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5 Sure-fire Ways to Avoid a Google Penguin Penalty

Posted By Guest Blogger 23rd of November 2015 General, Search Engine Optimization 0 Comments

5 Sure-fire Ways to Avoid a Google Penguin Penalty (Which you REALLY don't want!) on ProBlogger.This is a guest contribution from Steve Ceaton.

So recently Gary Illyes from Google announced that hopefully by the end of 2015, Penguin updates will be carried out in real-time. Waiting for the next Penguin update has been the bane of many a website owners’ life, and getting hit with a penalty can cost thousands in lost revenue.

For those unaware, Google has two major algorithms that can penalize websites, and they’ve named them after two cute animals. Penguin and Panda. Far from being cute, these animals have put a countless number of websites out of business, and if you’re going to be a blogger you should acquaint yourself with them very carefully.

The Penguin algorithm is all about links pointing to your website from other websites. If the links are over optimised, from bad neighbourhoods, or just don’t ‘look’ right, then you could find yourself with a Penguin penalty. A penalty that will kill your positions on Google. To get out of a penalty you need to fix whatever’s triggered it, then wait up to 6 months or more for the next update to see if your website is now ‘Penguin free’. If not, then you have to try again and wait another 6 months, and so on and so on.

But, if Gary Illyes is true to his word, there could be hope on the horizon to recover much quicker. With real-time updates there’ll be no more waiting around for a refresh and we can see the results of fixes almost as soon as we apply them.

This is great news for website owners, but what can we do to avoid getting hit by a Penguin in the first place?

Here are some things you should do if you want to avoid a Penguin penalty.

1) Watch Your Blog Comments

We all love to be sociable, and it’s true if you want engagement on your blog you should frequently engage on other people’s blogs. This is commendable and perfectly reasonable, but if you’re a little too zealous with your commenting you could find a (not so cute) Penguin breathing down your neck.

When you submit a comment, you’re requested to add a name, email and web address. The blogging system will then turn your name into ‘anchor text’ and use it as a link back to your website.

If you add the same thing every time you post, you could find your anchor text ratio hitting dangerously high levels.

A study by MicroSiteMasters.com showed that every website hit by Penguin had over 60% of its anchor text the same. In this instance the anchor text was a ‘money’ keyword (e.g. web designer, SEO expert etc.), but you still need to err on the side of caution and ensure all your anchor texts are at least below 35%.

The highest percentage of anchor text would ideally be your brand name, or if you’re blog commenting you should use your actual name. But if you’re commenting a lot then it’s good to mix it up and use variations, so they aren’t all exactly the same.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule and you’ll find websites getting away with much higher anchor text ratios, but these type of websites usually have one thing in common: Trust.

2) Build Your Trust

If your website is trusted by Google you can get away with a multitude of sins. Rand Fishkin from Moz once famously invited spammers to hurt his Google rankings, but they failed because Moz is such a trusted website. But how do you build on trust?

Trust is an ethereal kind of thing that comes over time, but you can be proactive. Tools like Majestic SEO have their own Trust Flow indicators which are built using complicated algorithms that analyse backlinks. Generally they’re quite effective when it comes to sorting out the low from the high quality websites, and you can use these when assessing who to make ‘friends’ with.

For example if you’re going to comment on someone’s blog, give them a quick check on Majestic SEO first. If they have a low Trust Flow then you might not want them linking to your website. The more low quality links you have the less trusted you’ll be, so be selective on where you get your links. On the flip side, you can seek out websites that are high in Trust Flow and comment/engage with those. The higher your Trust Flow, the higher chance you have of becoming a trusted website, and the better chance you have of avoiding the dreaded Penguin penalty.

Worried about incurring a Google Penguin Penalty on the SEO of your blog? We've got 5 surefire ways of doing just that! On ProBlogger.net

3) Avoid ‘Active’ Link Building

John Mueller is a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, so when he speaks we should generally listen. John came out recently and said we should avoid active link building completely. Now this is a bit extreme, but actually good advice, especially for people new to SEO. It’s a known fact that your website needs links to improve its rankings on Google. So it’s all too easy to run around begging, stealing, borrowing links from anywhere and everywhere you can find. But this opens the door to low quality links and can leave you vulnerable to a Penguin update.

You should look at your content first and concentrate on building a website that’s the best, most resourceful and informative of its kind. People come first, not links, and as mentioned, trust is more important than links. So if you spend more time delivering excellent content and engaging real relationships via social media, and less time ‘actively building links’ then you should have a much better chance of success and avoiding any penalties.

4) Never, Ever Buy Links

This follows on from the last two points and should be a given, but it has to be said. Don’t buy links. If you do a little digging into the world of SEO you’ll soon find a multitude of link peddlers selling links in all shapes and sizes. They’ll come at you with testimonials and charts and tell you that these links are proven to increase rankings. For a newcomer it’s easy to get swayed by this kind of talk, but I can guarantee that the vast majority of websites hit by Penguin had paid for links at some point or other. The people that sell links aren’t bothered who they sell them to. They just want the money, and what might seem like a shortcut at the time will only shorten the life of your website when you get hit by a Penguin update.

5) Be Polite and Don’t Annoy SEOs

This may sound pedantic, but it could be the best advice you’ve ever been given. If like me you enjoy getting involved in forum discussions or groups on Facebook, it’s quite reasonable you’ll look for some SEO experts for advice. This is all well and good, until you find yourself in a flame war, arguing over some point about how links can’t hurt your website, or how link building is dead etc.

It only takes one disgruntled keyboard warrior, sat at home in his/her dressing gown to make a point by throwing a barrage of bad links at your website.

If you make enemies in the wrong places it could kill your website before it’s even started. Tread very carefully when speaking to groups of SEOs, as they all have access to links that can damage your website. If you see an argument brewing then run for the hills. Negative SEO is very real and in certain niches highly prevalent, so it’s best to fly under the radar until you have enough trust to withstand an attack.


Basically a Penguin penalty is caused by one of two things:

  • Anchor text ratio
  • Low quality links

If we stick to the points above we should have a good chance of avoiding a penalty and not losing our rankings on Google. If like Gary Illyes says, Penguin updates are to be carried out in real-time, and we do get hit by a penalty, at least we have a chance of addressing the problem quickly and hopefully recovering sooner.

Online success is a long term venture and there’s no quick fixes or shortcuts. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint and if Google has anything to say about it, you’ll never outrun a Penguin.

Steve Ceaton is a writer and blogger of SEO tips. Learn more about him here and connect with him on @SteveCeaton, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. Wow! Eye opening information here. I just checked my domain in Majestic and my trust score is 0. I comment on a lot of blogs in an attempt to build relationships but will rethink that strategy now. Thanks for these tips.

    • Hi Kwame. Thanks for the comment. Yeah if you add some good comments on high trusted blogs (like this one) you’ll see your trust score improve. Just use a Facebook page, or Twitter link for commenting on low trusted blogs. At least until you have some level of trust for your website.

      • Steve,

        This is very true what you said about aiding quality content from good comments on this blog. Truth is, content is and always will be keying on the World Wide Web. People who comment on social media are doing nothing more than making both social networks richer. Do you agree with that statement, Steve?

  2. Seems like Steve that using power will steer you clear of Penguin. Using force will put you in the dog house. Looking at each strategy, the negative backlash occurs because the tactics used are fear driven. As for commenting I do use my name because branding is big for me. Bigger than Google. So is building trust. If I get slapped around a little bit here or there no problems, so long as I persistently offer value through my blog comments and through my blog itself. Always comes back to value and trust, and your energy dictates the type of trust and value you build online….using low energy, Penguin-inducing approaches or using high energy, helpful, authentic techniques to help you and your audience.


    • Hi Ryan, “Using power will steer you clear of Penguin, Using force will put you in the dog house”, That’s true. You could say using “awareness” will steer you clear of Penguin. You need to know what it looks for and how to stay out of trouble.

  3. What a great article Steve. Thank you very much for it, I have gained some new and valuable knowledge from it. Thanks again

  4. thanks for all the help, does commenting my url in a comment on here do anything to help me get good backlinks?

    • Hi Bryce, It gives you a nofollow link, but it will pass over trust flow. The important thing about commenting for links is being genuine, and not just commenting for the sake of it. Otherwise the blog owner might delete your comment as spam.

  5. Hi Steve, thanks for the post. I would disagree with you on comments having the potential to cause a Penguin penalty though. For a couple of reasons. 1. Google can tell they are comments 2. Since around 2005 the nofollow attribute was developed which most blogs employ now as a default for commenters names. This tells Google to basically ignore the outbound link.

    • Hi Jim, Google doesn’t ignore a nofollow links, it just doesn’t pass over any PageRank for them. I’ve seen websites penalized by Penguin that have had 99% nofollow links. Comments per se wouldn’t cause a penalty, but too many low quality links with the same anchor text can. It’s just worth being aware of that.

  6. Actually I was a victim of google update. I recently bought poor site with $1400 and it was penalised after 1 week. Its so weird.

    • Hi Anil, it could be a number of things. If it’s Penguin you’ll have to look at disavowing links. The good thing is Google say they are doing real time updates from December so you should be able to recover it.

  7. Thanks so much for this! I’ve never thought much about back links and all that, but hearing big name bloggers worry about them and about Google’s new algorithms has made me nervous. Apparently, though, I’ve been doing all the right things and can just keep on going with my little blog, which is great news for me. Once again, thanks for clarifying things.

  8. Thank you, Steve, for this info. Clear and to the point!. I tell all beginning bloggers that I know to get connected with ProBlogger, and this article is a perfect example why I say so.

    Cheers, Happy Holidays,
    Kevin Lee

  9. Thanks for this, especially points 1 and 3. I was out of touch with the Penguin and Panda updates after moving into a new job in 2014. Now I will have to be careful working on my personal blog so I am not stranded in the Antarctic in the company of hostile penguins!

  10. Hi Darren,
    Thanks for the tips. My readers are very concerned about Google penalties. I have someone getting ready to guest author on the topic soon.
    As far as I go, I try to adhere to what you’ve written. I go to Moz to see if I have penalties.

  11. Steve, great read and vital information. One of the hardest things about “getting started” online is knowing the rules, how to follow the rules and what to do when you are penalized. You offer great value in explaining penalties for those who are not well versed in tech speak.

    It’s so important to realize that visibility doesn’t happen overnight but can be achieved if you follow the rules of the big boys! Thanks so much for sharing this extremely helpful info! Hopefully I won’t have to pull out my fur-lined coat anytime soon!

  12. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge on penguin safety tips with us; good to read these tips can possibly put a website on the good side of Google if adhere to.

    However, I would to say here that anchor text over optimization is some metrics need a second look at before deciding what to do with it or where in Google net It belong.

    If a high ratio of anchor text comes from brand name or real name of the webmaster, I think this is absolute fine and no need to panic over penguin updates.

    Except that it comes from money keywords or niche related keywords, in this case there is dangerous looming around.

    Thanks for sharing, nice read. Sharing in a moment.

  13. Thanks for summarizing the recent and future Google Search Algo changes.

  14. That last advice is the best. Its a tough world out there, and the day Google allowed neg SEO, it was a sad day.
    Its also good for personal Karma. good post Steve.

    (Edited for typo!)

  15. Thank you for this funny (you could find a (not so cute) Penguin breathing down your neck) and extremely helpful (everything else) article. I’ll put your advice into good use once my site goes online.

    May the hungry polar bear be with you! :)


  16. Looking to avoid the Google Penguin penalty? Don’t scrape content from other sites. When quoting something so from someone else’s blog or website, give proper author attribution. Don’t take other people’s content and reworded making it sound like yours in claiming original authorship. This is also known as “theft of content.” It’s better to sound stupid as a content marketer with your own unique personality versus trying to copy someone else’s style. Who agrees with this?

  17. Adrianne says: 12/04/2015 at 9:05 am

    Thank you for spelling this out for me. As a freelancer web writer, these kinds of updates (most notably from Google) are especially confounding for clients who mean well, and their hired writers who have to deliver results under ever-changing constraints. I’ve bookmarked this page and will continue to reference this when I need some advice. Thanks.

  18. This is great information, especially for someone just starting out, like myself. I started my blog 2 months ago and have a trust score of 7 so far. I’m not sure why but a week after I started I was notified from Mailchimp that I needed to remove my website from the Spamhaus registry. Not sure how this happened being that I had never sent any emails or other info from this domain. I had it removed and back in good standing with MC. Does being on the Spamhuas registry affect the trust scores or google rankings? I assume it does, but not sure.

  19. Great article, thanks for the heads up on the buying links thing. I get so many referrals from these websites, there such shady spammers and can destroy your analytics reports never mind your website.


    Elliot K.

  20. I get so confused with Google updates and what I should or should not be doing to keep my website in good standing.Thanks so much for this info – simply laid out and easy to follow.

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