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Penguin 4.0 Fallout – What should I do if my rankings have dropped?

penguin 4.0 recovery
As we mentioned last week, Penguin 4.0 has rolled out and there have been some changes. If your websites rankings have dropped and you believe it’s as a result of this, what should you do?

First of all, keep calm and don’t jump to conclusions. If you have has slight drops, it could be due to natural fluctuations. It’s normal after an algorithm update to see things ‘bouncing around’ in SERPS for a couple of weeks. However if you’ve seen major drops (ie. All your phrases have disappeared off the face of the planet) it may be more of an indication that Penguin has taken hold.

If it this has occurred, still check:

  • That your hosting didn’t go down
  • That onsite hasn’t been removed

If your rankings are way down and nothing has changed to the items above, move onto #2.

First up check your Google Analytics. If your organic traffic drops off on the 23th or 24th of September, this may indicate a Penguin hit.
In regards to Search Console, some Webmasters and SEO experts around the world have reported that their websites/ clients websites have received messages from Google saying that ‘unnatural links have been detected’.

If you have received this message, or you’re still pretty sure you’ve received an algorithmic penalty even without this message – don’t jump to conclusions. It’s easy to start pointing the finger at your agency or competition HOWEVER some websites just build up bad quality or irrelevant links over time. For example, there are bots that scrape content and use that content to populate Directories or build links to their own websites. A prime example of this is prlog.ru. This Russian website is famous doing exactly this and they’ve been doing it for years. See a blog post from 2014 here talking about it.
Whether or not someone has unintentionally, recklessly or maliciously built some undesirable links to your website, or they have appeared by some other method, a ‘disavow’ will need to be performed.

disavow links tool

The Disavow tool was launched by Google in 2012 to help webmasters whose websites had been hit by manual and algorithmic penalties. As Penguin focusses on backlinks, it’s pretty much your Penguin fighting tool.
Try to get the backlinks that you don’t want Google to take notice of, if that fails then submit a Disavow. This is done via Search Console. A ‘reconsideration request’ may also need to be put through after this is performed also.
When we have performed this for new clients, Google will usually take anywhere between 1- 3 weeks to revise the Disavow and Reconsideration. Hopefully you will get a message saying that it was been accepted and you’re rankings are restored!

A couple things to note about the above though.

Your rankings may not come back exactly where they were.
Why? The links that have been disavowed may have been attributing some link juice. Because Google has deemed them unnatural and you’ve asked Google not to take them into consideration, this may have a slight negative affect on your authority.

The links that have been disavowed will still appear in Search Console and other backlink tools.
Why? Disavowing links isn’t actually making them disappear. At the end of the day, the third-party website still has a link to your website. The Disavow is simply asking Google not to take that link into consideration any longer.

Need help in deciphering whether your website has been hit or in the recovery process? Get in touch with the team here. We specialise in website ranking recoveries and love a challenge!

Term glossary
SERPS: Search engine result page – example, the page that appears when you’ve made a search on Google
Search Console: A Google application, formally known as Webmaster Tools
Bots: A software application that runs automated tasks (or scripts) over the internet