If you got carried away with your linking strategies over the past year or two and it caught up with you, you may be looking at your website, longingly dreaming about a restoration to it’s former glory at the top of results for related searches that make money. And you can often restore rankings by going back and cleaning up all the damage you did with your linking strategies.

Assuming it was indeed your links that caused the problem, it’s likely your site’s demise was the result of one of two possibilities. You either fell “victim” to a Penguin update, which is known for a focus on spammy links, or were dealt the fatal blow by an Unnatural Links Penalty, which, as the name suggests, targets very similar issues.

go to jail

Source: flickr.com/photos/teegardin/


Let’s have a look at each.

What is an Unnatural Links Penalty?

Google isn’t all mathematics and advanced algorithms – there’s a human hand in their ranking decisions as well, even if it plays a small part.

Unnatural Links Penalties are a good example of this. In certain cases, someone at Google will take a manual review of your website, looking closely at the nature of your backlinks, and if the review determines manipulation of the search engines, they can invoke this penalty to knock your site back down.

Unlike algorithms, which use complex calculations to sort rankings and punish hoards of sites at once, a manual review like this focuses on one site at a time, and a spam report from a third party is often thought to be the catalyst for this closer look – slightly worrying, considering that a competitor could easily file a spam report against you.

Other webmasters believe that Google also pays closer attention to particular niches known for spammy tactics and randomly (or not so randomly) selects sites in those niches for closer scrutiny.

What is Penguin?

As you likely know already, Penguin is an algorithm that also looks closely at linking strategies – not to mention keyword stuffing tactics. Penguin is tweaked and changed periodically, and since it is an algorithm, these updates automatically unearth sites involved in bad linking strategies. In other words, no manual hand is involved in analyzing the site.

Of course, this also means that Penguin can make mistakes and punish websites when a closer look from a real human viewer would have revealed that it was credible.

Why Is the Difference Important?

One of the main reasons it’s good to determine the exact cause of your penalty is to know what you can do about it. For instance, if Penguin penalizes your site, you’ll need to clean things up and just wait for the next update.

An Unnatural Links Penalty, meanwhile, can be dealt with more proactively. After cleaning up your links, you can file for reconsideration, and if another manual review determines you’ve fixed the damage, your site may rank well again.

How do you know which of the culprits affected your site? Well, you should be monitoring your rankings anyway, so it’ll be obvious based on when your site drops and whether a recent Penguin update occurred, but even more importantly, just keep your email address current with Google. Unnatural Link Penalties don’t come from out of nowhere – you get a notice about it when it happens.

Then you cant take action accordingly.