Fixing Penguin Problems

By Mark Lamendola, Mindconnection, LLC

If you’ve had a serious drop in Google ranking (and thus site traffic), you probably have Panda or Penguin problems. The good news is you can solve these problems yourself, saving typically several thousand dollars in SEO fees. You’re also likely to get your “Out of Jail” card in only a few weeks, if you know what resources to use.

When the Panda and Penguin bombs first fell on small e-tailers, the right tools for recovery didn’t yet exist and Google was no help. Those tools are here now and Google provides help.

Google now does a good job of explaining such things as why you’d get a manual penalty and what to do about it. Resources include the Google videos featuring Matt Cutts.

Google even provides reliable advice that can save you hundreds of hours chasing down phantom issues that someone charging you a hefty fee has wrongly told you are important. But Google doesn’t provide a solid tool for fixing inbound link problems.

While it’s an excellent SEO resource, Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) gives you only a sampling of your inbound links rather than a complete profile. Among other limitations, GWT:

  • Is extremely slow to update. Many URLs in my GWT profile are for pages that ceased to exist over 11 months ago.
  • Doesn’t show whether a link is nofollowed. Matt Cutts has confirmed that you don’t have to worry about such links. Of course, he qualified that with comments that someone will figure out a way to massively spam with nofollow links and Google will have to respond. See his video for more details.
  • Lacks ancillary information that can help you quickly identify spammy sites.

You cannot rely on GWT if you’ve been hit by Penguin or have a manual link penalty. You need another tool.

But if you don’t have a manual penalty, how do you know whether your site is taking a Penguin hit or a Panda hit? These are completely different problems to solve, so picking the wrong one can be an existential mistake for your business.

There’s a tool called Panguin, and it’s free. You can quickly determine where to focus your recovery efforts.

My primary business is selling products online. But having taken my own sites through the Google gauntlet, I know what to do. Because of that, I now help other Miva merchants emerge from Google purgatory; I analyze and advise, charging only a small fee for my time. Our first step is to use this Panguin tool. It graphs your traffic history with the releases of Panda and Penguin superimposed.

Panda is about content, and that’s a topic for a different article. Here, we’re concerned about Penguin. And that means links.

So how do you find those toxic inbound links? Recall that I said you need another tool. I’ve tried many such tools, and found only one that does the job: Ahrefs ( It gives you exactly the information you need to repair your Google link profile.

When helping a fellow Miva e-tailer solve for Penguin, the first thing I advise is to pay the $75 monthly subscription for Ahrefs. This was the best $75 I ever spent. That’s why I recommend it. I’m not associated with Ahrefs in any way other than as a user.

If Google slapped you with the dreaded manual penalty, you must make “significant effort” in correcting the problems and documenting what you did before filing a reconsideration request. Google has a high bar for its definition of “significant effort.”

The merchants I help usually get their reconsideration request approved the first time, saving months of lost revenue. But they work smart, methodically using tools like Panguin and Ahrefs.


Mark Lamendola is the manager of Mindconnection, LLC, which was among the first adopters of the Miva platform and presently operates two Miva merchant stores ( and