Since the recent Penguin update that started to roll out on 17th October, we’ve had a number of affiliates asking how to recover when they’ve been penalized. Or in this case, penguinized.

This article explains the differences between the two kinds of algorithm updates and answers the following questions:

  • When did they start?
  • What do they target?
  • How can you tell if you’ve been hit?
  • If hit, what do you need to do to recover?
  • How long will it take to recover?
  • What shouldn’t you do?
  • How can you future proof your site?


When Did They Start?

When Did They Start


What Do They Target?

What Do They Target


How Can You Tell if You’ve Been Hit?

If your website has been hit, you’ll see an obvious decline in both rankings and search traffic on or shortly after the updates release, the latest being Penguin 3.0 on 17th October this year. However, only 1% of global English queries were affected in the latest update.

You should check your webmaster tools account in Search Traffics > Manual Actions, to see if you have had a manual warning. However, not receiving a manual warning doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t been hit by the update.

Some sites may drop in the SERPs without being penalized by Penguin due to the devaluation of unnatural links further down the linking chain (but not directly pointed to these sites). Keep this in mind when evaluating your sites.


If Hit, What Do You Need to Do to Recover?


  • Remove all low quality pages and content
  • Address over optimised pages
  • Isolate pages with issues and remove internal links to them
  • Work on your brand awareness with social media
  • There is no tool you can use; you will have to manually update your content


Audit Your Backlinks

  • Download your links from Webmaster tools
  • Get rid of over optimised anchor text – particularly, best or top etc.
  • Get rid of paid links, comment forum links and most directory links (very relevant ones should be fine)
  • Links must be relevant
  • Foreign links are a red flag as they look like paid links are not relevant

Remove/Disavow Bad Links

  • If you have control over the links to your website, get in contact with the webmasters and ask for them to be removed. If this isn’t possible, you can use the Disavow tool which can be found in webmaster tools.
  • Disavowing your links using the tool sends Google a signal saying that you don’t vouch for these links and would like Google to ignore them when determining your site’s rank
  • Important:be careful not to disavow any good links. This action cannot be reversed and the value from these links will be lost forever!
  • You can disavow links on an individual URL levelor on the domain level. Here is the syntax to use in each case:




You can also include comments in your link disavow file. If you’re going to do this, start each comment line with (#). For example:


            # Contacted owner of on 7/1/2012 to
# ask for link removal but got no response


How Long Will it Take to Recover?

Penalized sites have to wait until the next refresh to recover. This doesn’t tend to be too long for Panda updates, but the last Penguin one took 12 months. However, it is rumoured that they will be more frequent in the future.

Websites penalized last year by Penguin that have worked to improve their link profile should have seen an uplift in their rankings this October when Penguin 3.0 was released.

In fact, 30-40% of sites saw an increase in rankings, so it’s not always bad news.


What Shouldn’t You Do?

Don’t send reconsideration requests. A reconsideration request should only be filed if you have a manual penalty, and it is intended for human interaction.

Penguin filter is an algorithm that automatically devalues rankings of websites with spammy link profiles, so your reconsideration request will bounce in this case, or may even invite unwanted attention.


How Can You Future Proof Your Site?


  • Schedule rank checks so you can act quickly if they have been affected
  • Schedule backlink checks to keep on top of link quality
  • Write for the user and not the search engines when writing your content
  • Gain relevant back links
  • Don’t just rely on SEO. Use other forms of traffic generation to minimise your risk


To keep ahead of the game and to ensure your sites don’t get penalised, have a read of Google’s guidelines and make sure you are familiarised with all the do’s and don’ts.

You should aim to make your site different and unique, but if its long term success you’re after, don’t break the rules.

Google always finds out in the end!