The client turned to our team with a request to help with an SEO campaign. While doing the primary analysis, we came up with a hypothesis that the website is under the Google Penguin filter. In case the hypothesis turned out to be true, we had to remove the filter before moving on to SEO.
Why does Google apply filters? Filters are applied to punish websites that use shady promotion methods. This includes sites with over-the-top paid search results, keyword stuffing and excessive link buying. However, a site can get filtered even if it doesn’t abuse SEO on purpose. And this was our client's case.
Here is how you can understand that your website is under the Penguin filter:
- No increase in search engine traffic
- No position increase for the promoted pages
- A dramatic decline in positions
We monitored the website to confirm or dispel our hypothesis that the website is under a filter.
What is Penguin?
When a website has too many unnatural links, it can be hit by Google Penguin filter. In general, this filter is applied selectively to low-quality pages with spammy links and doesn’t affect other pages. Read more about this filter on Moz and SearchEngineJournal.
A rapid increase in backlinks is one of the main reasons why this filter is applied. As a result, the organic traffic doesn’t grow. This is what we observe on the chart of links increase.
Besides, spammed backlink anchors are one of the reasons for website filtering. And we also see this on our client’s website.
Here is what we found after checking each page for the spammed link anchors.
- First observation: links with spammed commercial anchors
- Second observation. Links with spammed commercial anchors
- Third observation. Links with spammed commercial anchors
We found that a website had a decrease in organic traffic and search engine ranking. We hypothesized that the Google Penguin filter was applied to some pages because of spammy link anchors (see details above). After we dealt with the reasons why the filter was applied, we saw an increase in traffic and search engine rankings.
What we did
- Reduced the number of anchor links
- Disabled low-quality backlinks
- Forced reindexing
We won’t pay much attention to how we identified low-quality links and balanced different types of anchors, as this topic deserves a separate article. We will focus solely on the three things mentioned.
Reducing the percentage of anchor links
We achieved it by gradually purchasing new links with no anchors, brand-name links, and changing the anchors in already existing links.
Disabling backlinks from low-quality domains
We identified different low-quality domains, some of which had DR (domain rank) of less than 5, and leveled out their influence using Google Disavow link. As a result, we neutralized the impact of more than 500 domains on our client’s website.
To speed up the process, we made forced reindexingation for all the links
As a result of our work, we received an increase in traffic and search engine queries on the filtered pages. See the chart below.
We also observed an increase in the positions of search queries.
It’s worth mentioning that removing the filter is a demanding process, which takes from 3 to 6 months and requires extra expenses.
To avoid getting under the Penguin filter, follow these recommendations:
- Pay attention to the quality and quantity of external links
- Monitor new links in Ahrefs, and Google Search Console
- Use different linkbuilding strategies (For example, Tier-2).