Avoiding Penalties From Google’s Penguin Update: Interview With Russ Jones

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As part of our SEJ interview series, Russ Jones of Virante  discusses how to avoid penalties from Google’s Penguin algorithm update.

After Penguin 2.1 came out, Russ’s company Virante came out with something called the Open Penguin Data project to gain more insight about this algorithm update to help SEOs and website owners.

There’s no easy solution to avoiding penalties from Penguin, or recovering from penalties you may have been hit with already, but Russ break it down for you in the video below:

Here are some key takeaways from the video:

  • With the Open Penguin Data project, Virante has developed a Penguin vulnerability score that predicts your likelihood of getting hit with a penalty.
  • What Russ has found out is that spammy sites that you would expect to get hit often don’t. Those kinds of sites are more likely to get hit with manual penalties.
  • Russ suggests that average website owners get hit the hardest because they are the most likely to pay for Google AdWords ads to recoup lost traffic.
  • The first step to recovering from Penguin is to remove bad links and/or disavow them. Russ says this works but it does take time, and results are seen only after the next Penguin refresh.
  • What helps you from getting hit by Penguin altogether is gaining a lot of high quality, trusted links. If you’re not earning links that are of a high enough quality, Russ says chances are you will get caught by Penguin.
  • High quality links are ones that come from trusted sources, such as .edu and .gov links. Russ suggests using tools like Majestic SEO and Moz to determine the level of trust a particular domain has.

If you have any questions after watching the video, please ask them in the comments section and I will do my best to respond to everyone! Please visit SEJ’s YouTube page for more video interviews.


John Rampton
John Rampton is an entrepreneur, full-time computer nerd, and PPC expert. Founder at payments company Due.com. I enjoy helping people and am always online to... Read Full Bio
John Rampton
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  • James Halloran

    Ah, good thoughts! I don’t think a lot of people realize they need to wait for the next Penguin refresh in order to see results. Even I didn’t realize that. Thanks for the reminder, Russ!

  • It’s interesting that this is coming out publicly now but a lot of pure white hat sites got hit from penguin updates. Sometimes I wonder if Google has like a casualty threshold where they’ll damage X percent white hat sites to crush black hat networks or sites.

  • There are many website’s which are not involved in any kind of black hat SEO, but Google update penalizes those blogs just because those blogs have less authority. Google should look into this.

    • I definitely agree with you and that’s what I was getting at in my original comment. It seems that Google is willing to destroy smaller sites that aren’t black hat just to go after black hat guys.

      I don’t know, if I was in their position I wouldn’t really know what to do so that’s why Google gets to handle that decision.