34 responses to “Penguin 3.0: What Got Hurt, What Didn’t, and 3 Things You Need to Know to Remain Relevant”

  1. Ivan

    Excellent post, one of my niche site got hit it was a EMD and i had a combination of Low Quality and High Quality links not the ones that were created using any software.

    However, my site was also penalized earlier 4-5 months ago and at that time it seemed liked a Neg SEO campaign the links were creating using SER and mostly korean links. I decided to submit a Disavow request and the site started to recover slowly and it was back on 1st page and in Top #3 not this penguin update has again dropped the site in SERP’s not entirely but partially the main keyword is on still dancing between 5-6th page right now.

    While some keywords went down and some still have good standing so i’m assuming the ones that were badly hit were the ones that had the highest % of anchor usage.

    Now i’m not entirely sure what caused the drop this time because i have another site that has links from the same sources but it’s still stable wasn’t affected at all.

  2. John

    Great post and appreciate the analysis. My site got hit during this algo change and its good to know what steps I need to undertake to get back up in the SERPs. I will definitely be building some good video and citation links soon. Thanks again.

  3. Walt Heisenberg Jr

    This correlates exactly with what I’m seeing from my sites.

    I recently started investing in hiring writers that publish articles to some seriously authoritative sites. These sites haven’t been hit but the rankings have increased significantly.

    PBNs are also working like a charm as long as you don’t build spammy backlinks to them, sell them and avoid the basic footprints.

    Great post, I didn’t even know you guys had a blog.

    I expect this article to go viral.

  4. Aim

    Lovely post. Can you also provide some insights on anchor diversity?

  5. Chuck Dougherty

    I think it is about time Google did this the right way. Smacking sites for links that they may or may not have control over (negative seo) created a business for slimeball “marketers”. Instead of getting their customers ranked because they deserve it they would instead pummel innocent hard working small business owner’s websites with shabby links until they got them spanked by Google. All along all Google had to do was what they have been doing for a while judging backlinks and ignoring all but the good ones from authoritative sites so this is long overdue IMHO. Thanks for the great post!

  6. Cartomanzia

    Great post ! Thank’s :-)

  7. alex T

    Nice thanks a lot for the info, for me I will just concentrate on trying to make viral content that gets some natural links and hopefully some will be high quality. If that fails or I need a boost then maybe a private network will come in hand ;)

  8. Zach

    I had been hit with a link penalty earlier this year and finally got it resolved. I lost ALL of my rankings (I went from SERP 10 to SERP 250) on all of my keyowrds. I read and reread all of the “potential” issues this update may cause so I made sure to cut out even remotely suspicious links. I also updated my copy. Well the penalty was lifted, the update has dropped and I have seen ZERO movement of my SERPs in the past week. Frustration seems to be my newest friend!

  9. Adegboyega O. Ogunmola

    It is good to hear that the high quality back-link to authoritative website is a good SEO/SERP measure.
    This points to the update from Penguin 3.0, Google recent algorithm.
    Content providers have to build relational links on a larger measure.
    I am a writer. I am recently aspiring to create a good level of website visibility and mailing list.
    I believe I should keep on writing high quality post and make functional linkage with the relevant website of professional cadre.
    Good post and analysis.

  10. David

    Nice post, its good to see that things are at about a 50/50 split on those links. Honestly speaking it only makes sense that Google works it that way. I mean if we did nothing but sit back and only get links the natural way by people linking to your quality content than you have no control over who links and who doesn’t. Some will come from quality sites, and some won’t. For Google to do anything to far from a middle split than they would be asking for the impossible now wouldn’t they? Good job, thanks for a quality read.

  11. Dan Sheehan

    Great post. It’s nice to get some info about the update from some real data. There’s a lot of ‘opinions’ flying around about this update not based on any actual test data. What I’ve seen with my sites backs up your analysis of Penguin 3.0. I think this is a good update on Google’s part.

  12. RankLogix

    You do not really believe all that do you ? There are plenty of sites ranking right at the top using nothing but GSA spam, SAPE or anything else you can think of. Penguin, as it happened last year, did nothing but make the pockets of Google’s share holders bigger. If you think other wise your sadly mistaken. You can put all the graphs up you want. Good clean white hat sites got hit and spam sites too. If you build a link that is not “natural” to Google’s eyes then your always going to be at risk.

    - What is a “high quality link” now a days ?
    - PBN’s, done properly, with only YOUR link on it, does work like crazy. Def agree on that
    - Negative SEO is a real thing so people should worry about it. Give me a website of yours and you let me know if Neg SEO is a real threat or not.

    Very good post though. IMO But would love to hear a response to what I had to say..

  13. Nick

    Great article! I agree with almost everything.

    I was hit with a three phase negative SEO attack, which diluted all my earned links. As a result I was affected by Penguin 3.0 and my rankings dropped significantly. I’m trying to do the best I can to recover. The website has a lot of time and love put into it and I’m won’t give up on it. I was not quite aware it was happening as I don’t monitor my links, only traffic.

    I don’t create “viral” content so to speak, the things I write are quite specific and for a smaller audience. Earning a tonne of quality links to outweigh links sent to me as spam is difficult.

    In my opinion, the little guys really did loose here, and it has become quite clear when a new update will be released; if you monitor the stock market.

  14. Scott McKirahan

    I think some people may jump to the conclusion that if they don’t have any good links, their site will be penalized. That is not true at all. I have a number of sites with zero quality links that rank on page one for numerous fairly competitive phrases. Of course, those sites have zero bad links, too! I think the bottom line here is that if you have some low quality links, you better get some high quality ones to offset them.

  15. Gabriel

    I really like the PBN idea but how to build a good PBN?I heard that Google started to hit some PBN’s.

  16. Patch

    Given that every other Penguin release could be shown to hit sites with a certain % of keyword anchor text from dofollow sites, why didn’t you include anchor text in this study? Wouldn’t that be the natural place to start?

    Exact anchor text can come from any type of link source so, if you could prove or disprove that the majority of sites that got hit had X%+ keyword heavy anchor texts, then the results in this post would be correlations and not causes.

    After Penguin 2.1 one of my clients got hit badly, about 25/100(ish) of his local rental sites. We did extensive investigation and found that the only difference was that the 25 sites that got hit all had 30% (down from about 45% from previous Penguins) or more total inbound links with keyword anchor texts (including all variations up to 5 words long, and excluding nofollow). Even more interesting was that ALL of his sites used the exact same link sources, a large portion of which were what you would consider low quality; spun press releases, various profiles, wikis, web 2.0 blogs, a few PBN sites.

    I have never seen any evidence that Penguin has ever discriminated about link sources, it’s just that people who over-optimise anchor text tend to also use low quality link sources.

    I have seen plenty of sites hit by previous Penguin updates that only used high quality link sources but abused anchor text. And, after this update I have plenty of sites ranking with manipulative ‘low quality’ links that have very well planned natural anchor texts on ‘spammy’ link sources.

    If you could prove that there is no correlation between the sites in this post that got hit and the % of inbound keyword anchors then I think this post would be conclusive.

    However, in your first two pie charts if just half of the sites in the orange portions had keyword anchors then that would show that on the sites that got hit had 30%+ keyword anchors and the sites that didn’t had much less. That would be a much more sensible place to start before presuming that Penguin has completely changed to look at link source rather than anchor usage.

    If that was the case then this Penguin would be a completely new animal.

    I do agree with the de-valuation rather than penalisation though, that seems to be a trend with a lot of sites dropping rather than getting totally bombed.

  17. Mark

    Thanks for the insight, I was just wondering if a link to my site on a blog with only one or two comments would be worth it for me – doesn’t sound too good…What if the content is relevant to my site?

  18. Mayur

    As of the officials, the penguin 3.0 update is still going on! But Thank god my blog getting a regular traffic, though it’s not penalized yet! Even, it can’t be !

  19. Haiming

    Thank you for the post, I still remember your first post after penguin update in 2012. Your conclusion is very convincing. We all know we should get good quality links to make our site rank. The question is how to find these high quality links? Can you share some tips on this?

  20. Eric Roberson

    I wanted to be clear by what you meant by “sites that were not affected by Penguin were twice as likely to have Youtube links in their backlink profile”. Do you mean links from the descriptions of videos hosted on YouTube?

    Would that be from videos hosted on your own YouTube profile?

    Or is that from video descriptions on other peoples YouTube profiles?

  21. anon

    Seems saturation of over optimized anchors would be a larger contributing factor as well these days. As for a good PBN, Alexa has answered. Don’t rely completely on second tier crap IBL’s.

  22. Jereme

    Good write up. Always nice seeing numbers backing up people’s claims. Quality wins and it is nice to see Google getting better at determining what quality really is. Sure there is still a ton of web spam out there and lots of sites ranking with nothing but spam links but these sites will not last. It is a constant battle and some people are content with the burn and churn style of sites.

  23. Tyson

    So are you saying that if these bad backlinks have created a crazy, ridiculous backlink ratio, then they won’t hurt the rankings? In other words, if these spammy backlinks have given the client 25% anchor text ratio for his money keywords, that doesn’t hurt him?

  24. Jawad Satti

    Great research So You Mean Quality Links Still work it’s time to Focus on Quality Links but What About relevant Quality sites Links If i take link on Home Page is this good idea or not is homepage , or blogroll work or not.

  25. Brett T. Smith

    @Alex – Thank you for the great write up and perspective!

    You said: “…recovery does not come from obsessively worrying about disavowing or removing bad links” rather “getting more high quality sites to link to you”.

    - I 100% agree that getting more high quality links is critical but…

    Question I have is:

    How much time (if any) should be spent towards link detox via disavow of the spammy backlinks?


  26. Caroline

    Late comment, I know, but this blog post was archived in my “to read” folder and I finally got around to it, LOL. :-) Thanks for a great post – you guys should send these out more often. I was getting ready to disavow a bunch of spammy links that were created by the company I hired to create my site, but after reading this, I don’t think I will bother with the disavow tool. Instead I plan to manually build high quality links myself as suggested in your post, and hope that once I have enough of them my poor site will return to a better SERP position. I also plan to add more quality content to the site, as I suddenly realized after reading the above, that it might be viewed as “thin” at under 10 pages total.

    How about silo’ing? Once I have enough content to warrant it, should I restructure my site with multiple articles in different categories, linking each group of articles in series within each category? I have read that on-page SEO does play a substantial role in rankings.

    Thanks again for the great info!

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