How To Keep A Penguin Happy

The Google Penguin hit on  24th April and has been one of the biggest impacts on web masters, just about ever. If you build websites and have been following the current SEO advice the it very likely that you will have been hit by Penguin.

It was a change by Google clearly designed to hit people (sites) who “do SEO”.
I won’t get into the Google/SEO argument here but you can find more of my views on Google’s thoughts in other posts here on the blog

What I want to do in this post is explain what Penguin actually is and, importantly, what is not. Also to demystify Penguin v Blog Network.

First off you need to decide if you were hit by Penguin and those I pretty easy. The only real measure is if your site took a dive in the rankings on or just after 24th April.

Penguin is a site wide  penalty so if you are hit you will likely lose ranking for all your keywords.

So what is the Penguin Penalty?

After looking at a lot of sites and talking with a  number of other top marketers who have been making the same analysis we have come to a clear conclusion.

Firstly Penguin is an algorithm change so it measures sites dynamically. So the good news is that if you fix your problems you should see an automatic return of your site.

Penguin is about two things, or at least there are two factors that seem to dominate the results wee have seen. Penguin is all about your site link profile. Importantly it is NOT about site content. There are no changes on your site that will help you get back from a Penguin hit.

Panda is all about site “content quality” so although content is very important that is related to Panda issues and NOT Penguin.

The two things that affected by Penguin are:

1.Backlink anchor text ratio
2.Backlink relevancy ratio

I’ll explain that a little more.

Bisiness conceptA sure sign that SEO is being done on a site is that a lot of the backlinks will have the same anchor text. It is standard practice that if you want to rank for “diet pills” then you will use “diet pills” in your anchor text.

This approach is still very valid. In fact all previous SEO methods are still absolutely valid but they need modifying to meet the new demands from Penguin. So backlinks and anchor text are still the most powerful ways of ranking  a website.

However you need to make sure that your backlinks have much more variation.

Lets talks specifically about anchor text. Looking at my own sites, network sites and reports from other marketers it is very clear that a high percentage of “same” anchor text has had a detrimental effect. In one report I read it showed that (in the sample) NO sites that had less than 50% of “keyword in anchor text” were hit.  Don’t take that to mean that you can potect yourself with just one step but is shows how powerful this measure is.

Remember of course that, like Panda and other earlier changes, Penguin will get some tweaks so you need to look at the “spirit” as well as the “ facts” of the coat-hanger.

Just to clarify you should use any term in your “keyword” when looking at this measure. So if you are targeting “diet pills” then both “diet” and “pills” would be considered keywords. Also if you use  an exact match domaon and target “diet pills” then would still be a keyword focused anchor text.

So you need to have 50% of your keywords to have no anchor text or anchor text unrelated to your keyword. So Click here, no anchor, unrelated keywords. Url if it does not contain the keyword.

The second factor is Backlink relevancy. By that I mean is the site or page that your backlink comes from relevant to your web page. Clearly if your is about “diet pills” and your backlink comes from “New York Attorney” then that would not be relevant.

However the measure of relevancy is likely very wide. It is just not possible to be exact in this kind of measure, either for us or Google. Some things are obvious, some less so. For instance if the  “New York Attorney” page was about suing a pharmaceutical company or a diet company then I guess that would be relevant. As would  likely a link from, say, a site about anti-ageing cream to your page about nail care. They both sit in the beauty niche. Of course relevancy is subjective.

So looking at my stats and again, listening to other marketer who have a large number of sites you need to make sure that at least 15% (better 20%) of your backlinks come from relevant sources.

There is a third factor you should take into account. I don’t have hard facts to support this but, looking at the two factors already mentioned it makes logical sense tat this is, or will be a factor.

Ratio of  do-follow/no-follow links.

Again this fits right in with diverse backlink portfolio, something I have always recommended.
There is certainly some indication that this will help. So make sure you have at least 10% of your links no-follow.

If you achieve the above link ratios then it is highly likely that you will get out of the Penguin penalty and see you sites return to the rankings.

Of course SEO is not an exact science and no-one knows exactly what Google’s algorithm does so nothing is guaranteed. What I can say for certain tough is that if you have been hit by Penguin and you DO NOT follow these guidelines and you will have  zero chance of recovery.

So what should you do?

you need act right now. Firstly decide that your site hit is Penguin. If you don’t track your keyword rankings then you need to start now. That is usually the only way you will know if you get hit by Google’s changes (or at least which one, if you do get hit).

Next you need to look at your backlinks. Unfortunately most backlink data sources are now paid but some like MajesticSEO give you your total links. Whatever tool you use to find your total links, stick with it. You cant use one tool one week and another one  the next week. Their results vary wildly. Don’t worry about who is the must accurate just pick one and stick with it. This is only for comparison not an actual exact measure.

If you have tools that tell you exactly what links you have, if they are do/no follow, your anchor text and her they come from then that’s fantastic. If you don’t then this is the plan to follow.

Now you need to correct the link ratios. Do not do this by trying to alter or remove existing links. Do it by adding new links.

When you know how many links you have you can then estimate how many you need to add of each type. Now it is likely that you have added links based on the old recommendations i.e.  do-follow, keyword in anchor. It’s also likely that you have grabbed links from wherever you could get them. So to start out just assume that all the links you have are do-follow, keyword in anchor text and from a unrelated sources.

Lets say you have a total of 100 links. The to correct your ratios you need to do the following

1.Add 50 links with no or unrelated anchor text
2.Add 15-20  links from related sources
3.Add 10 links that are no-follow

If you work clever you can get the relates source links and the no-follow links in your 50 no anchor text links. So in practice you would only need to add 50 links.

Of course if you have sites that are ranking well or building new sites then this is even more important. Make sure that you keep your link portfolio varied. There are no specifics stats to give any particular ratios but in general it is just a good idea to use as a many different sources as possible like blog comments, video,  free blogs, Squidoo lenses, Hubb pages, Pinterest, article directories and social bookmarks etc.

If you need some help in finding backlinks the try my Link Finder Pro link finding tool. It’s great for finding backlinks from relevant sources a and it comes with a  detailed ebook about links and link building

You you can see it in action at the link below


For those of you who are using the Backlink Network I will be making some changes to better suit Penguin. Free (Gold) backlinks will now be distributed with anchor text only 50% of the time. This will help all sites both new and existing.

There will be no change to Platinum or Exclusive links they will have the same anchor text that you set.

Final note about Backlink Networks is that you should not use it as your only source of links. Like all link sources it should only be one of many. Diversity, diversity, diversity.

Tell us about your experiences with penguin by adding a comment below – and getting a backlink of course!









16 responses to “How To Keep A Penguin Happy”

  1. Morgan Madej Avatar

    Thanks Tony for this Zoo series update!

    Diversity is indeed the key…with anchor text that gives value to the link and enables searchers to decide whether to click or not!

    Let us hope that the big hitters with zillions of automated links and big budgets suffer from the ongoing clean ups too!

    Relevancy to the keywords entered by a searcher on Google and quality content delivered first time is what everyone wants, surely, even internet marketers?

    I read somewhere (I think it was on the Warrior forum) that one might be zapped by a zebra next!

    1. Tony Avatar

      No need to worry about Zebra just yet…
      You have Quail, Raccoon, Spider Monkey, Tapir, Uakari, Vervet, Wallaby and Xerus to worry about first (bet you thought I’d struggle with X huh?)

  2. David F Avatar

    Another possible way of combating the penguin update is to stop over-using your main home page URL in your SEO and start using your inner pages for your URL. So for example if you have a WordPress blog you might take your 3rd post down on your home page, click that post and copy the URL for that post and start building links to that URL and similar URLs.

    1. Tony Avatar

      Good point David.

      Penguin seems to be a site wide penalty and therefor it seems reasonable that you should address this as a site wide issue. Inner page linking should be part of your SEO strategy. Although a keyword focus on each page is still the correct way to go you need to also backlink (appropriately) your inner pages. This is also part of the format of an authority site so it will benefit you all ways round.

  3. Great SEO Packages Avatar

    Very insightful analysis. It is ironic that overdoing SEO caused the problem but doing compensating SEO is the solution.

  4. Lisa Avatar

    Wow, there has been such a tossing around.

    I had only just started using your Backlinks network and was noticing those sites of mine that had it moving slowly upwards. But I removed it immediately after one of the previous updates a month or so ago. Luckily I have not seen a major dive anywhere yet.

    Of all the sites I visit, Tony you seem to have your finger directly on the pulse and your information is very helpful. Keep it coming, OK?

    1. Tony Avatar

      Using backlink networks as source of link juice is still effective. However it should not be your only source of links. It should be part of your diverse portfolio.

  5. Mark Avatar

    Do you think adding an option box for the premium back link to enable 50% exact match anchor is a good idea?

    1. Tony Avatar

      Hi Mark,

      Not sure it is needed for Premium links as you have some control over it anyway and you should be using other sources of backlinks as well. I’ll keep it in mind though as I will be making more changes to BLN.

  6. Ray Joshua Avatar

    This is one of the clearest explanations and recommendations I’ve read so far. Many articles out there that talk about Penguin just made me confused. Thanks, Tony.

  7. Brad Avatar

    I agree with Lisa:

    “Of all the sites I visit, Tony you seem to have your finger directly on the pulse and your information is very helpful.”

    I have found your posts to be incredibly useful for my own network of sites. I look forward to your input about these never ending changes that the big G loves to subject us to. Thanks.

  8. John Avatar

    Thanks for the commentary on Penguin. Great to see a marketer supporting his readership. Appreciate your dialogue. So hard to keep on track these days when greedy google wants revenue from all the adspace. How much money can they justify?

    1. Tony Avatar

      Hi John, Yes Google seem to be adding even more ad space to the search results. Some results now showing ads at the bottom the page. Combine that with any of the news, images, videos, shopping results and local results a “normal” webpage can find it very hard to be found even if it gets on Google’s page 1.

  9. David Cheng Avatar

    Hello Tony,

    Thank you for the great info. As always, I really appreciate that you go to great depths to study these problems and come up with good suggestions for customers and readers alike. The change in the anchor text thing is also a very good move to keep the network strong.


  10. John Avatar

    Can you recommend a comprehensive backlink building guide? I need to build up my skills in this area.
    Appreciate it,

  11. John Avatar

    Try “mp3 player” as a search and find google is running 10 ads on page one. Not in the right margin anymore, now its prime real estate “position, position, position!
    Looks like membership sites are the way to go. Or at the very least build a list and grow it. Like you are doing.
    Search marketing is on a big slide downhill!

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