Penguin 3.0

Following on from Kerry’s blog post last week about the Penguin 3.0 update, we have put together a guide on how to recover if your website has been affected by Penguin.

Google confirmed that their large scale Penguin algorithm update launched late on Friday 17th October. This update penalises websites that have unnatural backlinks, i.e. sites that have partaken in black hat linking activity which goes against Google’s guidelines. All in all, websites will be demoted in the search rankings if they have a questionable back link profile. The update can also of course push sites back up the SERPs who were previously demoted, if they have cleaned up their back links that is.

If you’ve noticed a drop in rankings and a loss in organic search traffic since the 17th, you need to perform a bank link audit on your website to identify the causes of this.

Penguin 3.0 Steps to Recovery:

Step 1: Identify any harmful links you shouldn’t have

Some useful tools to use for this include:

  • – this shows you a range of factors relating to your website and backlink profile.  You can look at number of referring websites, broken/lost links, which pages are linked to most and much more. What’s especially useful is it displays your most used anchor text phrases (what the links pointing to your site read – find more information about this here


Example from Auto Trader (click to enlarge):

Anchor text on Ahrefs for Auto Trader
As you would expect, the top 10 most used anchor text phrases are mainly brand related. However, if you saw that there were lots of products/services here instead of brand, then this could be why you have been hit by Penguin, as Google will see this as unnatural.

The tool also gives you an overview of your domain rank, total and most recent back links, which you can then export as an Excel document and analyse further.

  • Majestic SEO – you can create an advanced report with this tool which provides in-depth into the back links on a website, including the most used anchor text.
  • – (Open Site Explorer) you can take a look at a website’s inbound links, top linked pages, referring domains, anchor text links and link opportunities.


We would suggest using a combination of these tools to analyse and get an overview of a website’s backlink profiles and identify any spammy links it may have.

Delving a bit deeper…

Good or bad backlink profile?

If you have a natural backlink profile, the majority of your anchor text phrases are likely to be your brand name as well as your websites URL, some products/services and miscellaneous phrases i.e. ‘click here’. If the entirety of your backlink anchor phrases are descriptive of your services or products then alarm bells should be ringing. Therefore, action should be taken to change these links to brand or get them removed if they are questionable and unnatural. If you aren’t sure whether to try and remove a link or not, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you pay for this link?
  • Is the site reputable or does it look like it was purely set up for SEO links?
  • What’s the domain name (URL)? If it’s something like *alarm bells*
  • Is the link/article topic relevant to your business/the website itself?
  • Is this link likely to bring any relevant traffic to the website?


Step 2: Remove the questionable links

Attempt to make contact with the webmasters of the sites where you have bad links. Email or call them and ask if they will kindly remove the link. If they’re unable to or ignore your request you can use Google’s Disavow Tool to notify Google you would like to disavow (ignore) your sites relationship to those links. Getting links removed manually is the preferred option, but as a last resort you can use the disavow tool WITH CAUTION.

Please read guidelines on how to use the tool properly beforehand:

Step 3: Build better links!

You’ve managed to remove all of the bad links, good work! But now what do you do? Start building brilliant links on real sites which are relevant to your industry. Think about what you could do to earn links. Consider your content strategy and work towards attracting links naturally.

To conclude:

If you weren’t hit by Penguin this time around, now is the time to review your linking strategy and analyse your back links to make sure you don’t get hit by the next Penguin update.

If you have any questions or need any help please get in touch. Call us on 01403 261491 or email

penguin 3 blog post image

Posted in Digital Marketing, Google, SEO.

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