be done can be entered into the Google Disavow tool. Then and only then you can send a reconsideration request to Google. So far I have done this three times and each one has been unsuccessful.
So is Negative SEO a real threat?
Possibly not, a friend in Thailand was trying to knock off his competition for his keyphrase ‘blue widgets in Thailand’ – he was number 2 and he wanted number 1. So he used Xrumer to build 1 million spam links to his competitor every day for a week and then turned it off for 1 week and then back on for a week. He repeated this twice. The competitor disappeared from Google for 3 days, then came back. When the competitor came back they were number 1 , but with all the extra links that Google sometimes provides when they really like a site! I wouldn’t suggest this as a strategy for your own site though. The difference here is that Google already knew that the number 1 site was the authority and did everything it could to protect it.
The good news
Well it’s not totally good news, but in my last reconsideration request, Google did include some sample links that it didn’t like. There were just 3 and they did surprise me as I didn’t think they would be a problem. I was able to identify another 278 links that were similar and I was able to remove links from all these except 13 which I added to the Disavow tool.
Here is an example of my problem link message:
The interesting thing about these were:
- The first was a blog I owned that contains good content, but the link was an anchor text link
- The second was a Web2 property, Weebly that contained an anchor text link
- The third was an EzineAricle that contained an anchor text link in the resource box
So I think we can probably say categorically that anchor text links are the primary cause of triggering the Google Penguin Slap. If you require recovery advice for Google Penguin, I cannot guarantee results, but I can do what I am doing to my own site for the rate of £50/hour.
Targetted unnatural links
I have received the Targetted Unnatural links message in Google Webmaster Tools, at face value it does seem like my first few attempts at reconsideration were heading the right way. Here’s what Matt Cutts has to say about this:
It seems like I have more work to do