How to Recover from a Penguin Google Penalty -
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How to Recover from a Penguin Google Penalty

How to Recover from a Penguin Google Penalty

Understand Google Penalties and How to Recover from Penalties

Search manipulation using link spam seems like a good thing right? The more links you create the more your website will rank and the number of visitors to your site will increase. That used to be the case until Google introduced their penalty systems affectionately known as Panda, Penguin and Pigeon. These cute animal names may seem harmless but if you are hit with one of these penalties the cuteness will quickly fade just as your website will in the search rankings. I am are here to help you should you receive one of this penalties and will discuss how you can recover from the Penguin penalty specifically.


These penalties typically occur because Google makes a change to its algorithm based on what they view as important for ranking on the web. These changes affect everyone on the web but there are also site specific penalties that take place should a Google employee determine you have done something wrong.


Google is constantly releasing new updates to their penalty systems and you can view all of them by visiting this link. Below are the major updates from 2014:


Pigeon Expands (UK, CA, AU) – December 22, 2014

  • Google’s major local algorithm update, dubbed “Pigeon”, expanded to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The original update hit the United States in July 2014. The update was confirmed on the 22nd but may have rolled out as early as the 19th.

Penguin Everflux – December 10, 2014

  • A Google representative said that Penguin had shifted to continuous updates, moving away from infrequent, major updates. While the exact timeline was unclear, this claim seemed to fit ongoing flux after Penguin 3.0 (including unconfirmed claims of a Penguin 3.1).

Penguin 3.0 – October 17, 2014

  • This update appeared to be smaller than expected (<1% of US/English queries affected) and was probably data-only (not a new Penguin algorithm).

Panda 4.1 – September 23, 2014

  • Google announced a significant Panda update, which included an algorithmic component. They estimated the impact at 3-5% of queries affected.

Pigeon – July 24, 2014

  • Google shook the local SEO world with an update that dramatically altered some local results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues. Google claimed that Pigeon created closer ties between the local algorithm and core algorithm(s).

Panda 4.0 – May 19, 2014

  • Google confirmed a major Panda update that likely included both an algorithm update and a data refresh. Officially, about 7.5% of English-language queries were affected.


Recovering From a Penguin Penalty          

Now that you have a broad overview of the Google penalty system lets focus on how to identify if you were affected and how to recover from Penguin penalties.

Penguin targets link spam focusing on low quality backlinks, excessive link exchanges, and too many ads passing PageRank. The first thing you want to do is check your Webmaster Tools for a manual penalty notification. If there is no notification the most effective way to identify whether you have been hit with this penalty is to match your rankings and traffic decline with the timing of updates. Significant declines in traffic that coincide with an update likely means your site has been penalized.

Once you have identified that a penalty has been incurred appropriate actions must immediately begin.

There are five main steps to take when recovering from a Penguin penalty.

  1. Create a list of all your backlinks
  2. Analyze links for quality
  3. Create a list of links that need removed
  4. Contact webmasters to remove bad links
  5. Disavow the remaining bad links

You need to get back in Google’s good books as soon as possible and show them you can play by their rules. This can be a tedious process but this tutorial will walk you through the basics.

1) Creating a List of Your Backlinks

Google Webmaster Tools is a great resource in creating your backlink list and I suggest starting here, then cross referencing with other tools by exporting the results lists and creating your own excel spreadsheet.

Google Webmaster Tools links to your site

Go to Google Webmaster Tools, in the left menu, click on “Search Traffic” and select “Links to Your Site”

Select “Who links the most”, click on “More”, then “Download latest links” to export you backlink list

Google Webmaster Tools export links


Once you have compiled what you believe to be a complete list of your websites backlinks you can import it to an SEO tool to gain further insight and SEO metrics for your links.

*TIP: Avoid tools that automatically identify low-quality backlinks as this may result in disavowing your best backlinks without your knowledge.

2) and 3) Analyze Links For Quality and Create a list of Low-Quality Backlinks

When analyzing your backlinks list pay attention to those links that are from;

  • non-indexed sites
  • low ranking websites
  • irrelevant/untrustworthy sites
  • unverified sites
  • blog networks

As well as site-wide links and those with disproportionate anchor text usage. These types of links tend to be scrutinized the most by Google.

Using a site such as Monitor Backlinks you can identify the bad backlinks on your website. Matt Cutts has stated that Google ignores NoFollow backlinks so you want to focus on the links that are passing PageRank using the DoFollow attribute.

Click the thumbs up icon located on the right side of Monitor Backlinks

links considered by Google


From there you want to identify those links that are low-quality. Select “Filters” and choose “External”


external backlinks


In the last column, you can see the exact number of external links each page has:

high external backlinks


This is where you begin verifying each backlink and identifying those that are low-quality. Remember to keep track as you check each link. If you are unsure about a link come back to it after looking at other links for comparison.

Watch for websites that are unrelated to your website or contain very little actual content such as ones that only contain hundreds of DoFollow backlinks. Be sure to check the comments sections of webpages for spam links as this is another attribute of a low-quality site.

Once you have checked the webpages based on the number of external backlinks do the same verification of those with a PageRank of zero by clicking on “Filters”, “PageRank”, and “Domain-0”.

Repeat this process again based on domain extension by clicking on “Filters” and “ccTLD”. This allows you to view backlinks from websites in other languages/countries that are likely not helping your ranking.

Finally you need to look at your anchor text distribution as Penguin penalizes sites with too many money keywords. Backlinks that use your money keywords as anchor texts will need to be changed. Now that you have created a complete list of low quality backlinks you can begin the process of contacting the webmasters and disavowing links.

4) Removing Low-Quality BackLinks

The first step in removing the links you have determined to be detrimental to your ranking is obtaining the contact information for the webmaster of each site. Searching the page for the “Contact Us” or “About Us” can often yield quick results but sometimes these are missing. In that case a website such as will allow you to retrieve “administrative contact email” for the website in question.

Once you have a list of contact information compose an email template such as this:

Hello [owner’s name],

My name is [your name] and I am the curator of []. We are currently in the process of removing some backlinks pointing to our website. Due to overoptimistic search manipulation we have inadvertently spammed your website with blog comments linking to our site. I sincerely apologize for this and ask for you cooperation in removing these links.

Our site is linked on your website here: [link to the page]. It points to this [your URL] using [your anchor text].

Please let me know if you are able to help me with this.

Thank you,

[your name]

[your social media profile]

When composing your email be polite, avoid threats and ensure you are emailing from your websites email address not a generic account such as Gmail. Be specific and avoid spamming the site owner as this may result in your email being reported as spam.

Keep track of every email you send and each response you receive giving an appropriate amount of time for them to respond. There are three outcomes that may result:

  • your link will be removed
  • you will be ignored
  • you will receive a request for payment to remove the link (DO NOT PAY!)

If either of the latter two results occur you will have to begin the disavow process.

5) Disavowing the Remaining Bad Links

Once you are sure that you have removed every backlink you can without further help you will have to create a disavow report for the remaining links. Using Monitor Backlinks again go through and add “tags’ to each site you want to disavow using the same tag for all of them such as “disavow”. Once you have tagged each link go to “filters”, click “tags” and select the “disavow” tag. This will create a list of only the sites you want to include in the disavow report.


Click on the “with all” button and select “export (disavow format)” to create your disavow report.

export disavowed links

Finally upload your file to Google Disavow and wait for the report to be processed. This can take up to 4 weeks so be patient and monitor your traffic and rankings. After the report has been processed your ranking should recover and a Penguin becomes a cute, harmless animal again.

Final Thoughts

No matter what caused the bad backlinks, whether it was you or the result of negative SEO tactics from a competitor, recovering from a Google penalty is doable with a little bit of time and effort. And like anything in life it is worth doing and doing well to ensure continued success. After all running a business in todays market is near impossible without an internet presence. Familiarize yourself with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines so you are able to avoid penalties or understand why you received one.

Have you ever received a manual penalty or been penalized by an algorithmic update? Did you recover your ranking? I would love to hear from you.


About the Highlighted Authors:

I am Chris MacDonald, serial entrepreneur and Chief Editor at Engage The Crowd.  I curate the best and most informative content across the web for you to consume all in one place.


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