Got Penguin troubles? This is the start of what appears to be a very long blog article on how to successfully recover from Penguin. Years ago, we started doing SEO for our website and for clients as well. I would test out various link building tactics on my own site before ever using it on clients sites. If I liked how things turned out, we would use them for clients as well(luckily, we would never use anything untested or garbage on our clients sites. Only high-quality stuff. I'd never do anything to compromise anyone else). We already had great SERP's, and a solid backlink profile, so what could go wrong? How naive of me!
So our rankings were great, and traffic was perfect. We started slipping in our top keyword from #1 position to #2. Time to do some linkbuilding to outperform this crappy company that was overtaking us. That specific 'crappy' company was a website that makes us and our competitors pay for leads. They SEO the local keywords to death, get top ranking then charge us money every time they send a lead our way. A terrible type of company that has no loyalty to the customers, only to the top company that pays them the most money. I'm pretty sure we all know the type of company I am talking about. I couldn't let it stand that they were outdoing us. We are a local business that works hard for our clients, and always does right by them. I didn't want this mediary company coming in and stealing the entire profit margin. So time to get to work.
This is where we failed. I paid for a link building service. I know I know, but every has done this at some point to round out their link portfolio. Our previous link portfolio was all squeaky clean, yet this company with a crap portfolio was outranking us. So I imagined that if we added in some poor links, we would round out and win. Long story short, they build a ton of bad links, they over-produced what was asked, and in the end, we had a VERY spammy profile. No chance of getting those links removed. Then penguin 1.1 rolled out not long after. May 2012 was a tough month, the beginning of a tough year. Doesn't look like a huge drop? Try going from 1831 visitors/month to 500. That's a 2/3 drop in business!
Noone in the industry had any ideas of how to recover from Penguin. In fact everyone had ideas, but they were all completely wrong. The most common answer was to buy a new domain name, and just move on. What about for businesses that have invested so heavily in advertising said domain name? Noone knew anything. So I researched and read and asked everyone. Even tweeted Matt Cutts several times, but never got an answer. Noone on Google Webmaster forums could provide any help. I finally decided what if I disavowed all those spammy backlinks, and waited forever? Surely there would be an end of the dark times then. The problem is, how do you go through ~20-30,000 backlinks and disavow in a human timeframe? Already overworked, and not able to devote the 200 hours to do this. There must be a shortcut!
Liquidator was the first shortcut found. This tool trolled the internet for backlinks, and found ones that should be disavowed. This was a fantastic idea, and I was very excited by it. The problem was that it only found ~1000 backlinks. I knew there was more, and that only scraped the surface. Their tool also doesn't allow you to add in your own backlink lists. Waste of time. Then I found LinkResearchTools.
Finally the end was near! LRT's Link Detox tool(www.linkresearchtools.com) allowed you to add in your own backlinks, and it build a list of all the spammy links that needed to be detoxed. So I scraped the internet of every backlink I could find. I went to Majestic and grabbed the fresh and historic lists, I went to Moz and paid for their list, Google Webmaster Tools had a linkdump, SEO Spyglass provided another list, linkquidators list, and also the linklist report from every link building service ever used. This provided as complete of a profile as humanly/robotically possible. I put them all into LRT, and let the link detox generate the report for me. Took it awhile to crawl every link to see if they were still active or not. After that, I had to process each link individually. Thankfully, LRT provides the option to disavow the entire domain, and then all the relevant links disappear from having to go through. This cut down the crazy seo-death websites out of the list. Next step was to only look at the 'worst of the worst' type of links. These I automatically disavowed all. Left me with about 1000 links to manually go through. 29/30th of the job finished! From there, I went through each and classified them as either disavow or trusted(based on my own knowledge of the link and Cempers trust). I generated my disavow and uploaded it to Google.
Wait some more
Google dangles Penguin 3.0 in front of us for another 2 months, promising the update relatively soon, yet weeks go by.
Finally, October 18th hits. I wonder why our business phone is off the hook, and then I realize BAM, Penguin 3.0 is out, and the rankings are fixed! You can see the days that Google was testing out Penguin 3.0 as well, they are denoted by the spikes in rankings.
Too Long; Didn't Read: Build a linklist in excel with EVERY link repository in there. Use LRT's Link Detox, build your disavow file, then wait 43234234 months for Google to update Penguin. Then sit back and enjoy!
PS. DON"T BUILD SPAM BACKLINKS!