On Tuesday April 24, 2012 this website was massively penalised by Penguin 1.0. A Google algorithm we now know targets poor quality backlinks. I had a job to do.
Just over 6 months later I wrote a blog post documenting all the things I had done to get out of Penguin Hell. Here is a summary on what I did:
- Stopped doing 301 redirects from an expired domain
- Dropped an RSS feed in the sidebar
- Cleaned up the Footer
- Removed the use of ctags (could look like hidden keywords)
- Changed forum signatures to be brand focused
- Dropped signatures/links from dormant profiles
- Stripped out backlinks from profile scraping websites
- Disconnected my PageRank tool and its low quality backlinks
- Shut down a single page website providing backlinks
- Disavowed one website
In the early days it was not so clear on what Penguin targeted, so I covered all bases and anything that could be to do with "over optimisation".
Then I sat and waited, waited, and Waited.
Eventually in May 2013 Penguin 2.0 came out, and I saw a slight recovery. Something in that list may have caused a granular improvement (John Mueller said the algorithm is granular in nature).
So it was time to start again and look for more ways to clean things up.
I recently signed up for CognitiveSEO which is a backlink analysis tool. I used it to analyse and discover suspect backlinks the worst of which I used to create a more complete disavow file.
Saying that, I only disavowed 19 domains and 5 links out of the 800ish domains discovered. I picked the extremely obvious zero value domains such as search or scraper websites. The one I added earlier also stayed in the list.
Currently only 6 links are detected from any of the disavowed domains.
I'd not been happy with my hosting for several reasons. This includes a time where my website was hacked, then later I discovered many other websites on their server had also been hacked, and they had done nothing about it.
I also wanted to see what would happen if I switched to US hosting instead of using a local Australian one. So I signed up with a well known cheap US host and have been happy. My website is actually faster in Australia!
October 4 is the official date of Penguin 2.1. On the 7th the change for me started to be obvious. I'm now confident that this is not just a traffic fluctuation.
The graph shows weekly values for organic visits only. Traffic is back to what I saw just before this all started.
There are many factors and variable involved so it is impossible to say with confidence what caused the change. To try and minimise uncertainly I tracked my actions and kept them to a minimum.
Could I have been in a bad neighbourhood with my hosting, or was one of the few domains I disavowed pulling me over the edge? Or maybe they fixed a bug in the algorithm! Who Knows.
The main thing is that it looks like I'm over it. Hurrah!