What to do when you get spanked by a Penguin (Google Update) - Jonathan Lea Network

What to do when you get spanked by a Penguin (Google Update)

Like most small business owners your website is your modern day front of house, your shop and your pride and joy, promoting the services and products of your company.

You’ve worked hard over the last few years, building a website, re-building it to be mobile friendly, creating a fan base on social media, a database for your newsletters and you’ve hired an SEO consultant to look after your prized website to ensure it’s in front of your customers.

Unfortunately like many small to sized medium business owners the SEO consultant you hired pre-2010 most probably created thousands of poor quality links to your website. While this used to be a positive signal to Google showing how popular the website was, the spam team at Google soon cottoned on and started to update their algorithm to penalise websites with too many unnatural (100+ coming from the same domain), paid links and generally poor links like directory listings.

Fast forward to 2013 and with the latest Google “Penguin 2.0” update many business owners have seen their website rankings take a serious plunge. So what can you do?

Analyse your links

The best way to understand the way Google sees your site is to ask Google. Google’s Webmaster Tools is user-friendly with robust resources explaining the fundamentals of Google search. Plus, it’s free and works for mobile sites! Its a great starting point for anyone needing a primer on how Google views pages and it succinctly explains a few of the basic parameters involved in Google’s search algorithms.

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is also a good tool to use for looking at your page links. Designed specifically for the SEO-minded, this software crawls the websites you specify examining the URLs for common SEO issues in an attempt to make site optimization easier.

There is also a free tool from Marwick Marketing which allows you to check your website against your competition online.


Once you have decided which links are causing you issues Google suggests contacting the webmaster first to ask for the links to be taken down. Many webmasters will require you to e-mail them from the same domain yourname@yourdomain.com. Create a template e-mail and show the links you would like to remove. Make it as easy as possible for the webmaster. If after a few attempts the webmaster has not got back to you, it’s time to move onto the Disavow Tool on Google.

This video will do a better job of explaining what it does and some mistakes to avoid:

How Does the Disavow Links Tool Work?

The file you upload to Google creates a block or no-follow on the URLs listed but only once Google has crawed your website, which could take days, weeks or months. Sadly the impact is far from instant. Mostly to stop SEO consultants or business owners killing too many links, and possibly by accident good quality (or at least “ok”) links, doing even more damage to your Google ranking.


  • Monitor your search rankings on a weekly basis;
  • Analyse your back link portfolio;
  • Contact webmasters to remove any bad links; and
  • Worst-case, hit the disavow tool.

If you are not 100% sure about any of the above make sure you contact a reputable SEO consultant!

About Christian Thomson

Christian is based in Vancouver where he spends most of his time advising Canadian businesses, big and small, on their online marketing. www.marwickmarketing.com

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