How to Recover from a Google Penguin Penalty

This is a 12 Step guide to help you recover from both Google Algorithmic Penguin Penalties and Google Manual Penguin Penalties

Introduction

If you were to wind the clock back to the beginning of 2012 and ask almost any Search Engine Optimizer (SEO) how to rank on the first page of Google, they would have told you the same thing:

  • Write articles and put your anchor text in links in the resource box
  • Build loads of free blogs and web 2.0 properties and put an anchor text link in the middle of a paragraph
  • Get any kind of .edu link you can, use a forum profile if you have to. It doesn’t matter if it is from some weird university in some remote part of the World – .edu links are always good
  • Use software to make this quick and easy: Unique Article Wizard, SENukeXCr, XRumer, Scrapebox etc.
  • The more links you have the better your site will rank, so build links all the time!

Sadly (maybe) these days are over and Google have sussed out almost every linking scheme out. Sure there are some people who are still getting away with it, but for the majority of the people just trying to promote their stuff online, they are not.

It is not all doom and gloom, there have been some promising things that have given us some hope in the past couple of years. However it’s not all as perfect as it could be. Notably the Google Disavow Tool, which (in theory) should tell Google to ignore all the crappy links. These are the ones you don’t think should be linking to your site. But Google being Google, doesn’t tell you how to use this tool properly. Most people don’t know which links are good and which ones are bad, so there is always the possibility of ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ or more commonly not disavowing enough links.

People who have received a message in Google Webmaster Tools saying ‘Your site violates Google Quality Guidelines’ are given the opportunity to file a Reconsideration Request. Have you done this? If you did, did you get a positive answer? No, I didn’t think so. Would you like to know how to get your penalty lifted and get your rankings back?

The tools we use at Indexicon.com are all developed by LinkResearchTools.com (LTR) who are based in Vienna, Austria. We became interested in LTR because they provide positive case studies of clients who have suffered severe Penguin Penalties, recovered and got their traffic back.

The only problem with LinkResearchTools.com is that their services are expensive. The ‘missing link’ from any Penguin recovery is the Link Detox Boost which is only available in the Link Research Detox Consultant Plan and the Link Research Superhero Plan. Both these plans at more than $500/month.

For most people who have suffered a Penguin Penalty, there will have been an associated loss in earnings too, so this is not an easy amount of money to find. This is why we decided to offer Link Detox and the Link Detox Boost as a service. Even though the LinkResearchTools are really good, there is a steep learning curve associated with some of them which can be off putting to say the least. By offering this as a service you can be sure that your site will be worked by an expert, trained by LinkResearchTools.com.

The process of Penguin recovery that we use is broken down into 3 phases which includes 12 steps. Here they are …

  • PHASE 1 Backlink Audit and Link Detox
  • Step 1: Don’t Panic!
  • Step 2: STOP BUILDING LINKS!
  • Step 3: Save any list of links that you have – VERY IMPORTANT!
  • Step 4: Install Google Webmaster Tools (if you haven’t already)
  • Step 5: Find out if you have an algorithmic or manual penalty
  • Step 6: Do a backlink audit, for this you need: 5
  • Step 7: Submit your Disavow File 6
  • Step 8: Submit a Reconsideration Request 6
  • Step 9: Re-Run your Backlink Audit 6
  • PHASE 2: Link Detox Boost 6
  • Step 10: Make the Disavow File work! 6
  • PHASE 3 Staying Clean and Improving Your Rankings 7
  • Step 11: Use the Competitive Detox Tool 7
  • Step 12: Keep your backlink profile clean 7

Help with removing your penalty

PHASE 1 Backlink Audit and Link Detox

Step 1: Don’t Panic!

It’s easier to say than do, but don’t do anything rash. Create a document and write down everything that happened around the time you lost your traffic. Dates are important because if you lost your traffic because of a Google update you will be able to identify which update caused your loss of traffic. I like to create a Google Document for this purpose as you can access the document easily wherever you are.

Step 2: STOP BUILDING LINKS!

Something you have done is causing a problem and you need to find out what it is. Even strategies which were considered ‘white hat’ links in 2013 may not be so in 2014. Did you write articles and post an anchor text link in the resource box? Did you submit your site to a directory that nobody ever looks at? Are you doing any guest blogging in return for dropping a link? Any of these techniques are now sometimes seen as attempts to manipulate search results. In particular Google Penguin 2.1 in October 2013 got really clever about all this. It’s not that all links are bad we just need to find out which ones are causing the problem.

Step 3: Save any list of links that you have – VERY IMPORTANT!

If you have been using an SEO company, outsourcing work, using Traffic Geyser, Unique Article Wizard, SENukeXCr, Xrumer, Scrapebox, LinkIt Pro, Linkvana, Build My Rank, Sape, Nuke 4 Me, Fiverr.com or anything like that you may have some lists of URLs that have been made with links to your site – if so KEEP THEM! Even if these links are not indexed by Google anymore or don’t even exist, this is valuable ammunition that you can use.

Step 4: Install Google Webmaster Tools (if you haven’t already)

Some SEOs say “Don’t tell Google too much, don’t let them track you!”. My personal opinion is that this is ridiculous, they have found you out already and punished you for it! It doesn’t matter if it is a human or a mathematical algorithm, the chances are you have violated Google’s quality guidelines so they know everything already. Google Webmaster Tools provides valuable information and facilities that you are going to need. The goal now is to not gain the system, but to work out what Google wants.

Step 5: Find out if you have an algorithmic or manual penalty.

If you had Google Webmaster Tools installed and you have a manual penalty, then you will have probably received an email saying that your site violates Google’s quality guidelines. If this is your situation – unlucky, but at least you definitely know that you have a problem. If you do not have any such message but have lost your traffic almost overnight you probably have an algorithmic penalty. Algorithmic penalties have one less step to recovery, but can be tricky to get out of as you are ‘working in the dark’. Don’t worry we have some tricks up our sleeve to help both algorithmic and manual penalties.

Step 6: Do a backlink audit, for this you need:

  • Any lists you have from Step 3
  • If you have already submitted a disavow file, a copy of it.
  • The list of ‘more sample links’ from Google Webmaster Tools ♦ The list of ‘latest links’ from Google Webmaster Tools
  • Any other lists of links you may have, e.g. from Ahrefs, MajesticSEO, Moz etc. ♦ A list of keyphrases you have been targeting

The easiest and cheapest way to do a back link audit is to let us do it for you, but if you want to do it yourself you can get Link Detox Genesis and use that. It is most important that you follow these steps to begin with:

  • Start with the www.yourdomain.com version of your site, even if you normally use http://yourdomain.com – Link Detox Genesis will give you the option to Detox both versions of your site – please do this or you may not find all the bad backlinks
  • Upload your current disavow file if you have one – the exact one that Google has
  • Upload any additional lists of backlinks you may have, especially any from Step 3
  • If you have a manual penalty, select ‘include dropped links’ from the advanced options – this will give you some very valuable information that you can use when you submit your Reconsideration Request

Now run Link Detox Genesis. Don’t be too horrified at the amount of deadly, toxic and suspicious links you have – you were expecting that weren’t you? Now you need to follow these steps:

  • Classify all your links into Brand, Compound, Money, Other ♦ Rate all your links as good or bad
  • Work through each link and decide if you can remove the link manually, disavow by URL or disavow by domain
  • Reprocess the report ♦ Create a Disavow File

Step 7: Submit your Disavow File

Now that you have your Disavow File you can submit it to Google Webmaster Tools

Step 8: Submit a Reconsideration Request

If you have a manual penalty we would recommend that you wait about about 48 hours before submitting a Reconsideration Request.

Step 9: Re-Run your Backlink Audit

After 2 weeks we would recommend re-running Step 6 with the new copy of the Disavow File and fresh copies of the inbound links files from Google Webmaster Tools. This will show if there is any ongoing weird activity e.g. by a bot or possibly as a result of a negative SEO attack. Quite often at this point you may decide to disavow some links by domain rather than URL. You can now delete your old disavow file in Google Webmaster Tools and upload the new one.

PHASE 2: Link Detox Boost

Step 10: Make the Disavow File work!

Hopefully by now your backlink profile is much cleaner, but Google will need to recrawl the links in the disavow file to take notice of the links and devalue them accordingly. The only way we have found of encouraging Google to do this is to ‘Push the Google Bot’ using Link Detox Boost. This is an expensive tool to run, so this should only be done when you are sure that your disavow file is good enough.

PHASE 3 Staying Clean and Improving Your Rankings

Step 11: Use the Competitive Detox Tool

Hopefully by now you have started to see some improvement to your rankings and traffic. You can now use the LRT Competitive Detox Tool to find your competitor’s healthy links and see if you can go after them yourself. There are some other excellent LRT tools that can be used to find strong healthy links, The Competitive Detox Tool is just one of them.

Step 12: Keep your backlink profile clean

It is worth repeating step 6 from time to time (monthly would be perfect, quarterly should be OK) to check that you are not building up too many toxic and suspicious links again.

Help with removing your penalty

At Indexicon.com you can get all the help you need to complete the steps above. Please contact us for further details.

All material on this blog post is copyright material of Rick Lomas, unless otherwise stated.

Use may be not be made of these pages for any purposes without permission from the copyright holder. Commercial use is strictly forbidden without the express, prior, written permission of Rick Lomas.

Material provided by any third party, including material obtained through links to other sites from this document, is likely to be the copyright material of the author. Permission to copy or otherwise use such material must be obtained from the author.

©Rick Lomas, 2014.

Meet the Author

Rick Lomas

Rick became ‘interested’ in Google Penalties when Google Penguin 1.0 almost made him homeless in 2012. Since then he has become an expert in fixing Google Algorithmic Penalties and Manual Actions. Rick has cleared over 100 Google Manual Actions since 2015. He has a 100% success rate in penalty removal.

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