How to Avoid Getting Slaughtered by Penguin 3.0

penguin 3

According to Google, Penguin 2.0 only affected 2.3% of English-US queries. That sounds like a low number, but in the scheme of algorithm rollouts, it was the third largest to date. It wasn’t just queries that received a jolt. The unleashing of Penguin 2.0 impacted web traffic of thousands of sites. Webmasters reported reductions in traffic of up to 90%, which basically crippled businesses and halted online revenues.

Today, we may be on the verge of another major algorithm upset: Penguin 3.0.

But don’t worry, I’m here to share some news about what’s going on with Penguin and to show you how you can prepare yourself.

What number Penguin is this?

Talking about Penguin is confusing. How many Penguins are there, and which number is the new one?

Some of the confusion is due to the difference in numbering between Google and some SEOs. Danny Sullivan and those at Search Engine Land chose to use integers to number the Penguin updates. They numbered each update as 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Matt Cutts, on the other hand, used a decimal numbering system in order to indicate which of the updates were big and which were small.

Regardless of what numbering system you prefer, there have been four Penguin updates. Two have been big. Two have been small. The fifth Penguin update, not yet a reality, is supposed to be another big one.

Let me give you a quick history of the Penguin updates, using the more widely accepted numbering system by Google.

Penguin 1, The Original Penguin – April 24, 2012

This algorithm change, the biggest in Google’s history, was the grand leveler. It put an end to over-optimization gimmicks.

Penguin 1.1 – May 25, 2012

This first update refreshed the original Penguin, but it hardly caused a ripple.

Penguin 1.2 – October 5, 2012

The fall 2012 update of Penguin was an additional refining of the algorithm to better reward high quality sites. This time, 0.3% of the English language queries were impacted by the update.

Penguin 2.0  – May 22, 2013

Penguin 2.0 was the big one. A lot of queries were impacted, and a lot of sites were affected. This time, the algorithm got smarter at sniffing out low-quality backlinks and, more importantly, over-optimized anchor text.

Penguin 2.1 – October 4, 2013

Some webmasters said this update wasn’t that big of a deal. But others, who probably flew under the radar during the 2.0 explosion, finally got hit by 2.1.

Now, we’re at the edge of the Penguin cliff again. Is there going to be a Penguin 3.0? If so, what’s going to happen?

What’s the point of Penguin?

The grand goal of virtually every algorithm update is to return more relevant search results and to fight spam.

Penguin 2.0 was no exception. Google originally called it the “Webspam Update” until the Penguin moniker became sticky enough to stay. So, Penguin targets webspam, but what did it really have in its crosshairs?

  • Spammy backlinks – one of the most notable targets of Penguin 2.0 were toxic or spammy backlinks. Any and all inbound links from low quality sites were a target.
  • Exact match anchor text – anchor text that matched the name of the page was targeted too. For example, the anchor “cheap cell phones” going to received a devaluation as a result of Penguin 2.0.
  • Optimized anchor texts – similarly, any anchor text with keywords — particularly competitive long tails, short anchors, or head terms — was a victim of Penguin 2.0. Short anchors like “top cell phones” or “best smartphone” were considered over-optimized.
  • Paid links – like with Penguin 1.0, Google tightened the noose around paid links with Penguin 2.0. Links that looked overtly sponsored — even some that seemed discrete — were punished.
  • Irrelevant links – although most high-authority inbound links tend to strengthen a link profile, Google began to be more discerning about the topical relevance of a backlink. A website about accounting software receiving a link from a pet food site could trigger a Penguin penalty alert.

What will Penguin 3.0 target?

The next major Penguin rollout will most likely increase the severity of punishment of Penguin 2.0 targets. Here are my best guesses at what Penguin 3.0 will focus on:

  • Any optimized anchors – we know that the days of exact match and keyword-rich anchor text are over. This is going to be more important than ever in the era of Penguin 3.0. I strongly suggest avoiding any optimization of anchors whatsoever. Intuitive SEOs have been predicting for some time that anchors will eventually have a limited impact (if any) on search. The trend towards co-citation and co-occurrence and the rise of a more social web means that backlinks just don’t have the same level of clout. In keeping with this shift, it’s not just useless to optimize your anchors; it’s downright dangerous.
  • Any low-quality backlinks – a backlink from any bad neighborhood is not the kind of backlink you want. A suspicious site that sends a backlink to a legitimate site immediately gives the legitimate site an aura of suspicion. If you have any level of control over the backlinks to your site, make sure they come from sites with an equal or higher domain authority level.
  • Any link from a guest blogging network – Google is obviously on a rampage against article networks like PostJoint or MyBlogGuest. Matt Cutts wasn’t kidding when he promised to nail guest blogging networks. He already has, and he will continue to do so. And this time, it’s going to be built right into the algorithm.

How do you know if you’re at risk?

Penguin 2.0 didn’t affect every site, and neither will Penguin 3.0. To play it safe, you should always be auditing your content and link profile. To find out if you’re at risk for Penguin 3.0, first find out if you were affected by Penguin 2.0.

In order to do so, use this tool.

This site takes your analytics data and places it on a timeline overlaid with the algorithm update. If your site has a traffic drop off coinciding with the update, you can assume that you were affected by the update. And, if you were affected by Penguin 2.0 and didn’t do anything about it, then you will probably be affected by Penguin 3.0 as well.

Once you plug your site into the tool, you should see a graph that looks something like this:

tool penalty

Toggle the algorithm update on the right-hand side to view only Penguin updates. The site below was not noticeably affected by Penguin 2.0 on May 22 nor the refresh in October.

tool penalty

If your site was affected by any previous Penguin update, then you are at risk for Penguin 3.0. It’s time to take preventive action.

What should you do?

Now that you have an understanding of Penguin’s target and your site, it’s time to take action.

I recommend that you conduct a link profile audit. If Penguin 3.0 rolls out and you get penalized, you will be forced to conduct a thorough audit. The results of a manual penalty are long lasting. It is far better to be proactive and audit your link profile now than suffer the long-term consequences of a penalty action.

Here is an overview of the areas your audit should focus on.

Remove all links from guest blogging networks

If you’ve used a guest blogging network at any point in the past, please remove the links from this service as soon as possible. Use the records from your guest blogging network account, or records that you have kept yourself, to find out what sites sent you links.

If you have control over these links, remove them immediately. If you do not have control over them, contact the site owner or webmaster and have them removed.

Remove all links from spam sites

You may be surprised at how many spam sites are sending links to your website. Even a casual audit will reveal dozens of low-quality sites, link directories, and off-topic sites that you probably weren’t aware of. These should be removed as soon as possible since they could be a source of a serious penalty of any future algorithm update.

Be brutal here. It’s not important that you try to save any possible legitimate link. It is important that you find and get rid of everything that could be spammy. Err on the side of getting rid of too many links versus leaving bad links behind. You can always add great backlinks later. But if you get stuck with a manual penalty, you will regret not being more brutal with your backlink removal process.

Remove all exact match anchor links

Next, you should get rid of the exact match anchors. You probably have lots of URL anchors. These are not exact match. An exact match anchor occurs when the non-URL title of the page corresponds to the anchor text. In the example mentioned above, “cheap cell phones” is going to This is an example of a link that should be removed.

Remove all optimized anchor links

The next type of links to remove or disavow is from optimized anchors. If you have anchors that seem overly optimized, remove them as well. The process seems painful — removing links that appear to be adding value. However, this is an important part of presenting to Google a healthy link profile.

Nofollow guest post links

If you’ve built tons of links in the past through guest posts, especially for the purpose of search manipulation, you should go back and hit up all of the sites you guest-posted on. Request that those sites nofollow the links back to your site. Let’s hope you didn’t use rich anchor text throughout your guest posts as it will increase your chances of getting caught by Penguin 3.0.

If you are lucky enough to have author accounts, you can always log into those blogs you guest-posted on and add nofollows to the links yourself.


Avoiding Penguin 3.0 is just like avoiding the consequences of any other penalty. The only twist is that you tilt your remediation to be especially defensive regarding the historic targets of Penguin updates.

Even if you don’t think you’re at risk, performing these actions will help your link profile. There’s never any harm in taking action to clean up your website. It won’t hurt, and it definitely might help.

What are your thoughts about Penguin 3.0? Is it coming?


  1. Alex Ivanovs :

    Good stuff, as usual, Neil. I’m looking forward to this update, in order to learn about the next steps of online marketing.

    • Michael Chibuzor :

      If all of these links are not important towards enhancing our rankings, what do you suggest is the best link building strategy Neil. And to you Alex, I’m not looking forward to the update. I think Google should just stop and do something more realistic instead of penalizing their users (site owners).

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  2. Neil you mention over optimized anchor texts, I’m assuming you refer to external links. But what’s your take on over optimized internal links?

    • I was wondering the same thing. I came across this article which may be helpful for you

      • Ignore the previous link, it’s broken and I cannot edit my comment.

    • Very good question Sam! I too am questioning this. As many of us have used our own blogs (Internally) on our own domains to link into products and/or other sections of our site.

      Neil – I see you’re doing that in many of your blog posts themselves so I’m going on a limb here when I say internal links are ok still. Yes?

      • I do believe that over optimizing the internal links could be a red flag. But the reason I’ve asked the question is because in one of the recent webmaster hangouts John Mueller stated something like “it’s your website, you can do whatever you want” . I don’t remember the exact wording, but that was the meaning.

        • Adam Connell :

          Some interesting thoughts.

          I’ve noticed this myself, I don’t have any hard data but I’m noticing correlations between dips in rankings and high numbers of optimized internal anchor text.

          Yep, correlation doesn’t equal causation but it makes sense why it ‘could’ be a negative quality signal.

          Also re: John Mueller – Google have a history of contradicting themselves and not always having all the facts.

          Reminds me of this comment Matt Cutts made:

  3. Pijush Mitra :

    Useful information about Penguin. Thanks for sharing, Neil.

  4. So for any new online business to get traction and get going its going to be hard. So does this also mean that guest blogging is also out of the question? What are other ways to drive traffic, I’m in over my head with marketing my business.

    • Mitesh, you can focus on social channels and good ole fashion webinars.

    • Hello Mitesh,
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  5. I think a much better alternative to the Pangiun tool is this one: . It does acutal statistical analysis on the data and let’s you know if you’ve been hit or not in contrast to just plotting some lines.

    Merely looking at the graph to get a “feel” of wether you’ve been hit by a previous Pengiun can be dangerously misleading and lead to lot’s of wrongly invested time and money.

    • This tool appears to be highly inaccurate. What are others seeing?

      • I’ve talked to Susan about her experience with the tool and it seems the sites in question had very little traffic. Less than 50 Google Organic visits per day. When such a site is penalized it’s very hard to tell from the traffic stats alone, unless the penalty is very severe (no statistically significant data can be produced). Other sources should be south to check for penalties in such cases.

        We are putting a note in the tool to make sure people don’t interpret “lack of data to conclude anything” with a “false negative”.

    • Geo, thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Jatin Chhabra :

    I am still a follower of MBG and the place was and is still fill with useless blogs but still you can connect with some awesome blogs who want quality content because they earn from adsense and quality content is gold for them.

    Yeah but over optimized anchor tag, now thats a bummer. Thanks niel for such a nice post. Will love to share it.

  7. Hi Neil,

    Is it necessary to remove “all” optimized anchor text links? As I’ve found removing those links gets you out of ranking anyways. I think lowering down the number will be a good idea instead or removing all of them. What do you say?

    • Ben Wynloop :


      Read Neil’s article here:

      He advice on using diluted anchor text should help.

    • Michael Bely :

      Hey Amit,
      Keeping optimized anchor text under 5% is believed by practicing SEOs to be safe. At least for now 😉

      Also instead of one and the same anchor text use human-like variations of it. For example,

      if you target phrase for example “how to loose weight”, keep this exact phase in less than 5% links.

      1/3 of all your backlinks or so use variations like “how can I loose weight”, “is it possible to loose weight”, “loosing my weight fast” etc.

      In 1/3 links or so use unrelated to your topic words like “here”, “read more”, “this link”, “click here” etc.

      By the way, link not only to your main page. Build links also to your inner pages.

      It works for many SEOs and also for my niche websites which have been safe for almost for 9 months (survived Google algorithm updates and even improved rankings).

      • Michael Bely :

        …just missed one more part:

        Use bare URLs in 1/3 or so of all links, e.g.,, etc

        • Thanks for the help Michael, I agree with your statement, but don’t you think that using 1/3rd of generic anchor texts like “here”, “read more”, “this link”, “click here” etc, may also be bad (Google own recommendation is to use optimized anchor text while linking to other pages), using variations of URL is a much better way of link building, i guess.

          • Michael Bely :

            Amit, the idea behind using generic anchor text like “here”, “read more” etc is it imitate natural links.

            Imagine a blogger who is not in SEO or digital marketing business. He or she just wants to link to your website because it contains useful information. There are god chances that he or she will not use relevant anchor text but just some generic text.

            Anyway, link building in some way is kind of superstitious. SEOs have their own believes what works safe and best.

    • Amit, as with anything I would definitely proceed with caution and do an audit.

  8. John at Ignite :

    Hi Neil,

    Nice article. Do you have any insight on negative SEO and penguin? I am working on an article for SEL and would love a quote.

  9. Great and clear outline Neil of what to avoid…But what are your thoughts on the type of content we should produce to get a boost in rankings from this new update?

  10. Great article Neil thanks, I would just like to quickly open up the debate on your picture at the top I’m pretty sure that’s a puffin lol

    Good work on the update info keep it up.

  11. Excuse my French, but HOLY SHIT to: “No follow guest post links.”

    I get this is a suggestion, Neil, but why do you really think this is necessary to recommend? Re: site names, keyword terms – most guest posts have author bios with rich anchor text to URLs and keywords the author ALWAYS writes about.

    Assuming all posts were relevant, informative and cover all the bases for quality content, I just don’t see the harm in having a do-follow for your hard work.

    How many “relevant” keywords can someone really use to describe their site without just writing it out and linking to it?

    • In most cases SEOs use guest posting to build links and get too greedy. By nofollowing guest post links you should be fine, assuming you want to play it really safe. If you aren’t going to stuff or use rich anchor text, and you guest post on relevant blogs, you don’t need to worry about nofollowing them.

      • Greg Strandberg :

        That’s the question I was looking for. I guest post only on relevant blogs in my self-publishing niche. I’m not too worried about it.

        What do you think about eBook blog tours, where authors will have a “guest post” on 10 or more sites in a week, with links pointing to their site, although they typically point to Amazon.

        The posts are little more than sales pitches or copy/pasted product descriptions from Amazon. I guess that’s the kind of stuff Matt Cutts is trying to cut down on, huh?

  12. Awesome Neil. Rip spammy links 🙂

  13. Fakharuddin :

    Hello Sir, Thanks for another helpful stuff. This will helps to keep secure all of my website and blog from Penguin 3.0. But i don’t know how to remove links from others site? Is there any resource? Please help me.

  14. Hi Neil,

    You put together a very thoughtful insights on what to expect from Google’s next move.
    I think instead of cleaning spam links we should pay attention to not creating those so we don’t have to worry about penguin

  15. David Galiana :

    Hi Neil,

    Very nice article and great tool.

    Just a question about barracuda. There is 3 types of update : Panda, Penguin and Other. What is Other ?

    Have a nice day 🙂

  16. All these Penguins work well in fighting a long term spam. As for the short term, you still can spam all the sh..t out of google and its algorithms, and there are niches / industries where you can spend $300 on a sape network links and earn $50k and more by being in top of SERPs for no more than 2 – 3 months.


  17. Thanks for great tips before further kicked from Google on website. We are focusing on all stuff related to user based not for search engines as we already know that but it required practical effort to products everything for user benefits to get attention from search engines. if your visitors are happy, positive reviews about website & they are sharing brand name with their community, Website definitely will get higher position on Google, Bing & other search engines.

  18. I also have a question about the anchor text link – if you have multiple *internal* links that are for ‘bookshelf speakers’ that lead to ‘bookshelf-speakers.html’, is that also an example of overoptimization (links are contextual, not stuffed.)

    Thank you!

    • If I may take the liberty to respond – no. It’s *really* hard to impossible to overoptimize with internal links. Even if you “stuff” them, you need to work really hard to turn it into a penalty.

    • You should be fine.

  19. Left Hand Luke :

    Now I’m confused.

    There’s this from your May 5 post:
    “The list of benefits of guest blogging is virtually endless. Okay, right, I know — you have to be careful with it. But, all in all, I highly recommend guest blogging as an excellent way to build your reputation and improve your SEO.”

    And this on Jan 22:
    in which you say: “…Guest posting will help with SEO.”

    Now you’re telling us: “Nofollow guest post links.”

    As one of your avid readers, there seems to me to be some contradiction. I’m not sure what your overall message is meant to be.

    Presumably, it IS still possible to use guest-blogging with followed links once we abide by the guidelines you’ve laid out, no?

    • Lefty-

      In my understanding the reason guest blogging is still relevant to SEO is not for the link juice, but for the increased traffic to your website from the guest post opportunity.

      There are quite a few reputable people out there still doing it, including Neil. See one here:

      • Left Hand Luke :

        I hear you Jake.
        But what I’m seeking clarification on is the fact that in previous posts, Neil appears — to me, at least — to clearly state you can guest post, with followed links, as long as it’s done within certain guidelines.
        * So, if you want to obtain links from high authority blogs, which I feel Google will still put value on as they typically have editors who review the content before it gets published, you’ll have to… (and then he lists some do’s and don’ts)

        * Because you have to avoid using rich anchor text and only link to your site when it benefits the reader, you won’t rank for head terms as easily as you could in the past. But the links will still help with your overall site authority…

        * If you want to play it safe with guest posting, I recommend the following (and he lists 5 do’s and don’ts).
        Only use linkbacks to your site(s) when they are relevant and appropriate to your content. In many cases, the only relevance will be a little link in your bio section. That’s okay.

        As someone who has guest blogged in the past (I’m a national newspaper journalist, so I write very well) I’m merely seeking answers from someone who knows far more about SEO than I ever will.

        • Left Hand Luke,

          I could be wrong, but I think the “contradiction” you’re seeing is due to the fact that Google is constantly changing its algorithm. Neil is merely the messenger. If you write unique, serious, and valuable content for a national newspaper, rather than write for blogs or other online sources with the purpose of gaining clicks and links, then I think you’ll be fine. I think of it as the difference between The New Yorker and the National Enquirer.

          • Left Hand Luke :

            I stand to be corrected: but Google hasn’t said ANYTHING about algorithmic changes to detect guest blogging. I’m not convinced there are any, for what it’s worth. (how does an algo tell whether a blog owner has written a post himself — or got a guest writer to do it?)
            In any case, the last of Neil’s posts that I’ve quoted was from May 5 — barely a week ago.
            Like I’ve said before, I’d appreciate Neil himself weighing in on this particular point.

    • Hey Lefty,

      The benefits are great. As long as you aren’t trying to use rich anchor text guest posting is fine. I recommend most people to nofollow the links because they don’t know how to keep it clean and they get too great.

      I will always guest post for 2 reasons… whether Google likes it or not:

      1. It helps with personal branding. You can get access to a new audience that you never hand.
      2. It can drive a lot of signups and sales. That is what we are seeing, which is why we do it for our companies.

  20. Thanks for a great post. Any tips on how to remove links. Many of those were built by outside contractors?

    • Ari, try the disavow tool and do a link audit.

    • John Unsworth :

      There are many tools and services out there to help you remove links properly. My biggest business now is helping website owners clean up their backlink profiles because of shady SEO work done by previous SEO’s. The issue is what used to work doesn’t work now and as Neil pointed out it’s likely to do more harm than good down the road.

      Whenever I start a link removal campaign I start with They are a primarily a link removal service but I think their audit’s are the best in the industry. They really should just move into the link audit space rather than link removal. But I’m digressing.

      After the analysis I then head to They purchased own or have arrangements with the low quality link directory owners and can help you instantly get these links removed for a rather low fee. Most of the time directories are a big culprit of ranking problems and are the number one referenced unnatural links by Google when they provide examples. Keep in mind that only can remove the links from the networks they work with.

      From there I then head back to and have them work on removing the remaining toxic backlinks. They handle all of the link removals and documentation for you and provide a disavow file for those links that they weren’t able to remove.

      You can do this all yourself but keep in mind how long this takes and if you don’t know what you are doing you’ll likely do more harm than good with removing the good links instead of the toxic links.

  21. Krishna Chaitanya :

    Hay Neil,

    Really good prediction about #penguin_3.0, I thought there will be some thing more than what you said. I though its may about Localized search results, rather simply back links.
    When it come to back links, it’s basic process that you explained to maintain quality.

    If a person who had enough knowledge on SEO, can manage penguin 3.0 before it hits. if he really do seo audit for whole site.


  22. Jeannette Paladino :

    What if someone leaves a comment on one of your blog posts and his business is totally unrelated to yours as you described in your example? Will Google also penalize you for that link?

  23. Great post Neil. Quick question – If I have a post that has literally thousands of spammy linkbacks (I suspect negative SEO from a competitor) what’s the best thing to do? I’ve tried disavowing as many of the domains as I can from WMT, but that’s only scratching the surface. If the post is not important, can I just delete it? Or will Google still see the links on those sites and count them as “real” even if they are broken and the post no longer lives on my site? Thanks!

  24. Neil,Whatever it comes, now i am focusing on Other search engine yahoo, and bing.

    Thanks for penguin tool.

  25. Andrew Broadbent :

    Hi Niel, one question though, you do guests post quite often, like the one you did recently on your Kissmetrics blog about schema mark up and on other sites, how do make the determination between a good guest post and a bad one?

    • It’s relevant and it wasn’t used for link building. Also it really wasn’t a guest post as I am the co-founder of the company… I rarely do guest posts these days. Although I should be doing a lot more.

  26. Another great article! Thank you Niel.

  27. Is that a puffin or a penguin! 🙂

  28. I am not sure about “Remove all exact match anchor links” . I still use this technique, but only about 20% for my site.
    Over exact match maybe harm for our site

  29. Sourav Saha @ Blogaholic :

    Great post Neil, but would like to know what’s your take on

    1) Private blogging network and Penguin 3.0?
    2) Widget links and Penguin 3.0?

    Big hosting is still using widget links & ranking higher in Google…is it brand love from Google?

    • The private blog networks will eventually get whacked and I have already seen some of them get hit. So I would stay away from these.

      As for the widget links, Google has been hitting sites for years who use widget link building. So I would avoid this.

  30. Tsvetan Vuchkov :

    Great article Neil!

    From my experience the link anchor text has been the biggest factor for Penguin penalties. Another factor I noticed is using too much of one link type and not having a well balanced mix in your link portfolio. Too much Web 2.0 blogs, comments or spammy directories is a solid way to push a website in to the void.

    However there are always “flukes” and stuff that is supposed not to work and even penalize a website, will actually outrank you. Not all websites are equal when it comes to google algo updates. Some old websites in the to “too big to fail” league are responding great to all exact match anchors and even the notorious scrapebox bombs in fiverr.

    To check your websites for algorithmic penalty try this tool, it can save you alot of time :

    In matter of 3 clicks you can see if your website has been hit by Penguin or Panda and which version of it. The only thing you need is analytics data and access.

    I’ve been using the toolkit to save time with my dayli tasks in analytics but the algorithmic penalty checker is rock solid.

    • Tsvetan, thanks for these valuable tips. I look forward to hearing more from you. Let me know if you need help with anything at all 🙂

  31. Joel Katona :

    So what you are saying is link proof your website from the oncoming Penguin 3 update, but you have not given any directions as to what happens if one of my competitors decide to play a game with my link profile.

    Lets say I start cleaning up the links over the next months. Once I am done, I just finish congratulating myself and I get a virtual pat on the back from Mat, while some “well meaning” idiot will hire for 5 bucks a Fiverr genius and bombards my sites with spam links and exact keywords match anchors in a matter of hours.

    Now what?

    • Good point. Hopefully your competitors don’t do that and if that happens you would have to manually hit those sites up and remove the links. It sucks, but that is the reality… hopefully Google’s algo can fight this but I am not 100% sure on how they would do so.

  32. This is so, so, so wrong. Webmasters are now being advised to rip apart the Web for SEO purposes. Removing links because they come from low-quality sites makes no sense.

    Imagine if this was happening in the real world…

    A report comes out showing that blue food dye can cause eyeball cancer. USA reports on it. The Mayo Clinic reviews it. This is considered to be a credible study, because high-quality sources report on it.

    But wait! My Corner Joe blogger also reports on it, as do several small-town mommy bloggers. Lower quality sources report on the study; what can this mean?

    A) The study is reported on by high quality sources; take it seriously.

    B) The study is reported on by everybody; don’t take it quite as seriously.

    Seriously? Is this what search engine rankings have come to?

    In a real and natural world, every high quality link should be matched by 100 mid-quality links and 1000 low-quality links. If people go on concerted efforts to cook Google’s results by having tons of low quality links removed, what will that do to the Web?

    Does this mean we should all create low-quality websites and link to all the cheap cell phone, insurance and pharmaceutical sites, then charge for link removal? Because you know that’s the next thing coming! I get to name it first: “Extortion SEO”!

    • Left Hand Luke :

      Removing links because they come from low-quality sites makes no sense.

      I’m inclined to agree. After all, how “natural” is a link profile that consists solely of cherry-picked high-authority sites?

    • Low quality links is fine if they are natural. The issue is that I know a ton of SEOs who build links from low quality sites and stuff them with rich anchor text. This is when Google has an issue and it makes sense.

      Naturally all big sites have low quality links because you can’t control who links to you. For this reason you don’t have to do much, but for the ones you manually build they should be removed.

  33. Hajar Madhat :

    Thanks Neil Patel for advance sharing of penguin update 3, I didnt believe matt cutts ,I think google will follow the rule that they already have but they make afraid people so that people do not spam,The reason behind this I follow some unique rule full organic and natural way but my competitors always in top ranking even they have 80% of their backlink spam and dead.

    • Hajar, I understand the conundrum. If you want sustained traffic though you have to follow the guidelines.

  34. Maurizio Fumini :

    I still have not solved the guoi that I have created by version 2 of penguin who already have to worry about version 3 …, thanks Neil for newest post.

  35. Christopher Rose :

    Your info is helpful as always, Neil, but the real problem is that Google has lost the plot and is incapable of indexing the web properly.

    This giant corporation is out of control and intent only on maximizing its own profits and to hell with everyone else.

    They make up increasingly ridiculous and arcane rules and cover themselves by claiming they want to provide a good user experience but it is all bs, all they want is to control a massive marketplace for their own enrichment.

    • Christopher, I understand your frustrations. I have been through this for years. If you cant beat them, join them 🙂

  36. Digital Deepak :

    I have never built links manually to increase the search traffic.

    All I have done is write good posts, do real blog commenting and spread the word via social media.

    I have got links from people who found my content useful. I think this is how Google wants webmasters to be and is the most natural way to have an online presence.

    Do you agree?

    • No, it’s not natural. Not all businesses have the resources to maintain a blog.

      So Google being Google obviously have no intentions of allowing businesses to rank unless they do Content Marketing is the takeaway point for you here? No, the takeaway point should be that they’re slowly making it impossible for ALL sites to rank without using their services.

      Slowly, but surely this will become more apparent to people. Soon, creating great content that goes viral will be an obvious attempt to game the SERPs in their eyes.

      • This is a major takeaway I got from this as well. Check out PostJoint’s response to Google…yes they are also trying to protect their business, but they raise solid points about Google’s potential plans.

    • It is good, but there is nothing wrong with manual link building. Getting links from relevant sites can drive more sales, same with guest posting on industry blogs. You should try some of the other tactics.

  37. Atamyrat Hangeldiyev :

    Absolutely valuable information, thanks dear Neil Patel 🙂

  38. Holy smokes, that “Panguin” tool is freaking awesome. Another great tip. Thanks man.

  39. This is totally awesome. Thanks for the tips and guide!

  40. Left Hand Luke :

    Wouldn’t mind Neil weighing in on some of these points…

  41. As usual, always appreciate the thoughts you post, Neil. I am questioning, though, how necessary it is to go back and fix anchor text in what could presumably be hundreds of blog posts/other site content before the update. I know the purpose is to be prepared for the change but I think that might be going a little too far? i.e. if this is not the case, we may be doing something hurtful.

    Just my 2 cents. I totally agree with having a clean link profile and the other points raised.

  42. I’m curious what others think of this tool – i find it to be highly inaccurate:

    it was mentioned in an earlier comment –


    • Susan, I look forward to the same feedback.

      • I’ve talked to Susan about her issues with the tool and it seems the sites simply had very little traffic < 50 Google Organic visits per day. When such a site is penalized it's very hard to tell from the traffic stats alone, unless the penalty is very severe (no statistically significant data). Other sources should be south in such cases.

        We are putting a note in the tool to make sure people don't interpret "lack of data to conclude anything" with a "false negative".

  43. Kelly Merrill :

    I love the picture of a Puffin for your penguin article. Great article, btw. As usual, right on the money. Thanks!

  44. David Trounce :

    Optimised anchor text seems like a very helpful thing for a user to know exactly what content the link refers to. I dont understand how making link text vague is helpful to anyone.

    • You don’t want to make it vague, you want to do what makes sense for the reader. The issue Google has is people are stuffing the anchor text with keywords when it doesn’t make sense for the reader.

  45. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for another thoughtful article. Knowing where the threshold is for over / under optimisation is always a tough call, so I try and run with optimising for people not Google 🙂

    Have a superb day


  46. I’m waiting impatiently for this update, to some of my sites that were penalized by Penguin 1 and 2, I have been deleting and disavowing links for the past 6 months… if those site don’t get unpenalized, I will simply kill them… I’m tired of wasting my time.

  47. Cleaning bad links is easier said than done. Google is taking 4 to 5 months, my emails to other websites with request to remove link hardly get any response.

    Negative SEO is one area Google should surely look at!!

  48. Ramandeep Kaur :

    Thanks Neil for such a great post. It is very informative

  49. Puffin 1.0? The picture is of a Puffin not a Penguin. Great post as usual.

  50. Kaleb Nation :

    This is an impressive blog post @Neil

    But one question, How Google See comment back links?

  51. “Nofollowing” guest post links doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. Since links are naturally “dofollow”, wouldn’t the act of adding the “nofollow” tag itself indicate link manipulation?

    • If you nofollow you are telling them to not pass juice, so they will not feel like you are manipulating.

  52. I’m already seeing changes since May 7th. Do you?

    • Farhan, what types of changes?

      • Farhan Fawzer :

        Even though Google said there’s nothing going on, certainly looks like there’s at least a refresh or something going on if not for an Algorithm Update.

        Also refer

        On the 7th of May some of the sites on WMT show a sharp drop in impressions.

  53. Since 2010 until 2014 I always post link (backlink) on thousand of spam blog and website. But My website is always in page one of Google search. I dont understand that lot of people talking about the danger of link. Or something wrong with google or something good with my blog.
    I have hundred of blog that linked to spam link, and paid link, but all of my blog are good standing in the first page.
    Any Idea?

    • Maybe they haven’t caught on yet, but eventually they do. Some times you just get lucky and you don’t get caught.

  54. Interesting to note this, however I have just came across another article on Search Engine Round Table [] where it says Google has denied any updates. Not sure if Google is hiding or there really isn’t any update.

  55. Steve Baker :

    Great article. I’m no ornithologist, BUT isnt that cute image a puffin not a penguin?


  56. Just curious, if I were to enable my website with a security certificate (https://) would this make my website more credible?
    I believe I read on your blog that Google is hinting about this.

    If so we could use it to offset the influence of some bad backlinks.

  57. Great stuff, think you Neil. Are we certain this thing’s even coming out, though? Have Google even announced it? It’s always wise to follow these practices anyway, but there’s always a great deal of panic mongering when it comes to the latest Penguin update. It seems to be a case of simply following fundamental new SEO practices – get on G+, sign up to Google Authorship, and write great content.

  58. Informative one Neil. The Tool you suggested to check possible penguin is asking for Analytics acces (No wonder it is made for that). But is that safe to do that?

    Will you suggest to share your analytics with an external agency?

    • Yea, you shouldn’t have any issues.

      Your call though, if you don’t feel safe doing it, you shouldn’t.

  59. Mario Seiwert :

    I understand the problem with overoptimized anchor text, for any blog or for any complex website.

    BUT I dont understand why a simple product website should NOT have all the same anchor text? if my site was, and someone elso is writing about xyzoil, he might just use the anchor text xyzoil. I think it would NOT be wise / just, if Google would apply “anchor text penalties” to small 1-keyword-sites….


    • No, because naturally when people link to you they use random phrases like “click here”. For that reason it won’t always be one anchor text.

  60. Jason McKim :

    I think there needs to be a shift in thinking and realize that this is still the World Wide WEB. It is supposed to be connected and interlinked.

    I think following suggestions in this post is a great foundation to making sure you are ready for updates. But most folks just need to take a step back and use common sense.

    No one naturally says ‘Hey I really liked working with bankruptcy lawyer Dallas for my bankruptcy…’. You would say ‘Hey I really liked working with ABC Law for my bankruptcy…’.

    Use common sense when you link and you will be better positioned to withstand the algo updates.

  61. You said, “Optimized anchor texts – similarly, any anchor text with keywords — particularly competitive long tails, short anchors, or head terms — was a victim of Penguin 2.0. Short anchors like “top cell phones” or “best smartphone” were considered over-optimized.”

    This is not true. You’re saying that the singular keyword was considered over-optimized. Where did you get that from? It was and continues to be about the percentage of anchor text. A few of these in the midst of several hundred or thousand isn’t going to raise any red flags.

    • If your domain is and all of your anchors say “top cell phones” something is off and that is considered over optimized.

  62. Thanks for this info but as Im new to all this & I’d never heard of this or Hummingbird before… Yes, yes I know!

    I find all your posts really interesting & helpful but also a little too technical sometimes as I havent come across some of the terminology you guys use. I have to look into the topic to actually understand what its about sometimes.

    It would be so much more helpful for me & Im sure others if you could perhaps put definitions or links to definitions into your posts so people like me dont have to try & figure out whats being discussed to know if that post actually relates to me or not.

    Im not saying I want posts full of definitions to bog you all down but for people like me who are new to this it would be great to get a little more info in each post.

    Thanks again.

  63. Prateek Bansal :

    Yeah. Exact match anchors will create a great Problem and many of my websites are Penalized by them. Hope things goes fine here.

  64. Great Post Neil Sir.. Bye Bye to Spammy Links.. 😀

  65. Gilbert Summers :

    Neil – agree with everyone – another one of your incisive and hugely helpful posts. You are No 1 when it comes to generously sharing knowledge.

    However, your ornithology is terrible. You used a picture of a puffin to illustrate a penguin issue. Neil, those two birds don’t even share the same hemisphere! Alternatively – terrible thought – Google is about to hit us with Puffin 1.0?

  66. Nutri Bullet :

    Thank you for sharing, your articles are very useful for me to know the Penguin 3.0

  67. Oooooo Penguin :))

    Excellent post,Thanks for your guide.

  68. Thanks so much Neil , this came as an effective alarm for me.
    I appreciate it. . already started evaluating possible candidates (sites) . .


  69. Deepak Singh :

    I’m all excited and can’t wait for Penguin 3.0! Bring it on, May 23rd! 🙂

  70. Elena Johnson :

    When we can expect the penguin 3.0?

    Do you know the month and year?

  71. Haresh Patel :

    Useful information about Penguin 3.0
    I’m looking forward to this update, in order to learn about the next steps of online internet marketing Great Post…..
    Thanks for sharing, Neil Patel.

    • Hello Haresh,
      Hello, Are you looking to start your own business online or own one? Earn your $20 in less than 24 hours. INTERNET LIFESTYLE NETWORK is here. The easiest way to make money online with a growing community and fun people to work with. Check it out and see for yourself. Watch the videos and take note. There is no risk, Use the code Secret7 for a 7 day free trial and start earning money. Have fun my friend and cheers for your successful business as you go along.

    • Haresh, glad I could help 🙂

  72. Ravi Chahar :

    Hi Neil,

    It’s really great to know about all the Google penguins. All the point you have focused on are worthy to follow.
    Matt Cutts is so serious about the links from guest posting.
    Low links are not considered as links which can help us. We should surely remove these backlinks.

    Thanks for making me aware about Google Penguins.


  73. Awesome share Neil,
    I hope my sites will survive in this penguin update.

  74. Firstly, is guest blogging seriously dead? Do we’ve to axe the quality links we got from guest blogging?

    Additionally, what should be the ratio of changing anchor text for the same links?

    • Guest blogging isn’t dead, you just can’t get greedy with it.

      As much as possible when it comes to anchor text. Ideally a keyword shouldn’t make up more than 5% of your anchor text.

  75. Shouldn’t be to much of an issue if you play by the rules. Is always funny to watch the forums after a big update.

  76. Am I the only one who thinks the Google have gone mad? If we cannot optimise our anchor text (how much is too much? What classes as over-optimisation and what is ok?) or guest blogging, and if all our back-links are nofollow, then what else is there?

    Links from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are all nofollow, so what value are they except for attracting additional traffic direct from those sources. Are we to take it that Google is only concerned with how much traffic a website gets?

    This thinking makes a very unlevel playing field, as established sites are generally going to get more traffic than new sites. It makes it harder for new sites to get onto Google and thus they have to work harder to get the amount of traffic needed for Google to pay any attention to them.

    Crazy and unfair, if you ask me!

    • Google’s goal is to provide the most relevant results. So although it may seem crazy to marketers, the results are more relevant. For that reason I would say they aren’t crazy.

  77. Kapil Sethi :

    Again another awesome article With useful information about Penguin. Thanks you so much for this post

  78. Epic post……Here everything given clearly. I was aware of that some big update about to come and after reading this post everything got cleared. I am going to check all links so that my site will not get hit by penguin. Best way to save by any penalty is to do genuine link building so that if any sudden big update release then anyone need not to worry about the results.

  79. ha ha that’s a puffin not a penguin 🙂

  80. hello Neil Sir
    thanks for sharing this article here, this is What i am Looking for over search Engine. actually my Site Traffic gets a Effect, this Information is Enough for me to take care of My Web. 🙂

  81. Neil, am always very glad every time I read your post. Always fresh and very informative.

    One question though, what is your take on web designers adding promotional texts such as ” designed by creative xyz designs” in the footer of clients websites?

    You know the footer area appears on all pages of a site. Would this not count as spam for the linking and linked sites?

    • Not really considered spam on your end, but I wouldn’t add it. It’s not worth it considering that you are driving traffic away to your site to something that doesn’t benefit your readers.

  82. Hey Neil.. Thanks for putting it together and sharing the barracuda tool. You have pressed too much on guest blogging here. Another way of linking Matt’s mentions towards May’s predictions (last two major Penguin released in May).

  83. I have a confusion with this tool. There are 2 lines on my website graph. 1 is for penguine 2.0 and other for 2.1 but it was on october 2013. Now my confusion is ” Is my blog still effected with penguine update or not.”
    What we should look for in this graph “an area or just a line”?

  84. Bilal Ahmad :

    Neil what is your suggestion for those blogs who have accepted guest posts in the past.

    What should they do to recover from a penalty or stay safe from the future penalties?

  85. Tushar Thakur :

    Hey Neil,

    Great article. Can you talk little bit about negative SEO stuff please. What we can do if competitor continuously making spam or exact matched anchor text backlinks to out website?

    • Tushar, I will definitely put an updated blog post about it out later. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

  86. Absolutely incredible article, thanks Neil Patel

  87. Another great article! Thank you Niel.

  88. San ramon in n Out :

    Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to
    browse your website on my iphone during lunch break.
    I enjoy the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a
    look when I get home. I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, excellent blog!

  89. indiana web designer :

    Very nice article. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wass very informative.

  90. Nice article Neil sir. I will take care of it.

  91. Krzysztof Furtak :

    Remove manually? Disavow works fine and no need to waste time for that. Tested over 140 times before.

  92. Oyewole Folarin :

    Can you do SEO work for me? Send me a basic proposal. Thanks.

  93. whether a link is paid or natural, Google couldn’t really find out. Pls define paid links?

  94. google penguine killed all of my websites.. now i am zero from hero.

  95. I was wondering the same thing as well. I came across this article which may be helpful for you

  96. I was wondering the same thing as well.trying so much to get rid of from it .thank you sir New year Greetings 2015

  97. Thanks for a great post. Any tips on how to remove undesired links.

  98. Warrior Marketing :

    Hi Neil,

    This was a great article. I liked the resources you provided as it will save plenty of time doing audits.

    I do however have a question – there is a company that provides a “boost” service for recovering from penguin, which I assume forcws crawls on all the links it perceives as toxic. Do you have any information on whether this works or not?

    Kind regards

  99. Ankur Pathania :

    Great Post 🙂 !
    It Helped Me A lot !

  100. was a great article. I liked the resources you provided as it will save plenty of time doing audits.

  101. Arbaz Shaikh :

    Great post niel.Can you tell me how to remove spammy or toxic backlinks?

  102. Thanks Neil for such a great post. It is very informative

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