Google Penguin 2.1: Who Got Hit?

PenguinsEverybody's favorite (or least favorite) aquatic bird is back, and now site owners are once again asking how Google Penguin 2.1 has affected their website.

As he did for Penguin 1.0 and Penguin 2.0, Glenn Gabe at G-Squared Interactive has analyzed 26 websites impacted by the algorithmic change to determine what factors contributed to sites that got hit.

Gabe, who has now analyzed more than 275 sites hit by Penguin, told Search Engine Watch that he believes Google Penguin 2.1 had a much greater impact than its predecesor.

Why Sites Were Hit by Google Penguin 2.1

Not surprisingly, Penguin 2.1 appears to have identified newer link spam – those links that were created at a later date than the Penguin 2.0 rollout in May, Gabe said.

Of that link spam, Gabe said the following represent the culprits:

  • Forum spam: This includes comments in forums with exact match anchor text links.
  • Forum bio spam: Biographies of forum users containing exact match anchor text links.
  • "Do follow" blogs: Blogs that don't add nofollow to the links posted. "Let's face it," Gabe said. "Being listed on do-follow resource sites can absolutely send Google a signal that you are trying to game links."
  • Blogroll spam: Watch for blogroll links gone wrong. "Some may be fine," Gabe said. "If you are unsure which ones are bad versus good, ask for help from a seasoned SEO."
  • Spammy directories: If you've used spammy directories in the past, and still have links out there, Gabe said "nuke them, have them nofollowed, or disavow them."
  • Blog comment signature spam: Google seems to be targeting these links even when they're not followed, Gabe said.

Gabe also spotted a new culprit: classified websites showing up with heavy unnatural links leading to destination websites. He also said that, unfortunately, he has seen proof of negative SEO rearing its ugly head during Penguin 2.1.

"I’ve had several companies reach out to me that are claiming negative SEO," Gabe said. "And after looking at the situation, I have to agree with them. And worse, I saw an entire business category (in a geo area) get hit with spammy links. That seemed very suspicious. All the business owners (who are competitors) were all blindsided."

Tips and Recovery Recommendations

It's business as usual on how to deal with cleaning up your site for the next visit from Penguin, Gabe said. That means downloading and analyzing the links, creating a plan of attack to remove and disavow as needed, and if you have to, remove pages (unless they're important).

Here are Gabe's top five recommendations on what to do if you've been hit by Penguin 2.1:

  • Understand that Penguin heavily targets unnatural links. Your new content and social activity won't trigger a recovery.
  • Thoroughly analyze your link profile, while keeping a keen eye on exact match and rich anchor text. That's what Penguin targets.
  • Remove those links if you can, and disavow the remaining links. And use the domain operator in the disavow file when the domain is low-quality. Don’t try and target specific URLs on a spammy domain, when you can nuke the entire domain.
  • Make sure more unnatural links aren’t being added as time goes on. Gabe said he's had a number of business owners think they cleaned up their situation, only to get hit harder during Penguin 2.1. After checking their link profiles, you can clearly see more spammy links were added during the spring, summer, and fall. This is what got them hit by Penguin 2.1.
  • Move fast and be aggressive. Gabe said he has seen Penguin recoveries during Panda updates, so there is a possibility of recovery prior to the next official Penguin update.

Image Credit: JCVI

About the author

Jessica Lee is a marketer specializing in web content strategy and B2B/B2C writing. Since 2005, Jessica has been in the business of content and communications, with the past several years focused on the web marketing space.

Prior to launching her consulting business, bizbuzzcontent, Jessica was responsible for content strategy, development and marketing for Bruce Clay Inc. – a global SEO firm, where she served small businesses and Fortune 500 clients. Jessica's background also includes positions in traditional marketing, communications, broadcasting and publishing.

Jessica has a bachelor's in communications and public relations from San Diego State University. She also contributed to the book “Search Engine Optimization All-in-One For Dummies” 2nd edition.