Google Penguin – How are the victims from 2012 doing today?

We will most likely see the Google Penguin 4.0 update early next year. This makes it a great time to look back at the domains on that were penalized by the very first Google Penguin update in 2012 and see how they are doing today?

I decided to select the first 100 domains with a significant visibility drop during the initial Penguin rollout as the basis for my evaluation, as they are the most likely to have been affected by this link penalty filter. Looking at this “selected“ group (google sheet), here are my conclusions:

– On average, these domains lost about 53% of their visibility thanks to the first Penguin update. Now, a whole three and a half years later, the average visibility loss has increased to 68%.

– All in all, 92% of the 100 domains I checked out failed to recover from Penguin. The remaining 8% managed to either get back or even increase their visibility in comparison to before the update.

– Looking at the data, 80% of all domains have not even seen the slightest increase in visibility since, which could lead us to conclude that an interest in recovering these websites might simply be missing. For 14% this is easily apparent as they have simply ceased to exist and the other 66% have a visibility trend which is heading straight towards a score of 0, in the near future.

– When we check out the 20% that did manage to fight the Penguin, by continuously working and improving on their projects, one domain climbed back to the same visibility they had before the update and 7 domains managed to increase their visibility beyond what they had in 2012.

– If we were to separate all domains into two groups, we can see two distinctly different approaches to the initial Penguin update. The first group decided to fight for their sites by continuously making the necessary changes and then waiting for each new Penguin rollout, as these are the only times when you are able to make progress, if you were truly hit by Penguin:

Visibility Index of Currency Converter
Visibility Index of Currency Converter

– The later group either did nothing, made it worse or simply dropped their domain:

Visibility Index of
Visibility Index of

– Next I checked if all the domains on this list had something in common: As expected from Penguin, all the anchor texts for their links showed strong signs that they were not acquired naturally. If we take the anchor texts for, for example, we see the following:

Anchor Text from Forevercrystal
Anchor Text from Forevercrystal

– 13.2% of all linking IPs (not domains) used the keyword “glass vases”
– Another 13.2% used “glassware”
– 11.3% used “wine glasses”
– And 7.5% had “champagne glasses” as their anchor text

You simply do not get such perfect anchor texts naturally, as the vast majority of users will not use these terms when linking to a domain. Users will add a link without images or text (empty), just use the brand-, domain- or host-name or might simply decide to use “here” or “click here” for their anchor texts. I want to show you the top anchor texts for a domain with a natural anchor text distribution for comparison. Behold “The Normal One”:

Liverpool FC ( “The Normal One"
Liverpool FC ( “The Normal One”

In our experience over the past 3 years, everything above 2% is about as safe as playing Russian roulette, sooner or later your turn is up.

The Penguin update 4.0 is expected to be rolled out in January 2016, which makes the final weeks of 2015 the perfect time to take a close look at your backlinks and make sure you are ready for the Penguin. Until then, we wish you a great holiday season and a happy new year!

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