Demystifying a Heady Concoction: Unnatural Links, Penguin & Panda


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Written by Amit pankaj
on May 16, 2013

Numbers seem to be fast disappearing. Clients forsaking you. Delayed payments. Walking past your seo team (who had earlier worked wonders for you) gets you queasy.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonhurd/1506968422

No, you aren’t underperforming due to sickness, struck by lightening or something, you’re instead struck by Google’s constant updates- Penguin, Unnatural links or Panda.

So, before you come down to any radical conclusions, we suggest you once take up the mantle yourself. Just once. Especially if you too are caught up in the maze of what’s what.

The Basics

Chances are, once (found guilty) hit by Penguin, Unnatural links or Panda, your site would be thrown mercilessly at the rear end of search results.

Let’s take up the cause and clear the air from them, one by one.

Panda & Penguin Updates
Penguin –
  24th April 2012- The very first battle cry against webspam flashed on Google’s blog.. The algo was named ‘The Webspam Algo’, but later on was rechristened to- ‘Penguin’. This algo spelled the death knell for sites having keyword stuffings as well as link schemes. In his tweet, Matt Cuts also indicated that links should be monitored.  As a result most SEO professionals were lead to believe the biggest cause of Penguin was when sites get easy links, carrying keywords as anchor text from low quality sources.

Unnatural Links

Unlike Penguin, unnatural links are manually imposed penalties. You read it right. It happens when Google sees through your attempts of creating links by maneuvering and channelizing the search engine results in your favor.

So, why me? (In case you’re wondering)

Most webmasters feel, if a spam report is filed against you by anyone, it makes your website eligible for a manual assessment. It is also believed the more competitive niche you have, more stringent would be Google’s scrutiny.  Nothing hard and fast though.

Below is a typical mail sent by a Google for unnatural links warning.

Panda

On 24th February 2011, Panda by Google dawned upon us. It was brought out to reprimand those who had low quality content on their site. It came at a time, when culled out content or extremely thin (very less) content on webpages had become a flavor of the season.

The time when Panda came, it did not have a name.

However, a clear distinction was that it wasn’t aimed at unnatural links. It only dealt with content that affected the On-Page quality due to duplication or less content. So the moment any copied content was found by Google, it saw enough reason to downgrade the site in the search results.

Distinguishing between Unnatural Links and Penguin!

As indicated, link schemes are the bone of contention when it comes to Penguin and Unnatural links. Excess keywords being used as anchor text can be one of the causes, but the real differentiator between the two is that Penguin is algorithm driven, unnatural links is a penalty imposed by human intervention.  An unnatural link can be a reported to Google by your competitor. Also, Unnatural Links aren’t date specific. They can happen any time after your link strategy is exposed to Google and somebody from Google’s Webspam Department comes down hard on your site. While, Penguin, being automatic, on the other hand takes effect on the very day it’s updated. So, for those SEOs who think Penguin can affect any time of the year, we’d say the possibility is less. However, it’s still in the midst of a lot of speculation, so nothing can be ruled out either.

Image Credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/smithser/3870653508

Does all three affect my complete site or just a part of it?

Penguin- It doesn’t usually affect the whole site, it only affects a page. Like if there’s a page pqrs.com/forexample/ and you have been making links on the anchor text “for example”. So, in case you’re hit by Penguin, the said page would fall down in ranks for “for example”.

In a different scenario if there are too many anchor text links for multiple keywords directed to your homepage, then your homepage wouldn’t rank on those many keywords. That said- your whole site per se (though it may seem so), doesn’t get affected.

Unnatural Links- A real time penalty imposed by someone sitting at the Google’s Webmasters office can have an effect on your complete website, a webpage, or a single keyword. The result can range from a site’s total disappearance from Google’s Index, to not appearing in the first ten pages for a single keyword to just being affected mildly for one or two keywords.

Panda-  It may affect the complete website or a specific part, like the blog. By nature, Panda usually doesn’t target any single pages of a website. So for instance, your site had good content interspersed with bad (duplicate or thin) content, then Panda can create trouble for the ranking of your whole site, not just the bad content pages.

The Art of Revival

Penguin-  Many SEO enthusiasts feel you can’t fully come out of a Penguin hit, it isn’t possible. So, while you keep taking measures, in reality it only gets better when the next update of penguin arrives.

Be that as it may. Here’s what you can perhaps do. For the penalized page  pqrs.com/forexample/ you may create a fresh page like pqrs.com/justforexample/ and start afresh.

Multiple factors count, so little can be pinpointed really. Having said that, updates do play a pivotal role, but efforts must be taken. And they matter.

Using the Disavow Tool could be another option to get rid of bad links, though ideally-it is for Unnatural Links. So, only waiting is not what we recommend.  Recovering from Penguin may require a longer discussion, which is beyond purview of this post.

Unnatural Links- Hearing about your reassessment plea from Google may take anywhere between 3 days to 2 weeks. When Disavow Tool came in, it was bombarded with requests of link removal, so many a times it even took 6 weeks or more.

However, it largely depends on how harsh  the imposed penalty is, it may take much longer as well, up to several months.

Some sites get the penalty lifted, but doesn’t see much improvement in the ranks. This mostly happens when you’ve got no good links left to pull your site up. Like, if all your links have been disavowed, then some good quality links would be needed to move your site up the ladder.

There are cases when a site continues to look penalized even after a manual penalty is taken off. This happens when your site’s still under Penguin effect. Often, the efforts taken to revive from Unnatural Links also assists you in coping-up with the Penguin trouble.

Panda- There are ways to deal with Panda but that calls for a broader, separate discussion. For now we can tell you that fix your content first, don’t just remove the duplicacy or thinness, but try to put as good and as relevant content as you can. That is done, wait patiently for the Panda update. In case you’re wondering why your site didn’t climb up in the next update, the answer is one update may not be enough for your site to come up. That also happens!

As in a recent video by Matt Cutts, he cited that Panda won’t indulge in frequent updates, instead it would incorporate the changes in their algo itself, so you don’t have to wait for a Panda update for your site to recuperate.

Wrapping up

With this post, we hope we’ve put at least some of your misconceptions about Penguin, Panda and Unnatural Links, to rest. If you feel like dropping a line or adding something to make it a discussion – be our guest.

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