Penguin 3.0 is coming – are you ready for it?

It’s been well over 300 days since the last Penguin update. For a lot of businesses, this was a hard time, riddled with lowered sales and traffic problems. Even though they had the opportunity to beat Penguin using the Orca method, a lot of webmasters chose to wait for recovery instead.
And finally  – at the latest SMX event, Gary Illyes mentioned that the new Penguin would be rolled out during the next week.

You can recover now or wait till the next Penguin, slowly dying with no traffic. But is your site ready for recovery? Find out with this quick Penguin-proof checklist!


Penguin update – it’s all about the links

The Penguin algorithm targets low-quality backlinks pointing to your site. Even if you got away with your grey or black hat link-building strategy and survived the last Google changes, it may not be the case now.

Google listens to its users. And Penguin 3.0 will definitely be targeting links that are made without any purpose (basically, links that do not result in any incoming traffic).

How can you check if your website got hit during the Penguin update?

  1. Log into your Google Analytics account and check if you’ve lost your organic traffic. If you see any significant ranking drops around 2 – 3 days from the Penguin update, you were probably hit with the Penguin update.
  2. Check your total organic visibility using SearchMetrics. This is an awesome tool for a quick analysis of any ranking changes.

To be 100% sure of it, check if the dates you lost traffic and the date of the Penguin update match. Below, you can find a complete date list of Penguin updates (starting from the very first Penguin update):

Penguin #1 — April 24, 2012
Penguin 1.1 (#2) — May 25, 2012
Penguin #3 — October 5, 2012
Penguin 2.0 (#4) — May 22, 2013
Penguin 2.1 (#5) — October 4, 2013

Below is an example of a penalized site. As you can see – there is a huge loss of visibility according to SearchMetrics:

Which links are good?

I could probably write another blog post (a very long one) on this topic alone because good links are not made by you – they’re given to you by the user in gratitude for your service or product.

The key question here is: If I post a link to my site/service/product – will it help users solve their problems? Or will it be treated as spam?
Let’s look at the different types of links that you may have and what they could do for your site.

The good, the bad, and the ugly links

I bet every webmaster has all sorts of problems with removing links pointing to their websites, and it can sometimes be a really tough call. Especially because Google makes mistakes sometimes.

After all – these links have worked for 4 years so far, so they shouldn’t be able to hurt your site now, right?

Because of all this, I’ve divided links into three simple groups:

  • The Good links
  • The Bad links
  • The Ugly links

The Good links are made by users as a token of their gratitude for your product or service.

They mostly do not contain money keywords in their anchor text, so it is clear to Google that they are natural. In fact – links made by users bring in traffic too (and sometimes even drive conversions).
Hint: If you would like to see how much traffic you get from each backlink – use this custom report made by our team. It will provide useful information about the amount of traffic sent to your site.

The Bad links are those coming from penalized/banned domains and created automatically or manually as e.g. forum profiles, fake comments, etc.

The ugly links don’t have to be bad. Sometimes even though a domain does not look attractive to users, it still has a very good history and is still visible in Google Organic. This is essentially true for pretty much every site-wide link pointing to your site – some of them are good, some not.

Recover from Google Penguin 3.0 – a step by step guide

Here you can find the key tasks that should be done in order to be ready for the inevitable upcoming Penguin refresh.

Find every single link pointing to your domain

Do not rely only on your Google Webmaster Tools links report – go deeper, combine data from some third-party software providers like Majestic SEO,, and Link Research Tools.

Merge data into one list

Using ScrapeBox or Microsoft Excel, you can easily merge every single link data into one file, removing duplicates at the same time. Having all of them on one list makes backlink analysis easier.

Sort backlinks by anchor text

By doing this you can get a quick overview of what’s going on with your link profile. So first – start your analysis from links with a money keyword as their anchor.

Check if links are indexed

Doing this at the very beginning of the link audit will speed up your workflow. If a link is not indexed, but is pointing to your site, it’s good to disavow it. If a site is of good quality, it never has issues with that.

After that, you will have less links to analyze.

Links that you should focus on first:

  1. When it comes to disavowing links – pay special attention to links with the money keyword as anchor text. Find and disavow low-quality links.
  2. If there are a lot of links from one domain pointing to you (probably site-wide links), check where are they embedded. Links from the footer don’t count, but if they are using money keywords they can hurt your site.
  3. Do you have a lot of links from forum profiles without any posts and history? Try to remove them or disavow them.
  4. Pay special attention to your link neighborhood – the more outgoing do follow links, the worse a page becomes.
  5. Did you use SEO directories in the past? I bet most of them are penalized now – so don’t bother disavowing all of them. Pay special attention to those which are badly optimized and are linked from different parts of a page (search results, category page, submission page, and so on).
  6. Links from content, with exact match keywords, added automatically to various sites. Yes – they need to go too.

Should you disavow each URL or the whole domain?

In general – if you think that a link you are disavowing is bad or ugly/bad – it’s better to disavow the whole domain. This will prevent you from any further changes in your backlink profile.
You should especially disavow the whole domain if, during the link analysis, links were returning a 404 HTTP Header code.

Add your disavow.txt file to your Google Disavow Tools

After the cleaning is done – add your fresh disavow.txt file to your Google Webmaster Account.
Remember to save it as a UTF-8.

Wait for the recovery

Voila – you’re done.
Now just wait for the Google Penguin update, and earn more money with your good old domain!

What to do next?

If you were hit by Google Penguin Update, and you have managed to beat the penalty – remember the quality of links you want to get for your site.
Remember quality over quantity. Sometimes it’s better to get new links more slowly but focus on their quality. Check the amount of traffic you can get from them and how much value will they provide the users with.

Still no recovery?

If you have time – wait and work on your backlinks. If you have way too many backlinks to analyze and you are afraid that you will not do this objectively – feel free to contact us, or head to the Link Audits section of our page and contact us using the special “Penguin Emergency” contact form there.

We use only top-quality tools, like Link Research Tools, to perform high-quality, deep analyses of each and every link.

We are also one of the three Certified Link Research Tools agencies worldwide.

Our link detox experts check each link manually to be 100% sure that they disavow only the worst links.

The disavow file was added but nothing changed?

We use Link Detox Boost which does a deep crawl of each disavowed link to speed up every recovery.

Don’t waste your time – let us help you recover faster than anybody ever did.