Penguin 3.0 Is Coming and It’s Time to Clean House

Anyone who’s involved in Internet marketing can tell you that Penguin is more than a cute little seabird that lives in Antarctica. The Penguin 2.0 algorithm was released by Google in October 2013 and basically penalized websites for having unnatural, irrelevant, low-quality, spammy backlinks. Those that may come from link farms or sites that pay for backlinks.

Anyone who’s involved in Internet marketing can tell you that Penguin is more than a cute little seabird that lives in Antarctica.

The Penguin 2.0 algorithm was released by Google in October 2013 and basically penalized websites for having unnatural, irrelevant, low-quality, spammy backlinks. Those that may come from link farms or sites that pay for backlinks.

The “penalty” Google issued directly affected the website’s search engine results ranking and website traffic, which of course would affect the company’s sales and lead generation efforts. So needless to say, this little bird was devastating to some businesses.

If you’re not sure if your site’s traffic was affected by Penguin, you can visit this free tool to see if in fact your website traffic had dropped in correlation with the time of Penguin’s 2.0 release: http://reconsideration.org/penalty-tool/

Now with talk of Penguin’s big brother, 3.0, coming down the pipeline, it’s prudent to do a link audit on your website to avoid possible fallout.

So where do you start?

You can check your own website’s backlinks to ensure those sites that are linking to you are relevant and synergistic to your own site’s content.

To do this, you can use several free backlink checkers, such as: http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/,http://www.backlinkwatch.com/, or http://www.iwebtool.com/backlink_checker .

You can also go into Google’s Webmaster Tools and select your website.

Then, go down the list and see who’s linking to you. This may be laborious, but well worth it. Sites like Removeem.com have free “predictor” tools, where you can see how many bad links your website may have. And it also offers paid-for self-service and full-service link removal options.

Next, it’s literally a manual process of visiting the “bad” link’s website and contacting its representatives to remove the link going to your site. If there’s several “bad links,” it’s best to create a form letter. According to searchenginewatch.com, the letter should state that you are a website owner trying to recover from a Google penalty and would like the following links removed. Then, list the URLs where the links can be found, the URL on your site they point to, the anchor text ─ all the info needed to easily find the link you’re requesting be removed.

Sometimes, it’s easy to find contact information of “bad links.” You simply visit the site and can find email or similar information in the footer or “Contact Us” area of the website.

Other times it’s harder, and you may need to engage in some free tools to help determine a bad link’s website owner. According to searchenginewatch.com, such tools are:

  • Domaintools.com: If you want to find out who owns the site your link is on, visit domain tools or type “whois.sc” in front of a URL.
  • C-Class Checker: If you have a list of all the links you want to get rid of, you can run them through a bulk C-class checker to see how many of them are on the same C-class.
  • SpyonWeb: If you only have 1 URL to work with, this tool lets you find out what other domains they are associated with. Just put in a website URL, IP address or even the Google analytics or AdSense code and you can find all of the websites that are connected to it. Keep a record of all efforts to contact “bad links,” as it will show Google you’ve been making a good effort to get rid of these irrelevant links.

If you find that Google’s last Penguin update has affected your website and you believe there may have been an error of some sort, there is a form on Google you can fill out to pinpoint search terms that you believe you shouldn’t be penalized for.

Just remember, when it comes to SEO backlinks, it’s all about quality not quantity. Relevance is key. As long as you keep it lean and clean, all should be fine when our little seabird friend comes to visit again.

Backlink Pruning: A Staple ‘Best’ Practice, Especially in Penguin’s Aftermath

Many direct marketers are familiar with the practice of list hygiene. In a nutshell, it’s going through your email file, looking at inactive, duplicate or bad emails, and removing them or “purging them” from your list. Having a “clean” list means it’s more relevant and responsive. The same holds true for backlinks … especially in lieu of recent Google algorithm updates like last year’s Farmer/Panda and this year’s Penguin, which penalize websites for low quality irrelevant content and backlinks.

Many direct marketers are familiar with the practice of list hygiene. In a nutshell, it’s going through your email file, looking at inactive, duplicate or bad emails, and removing them or “purging them” from your list.

Having a “clean” list means it’s more relevant and responsive.

The same holds true for backlinks … especially in lieu of recent Google algorithm updates like last year’s Farmer/Panda and this year’s Penguin, which penalize websites for low quality irrelevant content and backlinks.

It’s always a best practice, from a search engine hygiene standpoint, to monitor and “prune” your backlinks to make sure you don’t have spammy or irrelevant websites linking back to you.

And now more than ever, with Google’s latest update, it’s prudent to check your own website’s backlinks to ensure those who are linking to you are relevant and synergistic to your own site’s content.

Here’s what you need to know (and do!):

First, check out some free online tools that do this, known as “backlink checkers.” Some that I use are:

But there are many out there. You can simply type a search for “free backlink checker tool” and see which one appeals best to you.

Second, after you plug in your website’s URL in the backlink checker tool, go down the results list and see who’s linking back to you. Note: This is a laborious process, but well worth it; especially if you noticed your traffic and SERP placement dropped recently and you may have speculated that Penguin is to blame.

Next, identify the sites that appear to be irrelevant and non-related to your website—a site in a totally different industry or one that is blatantly spam. Then it’s simply the manual process of visiting the bad backlinks website and contacting them to remove the link going to your site.

If you happen to find dozens of irrelevant and potentially harmful websites, for the sake of time management, it’s best to create one form letter and send to each asking each site to remove its backlink to your site in an effort to avoid/recover from a Google penalty.

List the specifics about the irrelevant URL, such as where it can be found (its entire URL), where it links to (which page on your site), and any anchor text. Your goal is to give the other website as much useful information as possible so they can easily find the link and remove it from your site.

Sometimes, it’s easy to find contact information for the irrelevant backlink’s website owner. You simply visit the corresponding website link and search their site for contact information or a “Contact Us” page.

Other times it’s a bit harder, and you may need to do a bit of sleuthing and use some additional free tools to help determine the website’s owner. Such tools are:

  • Domaintools.com: If you want to find out who owns the site your link is on,
    visit domain tools or type “whois.sc” in front of a URL.
  • C-Class Checker: If you have a list of all the links you want to get rid of,
    you can run them through a bulk C-class checker to see how many of them
    are on the same C-class.
  • SpyonWeb: If you only have 1 URL to work with, this tool lets you find out

what other domains they are associated with. Just put in a website URL,
IP address or even the Google analytics or AdSense code and you can find
all of the websites that are connected to it. Keep a record of all efforts to
contact “bad links,” as it will show Google you’ve been making a good effort
to get rid of these irrelevant links.

If you received notification from Google or found that the Panda or Penguin updates have affected your website’s rank and SERP visibility and believe there may have been an error of some sort, there is some recourse …

Google has a quick and easy form you can fill out to pinpoint search terms that you believe you shouldn’t be penalized for.

Good luck!