Have you recently been hit by the big, bad Penguin? Or are you just curious as to how a website could recover from an algorithmic penalty? Either way, this article should shed light on how a website can begin its journey to recovery in the eyes of Google.
First, let’s start with the difference between an algorithmic update and a manual penalty. Penguin (and almost) every update that Google rolls out is an algorithmic update. This means that the way Google is evaluating a website has changed. It may give more or less weight to certain on-page and off-page elements. On the other hand, a manual penalty is when Google singles out a particular website for breaching Google’s Quality Guidelines. This is almost always followed by an “unnatural link building” e-mail from Google. If you have received a letter from Google due to a manual penalty, this article is not for you. But if you have seen a major dip in traffic and rankings after the 22nd of May, then keep reading.
Penguin 2.0 was rolled on May 22nd and continued over the next few weeks. Please keep in mind that Google updates are “rolling” updates as they are constantly being rolled out over a few months. It’s contrary to what people think. It is not an overnight update at a flip of a switch. Algorithmic updates are a complex process that takes weeks, sometimes months before completely settling in.
Without much haste, let’s discuss a roadmap to recovery in a step by step fashion.
Step 1: Determine if your site has actually been hit by the new update. If you notice a fluctuation of a few positions (after May 22nd), this is considered quite normal. Anything more than a dip of 3 positions for many of your keywords means your site has been brazed by the latest update.
Step 2: Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Get a backlink tool like Ahrefs or Majestic. Preferably get both, so that you can capture as many backlinks as possible.
Step 3: Download all your backlinks by domain. Do not download all your backlinks, but only the unique domains that your backlinks are coming from. This is generally a much smaller number than your total backlinks.
Step 4: Compile the list into excel. Create an empty column on the left hand side.
Step 5: In the first empty cell, type in “site:”
Step 6: Using the concatenate feature in excel, join the two cells so that all your domains URLs have “site:domain.com” in the third column.
Step 7: Copy each of the strings in the third column and paste it into a Google search and see what show’s up. If you have not figured it out by now, we are trying to determine if the domains are still indexed in Google or not.
Step 8: Compile a list of all the domains that are not showing up in Google in a separate notepad document. This is a clear sign that the domain which is sending your site backlinks is no longer showing up in Google (a sign of a manual penalty). Your site can do without these types of questionable links.
Step 9: Now that you have a list of sites that are no longer indexed, place a “domain:example.com” for each of them. This will be used for the next step, which is using the Disavow tool from Google.
Step 10: Log into Google’s Disavow tool and upload the document (in txt format) that you created in Step 9. You are essentially telling Google that you would like for it to ignore all links coming from these de-indexed domains.
And you are done. Please keep in mind, this is a micro recovery process for links from sites that have been de-indexed. This does not factor in links from un-related websites, site-wide links or excessive use of exact match anchor text. That type of recovery would require a fine comb to go through and is out of the scope of this article. For a deeper recovery, it’s best to enlist the help of an SEO professional. Disavowing backlinks is a complicated process and could potentially harm your website if done incorrectly.
And there you have it, a simple and effective Penguin recovery program. Good luck and may the SEO force be with you.