538 responses to “Penguin Analysis: SEO Isn’t Dead, But You Need to Act Smarter (And 5 Easy Ways to Do So!)”

  1. Russ Jones

    What did you use to determine whether the linking sites were in the same “niche”?

    1. Chris @ NPI

      You can use for example tools like MajesticSEO or SEMRush. But’s it’s not fast and easy :)

      1. Gautam

        google keyword tool and semrush are best tools for you.

      2. David

        Thanks for a decent post.
        Its nice to read something that you know somebody actually went through the trouble of writing for you to read, instead of the search engines.
        I’m not surprised about any of it really. Google is just constantly finding new ways to squeeze affiliate sites, or anyone else trying to dance around the rules.
        If your trying to make money on niche sites, especially by using free traffic from Google to do it, watch what your doing, and how your doing it. Google doesn’t want you gaining strength with keyword stuffed anchor text so that they will send you more traffic! Google doesn’t like being used, or abused, that’s why you can get away with non-keyword links coming from irrelevant non-niche related sites. Google doesn’t give as much link juice for those, and therefore you will not get the ranking strength the power, or the free traffic as easy!
        Thanks again!
        Relentless Traffic

      3. Cathie

        You mean you can determine niche sites with Majestic SEO and Ahrefs? How?

  2. Ian lurie

    Fantastic analysis! I suspect the over-concentration in a niche is a side effect, though. If you’re trying to overstuff anchor text, you’ll tend to end up in the same niche an awful lot, because certain niches make it far easier to purchase – um, acquire – links.

    I second Russ’s question – how did you determine niche? I’m interested in the methodology.

  3. Tamal Anwar

    That’s a great timely information you provided. I was thinking few days about putting my eggs in different baskets. My main blog is about internet marketing and was thinking about building other small sites around it. I now see a ray of light in this tough (SEO) economy :D

  4. admin

    What we did was we classified the niche of each website (manually), then classified the niche of each backlink and compared what percentage of them were in the same niche.

    For the backlinks, we used an internal classification algorithm to classify the niches of backlinks (the algorithm is correct ~95% of the time). We also took the top 25 most authoritative backlinks and had those semi-automatically classified. We calculated those two percentages independently of each other (so we had a relevancy for all links and a relevancy for the most powerful links) and averaged those together.

    In both cases we only counted unique domains to prevent a sitewide from a large site from skewing the results.

    We stuck to pretty broad niches/categories to make sure that our algorithms were as accurate as possible. So a credit card site and a loan modification site would be classified as being in the same category.

    1. Michael Cottam

      I’d be interested to see a comparison based on whether the linking PAGE appears to be about a similar topic, rather than a linking SITE being in the same niche.

      If I were Google, I’d want to give a lot of juice to a link from a story in the NY Times that’s about blue widgets to a page on http://www.bluethings.com that talks about their blue widgets. The NY Times and bluethings.com wouldn’t be in at all the same niche, but there would be a number of relatively uncommon words (“blue”, “widgets”) on both pages that ought to be a signal that the link is truly relevant. And, algorithmically, that’d be a snap to implement :-)

      If the two sites being in the same niche mattered a lot, that would mean than getting written up on news sites, receiving awards, etc. wouldn’t be worth as much as your friends in the industry exchanging links with you :-(

    2. Dmdata

      Good article… but you have completely side-stepped the BIGGEST issue of all – that of Negative SEO and how it will impact the SERPs in competitive niches.

      What’s stopping your closest competitors from going to Fiverr.com, spending $15 – $30 to get someone (with the help of an automated tool such as Xrumer, SE Nuke or Scrapebox) to create 1’000s of spammy backlinks to your site with a 100% anchor text being your “money keyword”… What then… What do you do when google’s algo penalizes your site for having far too many unatural backlinks and drops you to page 300..?

      Terry Kyle was quick to spot this and informed his subscribers of a Negative SEO case study on his trafficplanet forum. This has now gone viral and now we have the industries other top SEO experts, Rand Fishkin, Arron Wall and Dan Thies to name a few giving their analysis, and to be frank it is not pretty, asides from the Negative SEO method method described above, a site that is already heavily penalized by google can be used to trash a competitor with page #1 rankings with something as simple as a 301 domain redirect.

      This isn’t fiction or misinformation this is happening right now to honest ‘white hat’ web publishers who wouldn’t dream of manipulating the search engines in any way.


      1. admin

        I am not entirely convinced that this is an overoptimization penalty. I think it is just as likely that it is overoptimization link devaluation.

        Otherwise, as you said, negative seo would be far too easy. And if it is a penalty and not a devaluation we will find out as more negative seo case studies are done.

  5. Russ Jones

    Makes sense. We are going to be doing similar with our LDA API – will be interesting to see how it turns out.

  6. e

    Great analysis! It’s nice to see someone doing a Penguin-post mortem based on data instead of shots in the dark. Love MSM longtime, but you need to post more; preferably more stuff based on all the data you’re collecting from subscribers…maybe a sub-only thing with goodies?

  7. Greg Morrison

    Robert, awesome post my man – you broke it down perfectly.

    Will be in touch…


  8. Jason Nelson

    Some really good data here. It really drives home the point how damaging it now is to overstuff your anchor text. Thanks!

  9. Tim

    The graphs basically show no pattern that I see – highest percentages are shown for both penalized and non-penalized sites and I don’t see how you came to these conclusions.

  10. Wandspiegel

    Pretty accurate take on the situation from much more limited data set, kudos for sharing your big data.

  11. Local Surge Media

    Great post. I have been waiting for someone with “real” data to come forward with “real” information we can take action with. I sincerely thank you for this post as should every other seo who reads this!

  12. admin

    @Tim: The height of the bars on the graph look similar, but if you look at the labels for the Y axis, you will notice that the scale of the ‘not penalized’ vs ‘penalized graphs’ are not the same. For instance the longest vertical bar for the “not penalized anchor diversity” is 12%, while the longest vertical bar for the “penalized anchor diversity” is 40%. So there is a pretty big difference.

  13. TK James

    Nice in-depth analysis… I’m still trying to get my head straight after that murderous update. But all those tips should greatly help my sites in the coming weeks. Evolve or perish, right? :)

  14. Arwin

    Great inputs. I hope this Penguin update will just be temporary and have it updated soon.

    1. Kirk

      How true that is! This algorithm change has rewarded the wrong things, and Google missed the point that doing SEO does not mean poor quality. They need to find a balance.

  15. Geoff

    What about site-wide links? Could a keyword stuffed site-wide link be enough to get me in trouble with penguin or do you think the penguin algo would only count that as one link as far as keyword diversity? Also, what about on-page over optimization? Do you not think this was a significant factor in the penguin algo?
    Thanks and great analysis!

  16. admin

    @Geoff: We only counted links coming from unique domains. I don’t know how Google counts it, but I doubt that a couple sitewides would be enough to penalize you, assuming the rest of your backlink profile was good. Also, this update does not necessarily mean that overoptimized sites got penalized. It can also just mean that overoptimized links (and anchor text in general) has been de-emphasized, so links that had a lot of positive impact on your sites rankings before now don’t matter nearly as much.

    I think that onpage overoptimization was largely unaffected by the update (although I cannot say this for sure as we didn’t include onpage factors in this post). But Google has pretty clearly stated that they do not want to discourage onpage SEO and in a recent Matt Cutts post he made a distinction between what he called overoptimization (onpage), and webspam (offpage) and said the former was ok while the latter was not.

    1. Don Halbert

      Actually admin…I can tell you that in some cases – IE: mine – site wide links can make the difference.

      I was penalized in a manual review of inorganic linking. When I went to work on getting the site back from the grave, Google told me to clean up my backlink portfolio and get ride of links from sites designed to game Google.

      I tried with some of the comments but we all know how impossible that can be – but when I got ride of 2 sites that had me site wide…everything changed.

      One of the sites had me site wide with 77,000 links as a results – Google didn’t have to tell me so I went to work on that one and ultimately got it removed and dropped 66% of my backlinks in the process. But here’s the thing…

      The site was relevant and the links were legitimate due to a couple news pieces I ran on HOT subjects that attracted over 80,000 uniques in 72 hour period. So it was all legit.

      But when I got those two side wides removed and an angry reconsideration request…I’m back on page 1 now and in the running where I was before the penalization.

  17. Vinny O'Hare

    Good stuff, Thanks for all the analysis.

  18. PLR

    Who thought common sense would win in the end? Seriously….

    Great synopsis of what’s going on, you seem to be in tune of how it works – perhaps they should offer you Matt Cutts’ job!

    BUT, what google wants and what hypocritical google does is completely different. Search for stuff, getting good results (if you can see past the gobs of google ads above the fold that is)?

    So the penguin tattletale’d on anchor text…

    1. Kirk

      “BUT, what google wants and what hypocritical google does is completely different. Search for stuff, getting good results (if you can see past the gobs of google ads above the fold that is)?”

      Dead on. Only thing is, what Google wants and what Google says they want are two different things. They say they want quality pages at the top, in reality, they want quality pages PAYING FOR CLICKS at the top. Why else were the quality websites, who cared to get traffic, punished? Because now they give Google money in their clicks.

      1. Joe

        This is to Kirk Google is business , they make money off the gobs of adds , as for the organic results, they constantly change there algorithm to better the search results. If you where in charge would’t you ?

        1. Kirk Salisbury

          If I were in charge I wouldn’t take blindfolded shots in the dark with my attempts in fighting spam. I would instead keep my organic results relevant and be satisfied with the billion dollars that I’ve got. I’d probably even donate more to charity, if I were in charge..

      2. Larry

        I think you hit the nail on the head. Remember, Google is a BUSINESS, and what do all businesses want……Money!!!
        Like Kirk said, if you have to pay to get to the top of the SERPS, who’s best interest is that in…..Google.

      3. Gregory Ciotti

        At the same time though, Google needs good results to stay relevant, they have quite a stronghold, but if search accuracy deteriorates too far there’s always the possibility of people moving on.

        1. Kirk Salisbury

          As far as I can tell, Google took a step back with their relevancy to search results in their latest update. And I don’t think people are going to move on. I haven’t moved on, and I hate Google! Reason being, it’s to engrained in our culture to “Google it.”

          Google has to much power, and ultimately we’re all at their mercy while they carelessly take broad shots to fight a smaller portion of spam.

          1. Meagan

            Kirk I so agree……

            “Method #2: High Quality Blog Networks

            This might be the most “black hat” solution, but it’s still affective. Recently ALN and BMR have proven that low quality networks which seemed to good to be true, are too good to be true. ”

            shouldn’t it be “effective” ??

            Cool Pink Text Highlight…love your site

  19. Leonardo

    Thanks a lot for this post, it helps a lot and I’m noticing exacly the same with my network (about 80 sites!). So, in my experience, I can absolutely confirm that.

    Can I ask you the tool you use to determinate the anchor text %?

    Thanks a lot

    1. Rick

      Find the anchor text tab, take the number of linking root domains and divide it by the total number of linking root domains (or number of links containing this anchor text divided by total number of inbound links to your domain).


  20. Andrew Grinaker

    Great analysis and simple ways to break it down. It is interesting to see the anchor text penalty with focusing on a “money keyword” since this has been common practice in the SEO world for 5-10 years.

  21. Slava Rybalka

    That’s a great post summarizing the chaos that has been going on recently. Good job.
    I would like to add to method #5 – you should act like a big brand, and I am going to post about it on my blog this weekend.

  22. Valeriy

    This cleared up all the issues ive had since the middle of April (17-24) My site was hit hard after ranking first for my keyword in a small niche. I was completely confused but after reading this AWESOME amazing blog post, i realize its because i believe my last 99% of links were all the money keywords. Now that i think about it, this does not look natural and i need to diversify. Thank you MicroSite MAsters.

  23. Ben SPak

    Great tips! I’m already doing what you advised I guess that’s why I saw a ranking improvement after this update :)

  24. Curtez

    Guys… It’s good to see that you guys are still maintaining! I must say that as a result of piss poor link building (failing to listen to you last year), every single one of my niche sites have crashed… I was actually in the process of just cutting my losses and selling them off. I’ve been searching hard for a work around, and thankfully I’m on your mailing list…. So there’s hope!

    Thanks for the info!

  25. K

    Beset post I’ve seen on Penguin. Thanks!!!

  26. RedFox Magazine

    Absolutely in right time.. My all keywords are now down and most of the keywords now in below 100th position. Will follow your advise.. Thanks.

  27. John Schwartz

    This is really great info! Thank you! Ultimately, it’s what most of us always suspected: either don’t build links yourself and let them come naturally, or when you do build them do so in a way that mimics naturalness (wide variety of anchor text and mostly from sites in your own niche or closely related niches). Your research on this is greatly appreciated.

  28. Jerry Riecke

    Thanks for elaborating on the Penguin Analysis. This is solid information to adhere to. We all need to focus on doing things the right way, and for the long term.

  29. Leif @SEOXY.org

    Thanks for the great intelligence on this latest debacle !
    I need some clarification on you explanation of creating microsites.

    You state: “make sure to cite your main site as a primary source”
    How specifically, do we cite our main site as the source?

    Thanks :)

    1. Meagan

      I had the same question. I didn’t understand what was meant by that.

  30. FC Rau

    Good starting point in deconstructing the Penguin Update. Great to see objective, thoughtful analysis minus rants about The Goog.

  31. admin

    @Leif: With a relevant (and hopefully genuinely useful) link! Links were originally envisioned by Larry Page and Sergey Brin as a way to ‘cite your source’ online.

  32. Vin

    This is the first post on the Penguin update that actually holds any water in my book. Thank you for taking the time to release the data and actually showing us hard evidence of what caused the drops in rankings.

    I think it may be time to start creating my own private blog network. Have any resources on how to accomplish this effectively?

  33. admin

    @Vin: We are planning a follow up post sometime in the (relatively near) future about the anatomy of a high quality blog network. Other then that, I do not know.

  34. Leonardo


    PLEASE, suggest us the tool you use for the anchor text analysis, so the post it will be complete ;) thanks a lot!

  35. admin

    @Leonardo: We used ahrefs in conjunction with a couple of internal tools that we’ve had in development for the past couple of months.

  36. Doc Sheldon

    Great job, Rob! Some of that, we suspected, but it doesn’t mean much until you see that the data supports it. Definitely some takeaways here!
    (at least until the NEXT black & white critter is unleashed. Shamu, skunk or zebra?)

  37. Paolo

    Hello guys!
    Taking a careful analysis I found that by creating dummy accounts forum and sign them with the search keys greatly penalized sites that have used this tactic. Have any of you noticed the same thing?

  38. Sepo

    Some excellent conclusions form this posts – the under 50% exact match anchor text conclusion was a doozy – many thanks for this – read a lot of stuff on Penguin recently but this is the best article yet…

  39. Charissa

    What if your site is an Exact Match Domain? How do you go about building diversity in links? I think this has been a major factor in the drop in my rankings for my sites that are EMD. I have noticed since the update that I being found on Google with pages on my site that are not related to my Domain

    I guesst the downfall of having an EMD is most people link back to you with the EMD which is also your main keyword.

  40. Rose P

    Maybe thats why my blog has been tanked. Im always using the keyword I am trying to rank for in forums.. Too bad

  41. Chris K

    My only response to this post is: Really?!

    No none on here should be surprised by this update, and I think deep down we aren’t.. We all knew the days of throwing anchor text around like confetti and getting it to pull rank were going to end one day, but we did it anyway up until the last minute because it WORKED and it made money. I can’t blame anyone for that, because I did it too.

    This is a great post to verify that indeed links were a large part of the Penguin update for us SEOs. For non-SEOS, the link part of Penguin made no difference and if they got hit it was for other reasons. REMEMBER THAT PENGUIN IS NOT JUST ABOUT LINKS. There’s many other parts to the algo update. Keep that in mind.

    The overuse (or rather MISSUSE) of anchor text is what got most of us in trouble. And I say missuse because anchor texts still work fine so long as they are coming from domains and pages that are relevant! Re-read carefully what I said, or rather, what was said in the article:

    “…Penalized sites generally had very little links coming from domains and websites in the same niche.” Note that we’re talking about domains and websites in the same niche, not WEBPAGES. I think this is very important, because anyone can leave a do-follow comment on say some site’s high-PR articles that’s relevant to their niche, but in the grand scheme of things the domain/site as a whole is not relevant at all, so you should really be careful.

    Many of my sites that were hit by Penguin were in fact dependent on links from such rarely-known dofollow sources (rare meaning that most SEOs don’t know about them and thus aren’t spammed and probably not on Google’s blacklist), but they still made the connection and saw lots of unnatural links coming from these articles, even though they were relevant

    In other words, even if the links were on topic and in the same niche, a REAL site that doesn’t have a link builder won’t have too many of these, only a couple, and even if they did have a lot it certainly wouldn’t be with optimized anchor text.

    My tips on how to stay safe in the future (and perhaps to save a site): get most links from strong pages on relevant DOMAINS, not so much links from comments/blogs/forums etc, and certainly be careful of anchor text. I’d personally only aim for about 10% optimization, and just settle for whatever links you can get to all the pages of your site. If you can do that (send diverse links to deep pages), That is the best signal. Think NYT, WIki articles, and how many random links the deep pages get… When in doubt, think Wikipedia or NYT, and how you would link to there if you weren’t an SEO.

    Hope that helps. I expect SEO to be easier for the next year or so, and can’t wait to take advantage.

  42. Johnny S

    Awesome post with a lot of great info. I have one question! If a site tanked becasue of the anchor text, do you think it will recover if more links will be added with “click here” type of anchor text?

  43. Stefan Pylarinos @ Project Life Mastery

    Just what I was looking for, I’m going to start creating some relevant links with varied anchor text – that’s so important. Will add this to my beating Google Penguin strategy. :-)

  44. Charissa

    Sorry I should have added this to my last Reply :) I just wanted to add one more thought, do you think that Google may have put more of an emphasis on LSI? I am just noticing when I do searches that before the Penguin update most sites showing up in the serch results had the keywords being searched in the title tag, now I do a search and receive a variety of keywords, some related to the subject some not.

  45. secret design art


    what about content thing? All my mp3 search sites got penalized because of ” Quality Issues on mysitename.com”. I had 200 words unique article on home page and 50 words on results page.

  46. Meg

    Thanks for all your effort doing the analysis and sharing it with the rest of us. Very helpful.

    Is it possible that a site could recover if new links were added to the mix that balance out the anchor text and are from sites in similar niches? Or does it seem like Google is adamant about keeping the sites that crashed down forever?

    I’ve also thought about taking the content from my sites (it does happen to be good quality) and starting over on a new domains with a clean slate. Either way, recovering or starting over, seems like about the same amount of work. Your thoughts?

  47. Newuser

    What you have presented above comes out as scientific with all the data analysis and charts but you have not pointed out ( though i am sure you do realise this ) is that google is penalising websites for offsite SEO factors.

    Does this mean that i can build links to my competitors and they go down in the dumps.

    I think what google is trying to achieve is – making SEO irrelevant. It is slowly inching towards making optimization for organic rankings irrelevant so that webmasters are forced to use adwords.

    There is an excellent comment on google webmaster blog by the owner of askthebuilders dot com. His traffic has been down by around 70-80% and he has the most useful and informative site on the subject. ehow ranks above askthebuilder all the time.

    Now, askthebuilder is talking of making the information accessible only to paid customers. So whatever he was making out of adsense will be replaced by income from selling his own products. But he will need traffic to sell his content to. And the traffic is with google.
    Now the owner of askthebuilder will be forced to buy the ads on ehow and on organic SERPS to bring traffic.

    So, in this manner, ehow wins, askthebuilder wins by paying money, Google wins big time.
    The biggest loser is the consumer, the content which the author was willingly giving away free now needs to be bought.

    This is what the recent updates are all about.

  48. Marriland builder

    Absolutely in right time.. My all keywords are now down and most of the keywords now in below 100th position. Will follow your advise.. Thanks.

  49. Chris K

    Meg, there is no such thing as a permanent Google penalty… Matt Cutts said that if you were hit be Penguin, to not do a Reinclusion request. That means that the penalty was algorithmic and not manual so there was no penalty they could remove.

    As such, many legit sites were hit in this update (collateral damage happens in every update), so do you think it’d be in Google’s best interest to keep these legit sites down forever by accident and to never give them another chance? No.

    Ask yourself this Meg: When has better links and better content ever NOT been the answer for better rankings??

    1. Earl

      >>When has better links and better content ever NOT been the answer for better rankings??<<

      When April 24th, 2012 arrived.

  50. Robert Clark

    Great analysis thanks! I think the only disappointing thing for me is the punishing of sites. In a few recent tests on some of my own websites, I found that a simple mass comment blast could kill a non-authority website that breezed through both Panda and Penguin.

    So basically we can do everything right, and all it takes is one pissed off competitor with scrabebox or $20 to spend on fiver, to ruin all of your hard work.

  51. admin

    @Charissa: Anectodotally we found that EMDs faired ok in this update. My thoughts behind it are that anchors matching money keywords look a lot more natural for an EMD (it looks reasonably natural to have a lot of links with the anchor text “blue widgets” if you own bluewidgets.com, especially compared to someotherbluewidgetdomain.com).

    @Everyone asking if you can bring back a site that has fallen in rankings: I don’t 100% know the answer because not enough time has elapsed yet. It comes down to (in my opinion) whether this update was a link devaluation or a link penalty. If it was a devaluation, then you can continue to vary your anchor texts and you will probably fair ok. If it was a penalty, it will be much harder. I personally think it is a devaluation and not a link penalty (otherwise negative SEO will become way too easy), although I don’t have enough data to definitively say one way or another. However also keep in mind that it isn’t necessarily just about spamming a bunch more links with more diverse anchor text. The focus also needs to be about getting links from sites with actual content that is relevant to your site (and coming from sites in the same niche).

  52. Vince Lin

    Just read this thanks for Justin.tv by nkneuper

    Thanks for the analysis and sharing the data

  53. John

    But now what are you suggesting? Should we go out and start asking webmasters to remove all the links that have over-stuffed anchor texts, or should we just start building links again, afresh?

  54. Torben Rick

    Great post – THX. I still don’t know what I have been doing wrong. But after the latest Google update trafic hast dropped 1/3. Will have to se it it comes back.

  55. Anki

    Very Nice Post and I would surely like to thank Drew to recommend this post. I read this post point by point and here is my thoughts on SEO After penguin update.

    This is based on around 100 blogs/microniche sites and static websites.

    As everyone I am also effected with this update, It was positive for few & -ve for few.

    Some Sites Which Got Huge Boost in SERPs were either had very quality backlinks, ( however I avoided using different anchors earlier but later I twisted anchor texts. Guest Posting Was the Most Important Factor for sites which got good rankings.

    Strange thing was Few very new sites, with very lfew backlinks got huge boost in SERPs even 10 days old sites got ranking in top 5 without much SEO.

    That means Google surely gave preference to new sites in this update. I have more than 5 example to support my statement.

    Another Surprising Result Was, 1 of my blog which sustained all Panda Updates and Moved Up n Up..We have not done any SEO ( almost none ) for that, it had Quality Content but with this update I found 50% decrease in traffic, I was astonished to see this but later I got the reason as well.
    Too many Useless pages were indexed on google for that domain and I am sure that was the reason, I had installed a forum there which become home for spammers and where earlier there were about 2000 indexed pages, after forum it reaches upto 40K. Google kicked that blog hard.

    I removed the forum and requested for deindexing it, will update you all if I get some good or bad result.

    In the above article I only not support 1 Point where you mentioned “This might be the most “black hat” solution, but it’s still affective. Recently ALN and BMR have proven that low quality networks which seemed to good to be true, are too good to be true.”

    I found BMR suffered with previous Panda effect and its still not recovered yet, Please give me more info on it, If I am wrong, I have few clients who requested to remove their links from BMR blog network as their sites got hit badly due to the network links.

    I hope my exp. will help a few ppl here..

  56. Social Media Los Angeles

    Thank you for the post.

    As a golden rule, one should have good link diversity using various links- follow/ no follow.

  57. ketan raval

    Awesome post.. Plenty of things are changed now… keeping everything natural .. or at least keeping everything look natural is necessity of seo industry now…

  58. Joao Paulo

    Great analysis. This goes in line to what I’ve talked to a number of other people and read on other sources.

    What kind of tools are you using? Besides ahrefs?

  59. Ryan

    Wow this post ranked for “Penguin Update” really fast

  60. Moki

    I have found that links exchanges from related sites still works well. This is probably one way to get related links.

    But this isn’t that easy to do. Do you think commenting to related blogs is still good way to get links from related sites?

    You said you counted and site wide link as just one link.
    But do you know how much does they really count. For example if you look at group of sites that have 5% related links, did you found sites that have site wide related inbound links, are penalized in lower percentage.

    1. Active Domain

      Not in my experience, I’m afraid. I have many sites that exchanged links with other sites, nearly all of the tanked when Penguin came into picture. Ironically, that did not happen when Panda started. In fact, these sites actually did better after Panda. Apparently, Penguin update targeted such sites in a more specific manner.

  61. admin

    @Joao: MicrositeMasters of course! :) SerpIQ is also a very useful tool and we’ve been using SEMRush a lot internally.

    @Ryan: We practice what we preach!

    @Moki: Legitimate, manual, high quality blog comments on related niches (similar to what is going on in this comments section) should still be effective.

  62. Art

    A lot of my crappy sites got to top5 positions after this update. I’ve used only fiverr to rank them. No relevant links were placed. Don’t know how to judge this

  63. wiredniko

    Bofu this post owns.


  64. Brian Johnson

    Nice post but I’m a little bit confused about the graphs for both penalized and non penalized website!

  65. Bruno

    Nice post!

    I was wondering if in this study, INTERNAL links were considered when creating these charts.

    If not, do you guys have any studies on that? Would be nice to know if also internal links should also be de-optimized (even though I doubt that will make any difference to wikipedia :D )


  66. admin

    @Bruno: We did not take into account internal linking at all. We looked at it a little bit when compiling our data but we didn’t get anything back that was nearly clear cut enough to warrant us looking into it further for this post.

  67. Mellow

    Interesting analysis. Almost all my sites got pushed far down the SERPs by the Penguin update apart from 3 of them which remain on page 1 in Google.

    The only anchor text backlinks i’ve build to my sites is in articles. I’ve looked at the HTML which I used in the article resource box and I varied the anchor text only twice when linking to my sites home page using the two primary keywords I was trying to rank for.

    Do you recommend that I edit the article resource box and change the anchor text or is it only worth varying it when building new backlinks from now? The problem is that some of my articles have been syndicated on other sites so there is nothing I can do to change the anchor text on those sites.

    Im still confused why 3 of my sites weren’t affected by the Penguin update and they use the same variation of anchor text as my sites which were affected. Is there anyway I can pinpoint why those other sites got affected?

  68. Jaya

    Did you do any further analysis on link sources to see if there were common patterns, for example had any sies not penalized been using articles etc?

  69. admin

    @Mellow: I am not sure the answer to this. I don’t think changing it will hurt, but I really don’t think it’ll help tremendously. My mentality after an update like this has always been to focus on new links and not try to fix around the old ones. But that is just based on my own intuition and not any specific facts or data.

    @Jaya: It is a lot harder (and labor intensive) for us to run heavy backlink analysis where we determine link types. We still have all of the data and we want to continue to analyze it to give you useful insights. So we will continue to mine the data for any other useful/relevant data, which may include link types and make more posts as we start to uncover more things.

  70. Josh

    What an awesome data set you have to play with here. Have you run any numbers about what percentage of your customers were hit by Penguin? If Matty Cutts is to be believed …. 1% of Queries Were Affected. Ergo, you could literally calculate how much of the 1% use your tool.



  71. Michael Bitler

    Outstanding article! My “money keywords” were all but demolished from Penquin. I held the number 1 spot in my primary money keyword for the last 5 years, now it is number 20? My other four primary keywords vanished to the Google Sandbox, who knows when they will be seen again! I have some new strategies I obviously need to pursue.

  72. Eddie

    One thing is confusing me: take all the sites that had 90% of “inbound links with anchor text matching keywords”:

    37% of those got penalized
    4% did not get penalized.

    But wait a minute, either they got penalized OR not. In which category did you thrown the rest, the other 59%? It doesnt make sense they werent accounted for…

  73. admin

    @Josh: Our number was higher than 1%, most likely because the terms that were effected were more likely to be terms that were being heavily SEO’d (and a disproportionate amount of our users are building sites for heavily SEO’d terms). With that being said it was much higher 1%. I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but I would guess somewhere around 4-5%.

    @Eddie: You are reading the graph wrong. We are saying that out of all of the sites that got penalized, 37% of those sites had 90% of inbound links with anchor text matching keywords. And for sites that didn’t get penalized, 4% of those sites had 90% of inbound links with anchor text matching keywords.
    The graphs are not saying that 37% of the sites with 90% of inbound links got penalized. We make no distinction as to what percentage of sites got penalized or didn’t get penalized. We just analyzed the properties of the penalized group and then (completely separately) measured the properties of the not penalized group. Hope that clears it up!

    1. Eddie

      aham! great article, thanks!

  74. Kaizen Way

    Really great article… But I had read another article about this update saying it was meant to target on-site over optimization. This update really opens up the doors to negative seo’s, not a good thing. How do you think Google will be able to respond to that?

  75. Brigitte Mehr

    Thanks for this – woo hoo we already started creating microsites so back to it to make lots more

  76. admin

    @Kaizen: My belief is that this isn’t necessarily a link penalty but a link devaluation. So it is not that overoptimized links hurt your site, just they help your site a lot less. So a lot of sites that were built on overoptimized links came crumbling down when Google started de-emphasizing that. It is only a hunch, but (for the reason you mentioned: negative SEO) I think it is link devaluation and not link penalty.

  77. Krisztian

    Great article, super cool that you have some data to show…
    Looking at our traffic generation as an important part of our business, and having our websites as ‘brands’, positioned as a legitimate company asset is a cool advice and something I’ve been focusing on for quite some time.
    I guess the think I wonder about is that you are talking about ‘penalties’ and it leaves me wondering if you are talking about penalty as such or ‘just’ the power of the anchor text links being take away and that results in a ranking drop.

  78. Emiel

    Great piece on anchor and the topic/niche neighbourhood importance. No word on social signals in your post. Here you go.

    Social signals like fb shares, retweets, google+ shares and likes combined with real people being active in that social network matter now. Big time. Get a social crowd backing up your sites and you have a big ‘firewall’ against penalties.

  79. Social Media Marketing Twitter Followers Facebook Likes YouTube Views

    Sites that don’t match your keywords don’t necessarily penalize you. However, they won’t add to your ranking, either way. Penguin doesn’t really change all that much – Just means you have to match your keywords for your links.

  80. IsAnyoneUp

    Creating microsites is a wonderful idea. Thanks a lot for the tips on this article.

  81. Jim

    Was the analysis of anchortext looking at internal or external anchortext? I think onpage anchortext that is too keywordy would be more of a sign of over-optimization.

  82. admin

    @Jim: We were looking at inbound links from other sites. Generally throughout the article when I use “overoptimization”, I mean anchor overoptimization when building links. Onpage overoptimization exists, but in the Matt Cutts’ blogspot article quoted in the above post (and from many other reliable sources) Google has made the message clear that they have a far bigger issue with offpage overoptimization than they do with onpage overoptimization.

  83. Ron

    Excellent analysis. Actually, looking at the first chart, I’m wondering about the sites on the right side that had 90% or more of their inbound links with text matching keywords. What was it about them, aside from their links, which allowed them not to get penalized, when they obviously didn’t have much link diversity?

    Is there a way to correlate your data to see if they got away with it because all their backlinks were in relevant niches?

    To me it says that either Google hasn’t quite figured out how to do what they want to do (i.e. penalize sites with high % of inbound links with text matching their keywords), or their algorithm works as planned and it’s okay to backlink that way as long as something else Google’s looking at makes them think you’re okay.

    I also wonder if maybe the ones that ‘got away’ with it weren’t using Google webmaster tools or Google analytics, so it was harder for Google to tell what they were doing.

  84. Hospitalera

    And don’t forget about the text surrounding your anchor text! the only one that still gets away with an anchored text old style is Wikipedia! we others have actually to proof why we recommend that link by saying “I just came across this >keyword< and really think my readers would like it also."

  85. Tedel

    So, if your findings are true, there are real opportunities for a site pecked by the Penguin to recover. It’s time to work and test, as it seems.

  86. Dana

    This is very interesting information, but I’d like to know more about the sample size you used in your comparisons. Was it large enough to make the results statistically significant for the factors you tested?

  87. Edward

    I definitely put too much anchor text in my links. But they were mostly different, although that may not have mattered.

  88. admin

    @Dana: We ended up analyzing tens of thousands of sites in the end. Obviously not all of those had rankings problems due to the Penguin update, but I daresay we went through enough data that these results are statistically significant.

  89. Matthew Hamel

    This is huge! Thanks for the information! I will be making my SEO adjustments asap! I’m curious, has there been any changes for using social networks to build ranking? Thanks again!!

  90. Simon

    I think the varying degrees of rank drop suggest a devaluation of links rather than a permanent penalty. Some of mine have drop from 3rd to 8th, others from 1-3 down to 100+.

  91. Susan O'Dea

    I was sent here to read this post and I am so glad I did. Your analysis is excellent. Thank you!

  92. Link Emperor

    Awesome report. A lot of people have been talking about anchor text diversification lately, but putting numbers behind it really helps to drive the point home. Congrats on such a successful analysis!

  93. gman

    Great post – How can I analyze my site (many thousands of pages) to see the distribution info you have done? What tool can do this on a site-wide basis. I presume your data is site-wide and not page as this algorithm seems to tank the whole site or not at all? If you could email me info?

  94. Darren

    Great research guys. Thanks for such a great article. I llok forward to the indepth articles on the 5 points you raised.

  95. My site

    Sounds as good as anything I have read about googles latest update, but lests face it we can all spend the next year building great sitesthat rank today and are wiped out by the next wave of updates google decides to implement. Why waste your life dancing to their tune, when noone really knows what it is.

  96. James Kennedy

    Nice analysis, but you’re missing the Pandora box Google just opened – Negative SEO. Now it is assumed all links are created by the site owner. What about the actions of your competitors? I have been drastically affected by links I never paid for nor requested for. How can you defend yourself against such odds?

    If backlinks can hurt your site, then everyone better be ready for SEO nuclear war. You can have the best site with unique relevant contents and still be negatively imparted with just a few FIVERR GIGS.

    Most of us are pretending negative Seo will not happen, but in this world wide economy people would do almost anything to make money. We should all be raising hell at this new trend or watch as balckhatters take over your rankings.

  97. JM

    I have read a lot of posts. This one of the best. All I have heard all over the forums is that if you riste got torched, then you can now with the Penguin update torch your competitors. I doubt that. You were one of the first posts I have read to mention link devaluation as an option. Not to mention the fact the 1000s of sites that were deindexed by the big G.

  98. JM

    Oh, what alternative traffic sources are you referring too? We are working to move away from Google as much as we possibly can.

  99. Brian Metzger

    1. do you find that the microsites have to be wordpress?
    2. you mentioned “footprints”, are you implying that even with “natural looking” backlinking, that if a linkwheel pattern emerges, i.e site A always links to site B, then Google will devalue? (This is a question about backlink design strategies. I error on side of caution. I use a randomizer tool for backlink ideas, to prevent any human habits getting in the way)

  100. Peter Sundstrom

    Even though my sample size is much smaller than what you used, I experienced pretty much the same results, ie: sites not affected used anchor text variation, mostly from sites directly related to the niche.

  101. Josh

    This update unfairley affects websites that focus on niche products. If NFLshirts.com most relavent keywords are for each of its teams, then it would have lots of anchor links for “giants NFL shirts”, “ravens NFL shirts”, “nfl shirts”, etc.. and it would look like it is over optimized or keyword stuffing… but if that is all they have and sell and they are focusing on being the best NFL shirt store ever, then why would they have any other links of any other type? It could be the best NFL shirt store website but is TOO TARGETED that it is getting a penalty for being to good at what they do!!

  102. Graham Kelly

    So How do we get rid of bad links we may have built to our site?

  103. Rick Noel

    Great post. I love how you distill it down with key take-aways after each set of data points. I had the same observation and Ron (#84) regarding the unpenalized sites with 90% exact match anchor text. If I had to guess, I bet it was because those sites had the exact match anchor text domain which could be a trap door out of the algorithm since many natural links use the sites domain name in the anchor text of natural links which would appear to Google, well, as natural. Did you do any correlation on these exact match domains and high % of exact match anchor text with no penalty incurred? Thanks for sharing.

  104. Gary

    Just a few words to say THANKS for doing the work – and then sharing it here.
    Much appreciated.
    And I want to be sure to catch your followups.

  105. borber

    Agree with everyone who’re saying it’s great job on analysis and mostly good conclusions.
    The only thing is not clear is the way to recover the site already penalized for exact anchors matches. Say, the site already has a lot of exact anchors from the article directories (pretty common case) – so what to do with that? Links can’t be removed, and it take too long and too much efforts to recover them by the new “good” niche-related with vary anchors links. So, it means such site can’t be recovered after Penguin?

  106. Jose Gil Tecson

    best article so far. I’ve read a few blogpost this past few days about how to recover from penguin update. I will bookmarked this post and share it to my fellow seo friends. I already started 1 microsite before the penguin update, and I am planning to build more.

  107. Matt

    Great analysis. Can’t wait to read your 5 individual posts on each recommendation.

    At this rate Google is gonna run out of animals.

  108. Brenn Almario

    Will used this as one of my new strategy for Penguin Update. Thanks alot, so blog commenting isn’t dead yet?

  109. BOFU


  110. Jamie Hudson

    Excellent article! Love the case studies and graphics, very helpful. You should probably mention that if you’re going to build micro sites i.e. your own private high quality blog network – host the domains on their own IP’s and privately register them across different accounts.

    Also go for high pr domains and aged… huge help.

    My problem with SEO right now is that I have been screwed even though I stuck to the rules. All of my promo articles were 100% related to the topic of the site/s they’re promoting. All of the spun articles were good, a lot were unspun “whitehat links” and they used a huge variety of anchor text. I used 40% money keywords (like 10% main keyword, 40% sub keywords and then 50% related + click here etc)

    Still I’ve been screwed while my competitors are dominating. The competitors who have 100% unrelated auto spun plr junk content backlinks. Thousands of them scaterred across unrleated websites. Those fuckers are dominating while I’m facing a penalty for doing what we (you guys and myself) think is the right thing to do. (from your conclusive research too)

    My advice to everyone is to look at SEO like paid traffic. Order 500 500 word articles that each target a long tail keyword in your niche. Submit each one as either a guest blog post or to a high pr top article directory or web2.0 site including images and all.

    Then build your own private network.

  111. Tom

    Just quietly this is by far the best article on the recent updates that I have read. The best part about it is you give real world examples of exactly what is happening and have made simple and logical conclusions based on the data. I like the updates, they are an opportunity to make everything better.

  112. Patrick Coombe

    Thanks so much for this huge wealth of information. We are in the midst of an internal study ourselves, and our findings are similar. Way to shed some light on the situation with confidence – the SEO community needs leadership right now and you guys are paving the way. Company’s like mine look to you in times like these for guidance, and you have certainty done this.

    It is much easier to trust companies like yours because you are the beholders of such massive data sets and access to very interesting metrics.

  113. Parshall

    Has anyone seen Google identify and penalize related websites in which web companies create a team of microsites for a specific industry and link them together, with their industry related clients, all hosted on the same server? Basically does having microsites used for SEO linking all put on the same server, throw up a big Google Flag? Or do you need to put these sites on different servers?

  114. search engine

    I agree with the analysis. Also I have noticed that penalized sites with newer pages rank fine for those pages – Almost like a lot of these penalties aren’t domain wide, they are just page specific and some locked to certain keywords. Again, it remains to be seen if its just a filter that can be breached by diversifying keywords for affected sites or if it indeed is a penalty.

  115. Joe

    It’s off to the races boys… This post probably should’ve never been published. Read it, learn it, exploit it, be happy and stop whining. Google isn’t going to reverse this crap they did all at once, but gradually, if any at all.

  116. Nelson

    So, now anyone can sabotage your site and get your site penalized by spamming the whole load of links to your site by using the same anchor text extremely easily? Links are not only can built by the webmasters themselves, anyone can built links to your site too.

    1. borber

      Unfortunately, negative SEO exists…

  117. Matt Morgan

    My web development optimization company includes a backlink in the footer of most of our clients’ websites to ours, with little variation in anchor text. What do you recommend now that this Penguin update has released?

  118. The League

    I like the idea of micro sites for sure.

    I’ve used them in the past but never for just linking building. I think I might test the idea of creating a few dozen micro sites all with relevant content with links back to the money site.

    I’m thinking about picking up a dozen or so nice drops, loading it up with relevant content and doing one link back to my money site from the index.

    In the past I’ve only used micro sites for testing new strategies or to try and catch ground in the SERPs and build out but this post has got some juices flowing.

    Thanks…good stuff.

  119. Zankhana Munshi

    Thank you for such an interesting and informative post. You suggest building microsites, however I recently read most of SEO authors who wrote negative about microsites. I believe microsites can turn against you if they are improperly created.

    From what I understand, we need to choose a middle way while optimizing a website. Going to any kind of extreme while optimizing can make the mighty Googlebot angry.

  120. Tim Robins

    Really – thanks for the great post. Looks like it is time to get back to the basics again. :)

  121. SEO

    I have many clients who have fallen in each of these traps. One customer had a third of the world of SEO companies that are American as a company, on behalf of a customer $ 3,000 for each keyword. My client has lost thousands of people and completely deserted score of Google. I tell everyone to check their credentials. A tactic of GoDaddy or other domain registration business and the range of the SEO company to verify your registration information is to go. Call your references. Watch out for companies that pay for the 1000 link for you. In fact, it makes our job much more difficult than when a customer sees a competitive position on them and then watch and see that blacks are hat marketing techniques. By God, we can all go on and on about this topic. Great post!

  122. Ethee SEO Services

    That is pretty great analysis with charts, so now SEO guys guess what – “Diversify anchor text” is major bullet point in Google penguin updates, great,
    Cheers, Steve, Ethee SEO Services

  123. Andy Aitch

    When I read stuff like this it makes perfect logical sense. What annoys me though is I’m never able to work it out myself, as rational as it seems after the read.

    I had a few sites hit, and deservedly so it has to be said (even though it p*ssed me off at the time), but my new project is all about the visitor experience and not an obsession with the SEs. In actual fact, Google was giving such advice as far back as 2005

  124. Rafi

    Google penguin update has only 3% effect.i do not care much about it

    1. Brian

      And…..just how much of the internet’s websites have someone building anchor text links to them? 3% might be high. I’d say probably less than 1%. If you’re building links to your website then there’s a pretty good chance that Penguin has effected you.

  125. Penny

    Thanks so much for getting in the trenches and then sharing what you found. Any suggestions on how to improve the junk I’ve generated is appreciated. I kind of unknowingly created problems with inbound links. Any ideas on recovery times assuming the problems on my site get cleaned up?

  126. Rick

    Thank you for this analysis, you really made some of the Penguin mysteries a bit more clear to me. Time to get to work.

  127. Jeff Derpson

    Sensational report, very useful for every serious SEO’er. I’m amazed how much data you guys gathered over years and how smart you’re making use of it!

  128. EclipseCloaker

    I want to reiterate what others are saying, best article on penguin I’ve read so far.

    Im wondering about another popular theory regarding penguin regarding brands. It seems like branded sites did not get hit, is that because so many people link to the a branded site with the url as anchor text? And that branded sites got lucky in this respect? Or is it that this algorithem change tried to specifically reward branded site? Possibly by measuring how often the url was searched for and then the actual site was clicked on in the serps?

  129. Tom

    Congrats on a thorough analysis. Nice job, really. One question.
    What if I had just a few links to my website and the main source of traffic were long tail keywords from Google? Was onsite over-optimisation really not so important as off-site? Because from what I’ve heard from even sites with, say, just 1-10 links were penalized. Any thoughts on that?

  130. Andrew Gloyns

    Could I ask what percentage of the sites who were penalised with large percentage of ‘keyword’ anchor text had an exact match domain name? E.g. if bluewidgets.com has a large percentage of anchor text of ‘blue widgets’ – what are people’s view on that? Technically you are referencing the ‘brand’ if your brand happens to be keyword orientated?

    Is there any data, or could there be (? :o )), to test whether the sites who were penalised had an unnaturally low number of links to pages other that the homepage? From what I have seen a lot of sites who have seen a big increase in rankings recently have good link distribution to other pages other than the homepage, whereas spammy sites generally tend to be more weighted on the homepage.

  131. Articlexone

    I was shocked how to build Google Penguin Friendly links.Finally, You have provided every analysis.Thanks for your analysis for Link Buildings.It’s Great !!!

  132. Don Pierce

    Thanks for this article, it seems a lot of great Internet Marketers have been referencing this throughout the past 2 days and I can tell why. Loads of information, something great to go by in order to rank well.

    Keep it coming!

  133. RvE

    Great researche, à must read for everyone in THE SEO business. Ill keep an eye on this blog

  134. Jonas

    Hi, and thank you for a very good post!
    I’m thinking, what would you do when you have a domain name which is also the main keyword exactmatch domain name? People are´linking to my site using mostly http://mydomian.dk, does this counts towards over optimization, or dog Google cosinder those links to by brand related ?


  135. Rajneesh

    Indeed a Post,
    After Penguin Update we were very upset about SEO we thought that it may be die but after reading this post we feel so happy and now we are not worry about SEO,


  136. dave

    Fabulous post, this is by far the best data analysis post penguin. well thought out and definitely reinforces the correlations we have come to. Another analysis we are currently looking is link type and link depth there is some interesting data points to study here. Thanks Dori

  137. Lee Munson

    Based on this analysis I have a question about article directories which I’m not sure if you’ve answered – do links from article marketing have any value now, even if the anchor text is varied? Or are they devalued to nothing due to the fact that there is no real defined niche with such sites?

  138. Amit Aadarsh

    Yup, i agree with your point and planning to do the changes in my websites as some of my websites are also went from Top 5 ranking to 5th page or more away which is really disturbing.

  139. Udi

    This is a great analysis, but assuming it’s correct then it’s almost impossible to recover.
    If you have thousands of links built with anchor text (a method that worked great for the past 5-6 years), how can you erase them?
    And if you can’t erase the links, it means you will stay low on SERPS forever (or at least the next Google algorythm update).

    Bad news…

  140. David Metts

    Awesome info.. cleared a lot of things about this ravaging pengu update.

    One thing I did know for sure was that link diversity was the way to go, but I would never have thought that anchor relevancy mattered that much.

  141. Jaya

    Regards backlink analysis I am specifically thinking of the kind of results you would see if you ran the domains through something like this:


    If you have a subscription with them then it would not take you to run that analysis.

  142. Syed Noman Ali

    What ever updates will come but ranking factor still the same thats is
    content + linking

    But you have to focus no copied and spun content or low quality value links if you are able to focus these thing you will be on top for sure.

  143. boston seo

    Lots of information found in this post and it’s enough to understand what Google penguin is all about and how it has affected to the sites, two things to be noted about the incoming links are use of partial match anchor text and the relevancy.

  144. Zoe Alexander

    I am impressed by the calibre of comments raised from this post. The whole Penguin scenario has certainly shaken the SEO community! I’d like to ask some advice with respect to link building and site keyword relevancy. What balance does there need to be between links with site relevancy, in my case maternity and fashion, and links with non relevant sites that are informative and help me understand how SEO works and how sites improve their rankings? Would love to hear from you!

  145. Sitter

    Thanks fot the extensive analysis at the time when many gurus are very quiet!

  146. Gerd

    Great analysis. But what shall I do with side wide links I have gotten from Blogrolls?? That pulls that racio for some keywords up to 300 or even 500. By the way that are links from Bloggers linking to me – without any link exchange. What about graphic-links?

  147. Komposit

    Awesome stuff.. thanks a lot for sharing!

  148. Brat

    This post was recommended by Dory Friend as “the BEST analysis on what Penguin did and how to seo through it”. Well wort reading. Thank You!

  149. Debarup Mukherjee

    Thanks for this article, its some relief for SEO guys though as a pro blogger there are many confusions in my mind, one of them is like I don’t do much inbound linking into my blog contents, what is the perfect ration of inbound and outbound links into a blog or a particular content which can be entertained by Google’s penguin??

  150. Vikesh Pithadiya

    Google has taken a step and i could say a bold step as it knows that with such pace SEO activities can easily manipulate the search engine results.If Building back links only can get you in the top results in Google then any tom dick and harry can get it but a genuine participation is promoted and this time google has made a secure net where it can analyse genuine participation online.

  151. adnan

    this the first real positive analysis about the last algo update.
    even thou the tips at the end many would consider blackhat or at least greyhat and would stay away from them, i think they are great tips. the first one is especially good but when i think about it
    it is kinda costly to create even a small 20-30 microsite network, it would like at least 80$-90$ per month…

  152. Link Cloaker

    Can you clarify one thing? Sites were penalized when they had over 60% of their sites for money keywords.

    When sites were penalized, did they have over 60% of keywords the same one keyword? Or were sites penalized when over 60% were more than one money keyword, lets say 5 to 10 different money keywords? Wondering if its okay?

  153. Ashish Nitharia

    Thanks for such a great insights for Google’s recently introduces penguin update, the whole this is again the same, what ever you do, do it as if is done for humans not for search engines and that is the key to success and future of SEO.

  154. Chat

    One of the few posts I’ve read, about Penguin, that really tries to explain things. Most of the so-called experts that write blogs just complain all the time without giving any explanation. I still think text anchor diversity is the key here. Use around 30 keywords in addition to the main keyword.

  155. ger

    best article on this penguin update i have read thus far! i completely agree especially with what you said about anchor texts. it seems that some of my sites have too many “obvious” anchor texts linking back to me. thus i will only use my name in this blog post:)

  156. Adrian

    A very good analysis in this post-penguin period. Never thought I’d be using that phrase! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  157. Chikara

    Interesting post. I don’t agree with your recommendations going forward, at all, but I can appreciate your logic. It seems like it’s a bit early to jump to conclusions about ‘what Google wants,’ but I doubt they want people building microsite networks to ‘look natural.’

    Either way, Google is going to get what they want, whether webmasters go along with them or not :)

  158. Hotdogman

    The solution seems simple to me. Clandestinely sign up competitor sites to sketchy blog networks, build out crappy links to competitor sites, wash, rinse, repeat and everyone ahead of you goes down in flames allowing your site to rise to the top. Did Google actually believe people wouldn’t think of that and try it? It happened to moi!

  159. William Gombocz

    I am new to SEO and marketing my business so I appreciate so very much all the good and relevant info I can get on the subject and pointers on what to do or try. It was a good post. One thing about the net, it makes it easy to get the info you need, you just have to be able to sift through it. Thanks.

  160. HomeAppraiserGuy

    In an effort to try and figure out what happened to the rankings of my real estate appraisal site, which, prior to Penguin ranked #1 for almost anything appraisal related in my market area; I stumbled upon this blog post. I’ve read everything about the infamous Penguin update for the last 5 days on BHW, WF, TrafficPlanet, etc and your post here is hands down the best and probably most accurate estimation of what the update really way. Thank you for the thorough analysis!

  161. Christine

    First of all, I did actually read the whole blog!! Probably the one i found easiest to read after all of the forums and articles i’ve been reading. So Anchor text should not be a keyword, but related to your site?
    For example, A post about tornadoes and home maintenance, linking to an article about kansas tornadoes is bad?

  162. MrPenguin

    If you have been stuffed by this update, guilty or not of link building, how do you remove those links? There are few web masters that have never written articles and done directory submissions.

    In my case there is a mix of scrapers sites, directories pointing thousands of links because they have decided to index tag results pages, individual sites with no relevancy at all, etc etc. Half of the sites have privacy settings on their domain registrations and no contact pages whatsoever. It takes for ages to track them down and going through a DMCA process only works 50% of the time.

    To give a typical example which is more realistic of what has happened to many. You list your business in a directory about your business area. A trade directory lets say. That is no different than listing yourself in the yellow pages. It wold seem a reasonable thing to do. I am in the directory for Widget Sellers in the U.K. What do you do if 3 months later the site owner decides to make 5000 tag results pages out of it, each with a link pointing at your site? You write to him and say, hey don’t do that. Remove my site – NO REPLY.

    The second thing I would like to say is this.

    Is it just better to start all over again on a fresh domain if you have hundreds of domains linking at you where contact is impossible. And what is their in place to stop it happening again? i.e. people pointing loads of links at my site again. In my business somebody spending $100 a month to spam me month in and month out is chicken feed and well worth it. I know you won’t believe me, I am not whiter than white but I have been spammed indexed professionally.

    I really don’t understand why there is not a mechanism where a site map type file could not be read by google bot which says, I am the verified site owner and we don’t agree with these links. It is just too big a jump to say this site is a spammer when often they hide it in spun articles etc. , a cloak of decency, etc. We need to be able to say, this link or these links are nothing to do with us and we don’t want you to count these links in any way.

  163. Jarvis Graciano

    So the question I have is why are we seeing sites that have no backlinks ranking really well?

  164. Peter J

    Really great information for SEO guys. The suggestions offered in this blog have been around for a long time, it’s just that Google is giving them more emphasis nowadays. It’s still good refreshing info. and good simple strategies easy to implement. Follow the rules and your site will be fine.

  165. John B

    You mention getting links from sites within the same niche. Often people unintentionally interchange “site” with “page”. What if a link is coming from a page within the same niche even if the site may be a more general site? Did you take that into account at all?

  166. Alan

    Now when there is for example a wordpress, site wide link, with an anchor text that shows up on a thousand pages, does it count that as a “thousand links with the same anchor text” or just one? Or something in between?

  167. Free Advertising

    @Jarvis Graciano: I think this is because of their optimized unique contents. Also may be CRT for those sites is relatively higher. So google believes those are good sites.

  168. Ben

    Can these microsites be web 2.0′s with lots of content on a niche (done very well)?

  169. Matt

    I agree, less anchor text for keywords you’re trying to rank for, more keywords that look natural, since most natural links will be less the same high traffic keywords anyways.

  170. Al Jareds

    Very glad to have come across this post. It makes sense that anchor text is less valid / more easily manipulated, and that the opposite is true for niche-related links. There are so many “communities” these days that really if you’re not getting links from related sites, other people who share your interest / niche, then you’re probably not worthy of climbing Google’s ladder.

  171. Home Care

    We do our own SEO but thankfully, many of our links – probably the majority – are obtained very naturally and are completely unsolicited. But we had gotten some really good advice in the past from a supposedly “in the know” SEO person who always alerted us to being very cautious with our anchor text selections. We try to really vary them up, even if ever so slightly, just to add to our mix of inbound links in a much more natural way. We are constantly making sure we have dofollow and nofollow links spread out in a natural way, and it is rare that we will put up any duplicate anchor text within a month of one another. It seems to us that if we hit sites with “anchor text ABC” and don’t use “anchor text ABC” again for several months, that also paid dividends. But of course, during that month, we slowly obtained other links with completely different anchor text. I appreciate your study on the 50% and under and that actually makes me feel good, because I would guess that at most, we are probably under 30% for repetitive anchor usage. Thank you for this post and study – it’s like i always say: “Do we really know what’s going on here? Probably not, but the best we can do is pull real numbers, facts and results and I think you did a fabulous job with that!

  172. Chris Chong

    Awesome data driven analysis. Thanks for shedding some light into this black hole of speculation and fear-mongering.

  173. Alex Houg

    Great stuff, I was sent here through Dori Friend. Good to see the correlation of anchor text diversity vs ranking.

  174. Shell Harris

    Tough as it was, I read the entire post. ;-)

    I kept thinking, well, duh. Of course these are the correct things to do, but they all take time and that is the one thing most site owners don’t have or don’t want to invest. They would rather throw money at the challenge and then complain when it doesn’t work.

  175. Dave Tong

    Stellar analysis and charts.

    How do you change whatever links that are already out there pointing to your site? In addition, with the assumptions provided above, can we claim that negative SEO can and will indeed be a factor now?

  176. Frank Okun

    It’s nice to see great information on SEO that us SEO people can share. We all know SEO has become even more challenging in recent months, and I have to wonder what Google has up its sleeve next. I have been creating microsites and blog posts which seem to be favored in Google search rankings over the “main sites” which are linked from those micro sites or blogs. It would be great to see Google eliminate the clutter of outdated listings on their search – to me that would be a relevant thing to work on. I

  177. William Mind

    Well then, it’s microsites. I was using a blog network, but over half of those blog went belly up and with them my links.
    Thanks for the post and rationale.

  178. Dustin Hill

    Thanks for your thoughts here. It is good to know that we can still do it. Google will always change something. I think it’s just important to keep putting work into your site.

  179. Joe Walker

    I have a site that actually moved up in the rankings to #1 with 26 backlinks and and the exact same key word anchor text for all 26, note that they are all pr3 and pr4. OP email me and I will show you.

  180. Sheyi @ ivblogger.com

    As for me, either google likes it or not, i will do what i know is right and i hope to get ranking. If my site does not get traffic from google, screw google, i’ve got other and better means of getting traffic!


  181. Ryan

    To say SEO is dead just because Google is cleaning up its algorithms is absurd. I think those with deep pockets will have the resources to not only clean up poor backlinks from outdated SEO practices, but will also be able to generate quality content to maintain top ranking. For the little guys, I think the focus needs to shift from trying to monetize any site, to finding a subject you are passionate about and creating quality interactive content.

  182. el-preciodeloro.blogspot.com

    So “the ” solution is to build a network, with small quality blog?
    How many blogs should the net have, a few, half dozen or 100′

    Trully Yours.

  183. Chris Picanzo

    Great post! Nice to have such great data presented in a simple to understand way! We learn something from someone every day. Thank you!

  184. twicat.com

    thank you very much for this post
    it is very helpfull

  185. James Scholes

    Thanks for that, I now know what to do.

    It’s just all about making your backlinks look more natural, and of course… Getting them from niche related sites.

    I’ll defo take action on this… Cheers

    James Scholes

  186. Val Wilson

    Fantastic article – this is exactly the sort of analysis that is needed, rather than everyone just running around like headless chickens, saying ‘SEO is dead!’.
    I think the key thing is relevancy of the source of links, and this does make perfect sense. It also makes it a lot more difficult to manipulate your ranking using software – and in that way I guess is a total success as far as Google are concerned.

  187. Peter

    Thanks for posting all of this data.
    It’s nice to see the data to confirm thoughts. People are too willing to claim hunches are fact in this industry.
    It’s funny that people can spam sites now by mass link building for the keyword that site actually wants to rank for. It seems to be too easy to purposely spam sites now, I’m guessing we’ll see the balance of influence shift back to on-site content very shortly now that most legitimate companies have a blog.

  188. Brad

    Thanks for the Data!! Whitehat SEO is the only way to go.
    How do you see this affecting rankings for Local Business Listings?

  189. Fritz Barnes

    Good article, and it came highly recommended. One point, though, about “statistics…” It is really difficult to isolate your factors and determine causes. Those sites that had a high percentage of keyword anchor text were the ones that had been SEO’d. So there were probably a lot of things different about those sites vs the non-keyword-anchored sites. The presence of keywords in the anchors was just one factor. So it is difficult to say, even though the stats you show are presumably valid, exactly what conclusion should be drawn.

  190. Mental Math

    Great analysis. Really makes sense.

  191. Johan Hedin

    Great post. I believe option 1 and 2 are out now but if you do it the strategy will be short lived…
    Playing by the rules works the best in my experience if you know what you are doing….

  192. aryan sanjaya

    I just read your posting. Although I don’t really understand because it’s already entered on the stage of a serious, but the key points of this topic I can understand. and you are right about “SEO is getting harder, but it’s still possible (and still relatively easy) to make money with it.”. Thank you, I will always follow the subsequent development from here

  193. David Ethos

    Excellent post. I have been wondering what all the fuss was about. It seems like Google is targeting those sites that are using automated means to generate back links because those systems are more likely to have people with specific keyword anchor text. It seems there is no beating quality content and links for related sites.

  194. Mike LaVallee

    Excellent analysis of Penguin. I appreciate seeing hard factual data to back up what we all have been seeing since the 24th.

  195. Performance SEO

    Great Post on the Penguin… Finally some valid data as opposed to a bunch of heresy opinions of no merit. Keep SEO data coming. Berguss Meredith would be proud ;) Cheers

  196. Wolfgang Bloomfield

    The fact is that without SEO Google would have a hard job finding content for searchers, so SEO does still work, but it’s best to take Matt Cutts advice and not over do it.

  197. Chicago Movers

    wow Good stuff, Thanks for all the analysis.

  198. Ken

    In an effort to improve SEO, I am using multiple methods to get natural white hat links back to my blog, such as guest blogging, commenting, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

  199. Long Live the Internet

    The analysis is great. Just that we can only do analysis after Google updates and we cannot predict what Google will update next time, hehe. Eventually we’ll forget about Google and that’s probably what Google wants. When there’s no SEO and everything is natural, the world becomes better.

  200. Josephine Bottger

    Jarvis Graciano…that’s a really good question that i also would like to know the answer. Loved the article.

  201. Titus

    Wait now! I was getting really excited about your findings and data
    until I came to your solutions… isn’t your #1 step really just
    promoting the whole idea of your site – micrositemasters.com -
    or am I judging everyone with my own monetary eyes.

    Besides, the whole point of Penguin was to dig out “unnatural”
    link and site building… unless you can build these sites totally
    in secret and without Google finding your connections… remember
    Big Brother Google probably has ways of finding these things out
    nobody even have heard off yet… site clustering is a big NO-NO.

    But comparing your data with my own 15 or so sites ;-)
    I believe you’re spot-on about diversifying your anchor text links.

    Still a great post, best I have found yet on Penguin.

    1. admin

      We are a rank tracker. Although Microsites is in our name we don’t make any money from people creating microsites.
      Glad you like the post!

  202. Michael Ullman

    Nicely written post Matt,

    Unfortunately, this post was referenced by the email that was sent out from you, Brad, and Dori, to the SEOLinkmoster and SEOLinkvine list at least.

    After closing, SEOLinkmoster has been re-opened. Without arguing the point here of knowingly profiting at huge potential expense to others, I think this is an awful manipulation of info.

    Yes, we all want to rank, and many of us, myself included, attempt some rank manipulation. But this is a case of ‘slanting’ things to make ‘ok’ something that definitively did cause huge trouble, expense, and in some cases much worse for many, many people.

    I considered the Callen bros. to be above that.

    Michael Ullman

    1. admin

      Just as a point of clarification, Matt Callen is not affiliated in any way with MicrositeMasters. I am the author of the post (and my name is Alex Cardinell, not Matt Callen).

      We decided to write this post because we felt like we had useful information that other SEOers would be interested in, and the Matt, Brad, and Dori had nothing to do with whether this post got written or not or the contents of the post.

  203. Mark

    The best 15 minutes I’ve spent today. Really interesting stats. Kind of confirmed what we have all suspected. One thing I have noticed over the last few days is sites being hit where the domain name contains all or part of the main keyword/s targeted – both on site and with links. Will be interesting to see how this pans out, in some cases I’m seeing good quality sites with decent link profiles being overtaken by poor quality sites with terrible link profiles. I don’t think Google have got this right yet by a long stretch – expect more updates I guess!

    I can’t wait to read the follow on posts breaking down the methods. Thanks for sharing!

  204. kirk mathews

    Thanks for the analysis. Glad i found your site. very informative.

  205. George Miller

    A very helpful post under the current situation. Your Method #3: Diversify Anchor Text is the most important one i think.

  206. Steamy

    Very interested post and right on topic!!

    We all knew it was coming but what has thrown a few mixes in the rankings is the second factor that could attribute to dropped rankings and that is Google’s mix up with parked domains!!

  207. Joe

    As a small SEO firm, we’ve seen a handful of our clients slip, but nothing deemed worthy of a penalty for breaking these rules. I think it’s rewarding for the whitehat SEO companies out there. We do our best, but your info has helped me a lot. The anchor text links in particular are going to be important for us and our SEO press releases. It’s good to know that we shouldn’t over-optimize those anchor text links past 50%. Thanks!

  208. Mikel

    Fantastic analysis, and definitely one of the most objective ones I’ve seen (based on factual data, as opposed to “I’ve heard that…” statements).

    BTW, in the quality blog networks section you ended up with “more on that later”, will that be another post?

    1. admin


  209. Erik Weich

    Looks like uaw was on about link diversity back in Feb, I guess i should have paid more attention to it http://www.uniquearticlewizard.com/blog/training/link-diversity-it.html

  210. Spence

    Great info. I would not have thought about diversifying the anchor text. After reading this, I suspect that’s why some of our other sites have lost their high keyword rankings.

  211. ian birch

    nice info,will try a few things and see if it helps my site in some way

  212. David Frey - MarketingBlogger.com

    One of my primary sites got a MAJOR slap for it’s primary keyword. We certainly over optimized for that keyword. We got slapped to the 4th page. We were using BMR, which is why it got slapped so hard. Thank you for your testing and observations. It’s back to guest posting, blog commenting and press releases.

  213. dohealthyhabits

    Nice post I agree with your information we have to work with the upgrade but at the same time do not rely too much on Google alone for traffic.

  214. Lee Griffiths

    I love the cliff notes at the end of post, awesome

    Great post, I never normally read every word of posts
    But this time I did , google can b hard to get on top with
    Mainly hard for new users, some of the sites above mine
    Are so put of date but years and years old so they stay at the top.

    I think I will take your advice and look for other methods than google.
    Thanks for the awesome info I was wandering what was going on with the serps.

  215. Jurgen

    Very interesting that Penquin update. Thank you for sharing your analysis! I love SEO!

  216. Russell Jensen

    Every time Google makes a change everyone screams “SEO is dead!” SEO will never die. The way it is done evolves as search engines evolve. Unfortunately most SEO is reactionary to the changes Google makes instead of pro-active to what users actually want.

  217. Andrew R

    I’ve been experimenting with micro sites this year and have found they survived the last Google updates better than the “parent” site! Great article, glad I found this site (recommended by the Bring The Fresh guys) will come back again.

  218. andrew zubriczky

    Quality content and quality links have always been the tried and true way to achieve long lasting Google first page results!

    I can not believe people and businesses are still trying to cut corners or out fox Google!

  219. Lorne Fade

    First of all great post Rob and the MicroSiteMasters guys, this is what this industry needs, not some know it all guru randfish peddling retardation to the masses.

    In my findings I have noticed various similarities with regards to the anchor text distribution. After extensive research I feel like the optimal range is 15-25% for your anchor text diversification. Mind you there were definitely some oddities I’ve noticed in the past week.

    Example #1: random #2 ranked site for “acai berry”
    http://www.acaiberryboutique.com – “acai berry” anchor text distribution = 20% (63/325 indexed links according to ahrefs)

    this looks normal and expected, but when we looked at some other terms we noticed a much different picture.

    Example #2: #1 ranked site for “buy viagra”
    http://www.xlpharmacy.com/viagra/buy.php – “buy viagra” anchor text distribution – 93% (2139/2278)

    WTF is going on here? Is viagra such an overspammed term that Google ranks it differently? Doesnt line up…

    Example #3: #1 for “lose weight”
    http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/loseweight – “lose weight” ATD – 14% (52/328)

    A little on the low end but seems normal.

    Example #4: #2 for “anti wrinkle cream”
    http://www.antiagingwrinklecreamshq.com – “anti wrinkle cream” – 3% (2/54)

    Site is ranking with hardly any backlinks for an uber competitive term, and their anchor distribution is wayyy out of wack.. another WTF moment.

    Example #5: #2 for “make money online”
    http://www.carlocab.com – “make money online” – 26% (333/1255)

    Looks a little more normal for make money online now that the blogspot domain that had 0 content has been removed.

    I feel like your niche relevant backlink theory is dead on the money as I have noticed my competitors who are outranking me have a higher majority of niche related backlinks as well as geo-relevant backlinks, something to look into further would be geo-locations of backlinks and whether Google might be using this information for geo-targeted search results.

    I have noticed with some of my sites that not only niche relevant but also geo-location dependant backlinks can give way bigger boosts than non-relevant foreign high PR backlinks.

    Anyway keep up the great work guys, much appreciated!

  220. internet marketing service

    Thank you a lot for the solid data; I searched the web, looking for solid information on the last update and this post is being referenced over and over all over the internet. To me, it looks like SEO has just become much more expensive than before, and getting the clients to pay more is always a difficult task.

  221. MIKE

    Hey, great information. Brad Callen told me about it. I am with you. One question has been left.
    What sites that offers products to all the industry? e.G. An online print shop has products for everybody. There is no real niche. What if this shop gets backlinks from many different sites that are not connected to the printing industry? Thanks for your kind answer! -:) Take care Mike

    1. Johnio

      I have to say that the whole SEO question is confusing with Google in mind, it seems to me the more one complies with Google recommendations the more you get penalised whilst sites that regularly use black hat tecniques are prominent on page one of Google, they are actually achieving totally the opposite of what they claim!

  222. Jacek

    Thank you for your report “SEO Isn’t Dead, But You Need to Act Smarter” Our analysis proved similar results: on-page over-optimization, spammy links with the same anchor text coming from no-relevant websites.
    Thanks again

  223. Caesar

    Thank you so much for the valuable article that you have provided on this Penguin Update. I’m sure it will help many survive the effects that it has had on their sites. Keep up the great work!

  224. Mellow

    In the part where you discussed anchor texts for incoming links, you said “hit by a penalty”. So does this mean that sites which were hit by the Penguin update need to remove the backlinks which caused this penalty before they can start gaining high rankings again or does it just mean that those backlinks have been devalued by Google so they just won’t count them?

    If it isn’t the latter then this system is deeply flawed because no one can control who links to their site. It seems Google just doesn’t give a damn about innocent Webmasters caught up in the crossfire in their war against webspam.

  225. Herschel Lawhorn

    This is some really great information. I am glad I Matt Callen recommended it. I have been following Brad and Matt for a long time and their recommendation was good enough for me.

    You really make some good points here and I will be trying to follow them as two of my sites were really bombed by Penguin. I had several others that was not bothered at all. Maybe with some of this information I can figure out what I did wrong on the the two that got hit.

    I will certainly be back. Am bookmarking this site now.

    Herschel Lawhorn

  226. Greg Schulte

    Always good to see someone break it down with real data.

  227. Blogger Reuben

    At last I may have found the answers I have spent the last 4 days looking for all over the net. Some of my sites were hit bad so you can see why I jumped at the link to this post. By the way a great post! I don’t want to seem dumb but what do you mean by “money keyword”? English is not my mother tongue and therefore I may not understand certain phrases.

  228. Pastor Curt

    Thanks for the in-depth analysis. I had some sites that fared well, some that improved and yet others that tanked completely. Our Bible Verse of The Day website disappeared completely. It isn’t de-indexed, but it disappeared from page on of Google after sitting there for the past 7 or 8 months.

    After looking at it, it seems that it was a combination of over optimization of anchor text and the fact that we had links coming from Linkvana, which had their blog network de-indexed, making all of our links form them completely useless.

    Time to start using 100% white hat SEO.

  229. Chris Scott

    Thank You very much for this great article! Did you look at on page seo factors in relationship to the ranking penalties or lack of?

  230. Kirk

    First of all, great article regarding this Penguin update. It reeked havoc on some of our sites but actually helped some of our others. My question is can a site that was affected by this update actually fully recover by adding quality links from websites within their niche? We have links coming in that we never asked for that seem to be hurting us as well. Is there anything we can do about this?

  231. Danny@"Click Here!"

    Dear MicroSites:

    Before reading tihs article, I really did feel like SEO was truly dead – at least in my opinion. I think after summarizing the basic points in this article, SEO is still valid; but we as SEOers must be more smart. We have to be constantly reading great blogs like this one and implementing link building strategies that are consistent with Google’s Best Practices.


    Daniel T.
    VIctoria, BC

  232. Nigel- The Biggest Newbie

    Thanks for the good post on penguin. SEO is ever changing and you bought some inmportant points to the table.I’ll be doing SEO a bit different now.


  233. Linda

    I really enjoyed your post as I was looking for info. on the “Penguin update.” Just goes to show that you got to be on your toes..or game..or Google’s game every step of the way. You can no longer use ” questionable techniques” to rank, just pure hard work and an ongoing sustainable business strategy. I am also interested in the reply to Mellow’s question on backlinks. Thanks again for this excellent post.

  234. CV de consultant en management

    I was already aware of most of what you explain there from my own experience. Please, send me some nice SEOs contacts to my email. Most of them have not at all understood the problem. And, they are not adapting.

    Question: After you’re hit, is it possible to dillute the previous anchor text in additional ones to solve the situation. Or, is it necessary to work again from scratch and forget about the kw that were hit? Is there a minimum time to wait for before a sandboxed keyword can shoot back up?

    Many websites do not get Goog scrutiny. The determinant factor seems to be PR and a high number of new links. Slower than before would be an additional rule to your list.

  235. Laurence Rio

    I believe that a certain proportion of deep links in addition to main page links is a safe factor as well as a variety of link types.

  236. kevin redman

    Hi thanks for a great post. Have to say after google latest my sites page ranking have all gone up. I noticed you are talking about HARO before I fork out more money can you explain why it will help my rankngs

  237. Carl Reed

    You just earned yourselves a paying customer

  238. John Payne

    Thank you for such well-researched and well written article.

    We would be wise to remember that Google Search isn’t in business to help us be in business. They’re in the advertising business. The better users find the SERP’s, the more money Google makes.

    Being guided by what the customer wants has always been good business practice. We should apply that rule to what we do with websites. Those who do will have less problems with the continuing evolution of Google’s algorithms..

  239. Janny

    I really appreciate this info and will be returning to re-read this.
    I built two sites with an SEO system recently and they have improved with penguin. All I did was the basic google loving things I was told. My post that ranks the best is a simple video with a little text above and a few links below. Keywords are my focus.
    A stab in the dark to have a go at using the knowledge of people like you can work wonders.

    I’ll be coming back

  240. Bruno Vincent

    Great article, however…I have a network of a dozen moving companies websites, from local moving, long distance and auto transport.

    All the sites have roughly the same link profile, some off them got affected terribly and some are fine, all sites have been online from 5-10 years.

    Unfortunately, while there might be a patern, there is no clear logic as how Google is conducting this carnage.

    It’s have calculated and half lottery, and I find that absolutely unfair and undjust.

  241. Ryan B.

    I would say microsites is definitely a good solution, but be wary of sitewide links in the header or footer.

  242. Miguel Isidro

    Just as i thought! Thanks for this article and proving what i am thinking this past week.

  243. what is good credit score

    Your mode of explaining everything in this piece of writing is really
    nice, all be capable of without difficulty understand it, Thanks a lot.

  244. Samuel Alarcon

    Now I know how to destroy my competition.

    Just I will put many links from irrelevant sites and with repetitive keywords to Websites of my competitors. That´s all….

    ! Google thank you very much! … Good job

    1. Anderson Santos

      Samuel, you are right

      Google has left us vulnerable to unfair competition.

      Now my competition will only have to put many links from sites irrelevnates to my site. that’s all

      Thanks Google …

  245. Greg

    Thanks for the brilliant analysis of a very confusing update. Soz to the folks who have lost their business due to a smelly Penguin, but let’s just see what emerges as G will no doubt have to wind the clock back somewhat as overall you would have to say this has done them more harm than good. Just look at some of the “cat dragged in” serps of late.

  246. Christopher Skyi (@ChristopherSkyi)

    Really, Google is trying kill SEO as most people think of it.

    I think Rand of SEOMoz.org hit the nail on the head with this video white board: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-googles-panda-update-changed-seo-best-practices-forever-whiteboard-friday

    It’s pretty clear to me what Google is doing and Rand sums it up with: “It is almost like the job of SEO has been upgraded from SEO to web strategist.” I’m currently getting certified in Google Analytics because that tool is rapidly evolving (along with their website optimizer tool, “Google Website Optimizer”) and I think SEO consultants and companies that don’t shift in the direction Rand suggests are going to be left behind. Right or wrong, for better or worse, Google is deciding what quality is and what’s not on the web, and they don’t think the usual aggressive SEO techniques lead to quality sites, at least not in their index.

    I think the advice in the ‘microsites masters’ article gives — maybe — traditional SEO workers (gray & black hat) borrowed time — but not much. This is because their advice comes down to not really having a natural link profile but “simulating” one. The goal of a lot of SEO has always been to evade Google – this is just a plea to do a better job at it, but sooner or later (and probably sooner because Google is using a lot of cutting edge A.I. and learning algorithms to organized their index), Google will ‘detect’ these “emulations” of natural profiles.

  247. Chris C.

    I was wondering if you think that promoting to an article network like Unique Article Wizard using the anchor text links like you said (www.MyDomain.com, My Domain, here, http://www.mydomain.com) would be enough to reverse the overoptimization of the past if I did enough to tip it over 50%? Or is it a lost cause?

  248. Ming Jong Tey

    Anchor text variance definitely has a lot to do with the penalty. However, there are still a lot of variance to confirm the pattern. Networks like BMR / linkvana are human moderated and also niche specific for each of the blog posts. Yet, BMR get hit really hard…

  249. jenli

    SEO’rs will have to be flexible all the time whenever there are Google updates..
    It’s like a game of chess, whoever has the best strategy in maneuvering the pieces will have the advantage over his opponent and may wins the game….

    1. Christopher Skyi (@ChristopherSkyi)

      “SEO’rs will have to be flexible all the time whenever there are Google updates..
      It’s like a game of chess, whoever has the best strategy in maneuvering the pieces will have the advantage over his opponent and may wins the game….”

      Google is a mulit-billion, BILLION, dollar revenue company. The hire the very best talent on the planet, in the history of the human kind. Major research universities follow their algorithmic developments, and patent protects it’s work because it’s worth billions more. Anyone who think they can “out maneuver” Google in terms of gaming their search engine is a fool.

      1. Paul

        you are so so wrong……..
        I’d put any of the SEo’rs who have been doing this since before Google existed up against any freshman grads or phd’s who don’t know what the real world is and who don’t know or understand the components of their own algorithm – all of which is derived from the work of Seor’s – after the event!
        Regarding those ‘in control’ at google – look at the quality of results since Amit Singhal got control and created a whole industry for his country….pretty poor!

        Been making a good living at this for many a year and you just have to play the game!

  250. Edward

    great analysis, let’s play with the new google rules. i hope your tips above can save my blog from penguin. thanks

  251. Jenni

    Great analysis. I was still scratching my head and wondering what I need to do after Panda and now Penguin comes along. Perhaps if I hadn’t relied too heavily on BMR to rank, I might have survived. Well too bad. It’s tie to move on. Show big G we are keen on the business and hope things turn out fine.

  252. Brent @ Niche of the Week

    With respect to those who have been hit badly, we know what Google is looking for (i.e. how they want their search results to work – giving high quality content prominence).

    This kind of slap is going to keep happening over and over… SEO isn’t dead – just highly leveraged/lazy/easy/simple tactics will get harder and harder.

    The fundamentals have never changed though…

    “Have a good quality site with good quality content that people want to read, which people like visiting and choose to revisit. Promote it. Encourage people to share it.”

  253. Ade Widia

    This is a great penguin analysis but still google is unpredictable.
    1. Create microsites –> did you mean niche site or wide topic site is dead for SEO? I see tha there are so many blogs or website with wide topic still has a better position on google.
    2. High Quality Blog Networks –> Agree, but some of ‘SEO geek’ said that blog network isn’t good option for backlinks… well, this is more confusing information than helpful.
    3. Diversify Anchor Text –> Agree. So, if you said don’t create too many backlinks with same anchored text with our niche then, there’s a question:
    - How if a website got lots of backlinks that anchored with their niche keyword but this backlinks made by their competitors….does it hurt their website SERP on google? If yes, then anyone can hurts their competitors by doing that!!
    - What will you do if your site got affected by this penguin or got penalized by google?


  254. Peter

    Nice work Alex – Haven’t been to your site before and directed here by Brad Callen [thanks Brad].
    Well I certainly can’t do anything about the existing anchor text links I have out there, I can take your research results on board and change a few things for the future.
    Have been thinking of using the MicroSite concept for awhile now but my biggest obstacle was to trust in a good C-class hosting provider who can diversify the IP addresses etc. Any recommendations!!

  255. wanarata

    Wooww..Google has left us vulnerable to unfair competition.

    Now my competition will only have to put many links from sites irrelevnates to my site. that’s all

    Thanks Google …

  256. Charles Kaluwasha

    I did not know what was happening until I started receiving emails from website owners who linked to my main site “lifeonthenet7.com” requesting to have their unrelated niches removed from my site.
    This article has opened my ignorance and will be more careful accepting such sites that may affect my ranking.
    Thanks for the big favor!

  257. alan

    very informative. i will do some changes in my strategy. thanks

  258. Pedro

    Thank you very much for this post!!! Would be invaluable if you could do a graph about Link type/Sites Hit relationship.

    We need to know if there are some link types that got targeted with this update, or not really.

  259. Wedding Photographers Melbourne

    Thanks for all the great advice – time to re-examine my site!

  260. Hamilton blog tools

    I think that the best way to look good in front of Google is to give them what they want.

    Beside, they are big brothers, and we’ve got to play by their rules if we still want to have a Business for ourselves.

    If we do everything the right way, we should be fine whenever Google hits again. Patience is a virtue:)


  261. Geo

    I’m a victim of Google Penguin. I’m just a beginner on blogging activity, and I was really surprised when I lose my visitor totally. I’m looking for a solution to end this punish and finally I found this great blog that really help me. Thanks

  262. Phil

    Thanks Alex for sharing the insights of your analysis. It seems that the Pinguin update really boils down to links/anchor texts and not to other factors that I considered as well (such as “Does my site look like an affiliate site? Do I have too many nofollow links in my articles?).

    Out of curiosity: What was the % split between penalized and non-penalized sites?

  263. Amith

    HI, very interesting. seems like with the new penguin update it will be easy to blast competitors off the first page by creating over optimised anchor text directly to their site. What is your thoughts on this?

  264. Aranza Mendez

    Well, I believe in your analysis and I know all of the methods above you mentioned could help us SEO Link Builders to improve our knowledge about this.

  265. Lisa

    Thanks so much for breaking it down and supplying data for it. only one site of mine was really hit, the rest were not ranking well, so going forward at least i know what to look out for.

  266. BTVSolo

    The penguin did slap one of my sites and I needed GPS to find it. However I been making changes day by day and am starting to come back towards page 1 again but with your tips here I should be able to recover very quickly…Thanks for this great info and I look forward to the breakdown of the 5 points….Regards, Jared

  267. Hawareyaw

    I realy discouraged by the latest Google Penguin update. I have been building purely content website, but it is hit by this update and lost traffic. I don’t know how i can get momentum and start working on my site again. Let me see what i can do using this article.

    thanks for insight

  268. stewart

    This is a very interesting post and makes a lot of sense out of what is happening, most enlightening.
    Some of the problems I am finding is getting rid of links that are banned by Google, you are not allowed to do so on the site itself and requests are ignored.

  269. Julian

    SEO indeed isn’t dead. Google are reacting in a fairly predicable way to SEO… Keeping things looking as natural as possible is the key… I suspect Penguin will be the first of a few updates that will try to filter out the black hats.

  270. Toje

    What if a competitor creates a ton of non related useless links towards your site?
    You would loose rank, or?

  271. skunk update

    penguin update is only off page and soon be the new update as that’s really fake

  272. Fahad

    Just Google Upgraged my site.
    From PR 0 to PR-3.
    My site is just less than four months old.

  273. jarrod wright

    First real post on this i have read. Everything else has been rehashed speculation.

  274. Brian

    OK, so there have been a couple questions about “HOW DID YOU DECIDE NICHE RELEVANCY” and how does Google decide for an entire site? If I’ve missed the answer I apologise but I’d like to know your input after this post!

    I think there is probably a broad CATEGORY specific similar to the categories you get when adding a site to the more popular Social Bookmarking sites – its not hard for Google to figure that out.

    Also I’m thining that the fact that PR site, news sites, video sites etc are not niche specific Google will have a different category for them, and therefore the relevancy and value to give to the link i.e.

    Video Site – Youtube etc
    PR – PRWeb etc
    News – NYTimes, BBC

    When it comes to forums and blogs, again Google knows the difference so will give different weight here again and can easily determine relevancy – there are blogs and forums that have CATEGORIES just the same as Bookmarking sites.

    I think the time has come to not leave links on blogs and forums that have too many categories and too many posts and too many tags – you know a blog that has over 10k tags looks fishy to me WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  275. Andy a.k.a FatSteve

    Excellent article, I am glad that for the last 4 months I have been doing EXACTLY

  276. Jason Mailley

    Great article. SEO is now at a new stage with the release of the Penguin. Content cost time and money so a lot of these self-proclaimed SEO Gurus will leave the game and the clients will get less and less distracted by the wannabes. To a greater extend, I would not rely too much on microsites built on networks, but instead make real sites hosted on different C-Class that will provide clean content and ideally being a niche of the main money site. A little more to setup, but a strong potential protection against the future updates. I would not waste my time on shots in the air like hiding the registry like some do since Matt Cutt already pointed out the legitimacy of some sites by the same ownership trading links that are relevant to the niche (ex. A dentist’s website pointing to an Orthodontist site, being in the same office and from the same owner, but providing a better experience to the users of both niche).

  277. Hassan Tariq

    Love the post. Can’t believe the facts. I am a bit shocked after this Update but none of my websites were hit. After reading this Post I am able to recover websites in Google which is actually a Golden egg for me.

  278. Michael

    This is the most info I’ve seen about the Penguin update. Thanks.

  279. John

    Hi admin, I am already anxious for reading the coming posts. For the moment I have only one question. Dr. Pete wrote on SEOMOZ about the penguin update (http://www.seomoz.org/blog/penguins-pandas-and-panic-at-the-zoo) and he recommends…

    ….start with the worst culprits:

    -Known, obvious paid links
    -Links in networks Google has recently delisted
    -Footer links with exact-match anchor text ***
    -Other site-wide links with exact-match anchors

    About the third one: “Remove Footer links with exact-match anchor text”, I’m seeing you use this tactic in your footer, linking “rank tracker” to your homepage… who’s right?? Dr. Peter recommended not to do it but you do…. I’m wondering it because I use the same spammy tactic and I’m not sure if this is something to correct or be aware of with this penguin update. Thanks for your answer in advance.

  280. Kumar

    A lengthy post but it was worth every second I spent reading this post. I never read such a detailed report on any of the google’s updates so far and I ll try out your microsites idea. Just can’t stop telling you thanks for the report.

  281. Vancouver Guy

    Thank you for sharing your findings, it makes me wonder why some webmasters spend all this time creating low quality links that will not stand the test of time, better to focus on getting those 2 or 3 great links on reputable sites than getting 100′s of low value spammy links that will give you a short burst of rankings but will make your sites tank on the next algo update.

  282. SeoNewYork

    Great analysis. I’m Ready to PLAY >>>

  283. bahroni

    now, i’m really confused with google,

  284. stuart

    its amazing how many times these goalposts from G happens

    great post

  285. Mark

    First of all, thank you for posting the first actual analysis of the new Google update. Can I ask how you counted backlinks for this? In other words, if a another domain has 1000 backlinks pointing back to your site, would that count as 1000 backlinks or 1 backlink for your analysis?

  286. Dave

    Hands down, the best breakdown of this update I have read. Great job, and thanks for the insight.

  287. Glen Woodfin

    A lot of webmasters put a link back to their site from the client’s site in the footer when they build one. I wonder if you think this is a bad practice?

  288. Henry

    Micro site management requires a lot of work. That time (and money) might be better spent on adding content your main site.

  289. P.K.Arun

    During recent update some my sites have affected, after going through those sites I noticed that the site which build with mass backlinks have hit very bad and those site even don’t have any much links is racking fine in google now.

    Stop building spam links-Now it won’t works anymore.

  290. Jonathan

    Excellent reminder to keep on keeping on… Cheers for a great breakdown, and thanks for sharing the data.

  291. Richie

    I am just learning that lighting up your money words in a link is considered Old School. I bit bummed I just dropped a few $ on some blog posts this afternoon for one site that had vanished during this update. It seems I may have made matters worse.

    I am thinking some of this could be levelled out by ordering short runs of blog spam using random keywords like “click here”, “this site” and even names with no relevancy. Anyone any thoughts on that as a notion?

  292. Jerry Low

    This is, by far, the best-written and -researched article on Google Penguin Updates. Thanks a lot for all the great insight.

    I fully agree with your statements as that’s exactly what I am seeing now on the niches I am closely monitoring. Blog/mini-site network still works (challenge is you gotta be quality, relevant, and not over-linking out), mini sites (or, micro sites as said) are ranking well in not-so-competitive search terms, and yes, I am seeing myself (and a lot of old timers) sinking deep in SERP due to overly-KW-focused anchor texts.

    Penguin update (or any other updates) is never about the webmasters and it’s not about your SEO hat color (Google doesn’t care) – it’s keeping part of the junks away from Google bay and making the searchers happy. So as usual, all we have to do is tweak our sites and make it something that Google wants it in the Top 10. ;)

  293. Azmanar


    Great Tips !!

    I was wondering why my 6 weeks old site started to get some attention by Google. Every article were getting indexed pretty quickly.

    To my surprised last week, 2 articles I posted was ranked Top 10 at 2 spots in not even 24 hours. Fighting against highly authoritative sites. I had to laugh out loud.

    Your article explains it all. One of the salient point is NATURAL as a BUSINESS.
    My was by accident though but I’ll carry on doing that.


  294. richard

    These two points I’ve heard before. But knowing they make such a difference is worth more than the price of any SEO book on the market today!

  295. Alan

    Great article. It is nice to see someone with actual data give some insights. I have always had in my system regular blog commenting that has heaps of nofollow and non keyword links to keep the link profile realistic.

  296. Peter

    One of my main money sites was hit, I’ll be using some of these methods to try and claw back the rankings.

  297. gamis cantik

    who let’s the dog out…upps i mean who let’s the panda and penguin out…
    you right seo is more harder than it was….and as a new comer in seo i really confuse thingking about my site rank…in fact i have online store….in just a one month my online store get ranked well…from nowhere to be in page one of google…is’t #8!! amazing for me as a seo learner…but not long after…i checked it and my store rank drop to #9 and now it’s in the bank of the cilff in #10!! those changes in just less a week…even i continue give backlinks as much as i can…maybe around 5-10 links each day…i wonder is that what pengiun did?? or just my store lack of content updated?? could you give me some clue to raise my store rank….thanks for any reply

    all the best fellow

  298. oce

    After all g-algo updates, seems the word ‘naturally’ have dominion over all .. that’s mean all ‘artifically made’ things are ‘bad things’ ..really hard times for seo, rank high at this point, mean work hard.

  299. Veteran SEO

    All our websites (about 50 across several industries) are and still ranking just fine even after Penguin, with the exception of 9 sites. The ONLY thing we did different with those sites (which BTW lost appox. 80% of their former positions) was using BuildMyRank to supplement inbound links. While it worked okay for a while, the BMR blog network turned out to be pure SEO poison.

  300. Jamal Ahmed Malik

    I own almost 75 websites including some big websites, niche blogs and micro niche blogs, i spent almost 3 days to collect data of my blogs did comparison and anaysis and found and noticed from recent google penguin update that google is penalizing those who have mass backlinks (more than 200) with domain’s age less than 1 year, one the other hand google is ranking micro niche websites very fast with quality contents even without having a single backlink.

    I was surprised when i checked one of my newly developed micro niche blog having domain age only 41 days without any backlink, but i wrote unique contents and submit it to google and today i saw it is ranking on first page of google after competing almost 7900 allintitle pages. (Great Google)

    But i have been penalized for couple of my blogs because of having mass backlinks and i came to know that i use Senuke x, LinkWheels, bulk article submissions and profile backlinks previous months on these blogs , so google penalized me for these and unlink all the backlinks from my google webmaster tools account for these two blogs and i am nowhere on google for these blogs and their keywords(Bad me not Google, because i did in wrong way)

    Conclusion: Do not focus on link building but focus on quality of contents and create micro niche websites to be focus on the topic and link all your inner pages and articles to your home page with(www.yourdomain.com). Your all inner pages should point to your home page with your focus main theme keyword just do it and you will see the progress, i did same in last month and i achieved great reults even with penguin update.

    1. AJ

      Hi Jamal,

      Great comment -thank you so much for sharing. I have a question for you regarding your sites which got hit by Penguin due to backlinking.

      Are you going to build better backlinks or focus on adding lots more quality content on these sites, or are you just going to let them go (stop working on them)?

      I’m interested because I have on big authority site that was penalized by Penguin. I love this site and want to know whether to transfer content to new domain, or try and rebuild authority links and strengthen content on same domain. Site was earning me fair bit of money.


  301. Paul

    Best post on the Internet for Penguin analysis and some excellent comment contributions.
    my points are
    There are multi-facets to the penguin
    There appears to be both a penalty and a link devaluation at work.
    Some sites we operated that were blog network hubs taking content, which have been de-indexed and banned. Could be manual or algorithmic but is permanent!
    Other ‘real’ business sites we operate futher down the link juice pipe have suffered various ranking drops commensurate with the amount of spun content pushed out to unique ips. Must be algorithmic to have affected virtually every keyword, and therefore is recoverable from..

    The most interesting point of it all though is yours – the re-evaluation of anchor text appears to be the major factor to have affected SERPS and the one to take advantage of for negative SEO.

  302. Harper Lee

    Great analysis! Thanks guys for really useful piece of content. I’m thinking over your conclusion: “…penalized sites generally had very little links coming from domains and websites in the same niche” and my question is what about credit links? I mean theme development or plugin development where a backlink to your site may be present. What’s your opinion? Thanks!

  303. jack

    Sweet. I’ll just article robot a bunch of same keywords to my competitors’ sites. Bam, they’re busted.

  304. Wendy Webb

    Basically, we just need to use a little common sense when it comes to linking.

  305. April Storm

    It looks like Google is taking this anchor text thing really seriously. On one of my sites, link diversity was quite high and there was no adverse effect with the latest update.

  306. Felix Albutra

    Hi there,

    Thank you very much for the post. It really benefited me.

    @Jamal, thank you very much bro. My question was answered by you. I have been working with niche site since 2010 when I work as a Virtual Assistant. Now, that I found that most of the niche sites I built was penalized, I was worried.

    But I also have niche sites that are not penalized. Like what you said, focus on quality content and don’t just keep on building backlinks.

  307. Domina

    Great posts, most of my site had 60% with kw link. All effected. 70 websites. Hard and sad days…

  308. Brett Nelson

    Yeah, think it’s safe to say that anchor tags need to be diversified and it’s now absolutely crucial to market your site on other blog sites. Great Article.

  309. Bill

    Great analysis guys, and I linked to this in my last blog post. I agree with you, I think (and hope) it’s a devaluation and not a penalty. We’ll see in a month or two if this is the case, as people continue to build links to diversify their anchor text…we’ll see if those sites come back. I’m going to do that to a couple of my own sites, so we’ll see.

  310. Michael

    A great post, probably the best analysis of penguin. I’ve noticed a few drops so notes taken and changes to be made. And for those asking is SEO dead, surely we won’t ever stop O’ing for SE’s were just changing how we do it.

  311. SEO Company UK

    This post is a great eye-opener and the analysis is spot on. It’s time to focus on anchor text diversity.

  312. Steve Howe

    I wasn’t affected much by Penguin, but have been evaluating my backlinks anyway. Has google focused at all on internal linking? I’m wondering what the guidelines are on links within my site.

  313. RESG

    Holy freaking comments. LOL. This is the best Penguin analysis yet and completely agree with everything you are saying. I am curious to see where all of this goes and how niches are identified. It seams as though you could use social signals and profiles to easily verify if it was from within the same niche. Can’t wait for the next 5 posts.

  314. Click Alchemy

    Great post and to the point. I think the concept of negative SEO is frightening and I hope that the penguin update is more concerned with devaluation of links rather than penalisation. I hope the big G have taken the possibility of negative SEO into account and gone with the devaluation instead.

  315. Kyle

    So here is my question… It seems now all a competitor has to do is build a bunch of spammy links with anchor text for the keyword they want to rank for to their competitors website and their competitor will get pushed out of the top rankings right?

    From everything I have learned over the years I thought that is why Google discounted Spammy links from Porn sites and such so the competitors couldn’t hurt their competition? Now it seems like having lots of links from bad sites with Anchor text you want to rank for will hurt you. That seems crazy and now a whole new Cyber Warfare will begin unless that is not the case. Can you expound on this and give us any insight into how that is handled.

    Thanks for the great blog post!

  316. LPogue

    My understanding was that link exchanges were not good technique now, but some of the comments here suggest it is. Are link exchanges dangerous to your sites?

  317. Tom

    Google´s algorithms are changing all the time, something that works today may not work next time.Would it not be easier to play by the rules from the start instead of trying to cheat the system?

  318. Scott

    It makes my head spin. The sheer volume of change that goes on in the SEO world is positively mind blowing. I really don’t know how you keep up. I would be interested in knowing as much as I can, but to try to do this part-time or “as a hobby” seems to be completely out of the question anymore. Or is it? Is there a way to do this part-time without going completely and totally out of one’s gourd?

  319. Sarah McCrary

    Could you recommend SEO DO’S and DONT’S for Google Penguin? There were 8 keywords of my website ranking on the first page before and now they all are in the late 20′s position. Suggestions please and thank you.

  320. Kiki Rose

    Wow, that was a lot of comments lol. I own a few of the most popular SEO programs, but one I cannot seem to find is a way to SEE who else is using my keywords? Does anyone know of a site or program that I can type in a keyword, say “lesbian erotica” and see who else is trying to rank for that word and also what rank they are right now for it. Obviously you can view source codes, but finding a specific keyword and looking up source codes would take A LOT of time. Time I would rather spend writing!

  321. C Singh

    very useful information here. I have been heart-broken since the Penguin update when my site lost 90% of its rankings and consequently the traffic… i have been contemplating giving up on Internet Marketing altogether… but i guess i am gonna take one more shot with the pointers in this mail in mind! thanks, again…

  322. Christina

    Kyle, I agree with you, this seems to be a scary future of SEO. Now, just blast your competitors with spam links and all will be good for your rankings. If google wants to decrease web spam – this is not the way, now google bowling will cause 10x the spam as it was before…. I am quite sure that google will need to make soon other changes to the serps in order to recover from these problems…

  323. Joe

    If the latest killer Penguin is temporary then the question must surely be “how temporary is temporary”

    Unfortunately, for many SEO’ers trying to undo the damage that has been created by their SEO efforts to date, could be problematic. If one were starting out in SEO today, then they would have a blank canvass as it were. However many of us who have worked on sites pre penguin will have our work cut out to get the sites affected back on track.

  324. Mellow

    Has Matt Cutts yet addressed the issue of negative SEO to give Web Masters an idea of how things are going to pan out? This case study already proves that diverse anchor text is of high importance, so this means that competitors can just send a ton of links using the same anchor text to knock down sites. This obviously wouldn’t affect the highly established sites with very diverse backlinking profiles, but it would affect many.

    According to this article, he’s going to address the crowds of protesters tomorrow via video link from Google HQ on how to ‘link build the google way’.


    1. Mike

      Great post. Lots of sites have been effected by the penguin updates, and site owners are not sure whats going on. Your article will help webmasters and site owners to understand what they need to do to get their site ranking again.

  325. Christina

    Well, I started all over again, after 2 years of expensive SEO with some of my projects.
    I think, to recover isn’t that easy, and to repair any over-optimization may not play out once it was already done. I think, google in serious in increasing its adwords income, as many webmasters now rather spend $500 on adwords than on SEO. A more safe result can be achieved this way. Watch their next earning releases, and stock price…. This is what this is all about – overoptimization means the site did SEO, SEO costs money, means, the website had business, now, it hasn’t business, and to recover, the business ownwes will spend money on adwords. Very targeted action…

  326. John Bocata

    Wow, you nailed it.I have never seen such an accurate data analysis for post-penguin. This is great research which we all can benefit from.thanks for the tips.I will definately use them to get back in the rankings.

  327. Click here :)

    According to your suggestion, now I will mostly get my backlinks using keywords like “click here”, “website”, “more info” etc. This comment is a good start ..

    p.s : Yeah, I am a victim of bloody Penguin update as well.

  328. Pearson

    Every time Google make an update I feel like am in the wrong career. I now believe the only way to survive is to stop relying on search traffic and create an online brand, something like Amazon.

    Thanks for your post, very well written.

  329. Carl B

    very grateful for this research and info thankyou! It will always be tough to reverse engineer Google’s algorithm, my focus remains with the site itself increasing authority and relevancy.

  330. bliss drive

    This is really helpful and I’ve sent this to my team. I totally love the idea of network sites. I have a client who’s only saving grace was the network sites we built around his niche. All the other links are easy “public” links. The network links are what’s carrying his site in this rough times..

  331. Vinod

    This is my first comment on your website. I read the post thoroughly. I didn’t interest me at all. I am sorry to say… but you are teaching people how to get google’s penalty again and again. I am the one who is struggling with google for last 1 year. Finally got success after hell lot of changes, hard work and what not. Whatever you advice here is nothing new (just doing unnatural thing little better), and finally google will catch and kick again. In my opinion the best to do seo is forget about the same, just do awesome business and show it on your website. I know to most guys here, I’ll not make any sense. or may I make some sense. Finger crossed. :)

  332. ChrisvdBerge

    Nice analysis!
    Just wanted to point out that we should be a little careful in our conclusions as correlation is of course not the same as causality. I can very well imagine that sites which have a skewed link anchor profile are employing other ‘over optimization’ techniques as well.

  333. Jasmine

    This is a very informative article on the latest Penguin update. I love your comparison charts, they are easy to visualize the percentages. Thanks.

  334. Holly Powell

    First I want to say–love micrositemasters–the software has been a lifesaver for us. With that said–some of our sites were hit and I have been scouring the web looking for an easy solution lol
    Reading this post and the comments–I don’t see a real easy solution–for the sites that got it. I’ve started at point zero and checking each and every anchor text, link, backlink and more.
    With over 2K posts and 100 plus websites–it’s going to take me some time. But I know in the end it will be well worth it.
    Thanks for the update and looking forward to the followup posts.

  335. Jim

    Superb analysis! This will work a lot for all of us. I will implement these suggestions on my site.

  336. brian

    hey,nice move toward recover from penguin.
    with google getting more and more smarter,i think natural is the name of the google ranking game now.

  337. James

    Thanks for putting together such an informative study, rare to get enough data to get a real insight.

  338. Tim Bishop

    A brilliant analysis – I think you pointed me in the right direction to resolve the Penguin disaster. But I do have some practical questions.

    I’m not a web designer but a UK lawyer with about 40 active niche websites, which until Penguin were providing an increasing amount of work for my lawyers. Each is targeted at a niche area of law and has a domain name relating to one of my chosen keywords for the particular niche area of law eg http://www.professional-negligence-claim.co.uk which, surprise, surprise was generating professional negligence claims in the UK. The sites are all full of original with highly relevant content targeted at one aspect or another of that niche. I’ve taken advice [it now appears not the right advice perhaps] and always avoided black hat techniques. Until Penguin, Google increasingly loved my content rich niche microsites.

    There is no duplicate content and I’m running blogs on a number of these sites to keep content fresh. Many of my sites have been hit hard. None have vanished entirely from the first five pages of Google – but many of my top rankings have gone. I’m thinking of adopting the following strategy to regain my position – is it a sensible package? I would be grateful for anybody’s thoughts.

    Almost all the sites are hosted on one of two servers. Around 70 % of the sites had been set up on WordPress and all with the same host. Most of the remaining, and in general slightly older and more developed sites, were set up on a Microsoft content management platform and are therefore I presume hosted by Microsoft. I’m not sure whether I could change hosting of these Microsoft sites without getting the site completely redesigned and using different content management software. I try not to overdo it, but some of the sites have links to others – especially if it’s relevant. g.g. my intellectual property site with links to the more specialist copyright law site.

    1) Should I try to get as many of these sites hosted on different servers – I was going to do that anyway for what I understand is a slight SEO advantage – will this help me with combating the effects of Penguin

    2) With regard to link building, in January I initiated an internal project whereby we are submitting around 35 links to various sites and directories in respect of my websites every month. Until Penguin, this was really working – my sites creeping up the Google rankings at a faster rate than ever. Is it okay to continue? It’s very hard to get entirely relevant sites – for example of the tiny number of sites directly dedicated to professional negligence in the UK, almost all of them are owned by my competitors. Where else can I find relevant links, if not from my own sites – which are, of course, at least aimed at various aspects of law? Prior to Penguin, Google does not seem to have penalised any limited number of links between my own sites – from relevant other sites whenever possible.

    3) Anchor text links – I suspect that I may have fallen foul of the over optimisation penalty by way of focusing on too few keywords. Many of the links to the professional negligence claim website were using the anchor text “professional negligence claim”. Rather than try to identify which are the worst of the existing links and try to remove them, would it be more sensible to continue my ongoing strategy of submitting about 35 links from various sites a month – but using alternative anchor text, effectively gradually diluting the existing ratio of anchor text. In which case, how different does the anchor text needf to be? For example, instead of using the phrase “professional negligence claim”,

    - would “professional negligence”, “professional negligence solicitors ”, “negligence litigation” or “negligence claims” be sufficiently different?

    - is the domain name itself “http://www.professional-negligence-claim.co.uk” different enough to use of anchor text?

    - Should I try to use different words entirely keeping to the same theme e.g. using phrases that I am already using as key phrases for anchor links to other pages eg “selling solicitors” or “negligent accountant”

    - do I simply need to use entirely unrelated phrases e.g. click here

    - I’ve previously been writing approximately 5 blogs a week on my main website [which thankfully is unaffected by Penguin and which is hosted completely separately from any of the other sites]. I use most of the blogs to link to my various microsites, depending of course on the content of the blog entry. As result, there will be dozens of anchor text links from my main site to one of the more popular microsites -but all originating from highly relevant and Vicki original blog entries. Is it likely that I have been penalised for this? Should I stop?

    1. iDCx

      Bish – what a comment ^^ – erm – my 2 pence…

      1) I dont think moving host will help sites that have been pinged – your domain name is what gets slapped – you used to be able to go to like ww2 and https and then sub domains but G stopped that one a while ago, 301 redirecting to a new website seem what most are going for to me…

      2) directories are low value at the best of times… if you are actively persuing directories – at least look for UK and co.uk sites in future, and link to inner pages of your site.

      3) yer – exact match domains – your domain name is that keyword you were anchor texting, so yes use variations of the brand and yes use the http://www and yes use click here – vary your anchor text has been catching ppl out for years – the old stable of SEO “keyword REsearch” – you want like – 10 /15 variations of your money terms anchor text to be built into your profile. Exact matched domains are dody and limiting at best – you might have been better going for domain names like – bishops negligence claims – my mesothelioma log dot co dot uk or something… heck – your strategy was too narrow bishop – but easy to point fingers look back…

      4) keep inter linking – most of these penalties are time based anyway… they come back after a while if you clean up the act and continue to add value to the web.

      Good luck with it!


  339. Brigitte Mehr

    Good sound advice here – fortunately we started creating microsites a while ago and can agree that they work well. Thanks for sharing this with us all it is much appreciated not least because it confirms our gut instinct was right :)

  340. Arnaud

    SEO isn’t dead, just needs a real descriptive name of what it is, like UEO (user experience optimization) or IRO (Information Retrieval Optimization

  341. Rob Dover

    Thanks for the advice. I had lost my ranking, on google but now can form a plan of action to get back up and ahead of the competition.

  342. Preeti Mittal

    This new update added new quality search for the users and customers.
    Many of the links which was earlier showing on 1st page of Google now their page ranking has affected

  343. Paweł Rabinek

    Thanks for that charts and simple explanation.

  344. CouponsMate

    This is a great article, I like the method #3 and #5, and diversity anchor text will work great with directory submission. However, I think they gonna change their algorithm in very near future.

  345. Gita Street

    Great post. I just wanted to let you know that I saw a copy of your article posted on Twitter. They copied your article word for word. You might want to run your article through Copyscape too, because I found three examples more there.

    This seems to be the one who copied your article:


  346. jared

    Thank you for sharing , give me some clue to be recovered by penguin

  347. Isaac


    I have to say a large amount of my site that got hit, is because of the over optimize anchor text.

    Thanks for clearing this up.

  348. Hasan Khan

    Great post and the best analysis I’ve seen on penguin so far. A lot of people have been hit by the latest update — I don’t know if anyone’s heard, but a lot of black hat SEO workers in India have lost their jobs due to this update. Good thing I never decided to build backlinks to my website otherwise I’d be in quite a pickle here. I did however take a hit on one of my websites on which I’ve never built backlinks so I guess maybe the penguin update hit some white hat sites as well.

  349. andi darusalam

    Every time Google make an update I feel like am in the wrong career. I now believe the only way to survive is to stop relying on search traffic and create an online brand, something like Amazon.

    Thanks for your post, very well written.

  350. Jeremy Ruggles

    Thanks so much for this explanation of what the heck is going on with Google. It never fails and Google is going to keep tightening those reigns,,, lol

    Take care,


  351. MarketingOxford

    Great post!

    My site has dropped down the rankings for keywords I’m targeting, however my competitors who haven’t touched their sites for years, have rubbish content and don’t use on page optimisation have jumped above me.

    I found something interesting today whilst searching for competitive keywords to see the sites that are now ranking at the top.

    I searched on Google.co.uk for ‘make money online’ an extremely competitive phrase and this site is now #1 on Google – http://www.makemoneydotcom.co.uk/

    According to Mkt Samurai this has 0 backlinks and is a new domain! It does have 179 indexed pages but looking at these blog posts etc they are not optimisted for the keyword ‘make money online’ at first glance.

    I struggle to understand how a site which before the Penguin update would have a relative low SEO presence now ranks #1 for an extremely competitive and profitable keywords.

    Any SEO pro’s out there please let me know what you think about this. It’s ranking above sites that are 12 years old, have pr5 and tens to hundreds of thousands of backlinks.

    1. Allan

      I have seen exactly the same thing in other “spammy” niches, I think Google is specifically targeting certain money keywords and mixing it up in order to stop the spam.

      I have only seen this is the type of niches that the worst type of SEO is used on.

      I would say a message to let people know it’s no longer worth your time.

      I even saw a site on prchids rank no.10 for the term payday loans.

      Try searching payday loans and a site called Orchidlady.com is in pos.10, whats that all about?

  352. MarketingOxford

    Also are there any top tips for finding blogs/sites in your same niche that you can get good links from?

  353. Jay

    Best penguin post so far! Personally, I think its time for people to start building quality sites. Four years ago, when I first started my website, I learned SEO myself, over still remained very white hat and got good results. My company started to grow, so I hired one the BEST SEOers ( so I thought). They used many blackhat tricks and the link networks all came down ( was very update). Since then, I have taken full control over my own SEO and continue to do GREAT alone. My advice for website owners, TAKE FULL CONTROL OVER YOUR SEO. To SEOers: Do the right thing for you clients, if that means charging more, then CHARGE MORE.

  354. Howard

    Thank you for posting this article. Items #1 and 3 are very helpful clues to recover from the penguin update.

  355. NETPEAK

    Great article! Most of my websites didn’t lose rankings. Only one feels not good but it seems like that’s not a Penguin but Panda.

  356. Thomas

    So are sites like Ezine, Squidoo, and Hubpages part of your niche? Or do these sites not have a niche? And are they still useful for link building.


  357. art

    If I did overoptimalization, I have only 2 anchors. If I will get another links with differetn anchors, is there any possibility that I will come back to top 1?

  358. Tilak Bisht

    Thanks for detail analysis!

    I believe the penalty is most correlated with over use of keyword anchor text, if we diversify our strategy, it will be good.

  359. Mike

    I had the fourth spot of Google for a popular keyword analysis tool, from a blog post that compared this keyword tool to another. My site is now on page two, and the last 3 listings on page one are black hat forums, all with blackhat in the forum name. One of those forums has a link to a free download for a product I paid $47 for. This forum post has NO info relevant to the product, and points to a link where people are stealing the software. Nice job Google – idiots.

  360. Winson Yeung

    Thanks for the comprehensive analysis of the Google Penguin update. My blog was affected and I’m following your guide to diversify my anchor text now by add in keyword like click here, find out more etc.

  361. rambabu seo

    yes, i think SEO will never ever dead at all being a robots to figure the popularity of links fuel of any website. But they are surely keeping in mind to notice and get rid of any spammy websites away from their serps!

  362. Albert F A Matthews

    In total the update google rolled out in april had over 52 optimization in it and it did affect
    a ton of stuff and more so anchor links being stuffed and teir linking from what I have read
    to which google has looked at the patterns of sites as to the spammy side of things but I dare say
    they have took out some sites and replaced them with lesser quality sites and this can be seen and proved on seomoz site as they explain all of what google is talking about and everything goes back on itself, http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-google-makes-liars-out-of-the-good-guys-in-seo

    What I know is above and I am still puzzled but wanna thank you for the idea on creating little niche topic sites good call…….

  363. Thomas Rode

    Really great advice and I simply LOVE correlation analysis and statistics when it comes to SEO stuff.

  364. Ben at http://www.way2makemoneyeasy.com

    So many things have happened with this “Google Panda and Penguin”…And it took only couple weeks to destroy the Internet Business.

    I think that it will be best if we can find another strategy to survive this chaos, because most of us have no idea what is going on…And besides, a lot of us are innocent and we have no clue what to do with this situation.

    Anyway very good tips, and I really appreciate the post:)


  365. Rusty Ferguson

    I was surprised at number two. I got hit hard by penguin, I feel like the penguin and Google is the shark!
    it does look like a penalty in my case. I’m seeing ranking drop exactly 100. In some cases from number 1 to 100 or 101. Also i had sites on the same IP and private name servers that go hit where I had done little to know back linking.
    I’d really like to know how many of the people that got hit also got the un-natural link building in their webmaster tools account. I saw that as a warning to what was coming when coupled with other things Mat Cutts had been saying. I tried to fix it but i wasn’t aggressive enough in my fixing.

    People keep making the argument that Google wants big sites that spend lots of money on advertising to rank well. i don’t see the benefit in that for Google. If the large corporate sites can rank well naturally, they don’t need to buy as much advertising. What am I missing?

    Thanks for the article. i took a gamble and went the other way. Totally white hat and asked for a reconsideration. I dare not twitch until I hear something back from Google. So far, I’ve only heard it may take us several weeks but we will review your site. I don’t think I should build any links right now. I’m all ears though.

    The micro sites, are you talking about things like Squidoo, Hub Pages, Google Pages and so on? I want to build my own private network but I’m unsure how effect that will be. With my drop in traffic it will be hard for me to pay for a PR5 or PR6 website to do that with too.

    I had already jumped all over Facebook and a good portion of my traffic is coming from there. I’m glad I did. i’m going to keep expanding on that. My site is a high quality site, I don’t think Google did their users a lot of good by sending it to the bottom of the rankings. I don’t want to depend on Google any more. But I can’t ignore them so I will keep trying to fix it.

    Thanks very much for your article. I’ve been quite confused over the last couple of weeks on what to do. This helps but I’m in a holding pattern for now. I’ll use it to plan with.

  366. Josh - Studio JWAL

    Thanks for taking the time to compile all of this. Now I have some real SEO data I can share with my clients.


  367. parasmani

    I think only way to get good ranking is to write unique, lengthy and engaging content. Google will keep trying to vary all other SEO factors.

  368. Danni

    Great analysis. Penguin is a very bad update and the search results are a mess IMO..

  369. Christian

    So lets say you have a site that the main keyword (blue widgets) got pushed down into no man’s land out of top 200+, but you still have other variations of the keyword ranking well.

    Since that keyword probably tanked because it was heavily over optimized, but they other KW’s weren’t, does anyone believe that by continuing to dilute your anchor text, and bring it into a reasonable sub-50% for Blue Widgets, that this will help Blue Widgets to recover rankings. Has anyone experimented and built enough links with varying anchors to adjust the KW percentages properly?

  370. Rudolf

    I also think they are using link devaluation otherise it would be to easy, you can buy 300K blog comments for 100$ atm, I do not want to know what happens if you send them to a small website all with the same anchor text at the same day :-)

  371. Dave Stopher

    This is where the great SEO’s of the world come into there own. This is where strategy rather than process kicks in for me.

  372. Bizworld

    This is a very informative article on the latest Penguin update. I love your comparison charts, they are easy to visualize the percentages. Thanks.

  373. Virak

    Though Penguin Update is good at fighting spamming sites, but the top Google result pages are not the great as Google and Visitor want yet.

  374. Location voiture agadir

    It’s nice to read tips that seem straight to the point and easy to understand although there’s nothing new in it but it’s a constant reminder on how we can avoid being slapped or get affected by Google Penguin.

    Thank you very much!

  375. Echo

    I think my site has been penalized by this update. The traffic drops a lot and the alexa ranking keeps increasing. My site is not a spamming site, and I just post some articles introducing my products on blogs everyday, and I certainly insert the anchor text in those articles. How will Google get to know what my articles are talking about if I remove those anchor text away?

  376. microsites and seo

    Your methods especially about microsites is dead on. If you build quality relevant microsites that are valuable to users they not only rank well after any algo update they help other main non microsites rank.

  377. Swapan Kumar

    Today I read 1 article “Using a 301 Redirect with an Aged Domain to Increase Your Domain’s SEO Value –
    http://www.anticareer.com/usin… ”

    I want to confirm few points here:

    1) If one website who is penalized by Penguin do you think 301 will be useful if we go through aged domain.

    2) Will be any bad effect because someone used unnatural link in old website.
    3) May be transferred all good backlinks to new domain after 301 redirection.
    4) Will be rank effect in Google after 301 redirect.

    If “YES” how will be time taken to back rankings in Google.


    All suggestion are Welcome here.

  378. Steve

    I’m a little confused when you mention Microsites that contain high quality content from within your same niche. This seems to violate Google’s Webmaster Guideline which state; “Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.” – as a webmaster and obvious user, I HATE seeing webmasters who build 10 little sites that all contain similar content and cross link to each other. It’s just black hat and serp hogging.

    1. admin

      Microsites do not have to have substantially duplicate and/or low quality content.

      1. David Lin

        I have the same concern about this technique. We have used this technique and built 50+ microsites with unique contents 10 years ago. However, it is very time consume to keep update all your microsites, so those 50 microsites has zero value to help you to improve your ranking. If this technique is really work, could you please let me know what I need to do to make it work for me.

        1. admin

          One of our next posts will be on microsites and how to build them properly. Stay tuned! :)

  379. Pj Zafra

    Great post. Thanks for sharing. I’m still a bit new with seo. I was recently making 2 optimized articles a day and rank on page 1 within minutes using an authority blog with simple and minor backlinking. However now, I can barely rank. It sucks. Not stopping there though.

    Thank you for this useful info!

  380. Phil Jensen

    You guys hits this right on the head!

    I got hit hard by penguin but bounced back with some solid strategies to clean up bad habits (e.g. BMR) and I had my best Adsense day ever closing out with $2,225.

    You can definitely come back from Penguin, you just have to refocus and hustle.



  381. Mellow

    I’ve just read a thread over on the Warrior Forum where someone has identified a site which is on the 1st page of Google for a competitive keyword and the backlinks to the site use a very high percentage of the keyword. This goes against your analysis on the importance of anchor text variation. Could you explain why this may have happened as it has me confused.


  382. Mike Shannon

    The research here is awesome, especially the % of sites penalized as a function of the money keyword in their anchor text links but I feel like this is sort of old news and Google has been looking out for this kind of thing for years. I wonder if the Penguin effects are correlation and not causation relative to your 60% theory. I guess the more sites you sampled and showing your same results the higher confident we can have. I personally think Penguin had to do more with the % of links coming from sites in the same niche as that one is more difficult for a computer to intelligently identify.

  383. Dev Bhushan

    Awesome report. Some really good information here and surely this information will help us in web marketing. Your analysis is excellent. Thank you!

  384. David Lin

    Great information and analysis. However, create microsites technique also soundd like a “blackhat”. I cannot see the different between the microsites you created yourself and those “link farms”. can you try to explain this?

    1. admin

      A microsite can be blackhat or whitehat depending on how you build them. A microsite can provide value to the user (think of a review site), and I would consider that to be a legitimate white hat link.

  385. rargz

    It’s been a ride… But the information is very accurate. I still rank #1 for some keywords but I was kicked down several pages on the terms with “money” anchor text. Most of this links were from the same niche (or closely related), so I agree with the anchor text theory.

    Great research. With everything that’s going on, it’s nice to walk on what seems te right direction.

  386. Mike

    Has anyone actually recovered from penguin? From what I’ve been reading, Google run it periodically like panda. Think it’s only been run once so far and that was the day it was released on the 24th last month…

  387. amy

    This whole thing about penguin is crazy. I wonder why a giant like Google should not test their algorithms well before launching it. I am a supporter of quality but we have seen highly reputable sites with professionally written contents being hit. If your site gets links which you can’t control, should your site be punished for that? I can hear malicious individuals laughing their heads off since this may be a way to destroy competition

  388. amy

    There was a very nice post last night in the search engine land where they have talked on behalf of Google and wrote that Google is not supposed to feed you and your family. And they have mentioned that since many people are complaining about the penguin update, it should be clear that we didnt ask anyone to rely on us. Penguin is quite smaller in comparison to the last year’s Panda, but its intensity is much high. Those who are hit are actually very badly affected.

  389. Abhijit Saha

    I am now focusing on only Quality contents and authority links. Trying to get contextual links from web 2.0 blogs, press releases and guest blogs.

    Thanks for this helpful and valuable post,

  390. Alex Rabe

    Yesterday after a long discussion Google has officially updated Google penguin and websites affected are <0.1% according to Matt Cutts.

  391. Jenny

    Penguin… right… And the only thing that I’m seeing in the serps today is spam… I don’t understand the world anymore. But thanks for your 5 methods!

  392. Adi Rian

    Love entire case study you have regarding Penguin update. I also have twenty something microsites that exactly use different strategy to promote and as you said in your post you are completely right regarding over optimization. From twenty something microsites that I have, only one that stay after the update which is website that has no backlink and what I’ve done only contributing on same niche whether blog or facebook group

  393. Moda

    Nice article, but unfortunately my case, not everything is correct.
    On average, the 10 domains that were positioned in the same way (the two key words, mainly bookmark sites), seven fell far beyond the TOP500, but the three domains are increases.
    I can not explain, what’s interesting growth persist even after the update to 1.2 penguin
    Just have to wait what will happen next …

  394. Perk

    dear admin, what can you say about dofollow/nofollow balance?

    1. admin

      Try to make it as close to what a ‘real site’ would have. Despite what others say, Google does take nofollow links into account and a site with all dofollow links looks unnatural. As for exactly what percentages, I couldn’t say. But take a look at big authority sites and see what their ratios are!

  395. SamuelJ

    It would be interesting to see if these test where run pre and post Panda 3.5 (seeing as dates are so close to Penguin) if the results were the same or different. If the same results came out between 19th and 24th then all the data could be related to Panda and not Penguin?

  396. Tyler Collins

    I find these graph images a perfect representation of what I sort of accidentally discovered through over-linking to some of my sites. I was using a blog network pretty aggressively, with a lot of anchor text.. and using a backlink analysis tool to watch anchor text densities.. and sure enough a few of the sites that were above 50/60% density for exact match (money keyword) anchor text got penalized. The additional insight you provided about linking site relevancy is also VERY helpful.. after reading a few google patents, and watching changes in my own data sets, what you said here makes more sense than anything I’ve read on the web. Thanks for the data..

  397. Gonzalo

    I really love the post , I was looking for info , real info , about the Penguin and how to neutralize it , and yours is the most accurate info i could find , Best Regards I will suscribe to your Blog from now on .

  398. Tanya Smith Lorenz

    Thanks for a comprehensive post (and no I didn’t do the Cliffs Notes!). I think increasingly Google is showing that it wants to put user experience above ‘gaming’ the rules. I think as the likes of Facebook become increasingly seen almost as ‘search sites’ themselves this will become even more evident – which for legit marketers has to be a good thing!

  399. Michael J.

    Great insights. But the 1 million dollar question is, how to recover from google penguin??? Pruning links that may be hurting your site is in many cases impossible, what i would like to see is if any site managed to get out of google penguin by adding more branding backlinks ( ex: http://www.sitename.com ) that would dilute the effect of exact anchor name backlinks. Do you know any case of that?

    1. admin

      Others have had success with pruning links, but I do not recommend it. You are basically admitting defeat and that you had control over those links all along while giving Google more ammo as to what is a real link and what isn’t. I would instead recommend building new links that have ‘generalized anchors’ and focus on getting higher quality backlinks. Sites that already had a good/real backlink profile were able to whether backlink spam, so it should work in reverse (that building a good/real backlink profile will help negate already existing backlink spam).

  400. cjeinATL

    Great in depth post! A few SEOs that I know have really felt the burn from the Penguin update. I think you offered great insight with the point that “Google is trying to replace or devalue “anchor text” use with “niche/content relevancy of linking sites” as a primary link relevancy, (or “quality”) signal.” This insight coupled with Google+ Local and +1s in the SERP are going to give users a truer, more valuable set of search results – exactly what Google wants.

  401. Chris Shaefer


    Thanks for some action steps and the data to back it up. It is nice to have some legitimate data to back up the updates that have paralyzed a lot of our sites.


  402. James

    Good read! Penguin update really shaked many websites. I recommen SEOmoz, which is a very good of SEO Forum for beginenrs as well as for advanced SEO experts to find all information on Panda or Penguin google updates.

  403. Tyler Collins

    I agree completely.. especially because in many cases you simply can’t edit the page with links you want removed. I have a fairly new site that we started linking to with a bit too much anchor text.. it seemed to get stuck on page 4 of the Google serps and the seemed to start back tracking.. something we see when anchor texts start to reach overoptimization.. so to fix it, instead of removing the links.. we created a few dozen new quality links using only domain.com and http://www.domain.com and other brand/url keywords as anchor text.. and the site shot up 30+ positions..

    “when you add to much salt to your soup.. add more soup” ;)

  404. Swayam Das

    From whatever I have read so far, both in your blog as well as in Google’s blog, it seems that Google is dead against any kind of exerted “seo efforts” if it’s natural then its okey for them otherwise from now onwards, its like creating your own website without the seo factor in mind.. :P

    Gonna be tough! :-)

  405. Neill

    Excellent article.

    I’ve been selling products online since 1999 (before Google existed!!) and I’ve always tried to keep pace with SEO updates and trends – a lot of which have been prompted by Google in the first place with the rest of us following like sheep. However, I can’t help thinking that the wheel has now turned full circle and we’re now going back to those good ol’ days where the adage “Content is King” was first coined.

    Surely, good content which is written for humans to read and comment upon has to be better than the billions of spun articles which make no sense to anybody and which are hastily thrown around the internet in the hope a link back to the originator will be generated from somewhere – anywhere.

  406. Eric

    Thanks for this great info. I got 2 sites of mine that got hit by penguin (they fell on the third page of google) but I managed to bring them back up to page 2 simply by removing all the footers links that I had on 15 other sites. Footer site wide links aren’t what they used to be anymore.
    So! I’ll take note of your post and apply what I can to my sites and hopefully get back on page 1!

  407. Jeane

    That was really gold mine article. Links have been a pillar for most of SEO and utilizing one of this tips after getting hit by the recent updates would mean a great margin for efficient improvement.

  408. submit website

    Natural links are an indicator of quality content. It means that people are linking to you because they find your site interesting and they’re receiving any incentives for the links. Of course, if you’re paying for links you can always try to make your link profile look more natural.

  409. Rajesh

    This is what I really want, very good resource, I’ll surely go through this. I’ll create natural links, will play Google game.

  410. Isma

    Story about Panda not finish yet and now Google come up with new story “Penguin” .Aaargghhh it all drive me crazy. After this what ????. But, I don’t care about that. I do what should I do. . .

  411. Ong

    Thank you for your sharing this amazing report. All of my money sites have disappeared from Google SERP but they weren’t being deindexed. Do you have any specific method to bring them back to top 10? They are old sites..

  412. Poker Navigator

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on SEO Case Studies.


  413. Adrian

    Good info – it’s all about Organic SEO – my first web company I worked for that was all we did, no PPC , Black hat – just natural – however I have seen many websites suffer when Google Updates are released – but not due to the owners themselves but the Tatics used when out sourcing SEO. Keep it indoors if you can!

  414. Marc

    Just read this for the 4th or 5th time, but I hadn’t read the comments. I’d be interested to know if all of this holds true for ranking subpages as far as anchor text goes. IE you probably wouldn’t link to a subpage with your brand name as the anchor text, but you could use the url as the anchor text. I assume its safe to merely link to subpages with anchor texts like url, here, and then your money keywords?

  415. techjamblog

    What we should do is to get prepared before the next algorithm update. lol!

  416. Nitesh Ahir

    WHY should i have to put my site in to relevancy site….
    if i got 100 links from the gov sites & educational sites….

    why people are more thinking on relevancy when one person is talking about that…

    i don’t like to stick with link building because i love to anlysis & i just put it where i love to ….
    how can we say that it’s not related to me…

    my site is related to web design & development so can’t i create a link in construction website… Who say that i don’t get visitors from that site…
    even if i can put blog posting on cross category where i can found visitors….

    this two things which i would like to do that…..
    there are more option which we can use for the same…

    I would like to cross check me if i am wrong….

    Nitesh Ahir

  417. B Scott

    Good info I am always researching different SEO topics.

    The more things change the more they stay the same.
    links blah blah links.
    So this about manipulating text links?

    My 10 year old girl can manipulate text links. Your calling that SEO? More like amateur hour. lol
    That is not what SEO is about and people cry when google tweaks the algo.

    Newbies just build text links naturally.

    The SEO work you do will last for years, years and years. Then someday you might get kinda mad at yourself saying I only charged $X,XXX.XX to SEO that? Whoops sorry went off somewhere.

    There are so many ways to get natural links. We can be here all day building that list.

    Given the time, effort and of course the real threat of a penalty just to manipulate them. You and your clients are better off not playing this game.

    I am still seeing my competitors get good results and their main source of “quality” links are spammy hello-world .EDU blog links.

    How many years have I been doing SEO more than 17. oldest seo company? Google it. lmao

    I have not tested the negative text link effecting others scenario. However, if you got 15k and you want someone to go bye-bye we can try it. :)

    [end sarcasm] Really could use the 15k though.

    Peace back to the man cave.

  418. Glen Parker

    A great overview, thanks – particularly around the best keyword text to use. The Penguin updates seem to have produced some bizarre results, but your post gives some solid steps for moving forward with SEO! Cheers.

  419. Karen Cioffi

    Thank you for the helpful breakdown of Google’s latest update and what we can do to help ranking. It’s very informative! I love your “I’m too Lazy” ending. :)

  420. cloud computing

    all 5 tips are good and i really follow all because all are Google friendly that helps me to get natural linking

  421. Mike

    That’s great and all, but how does a newbie go about making microsites all day?

  422. Danny Han

    As Google filters out all the software generated SEO links and low quality articles, the high quality SEO service providers will prove to be far more effective is ranking websites in search engine results. That’s good for SEO companies like us.

  423. WSM, Andy

    Great analysis. I definitely agree to the point about over optimization with the exact matched anchors, clearly we need to diversify that. However, I’m not so sure about the 2nd point about relevant theme. Google’s giving more weight to social signals, and most of the BLs from these sites are not ‘on topic’ links, similarly many other big news sites out there, its hard to imagine that Google would devalue these links. We’ll wait and see…

  424. Nitesh Ahir

    Well Said! Will be doing my own testing as well, but i;ve always stressed having a well diversified link portfilio because you never know what type of link will be “evil” next

  425. emizr media group

    Penguin is supposed to filter out lower quality sites yet I still see many sites that have engaged in blackhat techniques still rank well. also, how can websites protect themselves from anti-seo attacks? I think google should not count any sites links below PR3.

  426. Tom Andrews

    Refreshingly honest and entertaining ;-)

  427. Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe

    I’ve been away from my blog for a while and missed a lot of Google shenanigans. My rankings did drop, but now are coming back and then some.

    Nonetheless, I wanted to educate myself on what seemed to be one of the worst offenders, and anchor text seems to be it. Guilty!

  428. bridal makeup in delhi

    we recently recovered from google penguin update we lost upto 4 to 5 pages in ranking and now recovered in some keywords by making changes to internal links

  429. inSegment

    Nice analysis, I’m wonder if there is any other analysis like that to compare them both. Many times I was doing different analysis and I was almost sure that I found how Google plays with factors, but after more an more reports I was getting confused to understand whats more importan, to do the right SEO and what Google thinks. Will see.. about one think I’m sure that SEO needs to be tested every day.

  430. Daryl

    Thanks for these very clear and straight to the point ways to recover from penguin update.

  431. Jimmy

    I was reading an SEO article on another website and they linked to you. So I guess you are right that social media/getting others to link to you naturally is a good idea. When it comes to “linkbait” as I think the term goes, I feel like I can’t come up with something worthy enough for people to just want to share it on their own…I think I’ll read the link bait article you linked to next.

  432. Jun - Clickbank Reviews

    People are still wasting money in doing mass spamming using submission tools. This is the main reason why Google imposed this changes. If someone just follow the suggestion outlined in this post, Google penalty is not possible. I have sites that were penalized too and have sites that were not penalized. I am making changes on contents but I think I can still recover them considering that the backlinks from other sites is out of my control…. better to create new sites and implement this strategy I think..

  433. NYC SEO

    Thank you for the helpful breakdown of Google’s latest update and what we can do to help ranking.I’ve never learned so much from any other blog post. Enjoyed reading this today.

  434. Dheeraj

    Very Nice analysis.
    ALL in ALL
    The only Constant thing in this Universe is Change and Google is best following this practice.

  435. Alex

    Excellent SEO tutorial! I really appreciate your time posting this article! After Google Panda and Panguin updates there is a HUGE MESS! Somebody needs to clean it up! Thank you micrositemasters! Cheers, Alex

  436. Kris

    This analysis is INCREDIBLE. The fact that you also have some data to leverage makes me think that you may be onto something. I really hope that you continue to provide updates like this over time. I’ll be subscribing you to my RSS just in case you do!

  437. Mike

    Thanks a lot for your analysis.
    I’m not so familiar with these SEO techniques but I noticed that my site kept good rankings for some keywords and almost disappeared for some others. And also differences between countries – just a guess based on visitors’ countries in Google Analytics.
    Are these Google Penguin updates running every month or so?
    Thanks, Mike

  438. Chris

    Intresting…..verrry intresting.

  439. Samuel Lavoie

    Good to see the data aggregated. One of the few Penguin post that truly holds any water to me.

  440. Simon

    The microsite you refer to are these supposed to be a sub domain for your site ie.e ‘support.example.com’ or a completely new domain you have set up. So if your selling furniture, you have a micro information site on cushions or cleaning products etc with links to your money site referring to the colour schemes etc?

  441. Tom

    Did you analyse how the different types of links behaved ? i.e. Blog comments v. Wiki

  442. Matt

    Is there a tool that you can recommend that it would help to build quality microsites in a systematic and automated way?

  443. Sal Hakim

    It has now been confirmed that we are moving into another update with Penguin 3.91 instead of Panda 4.0. I agree with most of the information in this post with the exception of microsites, I really believe that those will have less weight in time. For example, Google’s algorithm looks at whois records to see who owns domains. When there is a large circle of domains that are all owned by the same person…..well I’m sure you can see the problem with this. I’m not saying that microsites don’t work, but I belive theirs a more effective practice of going about generating quality links. One way is simply guest authoring on popular sites that are relevant to your market which rank well around a specific topic related to your business. Another thing I wanted to add is a great tool that can help locate bad links called link detox. Hit me up on twitter or do a google search. Thanks for the article, great info for the most part.

  444. Eddie Micheals

    Good analysis about the latest Google Penguin update! I’m really having a hard time figuring out what is best to do after this update and confused what is in or out. Good thing I found this blog to help me what should I need to do to fix my problem. By the way, is it really still effective to use blog networks?

  445. Jayden Dartnell

    I really impress for the analysis very detail and clear info. I will apply this knowledge into my website etc. Google updates is part of the SEO game. Win or Lose situation. Another effective way in link building is to control your backlinks if possible, don’t spam specially the content and use whitehat method only. Other SEO techniques is also helpful like link juice etc… If you want to play the Google algorithm you must read this article first. Thanks a lot for this.


  446. Ian McIntosh

    Great post! Out of interest, how many sites were analyzed?

  447. Anju Sharma

    Hey I read Your blog article and i m agree with penguin updates its grate for white hat method using peoples…But I want to be SEO rules as per day work…how many submissions per day on particular sites…so please help me???

  448. Waldo

    What did you expect? Google is saying they want a good user experience.
    So if your site is exactly what your ‘keyworduser’ is looking for, you will rock it

  449. Jessica B Johns

    I personally think that the purpose of google to release back to back updates regarding content and SEO (penguin and panda) is that to move free method of link building into paid. I mean google want to get more and more revenue from PPC and other paid campaigns are helpful to increase its own budget.

  450. Antony

    Excellent SEO tutorial! I really appreciate your time posting this article! After Google Panda and Panguin updates there is a HUGE MESS!

  451. Steve

    I agree with Jessica. Every time Google changes its algorithm, they must earn so much more profit from adwords and PPC campaigns as its generally a lot easier to set up a PPC campaign as it is to rethink your whole SEO strategy. However I do understand that they do need to change their algorithm to keep the best sites (content wise) at the top and not just the sites that have been there for the longest.

  452. Spiegelschrank

    Nice post I agree with your information we have to work with the upgrade but at the same time do not rely too much on Google alone for traffic.

  453. moradabad

    i completely agree with jessica that google just want to make more profit from adwords as any one can easily setup ppc and take the effected website to top using $$$$$$

    regards from

  454. Smart eDesigners

    Thanks for the information. We are waiting for the updates….

  455. Sergi

    That is a very good infromation, I think i might have been penalized in october for a couple of keywords since i do not apear in the first 50 positions, when before I was in 1st page.

  456. Divakar Mishra

    I read many articles on Penguin update but my today’s 30 minutes is best use of time to read this article. The way you have presented the analytical data best and easy to understand but I agree with some people that after this update competitors can harm work to lower the ranking.
    But in totality it will be helpful update for white hat seo professionals.

  457. Mike Bailey

    I have to agree with you that SEO is not dead because relevant and useful information is still what search engines want

  458. Liza Delsol

    Hi, my website has been badly affected by the google’s update, thanks for sharing these tips ;-) I will try them and see how it goes.

  459. JeremyB

    Great read, still experimenting and studying my own serp movements but what you say totally seems to make sense. I think there has also been a negative impact for exact match domains, as I had 2 websites that were badly hit, but 1 other that actually improved.

  460. Scott Young

    If i Redirect (301) Whole old website on new Website : would i be getting any penalty from Google because my Old Website was badly affected by the Google Dance.

    1. John Romaine

      Yes you will. I tried this myself (after the EMD update) and after about 3 weeks and the penalty seemed to carry over.

  461. Steve Fitzpatrick

    I agree that businesses should diversify their strategies. What’s great about this article is the advice to build out links from other relevant sites – that’s not just a great SEO strategy but it’s a great strategy for attracting an audience directly from those relevant sites.

  462. Alan

    Great analysis, but what about link wheel? Does it still effective? Or will it backfire on my overall ranking? I am waiting for your response.

  463. Agadir

    Thanks for this important post. I have been waiting for someone with “real” data to come forward with “real” information we can take action with. I sincerely thank you for this post as should every other seo who reads this!

  464. Gaucy

    With microsites youre basically suggesting to build high quality small sites (less than 10 pages?), in same niche you’re targeting. Any advice on “send relevant and authoritative positive ranking signals towards your main site” without looking like a doorway farm sites?

  465. Faiyaz Sultan

    My Website has vanished from google even though I rank high on Bing … Though my website has orginal content with no black hat technique. I am not sure whats next here … as i am confussed

  466. Vadim Luchnikov

    Thx for good information. I’m working with ukrainian google, and doesnt have such problems like with US or UK Google. But sometimes pengiun works incorrect and penalty realy good site with nearlt 25-30% of “money keywords”.

  467. Bogdan

    Having, your own network o related websites does work. Always did.
    In response to Faiyaz Sultan there was a Google Serps major update in December 2012. A lot of sites got hit, among them many niche sites.

  468. Tim

    You state to add microsites assist in SEO but there is a quote from the Senior Development Program Engineer that does against this idea:

    “What about microsites? Are they a good idea?

    Microsites were originally created to dominate search results. It was originally kind of a spammy technique. I normally don’t suggest it, Mayday and future updates are only looking for quality sites. If you want to dominate search results, you can do things like add videos/images and other data. Microsites confuse users, there are links coming in to another site that isn’t your main site, and they are hard to maintain as now you have multiple sites. It’s a jarring user experience; I don’t think they are going to work in search results in the future as they did in the past.”


    What is your take on this?

  469. linda

    i agree on the above but does it google work differently on the different country google? i see and read alot about websites being penalized but looks most are on the global google search. In my country’s google, i still see many websites that employ “blackhat” techniques and have survived many updates.

  470. Vincent Armstead

    Its true that seo is not dead but have to work in a smarter way to be the best.
    As due to latest penguin updates many websites have suffered and lost their rankings. So maintaing quality is a must and content is a king.

  471. Cathie @ Ducktoes Seo Services

    This is just what I needed, advice based on data!!! Thank you. Penguin updates scare me. I’m not sure what a blog network is so looking forward to the more coming you mentioned.

  472. Peter Demel

    I agree with Jayden, I think also that Google updates is part of the SEO game. Win or Lose situation. Another effective way in link building is to control your backlinks if possible, don’t spam specially the content and use whitehat method only. Other SEO techniques is also helpful like link juice etc… If you want to play the Google algorithm you must read this article first. Thanks a lot for this.
    I will play the game too.


  473. Cliff Lin

    Penguin 2.0 update just came out a couple weeks ago. I haven’t had time to look over the impact. Do you have an updates?

  474. Andri Yarusman

    Wonderful ideas … i totally agree that SEO is still working, but now it is more complicated than before … is Penguin era many factors play to ranking a site and many factors also play to out rank a site … by knowing those factors we can doing SEO safely

  475. Bill

    This is a well constructed article. Quality over quantity is something all SEOs should remember moving forward.

  476. Elev

    Got some confusion with point 3?
    as mention the anchor link should be diversify, but it means the link what we put in Anchor text or to use that as a anchor text,

    Like domain name normally no one makes anchor text,
    Plz clarify.

    And thanks for the great post really helpful, to play safe with Google.

  477. Ronald

    Penguin are almost always related to your current back-links. For being set, your current back-links should be registered, organized, analyzed, along with a plan should be built to correct since most of the site’s issues that might be creating this The search engines Penguin revise to lessen your current ranks.

  478. rahul

    My website recently got demoted for keywords. Earlier was on first page for couple of keywords. But now on second or 10 th page. No manual webspam or warning in web master toolbar. What can be the reason & how to get rid of it. I had some sitewide links from external domains.

    1. Cathie (Calgary SEO)

      How do you know you got demoted for keywords?

  479. David

    Thanks for this information about Google and SEO. This has been a roller coaster ride for the last 2 years, I was starting to feel ill from all the ups and downs. Glad to see that someone has taken the time to analyze most of the ranking factors.

  480. Travis

    Hey Mate,
    Have any updated data from the Penguin refreshes?


  481. Paul

    Really good informative article! i really like were you said “Method #5: Run Your SEO Sites Like a Real Business ” and i cant agree more once people start realising theres a user at the end of the search they will start to build a real business

  482. James

    Great analysis, I think the funny thing is those who are usually hit by updates like Penguin do crazy link building which stands out as been non-natural. To be ahead of Google you really need to play by their rules and be smart at it. SEO is not dead and I can not see it dieing any time soon.

  483. Mark W

    Thank you so much microsite masters!

  484. Rose Danielle

    Thank you !
    Now the experts recommend using the exact match keyword only less than 6% or never.

  485. Nomade Digital

    Wow, precious data!
    Pinguins, pandas, turtles… they are such a headache and it’s hard to keep it up trying to learn and re-learn SEO.
    This post is definitive a great source (and inspiring too!).
    Cheers and thanks!

  486. Alex Babenkov

    I still think most link building methods still works fine. Just vary your anchor texts to a reasonable and diverse degree. And also, limit your keyword density to about 1% max.

  487. Rafael Montilla

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Great 5 methods

  488. Tom Hofman

    Great analysis Alex! You should post another update like this after Penguin 3.0 :)

  489. Droid Ash

    Great post and thanks for sharing. It’s good to know that, SEO is not dead totally. Now i can apply these methods to build link for my site, as well as i will tell you about it.

  490. Nick

    This is a bit of an old post but still relevant.

    With the whole “anchor text” thing, I never saw the point in having it as a ranking signal. After all, it’s very easy and obvious to manipulate. So I actually think Google was late to the party in penalizing it.

  491. Manish Rauthan

    Definetly, SEO is not dead but it changes from bottom to top. Google continously manpulate and change the algorithms for competition.

    Well really nice information. I am inspired with this post and learn more from this blog post. Thanks again.

  492. David Goliyath

    Most link building methods still works fine. Great post and thanks for sharing

  493. viosixwey

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Great 5 methods
    Thanks for this important post. I have been waiting for someone with “real” data to come forward with “real” information we can take action with. I sincerely thank you for this post as should every other seo who reads this!

  494. Raymond

    Nice article, but unfortunately my case, not everything is correct.
    On average, the 10 domains that were positioned in the same way (the two key words, mainly bookmark sites), seven fell far beyond the TOP500, but the three domains are increases.

  495. Raymond

    Thanks for the brilliant analysis of a very confusing update. Soz to the folks who have lost their business due to a smelly Penguin, but let’s just see what emerges as G will no doubt have to wind the clock back somewhat as overall you would have to say this has done them more harm than good. Just look at some of the “cat dragged in” serps of late.

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