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How to Fix a Google Penguin Penalty

Google's Penguin Update was created to locate sites that are spamming Google search results...especially sites that get link development by buying links or by participating in (spam) link networks.

Penguin penalty image

A colleague asked, "Which are the best methods (or strategies) you recommend in case of a Penguin related issue?” Here is Omni's answer.

In This Article

No-spam approach to SEO

Since Omni's approach to SEO has never been (and never will be) to exploit web search engines via spam or any other means, clients who have been with us at any point during website development...

  1. Information architecture
  2. Navigation systems
  3. Wireframes
  4. Design prototypes
  5. Technical architecture and development

…won't be affected by Penguin or any other major algorithm change.

Reason? Omni's focus has always been on users & user behaviors, and that includes web searcher behaviors.

Our motto is Users FIRST, Technology Second.

Therefore, a website that is (a) architected based on user mental models, and (b) contains well-organized and well-labeled content, usually doesn't have web spam issues.

Not all of our clients, unfortunately, come to us with a clean slate. Here's how we clean up this spam mess.

Start with a site audit

Getting poor advice about architecture, navigation, digital content assets, link development, and so forth from other SEOs is quite common. Fixing an SEO mess is not always easy and straightforward.

A site audit is usually required to ascertain many things, not only link development.

Here is what we often look for in a site audit under the Link Development category:

  • Does the website have linkworthy content, also known as digital content assets?
  • What are they? List them in order of importance.
  • How are content assets labeled (document, content, & navigation labels)?
  • Where are content assets placed within a website's information architecture and site navigation?
  • Is the site architecture based on mental models of actual users? Or is it the technical team's mental model? The marketing team's mental model? The CEO's mental model? Someone's personal opinion other than actual users?

Other potential issues can be uncovered with a site audit.

Tools are only as good as the carpenter;
SEO software Is only as good as the SEO practitioner

Many SEO firms simply use software to ascertain possible issues with a site. Omni understands that software can help uncover issues. However, some SEO tools can be the source of the problem.

For example, content density (or thin content) can be an issue. Too many links per page is often a related issue. Those issues are best addressed with a human, not software.

For example, a wayfinder site map or site index will contain many links. A category page might contain many links. These page types might be mislabeled as "thin content" in SEO software merely because these page types contain a large amount of links to other web pages.

Additionally, on some websites, a site search engine results page (sSERP) template is often treated as a category-page template. This situation is often a poor decision by a technical team. Category pages and search results pages have different characteristics. They should never be treated as the same page type.

A site audit can uncover these types of problematic technical implementations.

Analysis, recommendations, & implementation

A thoroughly qualified SEO team with education, experience, and skills in...

  • Information architecture
  • Navigation systems
  • Usability/UX
  • Web design/development

...should be giving these site audits presenting you with specific recommendations for each issue.

Omni understands that very few SEO professionals have all of these skills. An information architect and SEO, for example, might not have technical skills. But these people should be able to work with a technical team and a marketing team to get desired results.

A Penguin issue can have straightforward solutions. Some solutions might be quick-and-easy to implement.

In all likelihood, though, comprehensive Penguin Recovery Plan takes time. Complex solutions do take more time to plan and implement.

Additionally, a negative Penguin effect often means that someone or a team listened to poor SEO advice. Therefore, any proposed solution should sound different than the poor SEO advice.

Remember, the best solutions might not be easy to hear. The new SEO consultant who is trying to help you is not trying to be mean or disrespectful. The consultant is simply trying to help your team and your website.

The best implementations might not be easy to do. Ultimately, though, the new solutions are better for websites (and web searchers) in the long run.

Summary of penguin recovery

  1. Begin with a site audit. Depending on the number and severity of issues, a site audit can take between 1-3 weeks.
  2. Identify potential issues (qualitative & quantitative data). Don't rely on SEO software only. SEO software is a tool. A tool is only as good as the carpenter. Make sure you work with a good carpenter (SEO professional) who knows how to analyze both qualitative and quantitative data from multiple resources.
  3. Present & recommend solutions. An SEO consultant's solutions might be straightforward, such as putting the robots.txt file on site search results pages. Some solutions are not as simple, such as revising page templates.
  4. Implement recommended solutions. Use a calendar. Implement the easiest solutions right away. The more complex recommendations usually take more time to implement.

    The complex recommendations do NOT have to be perfect. They have to be 'good enough' to get back into web-search listings. For example, you can start with updated page templates that are 'good enough.'

    Then, over time, evolve them into better, more user-friendly templates.
  5. Submit a reconsideration request. When all or most implementations are in effect, submit a reconsideration request.

    If your site is still not accepted back into the Google Index, then your version of 'good enough' is not Google's version of 'good enough." Work with your SEO consultant to make your website 'good enough."

    Write down everything you did to improve the site. Then try again.

This SEO article originally appeared at It has been updated since its original publication.

If you liked this SEO tip, here are more links to related optimization tips and articles from Omni Marketing Interactive:

You can also read our articles from other online publications.


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If you have any questions about Omni Marketing Interactive's search engine optimization (SEO), website usability, information architecture (IA), or web design services, please call us at 847-426-4256.