Google constantly changes the way sites rank. However, in the past few years, Google implemented a new kind of algorithm known as Penguin. This algorithm analyzes a sites links and finds links that they consider to be poor quality. If you have too many of these links your site gets penalized and you therefore lose rankings. When I say poor quality links, I should clarify that they look for links that are specifically created to help a site rank higher. For example, these are the types of links that Penguin targets:

1. Link Networks – These are sites, quickly built for the purposes of just publishing poorly worded articles and adding links to it in order to manipulate your rankings higher.

2. Forum Links – High percentage of links that are found on poor quality forums.

3. Blog Comments – blogs that have comments that are not moderated and filled with spam comments that link back to the site.

4. Site Bio Pages – A lot of sites and forums have bio areas for you to fill out. Some people would sign up for a lot these sites. Excessive amounts of bio links (especially unrelated) can trigger a penguin penalty.

5. Low Quality Directories – These are auto-generated, worthless directories that just have millions of links and serve mostly as a farm for SEO services to build link strength.

This isn’t an all inclusive list, but hopefully you get the idea. In order to analyze whether a link is considered a poor quality link that can trigger a penguin penalty, you have to ask one simple question. Was this back link given to you buy a real person?  In other words, is this an editorial back link?   For a back link to be high quality, you really need a human being deciding whether to grant you a link? Certain high quality directories won’t include your link unless your site qualifies. Those links are acceptable. Someone has moderated the link.  Commenting on a low quality blog post with a link back to your site has auto approved comments is considered poor quality. No human decided to add your link, it was just a poorly moderated blog.

Over the past year, there has been an excessive amount of analysis on Penguin, so I really don’t intend to regurgitate what is written.  It is a complex subject.  Here are some good links on the topic.

Google Penguin 2.0 Algorithm – The Definitive Guide

Google Penguin Update

Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird

Google Algorithm Changes

Whether you acquired these links yourself or through an SEO service, it doesn’t matter.  All site owners need to analyze their links and clean their link profile.  This is the best way to ensure that you have a chance to recover.  Cleaning your site link profile take a lot of work. This involves requesting link removals and disavowing links that you don’t want Google to count against you.

The biggest issue with this Penguin penalty is that recovery is not fast. Some people argued that you can recover, but we haven’t seen a recovery from a Penguin site since last October. The reason why it takes so long is that Google has to do a full refresh of the algorithm. Most suspected this was the case, but today Google officially stated that this is a fact.  You cannot recover from Penguin until Google refreshes the algorithm.  And it has officially been 11 months since Penguin has refreshed. Obviously this is frustrating for sites that have worked hard to clean their links and now just waiting to recover.

Here is the article with the official announcement.

Google Penguin Recovery Required

If you have a site that has done poorly since last year, you may consider analyzing your links and disavowing the back links that might be hurting your site. Otherwise, if you dont’ get it done before the next refresh, it could be another long period before you get another chance.