You’re probably reading this because either, you or your client’s website has been hit by Google’s infamous Penguin penalty. Well, it’s either that or you live in the arctic and have had an unlucky run in with the local wildlife. If it’s a case of the former, then you’ve come to right place. I’m going to tell you how I recovered from Penguin in three days with relatively little effort.
Actually when I say “little effort” it’s not exactly true. Although the penguin fix I’m about to reveal takes little effort it took me more than a year to figure it out.
When Penguin first struck one of my sites I scoured the web and discovered the same old rhetoric that most so called SEO bloggers are regurgitating. I came across dozens of blog articles that claimed penguin inflictions could be cured by “cleaning up your bad links” and by using the disavow tool seal the deal? Well, it’s all this kind of nonsense that I read, believed and which inevitably lead me to wasting an immeasurable quantity of my time, only to get nowhere fast.
Finally I put my thinking cap on and through a bit of trial, error and a lot of luck I stumbled across a highly effective, easy and super quick cure for Penguin. It’s this cure that I am about to reveal to you.
Where it all began
In early 2012 I registered two new domains. Following advice dispensed by SEObook I chose to go for branded domains because I suspected EMDs were going to lose their magic. A suspicion that proved accurate in months to come I might add. Each of my two domains had the same name with only the TLD being different. For example mywebsite.com and mywebsite.co.uk could have been the domains I registered. I set up a WordPress website on the .co.uk domain variant and redirected its .com counterpart to it.
The primary intention was to have an experimental domain to use for testing Google’s algorithm to help me better understand how it works. The secondary purpose of the domain was as an affiliate website. The hope was that the proceeds from the affiliate commissions would go some way toward paying for the time I was to spend experimenting.
You see, as a respectable SEO, I feel it’s important to have an in-depth grasp of Google’s algorithm which can only be achieved by pushing Google’s boundaries and testing its limits. On the other hand I believe that no self-respecting SEO should ever push boundaries using a client’s website because it could cost them their livelihood. As such, the testing and tinkering side of SEO is more of a hobby for me, which is usually carried out at home on Saturdays when I have some spare time. My full time ‘Ethical SEO’ is my bread and butter and usually takes place between Monday and Friday in an agency. If you’re getting a picture of me as an SEO obsessed fanatic, you’d be quite right. For me, SEO is more than just a job, it’s a lifestyle. Someone once said, “If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life”. I live by this motto. But that’s enough about me for now.
My experimental website consisted of a premium WordPress theme and no more than a few pages of quality hand written content with a small sprinkle of affiliate links.
I blasted the website with a few hundred PR1+ social bookmarks using an automated link building tool called Bookmarking Daemon. Before I knew it, the site was ranking on the first page of Google for numerous keywords that I was targeting. Search driven traffic reached an average of about 200 unique visitors per day.
On the 25th of May 2012 any cause for celebration rapidly diminished along with my site’s rankings. I had been hit and sunk by Penguin 1.1.
Recovering from Penguin – Attempt #1
This was to be my first attempt at recovering from the almighty Penguin so I was feeling quite excited.
Upon initial inspection of the carnage I realised that it was only the site’s home page that was affected. The penalty hadn’t transferred to inner webpages. I reached this conclusion because searching for branded terms in Google brought up inner pages with no sign of the home page. This made sense because my spam blast was targeted exclusively at the home page. This information put to bed those wild theories about ‘link poisoning’ and ‘negative link juice’ that were circulating throughout the SEO community at that time.
I’m not going to delve into great detail describing how over the following months I tried to remove the ‘bad’ backlinks, built lots of ‘good’ links or how I made three disavow tool submissions in an attempt to recover my site’s rankings. The reason I won’t be discussing this is because it didn’t help at all. In fact Penguin 2.0 had come and gone yet not even an inkling of recovery was clocked despite all my efforts.
Recovering from Penguin – Attempt #2
Having read an interesting article by Agent Blackhat in June 2013 about how to rank with spam I concocted my own experiment on how to recover from Penguin.
In July 2013 I executed my experiment to discover some exciting results. Essentially I decided to see what would happen if I migrated my website from its current .co.uk domain to the other branded domain I had registered at the same time. Because both domains only differed in TLD I didn’t need to rebrand and so the process was pretty straight forward.
Once the migration of the website and database from my .co.uk to my .com was complete I effectively had a clean slate. But the problem was I didn’t have rankings because all my links were pointing at the penalised .co.uk site.
Next I simply 302 redirected the penalised .co.uk domain to my healthy.com site.
Within three days my rankings bounced back with vengeance. To begin with they weren’t the full rankings I remember losing over a year before hand, but they were about 80% of what I lost.
Having beaten Penguin I decided that this domain would best serve me as a cash cow instead of an SEO test tube experiment. I spend the next few month link building to my .com domain (white hat style) and refining my content to maximise conversions.
By now I had returned the site to its former glory if not surpassing it. With about 200 visitors to my site per day I began to see the fruit of my efforts pile up in my Affiliate Window account. All was well
My online money machine suddenly ground to a halt on October the 4th 2013 as Google’s most recent incarnation of Penguin (2.1) scourged the internet.
Upon inspection I realised my site had taken a serious blow. I was back to square one. My Google webmaster tools showed I was getting less than ten visitors per day from Google.
At this point I was sure that the penalty had passed through the redirect from the .co.uk site and into the .com site. To tackle this I simply disconnected the 302 redirect.
Within a week my rankings recovered from penguin for the second time. Although my site certainly had recovered, it didn’t fully regain its pre-penguin 2.1 rankings for some reason or another. Many keywords that had just been hammered down from the first and second page in Google to page 10 or below by penguin 2.1 bounced back to about the page 2 and 3 mark after the removal of the 302 redirect. I interpreted this as an indication that the Penguin penalty had yet again been evaded.
I suspect that my rankings didn’t recover completely because I was now missing all that extra link juice that I previously was getting from the 302 redirected .co.uk domain which of course was now disconnected.
I recently shared news of my penguin recovery experiences on with a fellow SEO who concurred a similar experience. In fact he claimed to use this same technique except with 301 redirects and boasted to have resuscitated the same website 4 times already. Each time, he simply migrates his website to a newly registered domain, enjoyed great rankings for a few months until Penguin resurfaces, after which his site gets tanked. Then he repeats the process again.
Experimentation is the key to discovering something new and amazing. It takes time, effort and persistence. By each of us sharing what we’ve learned through our own experimentation we, as community, become stronger through our shared knowledge. I hope you’ve been inspired by my experiences to do some experimenting of your own. And if you have, then please come back and share your comments on what you learned along the way.