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Penguin 2.0 Recovery Overview: What Links Don't Work Anymore?

Penguin 2.0 was rolled out on May 22nd, leading to countless websites losing traffic, visibility, and rankings. However, if you read the tea leaves, you knew that Penguin 2.0 was an inevitability.

The main stump speech Matt Cutts had been trumpeting lately has been about the need for quality links, and the potential need to remove bad backlinks.
In fact, Cutts has thrown out his own hyperbole when discussing it, stating that disavows and link removals need to be done with a “machete”, and not with a “fine-toothed comb” or “scalpel.”

Cutts’ full statement:

Hmm. One common issue we see with disavow requests is people going through with a fine-toothed comb when they really need to do something more like a machete on the bad backlinks. For example, often it would help to use the “domain:” operator to disavow all bad backlinks from an entire domain rather than trying to use a scalpel to pick out the individual bad links. That’s one reason why we sometimes see it take a while to clean up those old, not-very-good links.”

It’s all or nothing here, Google does not give you points for effort. If you’ve been affected by this, in a lot of ways it’s like you’ve been bitten by a zombie. Cutting off a finger won’t help curb the infection, you gotta lose the arm, and hope it doesn’t spread. That’s zombie-movie, and disavow, 101.

Now, before you go all Danny Trejo on your back-link catalog for your Penguin 2.0 recovery, bare in mind these 4 tips to help you determine what is good and bad for your site.

1. Break Out the Big Knife

If your website got smacked by Penguin, it was not because of a small issue. Like Cutts said, you shouldn’t be performing surgery, anything that looks suspicious needs to be removed ASAP.

2. Guarantees Aren’t Guaranteed

Nothing in SEO is a bona fide certainty, especially with Google. There are no guarantees that you’ll have a full Penguin 2.0 recovery when it comes to link removal. It’s not all doom and gloom though. At Boomtown, we’ve done countless successful link removal campaigns, and pulled clients out of algorithmic penalties numerous times. So, yes, provided enough energy, time and industry knowledge, recovery is almost always possible. It’s just never a guarantee.

3. The Dawning of a Daunting Task

Link removal is neither easy or quick. In fact, it can be downright grueling. To do this, you need to follow Google’s standards, that boil down to 4 sub-steps:

A. Full Backlink Catalog Analysis

  • This is extremely hard to do without a comprehensive website tool that can run a backlink analysis on your site. By using a website tool like Majestic SEO, or Open Site Explorer, you can analyze your website’s backlink portfolio. While this can sometimes be huge, depending on how long you’ve been acquiring links, they need to be properly categorized.
  • Make sure to dig deep here, taking off the obvious candidates isn’t enough, get in and find as much as possible. These links can include, but aren’t limited to:
      • Paid links
      • Low quality, site-wide links on spammy sites
      • Irrelevant, or Inapplicable links
      • Article directory links
      • Spammy blog comments
      • Link exchanges
      • Link directories
      • Bad or spammy link neighborhoods
  • This essentially boils down to: “Would you want Google to see it?” If you’re on the fence about a link, remove it

B. Contact is Key

  • This may be a bit awkward. You will need to take it upon yourself to contact these bad link websites, to ask to have the link removed. This is key.
  • One thing to note is that there is a chance that Google will ignore a disavowed link if they feel that there has been no attempt to get the link removed. So make every attempt to get it removed the old fashion way.

C. The Follow-up

  • The outreach process can be difficult. Like stated above, you’ll be reaching out to every site that you want your link removed. Which, depending upon the project, can be thousands of links.
  • One outreach e-mail is not enough. If you don’t receive a response, you should reach out to each at least three times over a month to show you’ve made a true effort.

D. Disavow Time

  • Time to sharpen your machete again. Cut through every irrelevant, low quality, and spammy link you found earlier and compile them into a .txt file. These are primarily sites that have no contact info, are abandoned, ask for money to remove the link, or just simply refuse.
  • Log-in to your Webmaster Tools account and upload your .txt file to the corresponding website using the Google Disavow Tool.
  • Remember, this is the avenue you take for your Penguin 2.0 recovery when all other options to have the link removed have been exhausted.

E. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

  • This is the bonus round. Make sure to repeat all of your actions based upon Google’s response.

 4. New Links are Vital

Link building is sometimes bypassed, paused, or simply overlooked, due to link removal tunnel vision. It shouldn’t be. If you’re interested in learning about What Links Still Work Post-Penguin 2.0 and What will Work Going Forward? Click the link to continue to part 2 of our discussion on Penguin 2.0 recovery.