Google Penguin Update Recovery Tips & Advice

Struggling to know what to do in the wake of Google’s Penguin Update? Judging from all the comments and forum discussions we’ve seen, plenty are. We’ve got a little initial advice from Google on the topic, mixed with our own.

What Was Penguin?

The Penguin Update launched on April 24. It was a change to Google’s search results that was designed to punish pages that have been spamming Google. If you’re not familiar with spam, it’s when people do things like “keyword stuffing” or “cloaking” that violate Google’s guidelines. To learn more, see these pages:

Is Penguin Fully Live?

Sometimes it can take a few days for an update to fully rollout across all Google’s various data centers, which in turn means impacting all its search results. In this case, the rollout is complete. Google confirms that Penguin is fully live.

Was I Hit?

It’s easy to run some search, see that your site has gone and assume the worst. While Google does report some spamming offenses through Google Webmaster Central, it tells me there’s no way currently to log-in and know if the Penguin Update hit you.

My advice to people worried has been this. The update launched on April 24. Look at your search-related traffic from Google immediately after that date. Do you see a major drop compared with a day or two before? If so, you were probably hit by Penguin. See a rise in traffic? You probably benefited from Penguin. See no change? Then it really had no impact on you.

I ran this advice past Google; I was told it was good advice. It’s also exactly the same advice we and others have given people trying to understand if they were hit by the various Panda Updates over time.

How Do I Recover?

Since this was targeting spam, you need to remove any spam you might have. In some cases, Google may have sent messages to you about spam activity in the past. Messages may even be waiting for you in Google Webmaster Central, if you’ve never verified your account.

Obviously, correct anything that Google has flagged as spam with your site. If nothing’s been flagged — and you’re sure it was Penguin that hit you — then correct whatever you can think of that might be spam-like.

Within Google Webmaster Central, there’s the ability to file a reconsideration request. However, Google says this is an algorithmic change — IE, it’s a penalty that’s applied automatically, rather than a human at Google spotting some spam and applying what’s called a manual penality.

Because of that, Google said that reconsideration requests won’t help with Penguin. I was told:

Because this is an algorithmic change, Google has no plans to make manual exceptions. Webmasters cannot ask for reconsideration of their site, but we’re happy to hear feedback about the change on our webmaster forum.

There is, however, a new form that you can use to report errors, if you think you were caught by mistake. See our separate story, Penguin Update Peck Your Site By Mistake? Google’s Got A Form For That, for more details about using this.

What If Google’s Wrong!

Feel like Penguin has nabbed you for spamming incorrectly? As explained above, you can use the new Penguin Feedback form. As Google’s statement above also explains, you can post feedback through Google’s webmaster forum.

If you do this, my advice is not to go in with the attitude that Google has wronged your site. Maybe it did, but Google’s more interested in whether its search results that are doing wrong by searchers.

Give an example of a search where maybe you were previously listed. Explain the quality of your site. Explain what remains, especially if what remains seems to be benefiting from spam or is of low quality.

Of course, giving examples like this is also seen by some as “outing,” and there’s a belief among some SEOs that it should never be done. Others disagree. If this bothers you, then at least explain the quality behind your site and what’s being missed by searchers, not an emphasis on things like how much traffic or business you’re losing.

What About The Over-Optimization Penalty?

Google had initially warned that an “over-optimization” penalty was coming. This is the penalty it was talking about, but it has clarified that it’s not meant to target some hard-to-pin down “over-optimization” but rather outright spam.

What About Panda 3.5?

Yesterday, Google confirmed that it also released an update to its Panda algorithm, Panda 3.5, on April 19. Unlike Penguin, which is meant to target spam, Panda is designed to target pages that aren’t spam but aren’t great quality.

The date is important. If your traffic dropped on April 19 and never recovered, then you were probably hit by Panda rather than Penguin, and you need to follow advice for recovering from Panda, such as these:

What About That Parked Domains Mistake?

Around April 17, a number of sites reported lost traffic. That turned out to be a problem with how Google was incorrectly classifying them as being parked domains.

If your traffic dropped around April 17, it’s probably related to that, especially if you recovered by April 18. It shouldn’t be responsible for any drop you might see after April 18. Rather, Panda and Penguin are more likely culprits.

What About All Those Link Warnings?

Around mid-March, Google began taking action against some blog networks that seemed chiefly designed just to generate links to those participating, in hopes of boosting rankings. Then around the end of March, Google also sent warnings about “artificial or unnatural links” to a variety of sites. The stories below explain more:

If you saw your traffic drop in mid-March, it could be for one of two reasons. First, Google might no longer be letting the traffic from the link networks you were in carry weight. You’re not penalized. You’re just not benefiting any longer. Second, Google might have actively attached a penalty to your site.

It’s really not clear which has happened to people. Getting a warning doesn’t necessarily mean you got a penalty, it seems. But we’ll try to confirm this more from Google in the coming days.

What About Negative SEO?

Especially in the past week, there’s been a huge rise in forum discussions that “negative SEO” is now a serious problem. The idea is that if being in a blog network or having paid links could hurt you, then anyone could point bad links to harm another site.

This fear has existed for years. It’s not new. It’s even something Google acknowledges can happen in some limited cases. The fact that we’ve not had many sites over the years complaining that negative SEO has hit them should be reassuring.

For most sites, it’s not a problem because good sites have enough good signals in their favor that bad ones stand out as an oddity. It’s more a liability for smaller sites that haven’t built my authority, in my view.

I’ll be following up in more depth on the current round of worries, and I’ll try to get Google to weigh in more on the fresh concerns.

Is Penguin Bad For Searchers, Small Businesses….

If you read forum discussions, the Penguin Update has ruined Google’s search results. The reality is difficult to tell.

Make no mistake, it’s easy to find plenty of weirdness in Google’s results, as I covered in yesterday’s post, Did Penguin Make Google’s Search Results Better Or Worse?

However, these still remain anecdotal reports. It’s always been possible to find oddities like this.

There’s been no mass outcry from ordinary Google searchers that it’s suddenly gotten worse. There’s also typically outcry mostly from publishers who have been harmed by updates and not from publishers who have gained. Those who’ve gained have no reason to speak up.

As a result, after any update, it’s always possible to come away with a skewed view that the sky is falling in terms of relevancy. The reactions I’ve seen to the Penguin Update? They could have all been drawn directly out of reactions from the Florida Update of 2003. This presentation I did for concerned publishers at the time are equally applicable today.

After that update, Google was accused of trying to do everything from put small businesses out-of-business to trying to get more AdWords cash out of big brands. And SEO was dead yet again.

If SEO is dead, it sure has been taking its time dying, as I’ve written in the past. If Google really does have a grand master plan to wipe out small businesses, then it’s going on 10 years now that it hasn’t managed to do it.

The reality is that I’d say the vast majority of small businesses are getting plenty of traffic from Google, real small businesses that make real things or provide real services.

Of course, if the definition of small business is someone who writes hundreds of articles for a blog, to carry Google’s or someone else’s ads alongside, then “spins” those articles using software into slightly different versions for three other blogs to carry more ads, then yes, those types of businesses are in danger. They were from the beginning, actually, and it’s surprising they’ve lasted so long.

None of that is meant to take away from anyone with a quality site who has been harmed by latest update. If Google’s screwing up on listing relevant sites, we want to know, and we sure want that corrected. But as someone who has witnessed Google updates for as far back as we’ve had Google — who can remember panic over updates with Excite that existed before Google — this seems fairly normal.

Search didn’t suddenly stop sending everyone traffic. Google didn’t just stop sending sites tons of traffic. A bunch of people were definitely hit, some of whom probably should have been hit. A bunch of people were rewarded, some of whom should have been rewarded. Most people probably noticed no change at all. Here’s hoping the people who were hit mistakenly, or who weren’t rewarded as they should have been, get corrected in future updates.

Postscript: See our follow-up post, Two Weeks In, Google Talks Penguin Update, Ways To Recover & Negative SEO.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Penguin Update | Google: SEO | 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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  • Sellaholics

    Is it me or did this article just say when the update happened and what they are targetting.
    Then basically said, if you dissapeared on th 19th, it was panda, the 26th it was penguin.

    If you went down, you got hit, if you went up you got rewarded, if nothing happened then nothing happened.

    Some people who deserved it got it….some people who didnt deserve it didnt…other people had other things happen.

    The equiv of:

    Rain and how to know when its raining:

    Go outside in the morning, if you are wet its morning rain.
    Go outside in the afternoon, if you are wet then its afternoon rain
    Go outside if you are dry its not rain.

    If you are wet, use a towel, if you are not dont use a towel.


  • Sellaholics

    You make the point against this. I can copy anyones content and for a FIVERR have it spammed to 1200 article sites.

    Or Xrummer 5000 blog comments to a competitors site, cant be that way.

    As for his site, thats SEO not over SEO, if its 5 years old, and the worst that can be found is “commercial” is on the page too much?

    Not the issue, or if it is the update is garbage.

    His site isnt beuatiful, but the links are all in context to many COMMERCIAL products and offerings.

    Im guess a pizzeria says “pizza” alot too. So If i link to my 20 kinds of pizzas I get banned?

    Is that really a way to gauge quality?

    Meanwhile this website ranks #1…this .info with hidden text and zero useful content.

  • Sellaholics has been above google since like 2005.

    For me thats a PR stunt, who the hell is search for a search engine on a search engine anyway? This way they look “impartial” and can say it proves the algo is fair.

  • John

    I don’t understand why your comment was edited by a moderator, but the example you did about “exteriorhousewashing . info” ranking at the first page of Google is a great example that the big G Penguin or whatever update they have created to improve SERPs are just failing. I see that site on 6th position when it should be on top one billion, o even better, that site shouldn’t be shown on any SE.

  • andrewlea

    ⇪⇪⇪like Kyle replied I didn’t know that any one can profit $8144 in four weeks on the internet. did you see this site ⇮↺

  • Harry ponting
  • Harry ponting

    Very nice words and information for me.

  • Harry ponting
  • Global E-Business

    Well, I have got some confusion where I do not understand that “keyword stuffing” means what? and how to avoid it? Other thing is I read somewhere that Google has penalized few websites which are optimized for a single page or  home page only. Is that true. Do we need to balance the whole website in terms of SEO?


    This is really pathetic! ah! My site traffic was stable till the 4th of may and now has dipped to less than half !!!

  • Tudor Davies

    I would have thought that if those particular pizzas are well searched for keywords then you’re in trouble. However, in all likelihood for a pizzeria it would be location keywords that would be more important, such as “New York Pizzeria” as opposed to “cheese and tomato pizzas”. If you have anchor texts for the competitive phrases that is when you will start to drop within the rankings.

  • psd to magento

    Panda affected my site but it recovered automatically after few days. However I am more concerned about Negative SEO, since penguin hit my site, so I checked my site via DMCA and found out more than 20 sites copied my contents. Few of those were more than 85% same!

    These sites are run by some big companies and those are micro sites actually, keeping there business safe, they are running several sites copying contents from other like me. If this is the reason, penguin affected my site, I am really in dark as I don’t know what should I do to fight against these guys! 

  • SEO India

    I saw in many blogs/forums someone sent the reconsideration request to Google & got messages “No Manual spam actions found”.

    after one week they were thinking to get rank again in Google but nobody got ranks in Google. All was surprised! They have used unique content, no Keyword stuffing, no link manipulation. qualities work.

    I am thinking why they not got rank again. Where is the problem now. 

    I would like to request suggest me whats the problem to resolve this issues.

  • Codex Meridian

    @mattmcgee:disqus , what you just said is non-sense. So you are saying honest webmasters with great sites are wrong?  Read this article:
    I have great respect to wpmu sites, they are a great blog offering great content and number of followers. I obviously don’t believe this type of blogging is wrong. WPMU site does not like to belong to a spammy link network. No honest webmaster would do that…
      Google is WRONG, they tweak their algo such as its almost impossible for any penguinized blogger to correct or clean link profiles brought about by spammy network.

  • Codex Meridian

    @mattmcgee:disqus , what you just said is non-sense. So you are saying honest webmasters with great sites are wrong?  Read this article:
    I have great respect to wpmu sites, they are a great blog offering great content and number of followers. I obviously don’t believe this type of blogging is wrong. WPMU site does not like to belong to a spammy link network. No honest webmaster would do that…
      Google is WRONG, they tweak their algo such as its almost impossible for any penguinized blogger to correct or clean link profiles brought about by spammy network.

  • Marcelka1

    Hi Dawn , you are so right, I was thinking exact same.  Our site went down from 1800 visitors per day to 350  so our sales – almost none….!  I wanted to concentrate on writing our own ebook – but I’m stunned what to do now – why do it when our site is so down – unless we are forced to pay to for adwords to make up for sales we would otherwise get…..

    really really sad….

  • Josie Boulter – I’ve gone from position 8-12 for the search ‘high street wedding dresses’ and other similar ones to nowhere in the top 500. I am still quite new to this but as as far as I know I have done everything by the book and think I add genuine value to the above search, so am just confused really. Any thoughts you could send my way would be very gratefully received!

  • Boutros AbiChedid

    Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with my Blog that I lost about 30% of daily visitors?
    I would really appreciate any tips for improvement. Thanks.

  • Boutros AbiChedid

    Can anyone tell me why I lost about 30% of daily visitors on my Blog?
    I really appreciate any tips for improvement. Thanks.


     In my view Google is changing its algorithm now which is affecting mostly the sites doing SEO, even I’ve example of sites which are just inactive for last 2 years & now get into the top 10 of Google for  highly competitive keywords related to diet solution program after the latest updates.

    So the point is why the inactive site reach top 10 of Google, the only reason is that all others in the top 50 or top 100 are doing SEO through various methods which Google doesn’t think appropriate. Does it mean that lets stop & watch how the competitors are doing mistake again.

    At this point I feel that Google is making some mistakes as well. Why ? Because Google is penalizing those sites which are ranking top 10 in Google earlier due to their positive factors then how it can penalize those sites which are its favorite few days back. That means Google algorithm is not so strong to give consistent & best results to its users.

    I’ve been studying Google algorithm & thinking from last 1+ years about how to make the Google algorithm so strong that it’ll be difficult to manipulate its results through SEO and during this analysis I found that NATURALITY is the only way to implement in Google algorithm to give the best results to users. And am sure that Google is implementing this right now.

  • FU-G

    So, that is what I’m getting in G SERP’s a lot pages hosted in Angelfire servers created in the 90′s when CSS didn’t even exist. Of course, pages from that age didn’t do SEO, but they SUCK,  those pages are harmful to the eyes! Sad, but G SERP’s suck at this moment.

  • David Bill

    It’s a very confusing time right now, or it seems to be. I’m skeptical of those who say they have answers on many of the blogs and I like this list with your take.
    I guess I can infer something from your ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ answers, though more detailed answers as to why would be great, even if they would show up only on the paid newsletter to which I happily subscribed.

  • pars g

    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 December) 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 December 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 December 25 and December 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 Katz 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 have find your blog from Google and looking forward for your answering.
    Here is some pictures from us in Google Webmaster Tools

    I added too 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 6-7thousands a more of these changes
    my droped trafick from google is Quarter or Third

    please help me
    Yours Sincerely


  • koh chang

     I think it’s also the own business policy of Google…………..

  • medway808

    They do have effect if you’ve tested it.

  • XeBii Mj

     Hey @twitter-169711967:disqus
    Please Check this Domain too :(

  • Duy Nguyen

    Let’s see how far this whole Penguin thing from Google goes. I think people are getting sick of it already.

  • Duy Nguyen

     Let’s see how far Google goes with this Penguin update. People are getting sick of it already.

  • jim williams

    My website was hit by this penguin update and I am still waiting for recovery. I tried to remove backlinks which I could. I requested many webmasters to remove backlink to my website from their page. But no one responded yet. My own articles on Ezine and hubpages are listed on the search results but not my website. Not sure what to do now?

  • Brad Dalton

    Apologies but i’m really angry that Google has penalized me and won’t tell me what for so i’m really negative at the moment.

    This is some of the crap that i have to put up with. I’ve emailed the owner, the host and the domain manager and nobody does anything.

    I’ve never done any link building so why do i survive all the Panda updates then get hit hard on the 14th April? Penguin didn’t start until the 24th.

  • Kristel Ramayan

    The Penguin update is one of Google’s latest updates. I like many of you have been scouring the Internet for all information about the club penguin…sorry, I couldn’t resist.Anyway, from what I have been reading, I am under the impression that it is more of a spam filter than an algorithm update. So now more than ever, content is going to be even more important, along with good link building practices. Some might even go as far as forgoing link building, but venture into creating great content that others will share via social media.

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