How I Recovered From Google Penguin (Twice)

by Spencer Mitchell July 12th, 2012 

angry-penguin

I'll never look at Penguins the same way again.

Those were the words running through my head a few days after checking Google and noticing that most of my highest-earning sites dropped from above first-page fold to the nether regions of the SERPs.

Not Alone

After joining the huddled masses of desperate webmasters on SEO forums it became readily apparent that Google had struck again.

According to Google, their now-famous Penguin update on April 24th affected approximately 3% of sites in their index. However, a disproportionate amount of Penguin victims were bloggers and SEOs that built backlinks to improve their visibility in Google.

Here's a screenshot of my Adsense impressions for my top-earning sites:

I'm going to show you how I was able to bring this site back from the dead in the weeks following this devastating update.

What We Know

Although Google will never publicly detail the specific factors they use to penalize a site, here's some conventional wisdom garnered from top bloggers, SEO firms and the collected wisdom of forum posts:

Overly Optimized On-Page: Keyword stuffing and over-optimizing meta tags likely put your site on Google's radar.

Too Little Anchor Text Variation: If you have a site about poodle skirts and all of your anchor text are variations of poodle skirts then you're waving a huge red flag to Google that you're backlinks aren't natural.

Links From Unrelated Sites: Again, if you run a site about poodle skirts, its definitely going to raise some eyebrows at Google HQ if your links come from websites about rocketry.

Spammy Links: Many think that Google got better at detecting profile links and mass blog commenting spam.

How I Got Back In Business

After treading water for a few days I decided to take action and see if I could recover at least some of the rankings Id enjoyed.

Here's what I did:

  1. Bought an Aged, High PR Domain From GoDaddy Auctions: Using an awesome service known as DomainPeeker.com, I was able to acquire a 10-year old PR3 domain for $85. I immediately used a 301 redirect to point this domain to one of my KOd sites.
  2. Diluted Anchor Text: Because I had been over-optimizing my anchor text, I build new links using generic anchor text, such as here, this site and bare links. I also changed the anchor text of my existing links where I could.
  3. Distributed a Press Release: This was designed to get my site some new, high PR, contextual white hat links from authority domains.
  4. Built Blog Links: Using some gigs at Fiverr.com I had bloggers write articles with links pointing back to my site (also mixing in generic anchor text).

And The Results…

After about 3-weeks, my site came back above its original spot in the SERPs, with the increase in traffic you'd expect:

Adsense2

I later tried this method on another affected site. It brought it back from the dead, but not back to where it was before. It may not be a magic bullet, but this method may do enough to keep you afloat while you work towards cleaning up your backlink profile over the long-term.

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Spencer Mitchell

Spencer Mitchell is the SEO and coffee addicted founder of several niche websites, including his latest, the online surveys for money hub, SurveySpencer.com where he just posted a review of the paid survey panel CashCrate.com. When he's not locked in an SEO lab, he loves to travel in Asia and Europe.

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20 Responses to “How I Recovered From Google Penguin (Twice)”

  1. Matt Southern says:

    You used Fiverr gigs to recover from Penguin? Wow, that sounds risky and goes against just about everything I've read so far. How did you know you were getting links back from relevant sites? It obviously worked for you so now I'm very curious. Can you explain how you found good people to buy from on there?

    • Spencer says:

      Hi Matt,

      I know it sounds crazy but there ARE a few gems over at Fiverr. There is only ONE type of Fiverr gig that I order and that's blog posts on high PR sites. There's plenty of linkwheel nonsense on there but I tend to stay away from that.

      The only way to find good people is to ask them for their site ahead of time. That way you can check on the PR, link profile etc. The feedback is unreliable as most people buying aren't experienced in SEO. I hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      Spencer

  2. Hi Spencer !!
    I too am hit by Penguin. Do you think:
    1. Changing the permalink settings would help?
    2. If I start out again like you did, by 301'ing the links, will the bad links also affect the new website?
    A reply would be helpful :)

    • Spencer says:

      Hi Jasjot,

      Sorry to hear that Penguin got you too! Keep in mind that when I said 301 I was 301-ing a domain TO my site, not to another domain. It's well understood that this doesn't work. Neither would changing permalinks. What you want to do is get more quality links and trust that will keep you out of their filter. I'd recommend following my steps outlined here.

      Thanks,
      Spencer

  3. Google's Penguin targets link spam in any form. Though some things are out of our control, there are many things that we can control. Adding variation to our anchor text is certainly a useful strategy to avoid the after-effects of Google Penguin update.

    Thanks.

  4. Marlon says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Always encouraging to read that there are people out there who have successfully recovered from Penguin. Should be immensely useful for folks out there who might have fallen victim to Google's latest update. Cheers!

  5. Seeing your Adsense graph made me the same effect as watching someone failing a skateboard trick and hurt his b****… Luckilly Penguin had no affect on my website, however the July update of Open Site Explorer hit my SEOMoz rank hard. Have any informations about this update? Their explanations where not that explicit in my opinion.

    • Spencer says:

      Hi Geoffrey,

      I would count your blessings that your only in the doghouse with SEOmoz! I have no idea how they update their system but I have been using PA/DA more often nowadays. It's actually harder to fake than PR!

      -Spencer

  6. Carlos says:

    Hi Spencer,
    thanks for sharing your success against penguin update. I've got 3 sites that where affected by penguin, but I think because of natural external links pointing to my site lost value, not because my sites were penalized (I never did black hat seo, my content is unique, useful and is shared in social media…)

    I have a question about your methods to recover:
    Did you use the newly acquired domain for your site instead of the penalized one? You mentioned that you put a 301 pointing the new domain to your old domain, but this way, you are still using Surveyspencer.com, aren't you? How does this work?

    And a second question: the blog articles you got from fiverr, where related to your topic and qualitativ?

    I would appreciate some direction to see if I can recover my money making sites back.

    Thanks
    Carlos

    • Spencer says:

      Hi Carlos,

      Penguin is a filter that either hits you or doesn't. If your rankings slipped just a little it was probably the backlinks you list. But if you suddenly tanked one day, it's Penguin.

      Yes, I continued to use the original domain (SurveySpencer.com). The newly acquired one was an aged, PR3 that I got from GoDaddy Auctions. You can easily 301 any domain in your hosting Cpanel.

      The blog articles were sometimes related, sometimes not. I went mostly on PR and age of the site.

      Thanks,
      Spencer

  7. John Romaine says:

    Spencer, are you being serious about the fiverr gigs? From what I've seen over there, that would be the LAST place I would consider getting links.

    • Spencer says:

      I'm so serious John! There are a LOT of webmasters that have no idea how much a link is worth on their site and go to Fiverr. However, they are truly diamonds in the rough.

  8. Joel says:

    First off, thanks for the transparency and for sharing this.

    But this is one of those extreme, "Wait, WHAT?" moments for me.

    Diversifying anchor text to scale usually means MORE profile/blog links, not less. Fiverr articles would more than likely be spun or extremely poor English on less relevant sites.

    Everything in me feels like this shouldn't have worked (I even diversified anchors on one of my sites to no avail)..

    So odd.

  9. Spencer says:

    Hi Joel,

    My pleasure. You can always submit the content to the Fiverr gig providers to make sure you're getting something of quality.

    Thanks,
    Spencer

  10. Johnny says:

    Spencer,

    Congratulations for recovering from the dreaded Google penguin!

    The sudden drop of rank is noticeable but good for you, you were still able to gain the rank back. You must be very hard working for being able to pull it up again. How much is the actual cost you made to get your site up again? Thanks for sharing your experience here.

    - John

  11. Thanks for your support John. All in all is cost be about $250 to get back in business –$85 of which was on the aged domain. Definitely worth the money!

  12. Julie says:

    I have just been hit by the recent penguin update so came across your article. With regards to the redirection of the domain, if the domain has unrelated links, then arenĀ“t these going to add the the problem of links from unrelated pages? as these will be redirected also.

    • Spencer Mitchell says:

      Yes, it could cause problems if your site already has a lot of unrelated links. In your case you should get a domain from your niche.