Taking Advantage of the Penguin Update and How to Recover From It

It’s been more than a week since the latest Google algorithm update (the Penguin update) and all of us in the SEO and IM world are still assessing the damage.

I’ve received a lot of feedback during the past week from fellow IMers on how their rankings and traffic has dropped dramatically, some of them are even considering the idea of giving up.

I don’t know about you, but I think that in every major change there are always HUGE opportunities to be taken advantages of. One big advantage I see is that Google is eliminating a considerable amount of low quality competition and that leaves more space for marketers that PUT THE CUSTOMERS FIRST.

But don’t get me wrong, “Penguin” is not perfect and it has affected high quality sites also, the search results are still really bad, but I truly believe that Google will eventually correct this as it is IN THEIR BEST INTEREST to do so.

The opportunity for you as a marketer is in the intention that Google has in cleaning their search results and delivering more user oriented content and that should be your focus if you’re planning to build more sites in the future.

But What Can You Do TODAY If Your Website Has Been Affected?

A couple of my sites got hit and the following is a list of things that I’m doing to them in order to recover their rankings.

The first thing you have to do is make sure your site is still indexed by searching for it by domain name; www.yoursitename.com. If it appears in the first position then you’re OK

After that, you must take a GOOD LOOK at the content in your site and its RELEVANCE to the keywords you’re targeting and objectively ask yourself – is this a high quality website? If it is move to the next step

The next step is to de-optimize you site a little bit. Make sure that the keyword you are targeting is only in your tittle tag, your meta description and in your URL and make sure it’s well optimized for CTR’s – that is, make it interesting, remember that your tittle and meta description is what appears in the search results.  And for all your other tags use your LSI’s (words that are semantically related to your keyword) you can use Stealth Keyword Digger to find a ton of LSI’s

Forget about keyword density, go over your content and make sure that your keyword is mentioned in a natural way that contributes to the quality of it.

If you have your keyword bolded, italicized or underlined inside your content, undo that.

If you’re linking from inside your content to any other pages in your site make it look natural and don’t use the exact anchor text keyword, use an LSI or something generic like “click here” or “here’s what I mean” etc.

After you’ve de-optimize  your website the next step is to add more quality content to it, I will be adding 1 article a week for the next 4 weeks and reassess my strategy after that.

And now to the off page stuff…

I think that one of the factors that lead to my website losing its rankings is that Google is now ignoring most of the backlinks I build to it. So I will restart my off page SEO campaigns.

Here Are A Few Things to Consider When Building Backlinks Post Penguin

Diversify your anchor text – In my Evergreen SEO course I recommended a 3:2 ratio in your anchor text diversity; for every 3 backlinks with your main keyword you must build 2 with your LSI’s. But for this experiment I will do it the other way around, for every 2 backlinks with my main keyword I will build 3 with my LSI’s (and use 3 different LSI’s mixed with some generics like “click here” or “www.website.com”)

Diversify your link profile – Aside from using different anchor text you must also make sure that the links pointing to your website are coming from a variety of sites. For this experiment I will be doing social bookmarking, high Page Rank blog commenting (relevant and manually submitted), high authority .edu links and a couple of other methods that I got from the guide I recommended to you a few days ago, Lazy Link Building 2.

Watch your speed and quantity – Don’t build thousands of links over a short period of time and then stop as this looks VERY UNNATURAL to the search engines and if you’ve noticed so far, all of the factors we’ve reviewed in this post are trying to make things look AS NATURAL AND ORGANIC as possible.

And last but not least; build backlinks to all the pages of your website not only to your home page, because having backlinks pointing to only one page of your site looks very unnatural. And don’t worry because if you’ve build your internal link structure properly, all the pages of your site will benefit from your backlinking efforts, regardless of the page you’re linking to.

IMPORTANT: Please keep in mind that I CAN’T GUARANTEE that any of this will work to recover a websites ranking, we are still in the early days of the Penguin update and most of the information that’s going around is speculative (based on conjecture rather than knowledge). I’m going at it based on what I’ve researched and COMMON SENSE.

Check out this video

I really feel that we can work together to overcome this new challenge and benefit from it.

I will keep you posted on my results.

And please share your strategies or your thoughts about this by leaving a comment below

AlexTaking Advantage of the Penguin Update and How to Recover From It

Comments 36

  1. Jens

    I have several pages which got slapped and I must admit, that they have been overoptimized from the actual point of view. I will give your step-by-step tutorial a chance and I would be happy to read positive results about your test. 🙂
    Have a nice day! Jens

  2. Gray

    Nice post Alex! Thank you for making this info available to anybody.

    Will purchase SKD real soon!



  3. Tom

    Thanks Alex,

    This is the first recovery plan I have seen that mentions what to do about your page interlinking. I think I’m going to try this out on one or two of my sites to see how things pan out.

    On a side note. I got curious what happened to some of the more competitive niches I’ve looked at over the past couple of months due to penguin. So I ran one of the more competitive ones through SKCA and low and behold a whole raft of Amazings came up that weren’t there before. Will they stay that way after Google adjusts their crappy searches? Who knows.

    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Hey Tom,

      Thanks for bringing that up.

      I’m holding off my keyword research for the next few days because of the state of search results. I’m gong to wait a few more days and see what happens

      1. Tom

        Yep things really seem to be in a state of flux. I’ve been keeping pretty close tabs on how my sites are moving around. Some of it is there one minute and an hour later gone again. I think Google is getting schizophrenic.

  4. Earl Misfeldt

    Thanks, Alex.

    I like your suggestions and will be adopting them ASAP. Isn’t it what we should all be going after,i.e., more customer related content and overall site design?
    Thanks again,

    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Yes Earl,

      The look and feel of your website is also a very important in making it useful to the customers

  5. Keywords are now VERBOTEN!

    While i agree with you about keyword diversity and the relevancy of linking sites, i think the on-site stuff is pure speculation. Penguin SEEMS to be a off-site algorithm and i do not think that on-site is affected.


    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Hi G,

      All of it is pure speculation, no one knows for sure what factors this new update is taking into account, it’s to soon to know for sure.

      The weird thing is that all of my sites are build almost exactly the same – same on page SEO, same backlinks, quality, useful and relevant content, etc. And all are OK except 2, so go figure.

  6. Tim B. Miller

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for a wonderful post first of all.

    This update has had major DAMAGE to my sites!!

    This is crazy -> If you have your keyword bolded, italicized or underlined inside your content, undo that.

    What was so important before is now not even worth doing.

    Man sometimes this IM stuff get’s to be old and very challenging.

    That’s why you have to have Multiply Streams of Income Folks!

    Thanks again Alex keep em coming,

    -Tim B. Miller ♫

    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Thanks you Tim,

      I think that Google will go after things like keyword decoration (bolded, italicized or underlined) because they are things a lot of SEO people were doing and its not a thing that a regular JOE would do when writing the content of a website.

      If I worked in Google’s web-spam team I would use that factor as a signal of someone over optimizing their website.

  7. Meg

    Thanks for this, Alex. From everything I’ve read, your plan makes sense. Along with “de-optimizing,” I plan to treat my sites that tanked as if I’m starting over with link building, knowing that any current links are most likely devalued.

    Do you see any value in really starting over by deleting a site and reusing the content on a new domain and building links from scratch? I’ve considered doing that too.

    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Hi Meg,

      I’m not considering doing something as drastic as that YET.

      I’ll keep you posted in this thread about the progress of my hit site and if my plan works then you can implement it to.

  8. Herschel Lawhorn

    Hi Alex,

    I had one site that was on page 1 position 3 one day and the next day it was position 462. I had another site that did almost as bad. but, the rest of my sites weren’t affected.

    The worst hit site was what I thought was my best site. It was 4 years old and had a lot of good content. But apparently it was over optimized, so I am going to try the things you mention here and see if that helps.

    Herschel Lawhorn

    1. Post
  9. Coligny

    Thanks Alex for your wise and timely advice. Most of my recent websites are over-optimized, and I’m going back over them now, since I’m not happy with their rankings.

    Just wondering, do you have any thoughts about the effectiveness of exact match domains since the recent Google updates?

    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Google has been saying for a while that they are going to stop giving so much value to EMD’s

      What I would recommend is to start branding your keyword rich domain names, for example if your keyword is “dog training” then look to buy a domain like dogtrainingdojo.com or dogtrainingcenter.com or something like that – “BRANDED” keyword domains.

  10. Paul

    Hey Alex
    I was fortunate with my website as it has continued to climb in rankings for many different keywords, for many different pages. My backlinking strategy must be on target with what Google is looking for. When I looked inside of Google for what keyword backlinks I have for the site their are over 500 variations. All that in a 3 month period of doing everything by hand. Working diligently on forums, blog commenting, some article marketing, yahoo answers, web 2.0 properties, social networking and bookmarking. I think that if everyone would quit worrying about what Google wants and start doing things like you would for a brick and mortar business they would do much better.
    Instead of worrying about what you are doing as being backlinking, start thinking like a marketer and market your business. Everything you do should be an advertisement for your business, not a backlink. Just my take on this crazy and wild world of the web.
    Your tools are truly awesome and helpful by the way. Thanks for putting out such true quality tools. Now if everyone will do that with their websites Google and users will love them to.

  11. Adi

    I read a lot of information regarding penguin update before building new websites. Your post enlighten me and give me direction about what to do next.

    Thanks Alex

  12. Sam

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and findings on this latest update. I really enjoy reading your blog it has become one of my favorite and helpful this year. Thanks

  13. James

    The sites that I have that tanked were ones that used spammy private blog networks to get ranked. I haven’t noticed a difference about on site seo or the “above the fold” ads that we were warned about. But I believe the way things are going, we should prepare and the things you outlined are all good practice.

  14. Russell Hart

    Hi Alex
    Thanks for a great post.
    In terms of using keywords, should I cease being guided by SEOPressor which a currently use on my blogs?
    If I use LSIs in place of my targeted KW, which I suspect you’ll suggest I do, these are of course not recognized by SEOPressor.
    Your adice would be appreciated.

    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Hi Russell,

      SEOpressor does not let you change some of the parameters it uses to grade a page or post. A better more flexible plugin is Easy WP SEO. This plugin will also let you include your LSI keywords.

  15. Craig

    Thanks Alex – your steps are what I plan to work on as well. There is no way to really no for sure yet but I definitely believe on-page optimization was the main target this time. It could have had to do with off-page but I had an original content rich site that I had done virtually no backlinking to and it got decimated as well….the rest of my sites were a mixed bag.

    Thanks for the steady advice. After a week of assessing I have a much better outlook about it all now and I plan to get the site rankings back by on-page de-optimizing and adding some fresh content.

  16. Thesis Best

    Hi Alex,

    I am a happy user of both SKCA and SKD. My experience with the latest Google updates has been the following for my sites:
    – those with sloppy content have either remained same or lost one digit PR (i.e. from 3 to 2, or 2 to 1).
    – those with good content have remained with same PR, however I noticed some traffic decrease from Google, and no decrease from other sources
    – I noticed no difference on over optimization, I don’t stuff keywords and use LSI linking for onsite and backlinks
    – I reviewed page load speed factors and in my experience speed is more important than it used to be.
    – sites where I try to develop a brand are doing well for those where the brand is also searched. It appears that if people are searching for your brand this gives the site more authority.
    – looking on my competition, I see that usually sites ranking better than mine have a lot of twitter activity pointing to their sites. I could not find a similar correlation for facebook likes or g+.
    One thing you may want to look at for SKCA is that in many cases I see that my pages are outranked by sites that have a high domain PR, even though the outranking page does not. So perhaps there is some consideration to be made when the program does competition analysis, I believe it only considers the PR of the pages and not the PR of the domains. However I have no idea how this could be factored in.
    Thanks for all the valuable info

    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Thanks for your feedback.

      And YES – branding and social signals are becoming very important factors in SEO.

  17. Bucee

    Great post as usual. I have already started the on-site part of de-optimizing my sites, and I’m getting better results. I have removed the tags and I will push down the keyword density to max. 2%. I have removed unnecessary widgets, too.

    This Google update seriously damaged many sites, but it is a new opportunity as well, since if do things right, we have chance to get better rankings against sites that have enough money to pay for SEO companies.



  18. Wachira

    I support this idea. thanks Alex
    “But don’t get me wrong, “Penguin” is not perfect and it has affected high quality sites also, the search results are still really bad, but I truly believe that Google will eventually correct this as it is IN THEIR BEST INTEREST to do so.”

  19. Kanute Fleming

    Thank you Alex,

    for this advice. However, some of it is contrary of what “gurus” have told us before, f.ex. that need your main keyword for a page bolded, italicized or underlined.

    I must admit I have generated too many links too fast, and perhaps diversifying too little. I don’t know what I can do with that, except trying to get more high quality links, and from various sources.


    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Hi Kanute,

      With on page SEO the most important thing is to make your keyword placement and decoration look as natural as possible.

  20. Robert

    You said, “The first thing you have to do is make sure your site is still indexed by searching for it by domain name; http://www.yoursitename.com. If it appears in the first position then you’re OK.”

    I have 3 sites where this is NOT true…does that mean I have been Google slapped? What’s the solution?

    Thanks for ALL your great support and help!


    1. Post
      Alex Safie

      Hi Robert,

      If your site does not appear on the first page when you do a search for it by domain name then it has probably been de-indexed.

      There are a lot of reasons for this but if you send me your sites URL’s I can give you a better answer.

      Use the contact me link in the top right corner of this page.

  21. Bill

    Hi Alex,

    My results after Penguin: I have 4 sites:

    Main money offline IM site 6 month old:
    -climbed from PR 1 to 2
    -main KW climbed from 6 to 3 others either climbed or remain the same
    -natural backlinking, no blognetwork or like that
    -on-page with kw or lsi
    -70% of my articles/content above the usually recommended 500words
    -use pictures and some vids when makes sense
    -titles and meta description towards user not necesserily towards Google/SEO,however mentioned/LSI

    Other 3 “test” affiliate sites:
    – 1 review site now #1 for main kw
    – no blognetworks, natural backlinking as above
    – 1 site, unchanged
    – 1 site, slightly dropped, guess due only site i outsource backling as a test, but didn´t continue although initialy kw´s climbed (was cash stripped, inhindsight, thanks god)

    Cause I´m relativel new to this and I´m stubborn I didn´t trust the blognetworks hype for building a local offline “branded” website, I don´t even have a google place site or any social signal yet for any of my sites, but full bio, full address and rich snippet.

    Google´s guidelines are clear. If the IM community decided to break them, no need to cry out, move on, learn and be proud u r still alive and have a 2nd round the ethically use your life and add value to the people, isntead of gaming and spamming,just to get some benjamins.

    Is google perfect, nope. there a profit oriented company and a defacto monopoly and will not remian that for good, but for now…

    Anyhow, my guess is once I incorporate social signals like twitter,fb,G+ and Google places for my main offline site as well as add regularly valueble original content I will finally reach #1 for my main kw and others will rise, especially now that I have both Alex tools before all done manually, in fact my main site/kw would have been a “bad” kw in the software.

    In other words use your best software, your brain, to make a bold decision. I´ve cautious on hyped tools, esp. in the guru community, which in retrospect mostly served me well so far.

    Penguin is a warning not only regarding SEO or Google, but a warning in general common sense, build value in everything you do, this my 2 cent folks.

    Alex and everyone else, thanks and I awaite your feedbacks in the best interest of all of us here.

    “brain, a braveheart and ethically groundedness can push you beyond what everyone ever expected from you”

    1. Post

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