Penguin Still Pecking at Your Site? Recover Like a Champ

Digital Marketing
Tagged in:
Time to read: 5 min

We’re about a month away from the anniversary of the beloved Penguin Update that came and demolished tons of websites and businesses. If you’ve been battling for a year and still haven’t seen your rankings rise to their previous heights, take heart. With a little effort, it is possible to recover from Penguin – not all hope (and SEO progress) is lost.

(In case you haven’t officially met him, Google’s Penguin Update came out in April 2012. It cracked down on webmasters through an improved algorithm and penalized tons of websites that used SEO tactics it deemed illegal, like keyword stuffing, cloaking, deliberately creating duplicate content, and more.)

First, was it really a Penguin plummet?

Many factors can influence a drop in rankings. Take a look at your analytics and see if there was a steep drop on or after April 24, 2012 (the date the Penguin Update came out). The number you specifically want to look at is the organic traffic to your site. If your overall traffic, and Google rankings, plummeted after the happy arrival of the penguin, chances are it was his fault. 

Another way to see if your plummet was due to Penguin is to inspect your inbound link profile. Penguin penalized sites with link profiles that seemed spammy or unnatural. When looking at your inbound link profile, look for: 

  • Too much keyword anchor text: Did you “over-optimize?” Over-optimizing would be using too much of the same anchor text to link back to your site, which Google considers unnatural. Unnatural link text includes too many key phrase links, like “fresh flower bouquets.” Natural or perfect links include your business name, web address, and “click here” types of links.  At most, 2 percent of your total inbound links should contain the anchor text for any one of your primary keywords, and at most, 20% of your inbound link profile should be made up of exact-match keyword anchor text (Jason DeMers wrote a great post on Mashable sharing this advice and more, if you’re interested).
  • Too many links back to your products/services pages:  If you linked more frequently to your website’s products or services page rather than the quality content you’ve posted or your home page, Google was probably suspicious. Users would be more likely to link to great content or your home page – not the services page. 
  • Too many unrelated links: Like, for instance, a florist’s link on a ski resort page. Hmm, fishy, says the penguin.

How do I view all the links to my website?

You can use one of several free tools that will list all the incoming links to your site. is one (though you get limited free usage). You can also go to Google’s Webmaster Tools site and view your links. Here’s how:

  • Log in to Google
  • Click on your website
  • Click “Traffic”
  • Click “Links to Your Site”  

Then you can take a look at what domains your links are coming from and what pages you are linking to from your own site.

Okay, it was Penguin. Now what?

Maybe you’ve known it was Penguin all along and have been spinning your wheels all year trying to recover. A lot of experts in the SEO world have given tips and are now getting back on their feet. Most will tell you it’s been a slow process with a lot of work invested, but the effort can pay off. 

Here are some tips and guidelines to help you escape the pecking penguin!

  • Get rid of bad content. Penguin didn’t like “doorway pages” that were optimized for a single keyword and unhelpful to users. It also didn’t see keyword-stuffed content in a positive light. Get rid of anything that’s not tailored towards the user.
  • Reach out and redo your backlink profile. Jimmy Ellis told his Penguin recovery story in a blog post on the, and his basic message is to build new high-quality links and remove low-quality links. He poured his heart and soul into removing the bad links, sending out over a thousand emails requesting that sites either remove low-quality links or change the anchor text to something branded. Surprisingly, he got great responses from a lot of people. 
  • Create new high-quality links. One way to do this is to distribute a press release, says SEO expert Spencer Mitchell in a blog post. You can also find really popular sites in your niche that are humming with activity and comment on their articles, forums, or blog posts with your own insights. Another way is to write guest blog posts for well-respected sites. 
  • Guest blog the right way. Speaking of guest blogging, it’s an excellent way to get juice for your site, but make sure you go about it in an ethical way. Post to your own site first, says Mike Sobol on his Search Engine People post. Then write and pitch quality content that people actually want to read. Pitch it to sites that get a lot of readers and provide an audience with helpful, relevant information – not just any site in your niche. He also recommends publically claiming your content with Google’s rel=author tag to give it more legitimacy. 
  • Make new kinds of content, like videos and images. These will build links back to your site and also bring in new types of users who enjoy that kind of content. This ultimately builds community around your site. Nowadays, visuals are huge – and people will appreciate that you are varying up the type of content you share and promote.

We hope these tips will help you out. Have you used other solid tips to recover from Penguin? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

Written by Ryan Boog

Ryan Boog

I am the CEO of Happy Dog Web Productions. I look forward to taking web, mobile design and digital marketing to the next level with Happy Dog. Follow Happy Dog at @hdwebpros or me personally at @ryanboog. Are you a fellow Google nut? Add me to your circle.

Have a suggestion?

We'd like to hear it. Drop us a line

Email us a suggestion

Like what you read?

Stay up to date

Occasional content sent to you. Never spam.

Sign up for our newsletter