Two Weeks In, Google Talks Penguin Update, Ways To Recover & Negative SEO

It’s been about two weeks since Google launched its Penguin Update. Google’s happy the new spam-fighting algorithm is improving things as intended. But some hurt by it are still wondering how to recover, and there remain concerns about “negative SEO” as a threat. I caught up with Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, on these and some related questions.

Penguin: “A Success”

The goal of any algorithm update is to improve search results. So how’s Penguin been for Google?

“It’s been a success from our standpoint,” Cutts said.

What About Those Weird Results?

Of course, soon after Penguin was released, people quickly started citing examples of odd results. The official Viagra site wasn’t listed, while hacked sites were. An empty web site was listed for “make money online,” and there were reports of other empty sites ranking well. Scraper sites were reported outranking the sites they scraped.

How could Penguin be a success with these types of things happening?

Cutts said that many of these issues existed before Penguin launched and were not caused by the new spam-fighting algorithm.

Indeed, the Viagra issue, which has now been fixed, was a problem before Penguin hit. Penguin didn’t cause it.

False Positives? A Few Cases

How about false positives, people who feel they’ve been unfairly hit by Penguin when they weren’t doing any spam?

“We’ve seen a few cases where we might want to investigate more, but this change hasn’t had the same impact as Panda or Florida,” Cutts said.

The Panda Update was Google’s big update that targeted low-quality spam last year. The Florida Update was a major Google update in 2003 intended to improve its search quality.

I’d agree that both of those seemed to have impacted more sites than Penguin has, based on having watched reactions to all these updates. Not everyone will agree with me, of course. It’s also worth the regular reminder that for any site that “lost” in the rankings, someone gained. You rarely hear from those who gain.

Bottom line, Google seems pretty confident that the Penguin Update is indeed catching people who were spamming, as was intended.

Why Spam Still Gets Through

Certainly when I’ve looked into reports, I’ve often found spam at the core of why someone dropped. But if Penguin is working, why are some sites that are clearly spamming still getting through?

“No algorithm is perfect. While we’d like to achieve perfection, our litmus test is, ‘Do things get better than before?’,” Cutts said.

Cutts also explained that Penguin was designed to be quite precise, to act against pages when there was an extremely high-confidence of spam being involved. The downside is that some spam might get through, but the upside is that you have fewer false positives.

How Can You Recover?

One of the most difficult things with this update is telling people how to recover. Anyone hit by Penguin was deemed to be spamming Google.

In the past, if you spammed Google, you were told to file a reconsideration request. However, Google’s specifically said that reconsideration requests won’t help those hit by Penguin. They’ll recover naturally, Google says, if they clean the spam up.

However, one of the main reasons I’ve seen when looking at sites hit by Penguin seems to be bad linking practices. People have used sponsored WordPress themes, or poor quality reciprocal linking, have purchased links or participated in linking networks, such as those recently targeted by Google.

How do people pull themselves out of these link networks, if perhaps they don’t have control over those links now?

“It is possible to clean things up,” Cutts said, and he suggested people review two videos he’s done on this topic:

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“The bottom line is, try to resolve what you can,” Cutts said.

Waiting On Penguin To Update Again

If you do clean things up, how will you know? Ideally, you’ll see your traffic from Google recover, the next time Penguin is updated.

That leads to another important point. Penguin, like Panda, is a filter that gets refreshed from time-to-time. Penguin is not constantly running but rather is used to tag things as spam above-and-beyond Google’s regular spam filtering on a periodic basis.

Is Penguin a site-wide penalty like Panda or page-specific? Cutts wouldn’t say. But given that Panda has site-wide impacts, I think it’s a fair assumption that Penguin works the same.

What that means is that if some of your site is deemed Penguin-like, all of it may suffer. Again, recovery means cleaning up the spam. If you’ve cleaned and still don’t recover, ultimately, you might need to start all over with a fresh site, Cutts said.

New Concerns Over Negative SEO

Before Penguin, talk of “negative SEO” had been ramping up. Since then, it seems to have gotten worse in some places. I’ve seen post-after-post making it sound as if anyone is now in serious danger that some competitor can harm them.

At the core of these fears seems to be a perfect storm of assumptions. Google recently targeted some linking schemes. That caused some people to lose traffic. Google also sent out warnings about sites with “artificial” or “unnatural” links. That generated further concerns in some quarters. Then the Penguin Update hit, which caused more people to lose traffic as they were either hit for link spam or no longer benefited from link spam that was wiped out.

These things made it ripe for people to assume that pointing bad links at a site can hurt it. But as I wrote before, negative SEO concerns aren’t new. They’ve been around for years. Despite this, we’ve not seen it become a major concern.

Google has said it’s difficult for others to harm a site, and that’s indeed seemed to be the case. In particular, pointing bad links at a good site with many other good signals seems to be like trying to infect it with a disease that it has antibodies to. The good stuff outweighs the bad.

Cutts stressed again that negative SEO is rare and hard. “We have done a huge amount of work to try to make sure one person can’t hurt another person,” he said.

Cutts also stressed again what Google said before. Most of the those 700,000 messages to publishers that Google sent out earlier this year were not about bad link networks. Nor were they all suddenly done on the same day. Rather, many sites have had both manual and algorithmic penalties attached to them over time but which were never revealed. Google recently decided to open up about these.

After Negative SEO Campaign, A Link Warning

Of course, new messages do go out, which leads to the case of Dan Thies. His site was targeted by some trying to show that negative SEO works. He received an unnatural link warning after this happened. He also lost some rankings. Is this the proof that negative SEO really works?

Thies told me that his lost rankings were likely due to changes he made himself, when he removed a link across all pages on his site that led back to his home page. After restoring that, he told me, he regained his rankings.

His overall traffic, he said, never got worse. That tends to go against the concerns that negative SEO is a lurking threat, because if it had worked enough to tag his site as part of the Penguin Update, he should have seen a huge drop.

Still, what about link warning? Thies did believe that came because of the negative SEO attempt. That’s scary stuff. He also said he filed three reconsideration requests, which each time returned messages saying that there were no spam actions found. Was he hit with a warning but not one that was also associated with a penalty?

I asked Cutts about the case, but he declined to comment on Thies’s particular situation. He did say that typically a link warning is a precursor to a ranking drop. If the site fixes the problem and does a reconsideration request quickly enough, that might prevent a drop.

Solving The Concerns

I expect we’ll continue to see discussions of negative SEO, with a strong belief by some that it’s a major concern for anyone. I was involved in one discussion over at SEO Book about this that’s well worth a read.

When it’s cheaper to buy links than ever, it’s easy to see why there are concerns. Stories like what happened to Thies or this person, who got a warning after 24,000 links appeared pointing at his site in one day, are worrisome.

Then again, the person’s warning came after he apparently dropped in rankings because of Penguin. So did these negative SEO links actually cause the drop, or was it something else? As is common, it’s hard to tell, because the actual site isn’t provided.

To further confuse matters, some who lost traffic because of Penguin might not be victims of a penalty at all. Rather, Google may have stopped allowing some links to pass credit, if they were deemed to be part of some attempt to just manipulate rankings. If sites were heavily dependent on these artificial links, they’d see a drop just because the link credit was pulled, not because they were hit with a penalty.

I’ve seen a number of people now publicly wishing for a way to “disvow” links pointing at them. Google had no comment about adding such a feature at this time, when I asked about this. I certainly wouldn’t wait around for it now, if you know you were hit by Penguin. I’d do what you can to clean things up.

One good suggestion out of the SEO Book discussion was that Google not penalize sites for bad links pointing at them. Ignore the links, don’t let the links pass credit, but don’t penalize the site. That’s an excellent suggestion for defusing negative SEO concerns, I’d say.

I’d also stress again that from what I’ve seen, negative SEO isn’t really what most hit by Penguin should probably be concerned about. It seems far more likely they were hit by spam they were somehow actively involved in, rather than something a competitor did.

Recovering From Penguin

Our Google Penguin Update Recovery Tips & Advice post from two weeks ago gave some initial advice about dealing with Penguin, and that still holds up. In summary, if you know that you were hit by Penguin (because your traffic dropped on April 24):

  • Clean up on-page spam you know you’ve done
  • Clean up bad links you know you’re been involved with, as best you can
  • Wait for news of a future Penguin Update and see if you recover after it happens
  • If it doesn’t, try further cleaning or consider starting over with a fresh site
  • If you really believe you were a false positive, file a report as explained here

Just in, by the way, a list of WordPress plug-ins that apparently insert hidden links. If you use some of these, and they have inserted hidden links, that could have caused a penalty.

I’d also say again, take a hard look at your own site. When I’ve looked at sites, it’s painfully easy to find bad link networks they’ve been part of. That doesn’t mean that there’s not spam that’s getting past Penguin. But complaining about what wasn’t caught isn’t a solution to improving your own situation, if you were hit.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Penguin Update | Google: SEO | SEO: Spamming | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Nathan Waddoups

    Thanks for the update Danny. I’m glad to hear that recovery is a possibility. 

    One thing I can’t quite wrap my mind around. You mention, “I’d also stress again that from what I’ve seen, negative SEO isn’t really what most hit by Penguin should probably be concerned about. It seems far more likely they were hit by spam they were somehow actively involved in, rather than something a competitor did.”

    How can Google decipher between spam links I’m actively creating to my site and spam links that someone else is actively creating creating to my site?

    That’s where my concern with negative SEO is. I mean there seems to be two conflicting story lines here. (1). Most sites affected by penguin were participating in bad backlinking networks. (2). Those same bad backlinking networks can’t hurt your website (if someone else is using them on your site).

    Do you see what I’m saying? The two story lines aren’t compatible in my feeble mind.

    Thanks a ton for the updates though.

  • Asif Dilshad

    Hi Sir

    I recently got 2 sites that hit by penguin from my boss to
    look at it and find some problem why they hit buy panda. I check out their
    linking graph and it shows that both only got low level link building stuff. Like
    blog commenting ,forum signature and directories links but don’t have any editorial

    I think I got the problem very next hour! These are due to
    unnatural links when I talk with the owner of both website the A website owner says that he hire a guy
    to do this kind of low level link building and he eventually got ranking on
    certain keywords before penguin but hit by it.

    B website owner
    is denied that he didn’t hire any company or individual to do this kind of
    stuff but I got low level link building stuff more than A site (If Mr B does not
    use any spam software the someone use to hit like Thies)…

    How? I Mr. B didn’t
    hire anybody to do this kind of link building then how he got these links. He also
    claims that he never wanted to use any SEO stuff (he dislikes). But without
    doing any SEO he got some keyword ranked but after penguin B is also hit.

    I have a question why B
    site hit?

    According to my little knowledge it’s easy to recover a site
    A because it has little links
    pointing to them and if we are able to get some high quality editorial links
    but it’s difficult to recover B site
    because it has many more low quality links so some editorial links wouldn’t
    help here….

    What is your response Danny
    Sir regarding this issue and how to recover B site who is innocent. We can’t remove the links we only build new
    because building new links are in our hands but removing old are not!

  • Ramesh Nair

    Viagra issue still exist (at least in India). Here’s a screenshot where the official site is buried below all those spammy links: 

  • Stas

    Does the site that did receive “unnatural” links message, but only dropped 11 days after, on the day of “Penguin”,  need to wait for Penguin refresh or fill in reconsideration request?

  • Danny Sullivan

    If you dropped when Penguin hit, then it sounds like you were hit by the Penguin algorithm. You’ll need to clean up the links or any other spam you can find.

  • Graeme Olsen

    Hi Dan, thanks for the article! Just on the issue of cleaning up webspam in the hope of your site recovering, let’s say that a site was able to delete enough webspam in order for it to be OK again… are you saying that their recovery may not happen straight away (ie. next time Google crawls their site and/or backlinks) but that any recovery may not occur until Penguin is updated again? I had assumed that as Google constantly crawls and updates it’s data, if a site’s profile changes enough it could improve immediately, but is this not the case? If they have to wait for Penguin to update again, do you know what kind of timeframe this might be? Weeks/months?

  • Danny Sullivan

    Potentially, those networks could hurt someone else. But that’s almost certainly not what caused so many people to drop in Penguin.

    Consider that in mid-March, Google took action against some networks. Penguin came about a month later. Did a bunch of competitors immediately think “ah ha, i’ll point links at other sites?” They’ve have had to have done that to hit those other sites to hurt them so quickly in Penguin.

    Assuming that many did, did so many of these targeted sites also not have good signals at all to help push back against the negative SEO attempt?

    The bottom line is that most people hit by Penguin are probably not victims of negative SEO. Potentially, this could happen more going forward. But there are still tons of barriers such as good signals that counteract the spam ones that can help.

  • Nathan Waddoups


    I don’t think people hit be penguin were hit due to negative SEO. It just seems like the opportunity is there now (more so than before).

  • Nathan Waddoups

    Danny will probably answer, but from what I understand you’re going to have to wait for the penguin update (similar to Panda). It seems like Panda runs about once a month. I’m guessing that Penguin will be on a similar timeline. 

    Furthermore, it might take more than one penguin update before Google actually has time to go through all of your backlinks and see that you’ve cleaned up. If Panda is any indicator, then I’m expecting at least 3 months before I see any huge improvements. It could happen sooner, but it takes time for all this to happen.

  • Gnet

     Danny I’ve spent a lot of time reading you articles and dissecting them, I must say I take a lot of what you say with a pinch of salt as it’s evident in your posts that you tread lightly with Google due to the reciprocal nature you have with them.
    Your posts are so loaded in Google’s favor it’s difficult to find an un biased view. Frankly, you should not be writing on these topics. You clearly have an agenda and that’s to protect your site. Grow a set of **** and stand up for the little guy for a change and objectively look at what people are telling you.

    MattCutts is telling you it’s almost impossible to negative seo a site. Here is a challenge for you – Run a test of your own on a relatively “young” site with good content and backlink profile and dissect the results instead of taking Matt’s word and publishing. What you’ll find is it is in fact easy to negative seo the small “mom & pop” businesses but impossible to do this on larger sites. Same we’re seeing in the new serp results big guys win little guys loose. I gave up on Google a long time ago realizing that a company driven by ad revenue sales will only look after their best interests.

    Here’s another challenge for you why not investigate some of the sites that are complaining about unfair penalties and post the results here. I guarantee you, you will find sites that have been wiped out over night for no reason at all. What recourse do they have? NONE. They are assumed guilty by an algorithm that Matt Cutts admits “no algorithm is perfect”.

    Stop constantly playing Google’s puppet and grow a set of cahones. As a journalist you should be writing fact and not statements dictated by a company you are scared to cross the line with.

  • Amit Shaw

    Ha Ha … So many issues is there.

  • Peter P

    Hey Guys! Just a quick comment. Every article I read on the web seems to suggest the Penguin update hit on April 27th, however my traffic nose dived on May 4th? Any ideas why it would be affected only several days later.

  • Mike Johnson

    Sorry, but I am not buying it.  

    Matt Cutts said:

    “It’s been a success from our standpoint,” Cutts said.

    That is a seriously weak and loaded response.  Anyone here who knows and works SEO for a living can take this with a grain of salt.  I have seen changes to site rankings which dropped over the last week back to what they were pre-Penguin.  This leads me to believe, they are continuing to roll back changes from this update because they made a big mistake with it.  There are still a great deal of search results which are just terrible right now.  What they are now calling SPAM is what everyone in the Industry has called “SEO” for years.

    Sorry Matt.  You know it and we know it.  Otherwise there would have been a more definitive response from Google a long time ago.  Not a weak Interview type response.  There has been more response from this update than any other and silence from Google on this and Matt’s response to it now 2 weeks later is simply more proof.  Google is far from perfect.  These guys make mistakes too.  They will never admit to it though.

  • Mike Johnson

     I couldn’t agree more.

  • Johndx

     Well said, Sir.

  • Chris Paston

    While I’m certainly on board with the ideas of:
    a) disavowing any spammy links, or
    b) simply gaining no credit from them,
    I think we all know that’s not going to happen.  Google sees itself as its own policeman and while this is understandable, like it or not, it opens itself up to the potential of “negative SEO”.  

    Additionally, as much as G may have best interests at heart in the aim to produce a “level playing field”, where your average Mom and Pop online store can compete alongside the Amazons of this world, it’s simply not possible. Those smaller websites which may offer the better products at a cheaper price, simply cannot hope to get traction when fighting the sitewide authority, natural link attraction and depth of quality inherent on Amazon et al.

    Meanwhile, those websites with huge link building budgets are able to hide their beautiful links on media websites that cost thousands and will never ever be penalised.  And then smaller sites feel they need to take short cuts such as link networks and the like to get anywhere near the top three positions, but get clobbered eventually through algo updates such as Penguin. Where exactly is the level playing field?  

    There’s little chance of a comeback for these sites now and Google in its (entirely understandable) position as the main search player online, washes its hands and says ‘you got yourself into this fine mess; you’re not our responsibility.’  I’m afraid with great power comes great responsibility, and they have to try harder to help our the smaller players here.

    How difficult would a link amnesty be?  Declare your bad links for a manual inspection which will in turn reveal even more spam for Mr Cutts and his team to get their teeth into.  These sites will then be able to recover and the G index will be allowed to retain the quality that it professes to have. 

    Sorry Google, whileever you’re laying your hob nailed boots into small sites that took a shortcut due to being in an impossible position, your search quality is less than it could be and social as a resource will continue to get a bigger market share.

    It’s okay though, your social site has ample users, so there’s nothing to worry about.

    Wait, wat?

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  • Nathan Waddoups

    I agree that Danny’s stuff is a little biased. However, there are already plenty of sources out there bashing on Google. We need a guy like Danny that actually has some contact with the company. If Danny did what you’re suggesting then Google would stop talking with him and we would have even less information. 

  • Danny Sullivan

    Gnet, yes, I trend so very, very lightly. You know, like this:

    As for investigating sites, I guess you skipped right past where I mentioned that in the article, with a link leading to some of the reports I’ve looked at. Here you go:

    Here’s a challenge for you. Head over to the Google support forums. Look at the threads where people are posting actual sites they’ve found hurt. Go run some backlink checks. When you’ve done about 30 of those reviews, come back and honestly tell me what percentage of those you think were:

    1) Totally innocent
    2) Hit by negative SEO
    3) Spamming

    The facts are, from what I’ve seen, most people were hit by spam. The facts are, from what I’ve seen, people who were hit and want to recover need to clean up the spam. 

    The facts are, for the small number of people who were hit as false positives, use the form, and I sure hope Google fixes things for them. But those numbers do indeed seem small.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Because you weren’t hit by Penguin but something else.

  • Peter P

    One other thing I noticed is that the only sites that survived the update in my industry are the big brand stores/sites and for some reason sites that have had Google Adwords campaigns running for some time. Strange? I guess Google may be favoring the sites that have been paying them big $$$ for adwords campaigns. Just an observation!

  • Peter P

    When you say something else do you mean another Google algorithm update? Was there one shortly after Penguin was released?

  • bethparker

    Hi Dan,

    I’ve seen comments from several people who said that they seemed to lose rankings only on certain pages, not the entire site, so this may not be a site-wide penalty. For example, one person lost rankings for all keywords closely related to her domain/site name. This was on an EMD domain, so it is likely she had too many links with the main keyword as anchor text.

    As for negative SEO, by allowing a penalty for bad links, Google has opened the floodgates for anyone who might be tempted to try it. Just because it is not happening much now is no reason not to be concerned about it. Google should completely ignore any links they deem bad, not penalize the site owner for them.

    It is the people who are doing exactly what Google claims to want–producing good content and not worrying about link building–who are most likely to be hurt by negative SEO. From what I have seen, Penguin seems to penalize sites that have a high percentage of bad links. If someone has gained 1000 good links through no effort of their own and then gets slammed with a few Xrumer blasts by their competitor, it will be a lot cheaper and easier for the competitor to get them penalized than for the victim to fix it. After all, you can get 5,000 to 20,000 links blasted at a site for $5 on Fiverr. There are hundreds of gigs offering the service. For as little as $20, someone could have 100,000 bad links pointing at your site.

    Contrast that with the amount it would cost the site owner to have a writer produce high quality content to combat those links. How many good quality articles can you get for $20? Depending on the writer, maybe not even one. It could cost a fortune for someone to successfully overcome an attack like that.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Actually, no. It’s kind of a naive myth that I’m sitting around thinking oh dear, I’d better not write anything negative about Google, or they won’t talk to me. It’s a handy myth especially for people who like to shoot the messenger.

    I have written plenty of things completely slamming Google, when they’ve had it coming. I’m not worried about that at all.

    What I am concerned about with anything I write is being fair. If I slam Google, I’ve got a good reason, and I’ll more than backup anything I take them to task for.

    If I defend Google, it’s because I think there’s a good reason to do that, especially to give balance.

    My job is writing for my readers, providing them with good information and sound advice, as best I can. Unfortunately, when people are hit by a penalty, it’s often easier to look for someone to blame rather than look for things that can be corrected.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Google didn’t just open the floodgates now for link penalties. We’ve had them for some time. I also didn’t say there shouldn’t be concern about it. I said that for a lot of people, it’s probably not a worry. And for people specifically hit by Penguin, it almost certainly isn’t the reason they plunged. So if they want to recover, they should look to another cause.

    Here’s also another thought. So many of the people concerned about negative SEO also seem very familiar with exactly the ways to fire up a bunch of links. Perhaps along with asking Google not to penalize for incoming links — which I said was a good idea in my post — there could also be some consideration that it’s considered not cool for people to use such tools period?

  • Gnet

    p.s. Links are 404′ng

     Danny I’ve read most, if not, all of what you’ve published previously and I stand by what I say, your journalism in regards to Google is not objective and un biased. You should have done your own testing before simply posting and agreeing with Matt on the negative seo stance.

    I’ve done my own research and will happily provide you with countless examples of sites that have been hit if you agree to publish the information?

    Again, I ask you to run a “negative seo” test and post the results. Don’t you think there is a reason Matt doesn’t want to comment on the case of “Dan Thies” ? Surely your journalistic instinct should have questioned this? 

    Like I said unfortunately we are now in a position where the big boys can’t be touched but the little guys will fall. 

    Do yourself and others a favor and research your statements before claiming them to be fact, you may find something surprising. 

  • Danny Sullivan

    You weren’t hit by Penguin. File a reconsideration request to see if there’s a manual penalty.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I’m guessing it will be a monthly refresh, similar to Pada.

  • Modesto Siotos


    What evidence do you have that Penguin is like Panda and runs periodically? Several Webmasters have immediately regained their rankings after having correctly identified the reasons of their rankings drops and taken the right action. This suggests that Penguin isn’t like Panda.

    Also, Matt Cutts doesn’t need to confirm whether Penguin is a site-wide penalty or not. It seems that Penguin affects mainly those pages that have been “overoptimised” and not entire domains.

  • Chris Paston

    Overly harsh this.  His name is Danny, not Rand (…sorry Rand)

  • John McDonald

    I’ve been watching how two of my similar sites were effected differently by Penguin, and now I’m increasingly sure that backlink activities other people engaged in has something to do with it.  The mistake I made on the Penguin-slapped site was to incorporate a bookmarking and a forum installation.  

    Although I was able to delete spam submissions pretty quickly, people who were trying to auto-spam my forums were also spamming hundreds of other forums and bookmarking pages pointing to their 404′d links on my domain.  It looks rather bad in webmaster tools (but I never got a warning msg either).  

    Now I’ve got the whole thing shut down and 301′d, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the next refresh to see if that does anything… or if I’m stuck with the dead weight of someone’s link-blasts.  

  • Danny Sullivan

    I guess the evidence in the story above, where Google told me it operates that way. I mean, you don’t have to believe that, I suppose. But that’s what they say.

  • Peter P

    Dan, you’re saying Google actually has people verifying sites manually?
    What reason would a site be manually penalized for?

    Also, several people have mentioned that contacting Google for any reconsideration would result in being placed on some sort of watch list which would possibly negatively affect your ranking for good. Any truth in that?

  • Danny Sullivan

    Sure, click on my name, my contact form is right there, I would be more than happy to publish.

    You also don’t really seem to understand the way reporting works. I did question about Dan. The response was no comment. What exactly did you think would happen after that? I ask again 50 times, and magically a comment would appear?

    As for doing the testing on negative SEO, let’s see. We had a negative SEO scare in 2007. It’s 5 years later, and suddenly 100s no 1000s no millions of sites have fallen victim?

    How did they survive over the past five years? Why on earth weren’t the alarm bells constantly going off then?

    The reason is that it hasn’t been that big of a deal, hasn’t been that big of a threat. Perhaps it’s growing as a threat now. If so, it’s still not that big of a threat to most sites, I would say. But you’re critical that I’ve raised the issue with my readers, raised the issue with Google, suggested they perhaps not have link penalties.

    Honestly, it doesn’t really sound like you’re reading much of what I’ve written at all.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Peter, go watch those two videos above. They answer your questions from Google.

  • Gnet

     Great, I’ll be in touch. 

    I understand the way reporting works, if you were in any doubt about the authenticity your job is to verify it, not by simply over asking the same question but replying with your own in depth research into the matter and ask the source either verifies or denies with valid and comprehensive facts. It’s part of the problem really, Google deem themselves UN-accountable for their actions that clearly impact on people’s livelihoods.

    Danny, I actually appreciate your work outside of what you write about Google. I am not someone who is looking to shoot the messenger either, it’s easy to point that finger.

    5 years ago the algorithm was entirely different to what it is today, links then were an important positive factor, they clearly are not now. Just run the tests and find out for yourself, that’s all i’m saying.

  • Scott McKirahan

    Just before the first video, your article asks, “How do people pull themselves out of these link networks, if perhaps they don’t have control over those links now?” To which, Matt Cutts replies, “It is possible to clean things up” and you say “he suggested people review two videos he’s done on this topic …”

    Well … where is the answer? Despite claims of innocence, many people are well aware of some less than above board link building that they may have done in the past. As much as they would like to be able to delete those backlinks now, they are on networks that they have absolutely no control over and they are being ignored by the owners of those sites, or worse, being told, “If you pay us money, we’ll remove those links.”

    We all have our opinions of what we would like to see done (i.e. have the links just count as zero or having the ability to “block” a link) but those are things out of our control and likely just pipe dreams. The unaswered question still remains, “How do people pull themselves out of these link networks, if perhaps they don’t have control over those links now?”

    Or, did I miss the answer somewhere in those videos?

  • Beth Parker

    Of course people who are worried about negative SEO know how to fire off a bunch of bad links; so do people who aren’t worried about it. You can’t learn much about SEO without stumbling across ways to get bad links. Knowing about them is not the same as using them. I agree that it’s not cool to use those tools. The trouble is that there’s no way Google can really tell if it’s the site owner who is doing it.

  • Rifat Rashid Adnan

    It is quite impossible to contact every webmaster and request delete those link back to my site. Many will not do extra job for me, many sites even don’t have any contact us page or who is information to request. So if in that case I delete my own pages
    from my web site for what I or my competitor created rapid back links in different sites then will it devalue my poor back link? Here my point of view is since I have deleted original pages from
    my site so those poor quickly build backlinks will be devalued in
    Google’s eye. Because those backlinks will link to those pages which is
    removed by me that means those backlinks will target non existent pages. What’s your thought on this strategy. Isn’t it safe to sacrifice few articles to save whole site?

  • Danny Sullivan

    No, you really didn’t. I should have added a similar comment after watching them myself, because they really didn’t seem to answer the question. But that’s what he pointed to.

    I actually think Google needs to figure out some disvow system, or at least not count the links, if only to give people some peace of mind.

  • Peter P

    Dan, I’m assuminng Google would just inform me on whether there is a manual penalty? Or would they actually tell you what the penalty was for?

    Spent the last several days trying to figure out the possible issue with my site but nothing stands out as Spam to me. I’ve always followed clean SEO techniques.

  • Scott McKirahan

    That’s all well and good if they are inner pages of a website. The fact is, though, most people that are in this situation have those bad links pointing at the main domain and you can hardly delete that, short of starting over with a whole new website.

    Furthermore, even if they are inner pages, if you have a good number of decent links, you will be deleting them, as well.

  • saugstrup

    Hey Danny

    Good to hear some news from Google on this Penguin! 

    The really new thing in Matt’s comments is that the Penguin is a time to time filter that penalizes sites or pages that is caught in it.

    It just seems to me that a lot more then that has happened to the SERPs on that day. Something that looks much more like a big change in the ranking algorithm. 

    It might be devaluation of some types of backlinks and anchored backlinks, or a change in the way the signals from the title tags, keyword density are calculated and weighed.

    What is your take on this? Has Google changed the ranking algo too on that day? 

  • Rifat Rashid Adnan

    But what’s your thought about devaluing Google penalty? Do you feel by deleting those inner pages which are linked back from bad sources, can help to lift Google penalty a little bit?

  • Mohammad Shadab

    I have lost our ranking due to penguin, and I am try to solve it with my proper work. I am waiting for next update.

  • Andreas Grimm

    [quote]Danny Sullivan
    If you dropped when Penguin hit, then it sounds like you were hit by the Penguin algorithm. You’ll need to clean up the links or any other spam you can find.[/quote]And this means negative SEO is possible… tested and simply…  200k scrapebox is not trigger, because it is clearly negative SEO..  but building low quality links over some weeks ..  in a rate which is looking like a pre penguine artifical ranking (using diversity) – will penalize every not so strong concurrents site!!

    IT is simply – if i can make my own sites getting a penalty i can do this for every other site with the same paramters!

    Many Quality sites are gone because of low level links and overuse of exact match anchors.Bring a backlinkprofile OUT of a natural exact match anchor balance over some time – and Penguine WILL TRIGGER!
    I am expecting to SAY so – because it is clearly to see in the SERPS, allready tested.. and MANY sites are affected.

  • Click Here

    Hope you like me new profile name ;)

    I don’t believe Google’s statement about negative SEO.  I did an experiment.  I have a site that was on page 1 for about 5 keywords.

    I went over to Fiverr and bought a gig for 500 .edu links.  Very unnatural, but I got no warning in Webmaster tools.

    Now the site is bottom of page 6 for the target keyword and is not on page 1 for any keywords.

    This is not a spammy site.  It’s a r

  • Jim Watson

    Great informative article Danny – nice to hear things from the horse’s mouth as it were.

  • HughesKyle64

    Its immerging period of technology and now a day’s Internet play an important role in everything life, You can work at your home, My Friend is doing work at home and last month he make 7500$ , The Further details are available at===>>⇛► 

  • Andreas Grimm

    MAI 4/5th was a update – G needed to tweak penguine…Because what showed in top 10 was clearly to much low quality.. empty blogs and so on.. they are all gone on MAI 4.

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