jakebohall - 3:43 pm on Jun 3, 2013 (gmt 0)
We have helped many clients recover rankings/traffic from Penguin and the successful process has always been the following:
1 - Pull all backlink data available (WMT, moz, ahrefs, majestic, blekko, old seo reports, etc.)
2 - Dump all of the links into Remove'em (disclosure: a tool we own) and let it filter out all the links that are already no-followed, site is 404'd, etc.. so we only sort through those that are live, followed links.
3 - Sort through all of the links to determine those that are good vs. bad. In the case of Penguin, any that look like bad links are bad links... any that look like good links but have targeted anchor text are bad links... any that are questionable links are bad links.
4 - Send out removal requests to all of the bad links. We sometimes send anywhere from 4 - 7 requests in an attempt to get the links removed. The first request is really nice and along the lines of "Hey, thank you for linking to us. We didn't request this link from your site, and it could be causing some issues for us. Do you mind no-following or removing the link? If someone asked you to place this link, can you let us know so we can track down who is responsible." ... The emails get more direct as time goes on.
5 - Once we have about 60 - 70% of all the "bad" links removed, we then take all the remaining links and dump them into a disavow file. We take the export of removal data and upload it into a Google doc... then we send in a reconsideration request advising exactly what happened, what action was taken, and reference the removal data and disavow data.
We have been successful on the majority of reconsideration requests using this method. In the cases where we weren't successful, we just had to do more legwork in removals and resubmit the request (rinse & repeat) until success.
I have not seen an instance where using the disavow tool by itself has done anything, and Matt Cutts even stated that you needed to try and remove the bad links before doing a RR.. [youtube.com...]