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Penguin 2.1 - still haven't recovered

     
11:57 am on Mar 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I would love to hear your thoughts on this :-)
I have been brought in by an agency to see if I can help their clients who were being serviced by another agency. Most clients were hit by Penguin 2.1 in October and have not significantly recovered.
The "old" agency did a round of disavows (no link removals) and has been extremely focused on creating solid content for the sites. All sites have been reviewed from a UX perspective, copy (content is being targeted to visitors, trying to give them everything they need in terms of information and also contain calls to action) and page layouts.

There are still "toxic" links to these sites (using Link Research Tools) and their inbound link profile is completely reversed to what is recommended (in some cases 80% of incoming links are comprised of target terms rather than brand).

We are talking many many sites here, each with many, many links - link removal is not on the table for the "old" agency and certainly not for me.

Is all this focus on content going to do anything to return traffic to pre-penguin levels without tackling the link issue? They have stopped building crappy links but crappy links that were built in the past remain.

Will disavowing remaining links that are not relevant to the websites make a difference in conjunction with all the content work that is going on?

Will cleaning up the NAP in conjunction with the above play much of a role, if any?

In case it is important, all of the sites are small businesses and had pretty relevant content on them - think garage door repair, roofers, plumbers, lawyers... On average websites are 10-20 pages and were doing ok until Penguin 2.1.

I know that the ideal situation is to remove all the "bad" links. What is the next best option?

Thanks for your feedback!
2:31 pm on Apr 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I know that the ideal situation is to remove all the "bad" links. What is the next best option?


Move the sites to a new domain name?

Unfortunately, Penguin recoveries appear few and far between.

If the client / boss is unwilling to clean up backlinks, then the disavow file is the only option (or change the file names of the pages that are linked to so that they return a 404).

In theory, it should work if it is Penguin that is affecting the rankings and not a manual penalty. But it might take a long time, and remember that now that those links are all being considered as nofollow, the pages that had once enjoyed lots of page rank will have almost none of it.

Do those site have any actual GOOD links? If not, then it is probably a good idea for the boss to start working on honing their adwords skills.
3:54 pm on Apr 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I was hit by Penguin 1.0 (algorithmically, not manually) and took until 2.1 to recover. 16 months. Whether there is a timed penalty involved or not I don't know. There may be a period of time that no matter what you do you can't recover.

In the 16 months I removed as many links as I could. Stuff from my own sites and so on, blogs I controlled etc. I disavowed some that I could not remove. I cleaned up the site and lightened KW density and made titles less spammy and more descriptive. I got the site added to wikipedia. Got a product featured in a major UK newspaper, got a couple of thousand links from Pinterest and other social media. In the preceding months before 2.1 the site started to make incremental recoveries - a bit more traffic and impressions and then when 2.1 came it jumped back to near normal levels. Though it's still suffering for some keywords but probably due to link loss rather than still being affected by Penguin.
2:11 pm on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

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In a recent video, John Mueller "confirmed" that Penguin recovery could take over a year.

[youtube.com...]

Essentially, google has to crawl bad links to see that they have been removed or nofollowed or disavowed - and may of those links are on pages that google only crawls once in a blue moon.

Then after they are crawled, they have to be added to the algorithm, then the algo updated has to be run.
2:23 pm on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Most likely you'll have to wait until the next penguin update to find out if the measures you've taken have any effect.
3:05 pm on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Or a PANDA update... :)

My Penguin-affected site recovered during Panda 4.0 update.
3:39 pm on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

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My Penguin-affected site recovered during Panda 4.0 update

Well there's no way to know something like that for sure, especailly since it doesn't fit in with what everybody else has experienced.

Sites rise and fall all the time for site-specific reasons that have nothing to do with a major update, but just by chance happen to occur on the same day as a major update. Since Google doesn't tell us which algorithmic penalties have affected our sites, nobody can be 100% sure about this type of thing.
3:52 pm on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Make sure you use a link tool such as Majestic SEO to find the links to disavow. Don't rely just on Google webmaster tools links.

I was hit by negative seo. I disavowed my links 10 months ago and the only way to recover is on a next update (it's an algorithmic penalty, not manual).

There's simply nothing you can do to speed up this process. Perhaps a petition should be created to persuade Google to do a refresh.
8:28 am on Aug 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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In a recent video, John Mueller "confirmed" that Penguin recovery could take over a year.

Planet13 - Thanks for that link. I think the section of the video around the time indicated is the clearest statement I've seen by Google of what you can expect.

In answer to the OP, a lot depends on whether you in fact had some natural links that then got "polluted" by a period of spammy link building, or whether all of your links are outside the guidelines. If the latter, recovery isn't going to be easy.

There are some comments about different types of sites recovering from linking problems in this discussion, which, though dated, you might find helpful....

Post-Penguin site recovery strategies: Please list yours
Sept 2013
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4607439.htm [webmasterworld.com]
1:47 pm on Aug 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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" I think the section of the video around the time indicated is the clearest statement I've seen by Google of what you can expect."


Agreed.
3:51 pm on Aug 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I was hit by Penguin over a year ago. Luckuly, I still rank #1 in Yahoo or Bing, but I feel like it's only a matter of time.

When the s*** with Penguin first hit the fan, I literally fell off of Google to the point where I was absolutely nowhere to be found other than searching for my website directly like "mysite.com" in Google. I would scan my top keywords up to page 100 and didn't see it anywhere.

After several rounds of disavowing toxic links, I am at the point where my top keywords which were once on page 1 are back to page 5 or 7 (they shuffle). It may take more and more disavowing but last I checked, I was down to what I was being told was 1% toxic links. Not sure how much more I could improve on 1%, so I stopped paying for those services which scan for toxic backlinks. I also took the time then to scan other sites of mine which do rank and I was seeing 10% toxic, so I figured 1% should be good enough for Google to respect me again.

At this point, I really don't know how to go forward. A lot of people talk about content and needing more rich content or backlinks, but considering 80% of my competitors haven't touched their website since 2006, I feel like I have done enough to at least be worthy of page 2. My current state has left me lost for ideas and I have hired several SEO companies only to get nothing out of it.

Penguin is an absolute mess and worst of all, the information out there is really guesses as to what Google wants. Even Google's forums and boards are filled with people voicing their own options about SEO. I have had people on the Google forums suggest everything from missing alt tags to header tags as my problem, only to see competitors have way more missing alt tags and header tags than me. Like I said, it's a lot of ideas being tossed around but I truly believe whether you rank is a total cr@p shoot.

As far as the year thing.. recovery is used loosely.
8:23 am on Aug 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I have had people on the Google forums suggest everything from missing alt tags to header tags as my problem, only to see competitors have way more missing alt tags and header tags than me.


Could have been worse. They could have insisted it was because your code didn't validate...

[youtube.com...]