My Google Penguin Recovery

One and a half years ago

On Tuesday, April 24, 2012, this website was massively penalised by Penguin 1.0. A Google algorithm we now know targets poor-quality backlinks. I had a job to do.

Google Analytics - Penguin Penalty Chart

Cleaning Up

Just over six months later, I wrote a blog post documenting all the things I had done to get out of Penguin Hell. Here is a summary of what I did:

  • Stopped doing 301 redirects from an expired domain
  • Dropped an RSS feed in the sidebar
  • Cleaned up the Footer
  • Removed the use of ctags (could look like hidden keywords)
  • Changed forum signatures to be brand focused
  • Dropped signatures/links from dormant profiles
  • Stripped out backlinks from profile-scraping websites
  • I disconnected my PageRank tool and its low-quality backlinks
  • Shut down a single-page website providing backlinks
  • Disavowed one website

In the early days, it was not so clear what Penguin targeted, so I covered all bases and anything that could be to do with “over optimisation”.

Then I sat and waited, waited, and Waited.

Eventually, in May 2013, Penguin 2.0 came out, and I saw a slight recovery. Something in that list may have caused a granular improvement (John Mueller said the algorithm is granular in nature).

So it was time to start again and look for more ways to clean things up.

More Disavowing

I recently signed up for CognitiveSEO, which is a backlink analysis tool. I used it to analyse and discover suspect backlinks, the worst of which I used to create a more complete disavow file.

Saying that I only disavowed 19 domains and 5 links out of the 800ish domains discovered. I picked the extremely obvious zero-value domains such as search or scraper websites. The one I added earlier also stayed on the list.

Currently, only 6 links are detected from any of the disavowed domains.

The Switch

I’d not been happy with my hosting for several reasons. This includes a time when my website was hacked, and then later, I discovered many other websites on their server had also been hacked, and they had done nothing about it.

I also wanted to see what would happen if I switched to US hosting instead of using a local Australian one. So I signed up with a well-known cheap US host and have been happy. My website is actually faster in Australia!

The Recovery

October 4 is the official date of Penguin 2.1. On the 7th, the change for me started to be noticeable. I’m now confident that this is not just a traffic fluctuation.

Google Analytics - Penguin Recovery Chart

The graph shows weekly values for organic visits only. Traffic is back to what I saw just before this all started.

The Lack of Conclusion

Many factors and variables are involved, so it is impossible to say what caused the change confidently. To try and minimise uncertainty, I tracked my actions and kept them to a minimum.

Could I have been in a bad neighbourhood with my hosting, or was one of the few domains I disavowed pulling me over the edge? Or maybe they fixed a bug in the algorithm! Who Knows.

The main thing is that it looks like I’m over it. Hurrah!

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