Google Penguin Update : Fight Against Web Spam

Google Penguin updateIt’s been more than a year that we hated Panda and seems like now it’s time for another animal to be hated by Webmasters. Google Penguin update is the name of recent Google algo update which happened couple of days back. Matt Cutts has confirmed the same with his recent tweet.

Like all other update, this update affected the 3% of search engine results and affected a great number of high-ranking sites. This is one of those update after Google panda, which created a rage among webmasters against Google. People who are effected with this update, already started working on recovery from Penguin update and I have shared some of the working Penguin recovery tips later in this article.

Before, I go more into this update let me tell you that SEO is a part of maintaining the quality of site and in 2012, SEO is much more than building backlinks and other techniques. Now it consist of many other strong factors like Page layout, user experience, page load time, Website social signals and more than 100 other signal. In short, the idea is to maintain a high quality site in terms of content and usability. Use the latest technology and keep an eye on important announcement from Google regarding changes.

What is Google Penguin update:

Back in Feb 2011, when Google first launched Panda update, we never thought this will be a turning point of SEO. Many things has changed since then and web is going more social. Anyhow, we will talk about it after the break but first lets see what’s this penguin update all about. If you are aware of recent Google attack on private blog network and they not only deindexed such websites but also nulled down the link value.

With Google penguin update, Google is targeting more on sites which falls in the category of Web spam. This includes over optimized SEO site, sites using black hat technique, Keyword stuffing and using link scheme to build backlinks.

Here’s official words from announcement post:

In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at web spam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted web spam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.

Last year Panda update affected 12% of search engine results and penguin update affected 3% of result. Though, we have seen some major issues with this algo update as keyword like Make money online was taken by a blogspot blog with 0 post and other Keyword like “Panda recovery” showing irrelevant result.

Penguin recovery

WPMU has written a detailed article on this and about negative SEO, which you can read here. Most of the SEO’s are referring this update as bad SEO update and we can expect an updated version of Penguin update (May be Penguin 1.1) soon. According to the report many quality sites like, lost great amount of search engine ranking.

Here are some of the reasons why your site might be affected with Penguin update:

  • Anchor text over optimization
  • Low quality backlinks
  • Link relevance
  • Outbound link quality
  • Link pyramid
  • Serving duplicate content from sub-domain (Fixing WordPress duplicate content)
  • Keyword stuffing (High Keyword density, repeating Keywords)
  • Sending automated queries to Google. Ex software: WebPosition Gold
  • Websites with virus or spam warning (Trojans, website distributing malware)
  • Affiliate Websites with thin content and no value
  • Hidden links and Hidden texts (Black hat SEO practice)
  • SEO over optimization
  • Any other black hat SEO techniques used

How to Recover from Penguin update traffic Drop?

First, you need to analyze which algo update slapped your site traffic. Check your analytic stats and notice if there is any traffic drop after April 19th 2012 or April 24th 2012. April 19th drop was due to Panda data refresh and if you notice a drop after 24th April, it means your site is affected with latest penguin update. It’s high-time you should start working on penguin recovery. (Damn! Penguin used to be such cute, flightless bird). For 19th traffic Drop, you should consider referring to panda recovery guide again. So, now if your site is penalized, it could be one of the few reasons mentioned above.

One thing which you need to understand, every update adds on the signal to old signals, and if your site is penalized, you should not limit to penguin recovery, but should work on over all optimization of your site. Specially, onPage optimization of page has become one of the essential part of SEO.

I have already shared two guides, which will help you to fix major SEO issues on your site and will help in recovering from Penguin update:

Apart from above two, here are some additional tips.

Increase Anchor text distribution:

Most of Micro-niche sites which got hit by penguin update are due to anchor text distribution. Most of IM’s uses proper Keyword with anchor text to get backlinks from everywhere. If you have done the same, you should work on increasing the diversion of links. Try to get links to your site and pages with different anchor text.

Link quality:

Now, if you have used those services which offers 5000 backlinks in $5, you are more likely to get penalized (If not now, in future). Either you should get rid of such low quality backlinks or you have to work harder on getting high quality links to maintain a decent ratio of good:bad links.

Though, one of the major issue which has been seen in recent penguin update: Sites with good no. of high quality links with spammy links are getting penalized. For example, is one niche site for WordPress and it got penalized due to Footer anchor text they were getting due to theme distribution. Another reason for their penalty is: Link variation and niche. Since many links were coming from non-relevant niche and spam sites, it added more into penguin impact.

Create a new link-building campaign and this time target should be: Getting rid of old low-quality links and gaining new HQ links with help of Quality content, Guest posting, Interviews.

Google Webmaster tool is your friend:

Google webmaster tool is official product of Google and it let you analyze your site SEO in detail. Specially, in recent time Google has started sending Email to webmaster tool users, if there is any issue or changes in your site traffic. If there are too many spam links pointing to your site (Negative SEO), you will also get notification for the same.

Stop Building Unusual links:

This tip is both for link builders and for bloggers who allows guest posting. I have already talked about Outbound link effect in SEO, which every Blogger should read. Now, most of us start putting guest post on any niche and grab 1-2 quick backlink. Though those backlink is not even relevant to the topic but still as a guest post policy, link builders get a backlink. According to Google such links are unusual. Even for Bloggers who allow guest posting, you are diluting the quality of your site and you should stop accepting guest post from irrelevant niches. Else, what’s the difference between your site and an article directory?

Keyword density:

If you are doing Keyword stuffing, you should stop doing it. Instead use LSI words. I prefer to maintain a density of 1.5% max and target long tail Keywords, which is easier to rank. If your old post is stuffed with Keyword, it’s time to re-edit your content and make it genuine and maintain a decent Keyword density along with LSI words. If you are using WordPress, you can use EasyWPSEO plugin for proper optimization.

While I was analyzing one of my client site for panda impact and realized he has been adding atleast 12+ meta keywords and many of them are not even targeted or relevant. This is something very common with old micro-niche sites. If you are one of those niche marketer, whose niche site is affected by this update badly, I highly recommend to make changes in your content and then only put reconsideration request.

Avoid Keyword stuffing:

There are few plugins in WordPress (Income search alert) (Search term tagging 2), which add the search query result at the end of the post and it results in Keyword stuffing, Many people has asked me about the same, and my answer is automated SEO is bad and in some time (If not now), your site will be hit by one of such penguin updates. Even for who are using hidden texts for stuffing, they are also penalized with this update. If Keyword stuffing is one of the reasons, you can make changes in your content and put a reconsideration request from here.

Write for users and not ONLY for search engine:

We have already shared about what is high quality content from SEO perspective and if you have been in practice of just pushing low quality but On page optimized articles, you might be next victim. Work on quality of your article and make it as informative as possible. Take care of heading tags (H1, h2, h3) and make your content presentable.

Stop SEO automation:

If you are using some automated ways to optimize your site for example: software’s like “WebPosition Gold” for sending automatic query, it violates Google TOS and such practice should be avoided.

Go Social:

Go Social and think Social. Google has been giving all the clues importance of social media with Google+1 metrics in Webmaster tool and analytic tools. If you are working on micro-niche sites and is penalized by penguin update, it’s time to look into social factor of your site. Have you integrated social sharing buttons ? Do you have Google plus page for your site? Are readers sharing your content on social bookmarking sites? If not, it’s time to make a proper strategy and work on the same. Specially, if you have not yet implemented Google plus button, it’s time to add it instantly. You can grab  the code for latest Google plus share button from here.

If you are still thinking that Google hates SEO or SEO is dead, you are mistaken. Even on the official post, Google has made it clear that white hat SEO helps in improving the overall quality of the site and it’s a part of marketing. Though, the only catch is you should not over do the SEO and keep things natural by following good quality guidelines and white hat SEO practices.

I hope this article helped you to understand Penguin update and what steps you can take to get your site out of this penguin penalty. What do you think about so frequent and major changes in search engine? Do you think Google is justifying itself with such quick algo updates?

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Article By
Harsh Agrawal is a blog scientist and a passionate blogger. He is blogging since 2008 & writes about Blogging, SEO, Make money online & tech. His blog, ShoutMeLoud receives 1 million Pageviews/month and have over 700K subscribers.


COMMENTs ( 34 )

  1. Abhijit Guha says

    good post , just want to know something, if you can bear the pain to reply me.

    Penguin 2.0 hit my website & I lost all my high ranking keyword from google. After that hit , I have posted 4 new article on my website, but all the 4 article are coming on google 2nd page. Which never happend with me – when Ever I post anything on my website it came in 2nd or 3rd position immediatly after indexing.

    So I want to ask that if a domain get penguin hit, then will it suffer for ever? I mean all my new post will also suffer from it?

  2. Ravi kumar says

    Definitely Harsh, It is surely needed to have such changes in the search engines algorithm, It is demand of time, so that people can believe on the search engine listings.


  3. says

    Hi Harsh, I can see your RSS feed also contains backlinks to your article and website in “Article Title” is a post from “Website” format. I also do the same for my RSS feed as a way to get back at scrapers who grab my RSS feed and publish on their sites.

    Before, I used to think that this was a good idea. Now I’m concerned this technique will do more damage as Google will now think my site has a lot of low quality backlinks coming from scraper sites and MY SITE will be penalized.

    Am I just being paranoid or is this something we should be concerned about?

    If this is something which we should be concerned about, and since we have no control over scraper sites, should we stop the practice of using an RSS footer that creates backlinks? Would this justify the use of Google’s Disavow Link Tool?

  4. says

    I was able to recover from penguin after being hit in April (following Panda recovery guide in SML), but again in June 12-13 i got hit by Panda even I tried really hard I’m still not being able to recover from it.

  5. rtt says

    This update affected far more than 3% of search results, and it wasn’t just the SPAM sites affected or blackhat techniques.

    I’ve seen so many examples of normal white-hat sites with great content which were affected.
    This is simply just a scheme by Google to try and scare people into using their AdWords system which most have abandoned or are starting to since Google price fixes the CPC and artificially and unfairly increases the advertising costs.

    If anyone thinks Google is doing any of this to make results better, I would think twice and in fact most users have noticed worse and less relevant results with the recent updates.

  6. Kyle Carson says

    Recently My website Ranking drop down.. earlier it was keep on improving but last week it drop down.. what i have to do now.. i used various keywords not only targeting 1 or 2 .. i tried variety of keywords and urls to use so looks natural.. i used less competitive and long tail keywords also.. like click or read more this and that information.. ( sorry i cant reveal my client information here )..

    I used articles and press release for back links.. nothing else.. and all articles are fresh and unique.. and all the work go on slow pace .. hardly 5-10 hrs per week.. work.. only submitted to good sites.. i worked on squidoo, hub, weebly etc.. to publish our articles..

    but even i hit by google :( .. can i know what more i go to get my positions abck . i hit by 10-20 positions back.. Earlier i was on top 10 and 20 for all my 20 keywords.. now almost every keywords is dropped by xyz counts ..

    it would be great if any one add more information what i have to fo get my positions back..

    1 More thing so i use social media code on site as .. google is more concerning about this social media marketing

  7. deep karmakar says

    Brilliant!! Excellent piece of work from you Harsh. Now here is one thing that i’d like to ask you. Acquiring quality backlinks is now the ultimate priority thanks to Google Panda Update. This isn’t easy at all because high quality back links can be acquired only from high quality content. Now you must be aware of the SEO procedures in India before the arrival of Panda and Penguin Update. Everything was spammy. Even still now most webmasters are still following the old school procedure. Cost is now a big concern in SEO and Clients aren’t willing to pay that much to us for ethical SEO services. The situation in SEO is highly critical here in India.

  8. NITYIN says

    The ‘Penguin’ tanked my small biz site completely. I was ranking in top 3 positions for few keywords and now I am not even in first 20 pages.

    My site was not a spam site nor was it over optimized nor had I written any articles for the search engine. Still I have faced the music this time. The sites which are now appearing on first page are 4-5 page sites who have not done any SEO in the past.

    All work for past 2 years have been wasted.

  9. Deepanker says

    i have few blogs and the 1 which had highest traffic got penguin hit although i always enjoyed better traffic in each panda updates. When i looked at my blogs, i got to know that the reason was simple. That blog is on blogger platform which had no option for using nofollow attribute (it was added last month.) I had many posts which liked to mediafire links and hotfile links.. SO i think penguin think it as link spam. From last 2 days, i am trying to edit all my 700+ posts to see the quality of links and adding nofollow it it.. i hope next update will increase my traffic..
    But really 40% drop in traffic is panic..

  10. says

    Harsh, I have a query and looking for your advice on that.
    Since “Penguin” update released by Google I’ve lost almost 70% of traffic, but the good news is since morning my traffic is slightly improved in Google image search. But my keyword rankings are still the same except few keywords where my blog visible in page 5-6. I’m surprised to see from noon my image search rankings are almost back. Is it possible to get my keyword rank back in next coming days?, as everyone mentioning on internet there are a lot of sites ranking high (even few new blogs) for my keywords.

  11. TechChunks says

    These are some great tips, Harsh. Fixing crawl errors and looking for any warnings in your Webmaster’s tool and then fixing them are important as well.

  12. says

    Man, this time it’s a disaster, I lost almost 70% of traffic, last two days I’m getting less than 75% of my daily traffic. I seriously started hating panda; I have optimized my blog and removed around 55 low quality articles since last 2-3 panda updates. But my blog wasn’t hit by previous updates, this time I don’t know, what happened.

    I just read an article in SEO Book, ( hxxp:// ) they pointed out few failure of this update. There is a link for petition against new update, do sign it please.

  13. Naveen says

    These type updates are essential for penalizing for those who using fool ways to rank better, but some loyal bloggers are penalized by these type of updates are not acceptable.

    I think Google penalize if some guest authors write blog posts and link with anchor text which goes to their health or any non related niche site by author info underneath the post. Right?

  14. Faisal says

    Gotta check mine but recently got highest traffic ever on my low traffic site. So need more days to get an indicator

  15. Amrik Virdi says

    Is there any transparent method of finding out whether one’s site has taken a hit due to Penguin update otherwise than by making a guess from the visitor numbers (because sometimes the visitor numbers fluctuate randomly)?

  16. Mohsin Ali says

    Harsh you have been very kind to all bloggers who follow you and let me tell you that you save countless blogs by writing these articles.

    Again i am one of those whose blog is hit by Google Penguin update but after reading this article i think it was my fault and i have to take some serious steps.

    One question i want to ask you is that Google is showing search results for my blog both with and without WWW. Now i have verify my blog both with WWW and without it but still it showing results. Now please guide me how on earth i will remove one result from Google. Thanks

  17. says

    I kicked off Panda, Penguin (FLIGHTLESS cute bird) Kicked Off me. I am supposed to follow this tips now and i will be trying and spending 24×7 to workout on all blog posts.

  18. Shashank says

    This is awesome !
    Finally now people wont take blogging as career or collegians wont run crazzy behind creating their own blogs, paply for click exchange or trouble good bloggers by re-wrtiing their articles.
    Accepting that Google is little harsh,but yes this was needed!

  19. Anne Madison says

    One of the keywords I was ranking well for (and now I have now idea where I am – I couldn’t find my site in the top 100), interestingly, was ranking #1 for. Now they are ranking #51. I mean, this is a major brand!!! And even they got hit. This is clearly a lot more than a penguin – more like an ostrich :) Here’s hoping the update will smooth things out a bit.

  20. Reetika says

    OMG!, Isn’t panda enough to scare us. One more. Google is going to be a bad Guy now. They are not leaving any space for SEOs. I think selecting SEO as career is ris.y these days

    • Reetika says

      There is no exact keyword Sujth. Searched keyword is “panda recovery” and result showing is Its totally irrelevant because there is huge difference between “panda” and “Pandora”.

  21. DiTesco says

    Outstanding post Harsh, very thorough and well covered. You have managed to “consolidate” some real good resources and I think that this will help deal for people to better understand what is going on and what to do in case the Panda, Penguin, or whatever other update Google is thinking of doing. I myself believe that the latest update “webspam”, was probably not the best of results as yet. There are some very weird results on the first pages and just like the feedback from the SEOers, I think that pretty soon, if it is not happening already, Google will make another, and another, and another, update. We’ll see how this plays out. Thanks for the mention BTW

  22. Sumon @ WP Cypher says

    Useful tips. I’m actually liking the way Google is updating their algorithms. Will try my best to follow all the recommendations :)

  23. Karan Batra says

    Irrespective of how much we blame these Panda and Penguin updates by Google, I personally feel that these updates are necessary and have improved the quality of search results in most cases (leave aside exceptional cases)

    The Quality of Content on Google Search Results is now much better as all these updates have been targetted on those websites who were focussing more on SEO and less on Content. The message is thus very clear – No messing with Google Search Results ;)

    • Taba Rama says

      Leaving aside exceptional cases..! Are you serious?. Would you say the same word if yours SITE gets affected.
      I’am totally against with such frequent updates and i believes it is ONE OF THE GREAT IMMATURE steps took by the giant Google.
      Why because, “works done in hurried has more chance of wrongly done” Yeah, i know it’s Google but mind it , nothing in this world is perfect and so Google comes too comes in. Because of that reason only They(Google) has also offered Reconsideration Quota.
      But Really wanna know, “Why Google is in Too Hurry” ?

      • Karan Batra says

        I think these new updates are blessing in disquise for new bloggers.

        It gives us a chance to compete with those bloggers who have been there in the Industry for long. Dont see the fall that you’ve experienced – see the fall that your competitor may also have experienced.

        Had such updates not been there – we would have never been able to rank a blog on Google as all the top results would have been already occupied by those bloggers who have been blogging for the past so many years and would have built millions of backlinks…

        Always remember that with all these updates: Somebody’s Loss is Somebody’s Gain

        PS: My Blog has not experienced any change with this update

  24. Srivathsan G.K says

    Man.. Google and their algorithm names. Seriously if these animals would come to know about their names being used like this, they would surely die :|

  25. Mani says

    Actually My blog traffic gone on April 19th Update but from yesterday(24th) my blog regained the same traffic :) No changes in my blog :)

  26. Sujth says

    For the keyword “panda recovery” Google must show Nothing wrong or unnatural in that. Here the exact keyword in domain name, authority of the site, domain age won.
    For the keyword “Jaguar”, we get “Jaguar international’s ” page on top of the Google search results, it doesn’t mean that Google algo is wrong.

    • Anoop Sudhakaran says

      The first result is not, Its which is totally out of context with the search keyword. :)

  27. says

    Yes, Penguin is a cute one….

    My blog/articles used to rank Top 10 in SERP for keywords like “money making online” and in 5-10 combinations of “money making” keywords that i used to chase every time. It was all ranking well for 2+ Years even winning over many hard n dirty Panda updates. You know I not even placed many Ads/Affiliate Links, in the first of year that blog focused only on “content”….

    Post this Penguin update, everything changed and no longer ranking for those keywords. I guess (and from other discussions over web), keyword based niche domains are also hit now. But few of my other niche sites (they are also keyword domains) are still ranking !

    However, in my case i did 2 changes recently that i may have to re-look:
    – officially changed domain name from to for branding purpose <= probably, Google is still considering the domain name as keyword one or not giving importance for those keywords now
    – Redesigned with a heavy premium theme <= probably, i have to go back to a simpler design.

    Good, time-to-learn few more stuffs…

    3 of my immediate actions items:
    – diversify the traffic sources – don't relay much on Google
    – stop building new niche sites
    – change the business model – have to promote the product that i own, by bringing lot more affiliates

    Thanks Harsh.

  28. Phil says

    Thanks for the article Harsh! I will look into the recovery articles when I have time to go through it. Google has really overdone it this time =(

    Looks like quality sites with great content have been replaced by old websites that have been forgoten long ago…