First Report Of Google Penguin Recovery

The Google Penguin update first touched down on April 24th and many webmasters that were hit by this update were frantically making changes to their web site in anticipation for a Penguin refresh. That refresh happened late Friday evening and we have one report that appears to be a legit Penguin recovery.

An SEOmoz story named How Recovered From The Penguin Update has a pretty good case of a likely Penguin recovery. How can we know it is a pretty good case of a recovery? The Google Analytics graphs show a huge dip in traffic on April 24th and then a huge spike on May 26th, returning the site to pre-Penguin traffic levels.

We have reached out to Google to see if this site did indeed recover from the Penguin update but from the looks of it, it has.

This site claimed the reason it recovered was because it was able to remove over a half a million links from sites using their WordPress themes. These sites used a WordPress theme supplied by, all with a link and anchor text “WordPress MU” pointing back to the site. They were easily able to get that link removed and over 500,000 links disappeared over night. They did not go after additional potential link profile issues prior to the Penguin refresh because they did not have time.

Other changes they made but don’t believe made a difference were:

  • Pinged blogs that were originally highlighted by Matt Cutts in a conversation with the Syndey Harold – only one removed links, but they did come from a significant volume of splogs on the domain
  • Submitted WPMU to the Penguin review form, twice, specifically referencing this article that was being beaten out by the links that referenced it
  • Used SEOmoz campaign data to implement some canonical URLs to clean up crawl errors and also kill some unnecessary links across the site
  • Did a bit of “SEO cleanup” that revealed sitemaps did not exist and/or were broken. Implemented sitemaps and submitted the feeds to Webmaster Tools, which was not happening previously
  • Cleaned up numerous duplicate title tag issues as reported by Webmaster tools
  • Continued to build natural links to the site and promote other positive signals such as referring traffic and social shares
  • Very notably and importantly, got this specific use case in front of Google and also the greater SEO community that highlighted it

We’d love to hear more stories of Penguin recoveries. If you can supply evidence, access to analytics and steps you’ve taken to recover, let us know. Please comment below and we will take a look.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Penguin Update | Google: SEO


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Lyndon NA

    I’d say that the main 2 points;
    * Cleanup of questionable links (and link text?)
    * Built some quality relevant links
    are the points for recovery.

    Sitemaps and dupe title tags etc. are highly unlikely to have had any bearing.

  • Ajaz Mirza

    Hey Barry,
    Nice post…I was expecting a post on penguin recovery and here it is. I have a client’s website which recovered from the penguin update. I was a peaceful experience to have the rankings back and even better if you would believe. What I did in the meanwhile was, cleaned the link profile from link farm links, removed lots of duplicate content that was previously present and optimized the website. And here we are, on top of that campaign with improved traffic and better search engine visibility.

  • Ram Gueta

    i had the same drop down in the 26 of april and i had recovery for 2 days in the 25 of may . now it droped down again to 100 impressions per day (from 4000 impressions)

  • Tarla Cummings

    It’s great to see a real example of a site making quick recovery. We’re just starting a backlink clean-up for one particular keyword that we have way too many backlinks for and took a hit on. I think the key point above for WPMU was “They were EASILY able to get that link removed”, since the wordpress theme was under their control. Unfortunately I don’t think that is the usual case

  • Richard Gailey

    I’d love to know if anyone has any idea on why my WP blog got hit? When people Ping my articles, I normally approve them, but after reading this and other articles on the updates to the algorithm I unapproved then, and now disable them by default.
    I first noticed that my daily hits took a hit on the 24th April when they used to average around the 2.5k to 3.5k a day, but gradually went down to 850 a day over a period of about 4 days. From then on they fluctuate between 1k to 1.5k a day. Which means they are down by 30K a month.

    Now I know compared to other peoples sites those hits aren’t a lot, but to me it was a big hit.
    I never use anything that could be considered as Spam, nor do I link to spammy sites for my articles, so I have been trying to figure out just what I have done for a while now? The blog is a free Tech News type of site that I do in my spare time after work, and I don’t make any money out of it, with the exception of Beta testing WordPress’s ‘WordAds’ program that they recently started. Though, the amount of hits I get is probably very insignificant, so really can’t be classified as being commercial.

    My site is a blog (javascript can’t be used), and I use a Free theme called ‘Fresh and Clean’ by AJ Clark, which is one of the official ones, and has a link to his site on every post I make in the footer. I initially thought it was that but not now. Presides, I am unable to edit it even if I wanted to.

    The other thing I thought might had triggered the new Google filter, was that I was Beta testing WordPress’s ‘WordAds’ program, which allows certain people to have advertising on their blogs. I believe that they first started to appear on the 19th April 2012, but again, I can’t see that they are either spammy, or bad as WordPress would have been alerted to the issue by now.

    I even initially went through all 495 articles to remove my Tags (only about 5-10 key words per post) to see if that was the issue, but after 10 days, there still wasn’t any difference, so I have started to add then again. My site by the way is  if you want to take a look. If you do have any ideas at all, please let me know, as I really am out of ideas as to try.

  • Peter Watson

    My analytics graph looks identical to the image used in this post, but no recovery at my end yet.

    We removed over 23,000 of what google might see as ‘inorganic’ links, cleaned up duplicate title tags and description issues, implimented canonicals and submitted to penguin recovery form.

    I was so excited about the upcoming Penguin update, but no joy!

    Does anyone else think it’s fishy that there was a lot of media and coverage in regards to the rankings drop for, and now ‘coinsidently’ Google is showing them love again?


  • Brad

    Cool, a site that had huge amounts of press on blogs and beyond has recovered.  I guess I will just fly a banner featuring my domain name over Silicon Valley now…

  • scott231us

    This is just plain silly, what is Google thinking?  They are allowing blackhat sites to sabotage good sites now, just because of this silly penality caused by “other” sites linking to you.  IN this case, the site was luckly, they would remove a half a million links easily, however in real world links are not controllable (at least natural links aren’t).  So as a site owner you can’t really control what anchor text and/or whom is linking back to you.  So in reality anybody can take down any site!  Seems like they’re going to multiply blackhat SEO and spamming, not reduce it!

  • Praveen


    this is great news. But at the same time there is nothing exciting or earth shattering because he, used his influence and, received tips from the big G. If only every webmaster receives them from big G, i am sure we would have seen a lot more recovery than just one or maybe two.

    What about those publishers who does not have the same influence as this guy? They cannot do much except tinker with what a bunch of experts claim to be recovery strategy!

  • Praveen


    To me this looks like “screw the small guys and help the big guys” as the big guys will shell out on adwords!

  • Garavi Gujarat

    i was searching recovery post of penguin update and i found your post, thanks.

  • Ian Macfarlane

    Worth noting that May 26th was the date that the Penguin 1.1 update went live.

  • nichemarketer

    This single recovery has just happened to one influential webmaster. And they are lucky to have discovered where the links that impacted them negatively originated from. But a good lesson though because site owners who are crying foul can deconstruct their suspect links and resubmit their sites and find out whether they can recover lost traffic, rather than starting all over again.

  • David Johnstone

    Exactly.  Here’s a snippet from another site in regards to this story:-

    “It’s worth noting that Cutts was aware of this site, as James Farmer
    (the site’s owner) was able to get it brought to his attention,
    following the initial Penguin update, via an interview with the Sydney
    Morning Herald. Cutts had provided some examples of the kinds of links
    that were likely hurting it.”

    So, I guess your average SMB should feel good now – all you need is to somehow get Matt Cutts to personally be aware of your site, get an interview with a large newspaper, and then sit back and wait.

    As to how they recovered, at least they say:-

    “Very notably and importantly, got this specific use case in front of Google and also the greater SEO community that highlighted it”

    Indeed, indeed.

  • Arvid Linde

    I looked at your link profile and there seem to be many links from
    Polish sites. Any idea why?Are you sure you’ve redirected your other site
    to this site properly? I see hundreds of these: http://YourOtherSite/?epl=hgnyPMlBrIVgJtKBqBin5MCKvIMSJBROkdzFD-ceC9LFWsinr80ZEl5FkCxo8OkkBlVRGzdtqkxEbw-uuF1qElwtljBh84sir2SAwAVdUESfLY-FkIyV8xTeeq1HBjTJptFETJ4Kqp-mAdQjmqkeQxF1ACAQ3Oe_AADgdwEAAECA2wcAACvyDkpZUyZZQTE2aFpCcgAAAPA I’m not sure how to interpret this because I don’t know your history but considering Google still has some pages of that other site in its index, there might be an issue.
    I cannot say your link profile is particularly strong – apart from technorati and a handful of irrelevant links from a Harward law blog, I don’t see anything that stands out.

    Although you have super-duper content, you only got 140 FB likes. Any idea why? I’m not saying this is anything to do with the Penguin. I’d look at bounce rates and time on site… just a random thought, I’m not convinced you’ve been hit by the Penguin anyway.

    The tags actually might be your main problem. Searching for inurl: produced 16,000 results. Yikes!!!!!

    Do you have £30? Get hosting and start controlling your site. You will want to noindex all your tags. There’s no need to remove the tags – it’s how visitors are discovering content on your site (read: stays on your site) – just make sure Google doesn’t index your tag pages.

  • Richard Gailey

    Hi Arvid,

    Thank you very much for your reply. I’m not sure what sites in Poland are linking to my site, but I do get quite a few people linking to my articles. As far as Poland is concerned the only articles that may relate to Poland politically would be in reference to ACTA, as they were one of the most opposed countries so it may be that one or two of my articles on ACTA are back-linked there?

    Regarding technoranti, I have only just been accepted on their as a listed blog. Since last week I believe. I didn’t think that my site would actually do very well there, but I figured that it would be good to have it listed at least.

    Regarding the Harvard Law Blog, again I didn’t realise that they had linked to one of my articles. That may have been to do with the law regarding SOPA though as I have done quite a few on that in the past.

    Facebook wise. I deleted my FB account last June, but only recently started one again (a few months ago) as I though it might help the Blog. It is a great way for people to share articles etc, although I am very limited as to what buttons I can add to my blog as the WP hosted blog doesn’t allow JavaScript which is something I may have to face soon. I already have my own domain, so I will start to look for a decent host. I believe that I am still able to use the WP tools even when self-hosting so hopefully the transition won’t be too much of a learning curve.

    As far as NoIndexing my Tags, I couldn’t see a way to do this using the free hosted WP. I know that I am unable to stop them from showing on each article unless I learn CSS. I have to admit that when it comes to the more technical aspect of web-sites I get lost, which is why I chose the free WP platform in the first place. It is limited though. I was in 2 minds as to whether or not use Tags in the first place, as Google allegedly doesn’t really require them due to the algorithm doing most of the work. Again, I don’t know if that is strictly true.

    Kind regards,


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  • Tim

    This sort of debunks that “It’s not a penalty” myth, now doesn’t it?

  • JK

    Maybe the data refresh just benefited the site, and might have nothing to do with the site

  • Thomas Brewer

    Someone needs to bring up 20 small business owner case studies that have recovered. Until then this article only says that a highly influential large site that pays Google a lot of money recovered. Nothing new to report here. The algo changes have rewarded big business and domain authority and are crushing the little guys. Wake me up when there are actual recoveries that we can all identify with. My site is still ranking on page 1 for most of my terms. The issue really to discuss is sites with very little off page SEO are now ranking in the serps. The content is horrible and the sites are dormant. The only thing they have going is old reciprocal links and age of domain. So is the message a penalty or id Google placing a trust factor into these issues. Either way the best results are not getting to the top of the page.

  • seancallahan

     Can’t be true..I have a large adwords budget and got torched in my organics…went from 15k uv organic to 1500 overnight…April 24th

  • Praveen

    From the companies that i know, 50% of them recovered, if not fully, partially after starting an adwords campaign. from about 10K uv they dropped to 3k and now they are hovering around 7 to 8k.

  • Arvid Linde

    The truth is that you don’t keep tags to please Google, you provide tags for your visitors’ benefit. And please don’t use CSS to hide tags!!! I don’t know if give you a way to export your blog (I hope they do) I’d move to paid hosting with cPanel. They normally provide Softaculous or Scriptaculous that will install WordPress for you. It doesn’t get easier than this. There are plenty of free basic ebooks about running your own WP. Noindexing the tags is very easy – just get a good SEO plugin.

  • Arvid Linde

    “the reason it recovered was because it was able to remove over a half a million links from sites using their WordPress themes.”

    Ok, so if this is indeed the reason it recovered, does that mean I can now go and pay somebody to generate thousands of “sponsored wordpress theme links” pointing to my competitor’s site and then just watch him disappear during the next Penguin update?

    I don’t know about you guys, but I’m seriously worried now. I thought that Google was trying to make the web a better place. Instead they’re creating new precedents for Negative SEO…?!

  • Richard Gailey

    I bought hosting with Dreamhost yesterday and will be moving the blog over to them at the weekend. SEO wise, that’s a good point. I was looking at a recommended one for WP self-hosted users here: 

    Thank you for all your input into this. 

  • Nitesh Ahir

    hello Barry,
    as it is mention on the blog that site was affected by the penguin & cover that is really a fantastic experience and work is appreciated because when it happened every body is fighting for their website & congrats to for remove penalty…

    i would like to ask you that many companies are putting signature generally when they provide kind of services.. is this penguin update affect to that links…

    suppose i have create a new site & that is related to news & i have put a link in footer…
    that site added every day hindered of news & create subpage or blog or anything…

    does this effect to my site ????? while doing this???

  • scottdennison

    I’m still experiencing a slide for every site that received the ‘unnatural links notice’ on 3/29.

    One of my guys was building links through ALN and once all of those links were discounted as the sites were deindexed, the slide began. KW I was once found at #1-2 on (or client sites that were top 5 for important kw) are now out of the top 50 and still falling.

    Sure I can see the ‘bad’ links but feel powerless to do anything about removing them. Very odd to see an SEO Moz report saying a site has nothing but pages graded as “A”, quality content on every page, but a weak link profile is killing the SERPs.

    Penguin is NOT about improving the quality of search results IMO. It was and still is about punishing anyone who built links in an attempt to make a living by having a quality site who was ranked well in part to links that Google no longer will allow. 

  • Vengat Owen

    Yes, I agree with you.  their aim is different… 

  • Elizabeth H. Crane

    I think the key point above for WPMU was “They were EASILY able to get that link removed

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  • Aditi Datta

    I think the main two points which needs to be followed in order to recover form Google Penguin’s update is to say a strict “NO-NO” to keyword stuffing and the content should also be unique. Content must be written for the readers in a simple and easy language so that the readers find easy to understand and it should not be made merely for the search engines. I think these two points are important. Anyway, thanks for the share. I really do like reading this post. Quite informative I must say.
    Aditi Datta

  • Sapna b grade

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    2 orkut  -why not desabing ads from orkut all publics knows that orkut is now nudety add
    3 google + – why google  copied fb and twitter feature and says that w are against duplicate contant and copyright

    there are so many example in faver of google but against poor publishier

    so  i say again
    fuck google
    suck google 

  • Harris Family Law

    Google Penguin had affected a lot of sites, and another hit for Penguin 1.1.  This article pretty much helps us because we can use the tools mentioned for our SEO practices.

  • Harris Family Law

    Google Penguin had affected a lot of sites, and another hit for Penguin 1.1.  This article pretty much helps us because we can use the tools mentioned for our SEO practices.

  • XeBii Mj

    Please Highlight the Procedure to recover from Penguin update, i’m badly hit by this update and went down almost 50% Traffic :(

  • Monica Wright

    We did publish something on this:
    Another thought right away is that you may want to relocate the Google ads from appearing at the top of your site:

  • XeBii Mj

     Thanks for the response @monicawright:disqus
    i didn’t aware of the fact, that ads could be the issue. i did make some changes & remove all of the advertisements from the top except one. please re-check my website if you can.

  • khorshid shop

     Dear sir
    My name is Javid and I launched my site about 8 months ago. (
    We started with 30 articles in a day and we have 7thousands of them by now.
    Lately (about first of April) I have read in some websites and weblogs that if you make the tags No index you will obtain much better traffic from Google, so with Robot and No index tags I removed our tags.
    It was about April 20 that there were no tags from our site in Google anymore.
    Then about 2 days later our visit and ranking fell down suddenly.
    I also took a few photos that show our decline in visiting in April 25 and April 26.
    And there were no change in this situation for about one month, for instance we publish an article for the first time and after some hours the other websites which copied our article get a better ranking than us and apparently all of our input is from Google images.
    We faced a great fell in word searching either.
    Now here is the question, what can I do with this?
    Is it happened because of making No index all of the tags in my site?
    Is it happen because of Google Penguin?
    We had about 10 thousands tags that were removed from Google even though it is normal to have so many tags in Persian websites.
    I have sent a revised form but it is not answered yet.
    Some weblogs says Matt cutts recommended to launch a new site
    How if I set up a new domain and take a back up from my site there?
    What is your suggestion for me?
    If you need any more information please just let me know
    I added our site name in all of titles of the articles.
    Our content were like this before:
    But I’ve changed it to:
    Article Title- Title of Site
    And 6-7thousandsa more of these changes
    My traffic from Google fell to one third and most of my visits are from Google images
    Here is some pictures from us in Google Webmaster Tools
    please help me
    Yours Sincerely

  • eLeather Shop

    My website also badly hit by penguin. Now idea how to recover it:(

  • Siva Gopi

    Hi suppose say my site is There are around 5000 links that containing the anchor text “example”.

    And the same site is affected by penguin. 

    Do you think this is one of the case for the hit.

  • prodialect

    I have experienced for my site last week we were in first 2 pages and this week,The webaite is not seen in first 10 pages only

  • Nitesh Ahir

    hey Arvid… i have the same question that weather i have to work for my site to boost for rank on 1st or do negative seo for the rest of the sites…
    this is just bullshit & that won’t work any more.. i don’t think so … what you think about this negative seo????

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