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Elearners Penguin 2.0 Penalty – the 4th Deep Dive Analysis


This case study was created using an LRT Superhero account.

Some of the use cases explained in this case study are not available in lower plans.

The LRT Superhero Plan (and higher) includes all our 25 link data sources and allows you to perform link risk management, competitive research, professional SEO and backlink analysis for your own or your competitor's sites. You get to see your website's full backlink profile picture and this can make all the difference for your SEO success.

penguin 2.0 case study elearning.comA Case Study about a Penguin 2.0 Loser
and Step by Step Guide to Protecting Your Site

Let’s take a dive deep into the reasons for the drop in visibility that experienced after the global rollout of the Google Penguin 2.0 update.

Similar to recent case studies, Reeds and CheapoAir, we will look at’s website like any professional SEO would conduct a SEO and link audit.

This research looks into Quick Comparisons, Competitive Analysis, Anchor Text Analysis, Link Detox Risk Analysis, and much more.

This is our 4th deep dive case study. A lot of information and details are presented here, and we’re stoked to deliver you the next case study by a Certified LinkResearchTools Professional.

We would greatly appreciate you sharing this quality piece of work by Marcela De Vivo.

Christoph C. Cemper

How we will look into this Penguin 2.0 Penalty

At first, I will have a look at the loss in visibility on a root domain, sub-domain and keyword level. Following to that I will identify those areas mostly affected in order to derive the hypotheses for the detailed analysis

Step 1: Identify your Competitors (SEMrush)
Step 2: Quick Comparison

Step 3: Detailed Competitive Analysis

Step 4: Anchor Text Analysis

Step 5: Link Detox & Detailed Link Analysis


Protect your site Against Penguin!

Don’t Procrastinate! Do your Link Research TODAY!

cemper power trust is lrt power trustCEMPER Power*Trust is now LRT PowerTrust

You may still see CEMPER Power*Trust™, CEMPER Power™ and CEMPER Trust™ on some screenshots in this case study.

In 2015, we renamed these metrics to LRT Power*Trust, LRT Power and LRT Trust to reflect the shortname of LinkResearchTools - which is LRT.


Penguin 2.0 hit hard for those who didn’t know how to protect their site from penalties. was one of those sites.

According to SEOlytics, in the aftermath of Penguin 2.0, Elearners lost close to 60% of their traffic.

For all intents and purposes, should have NOT been hit by a penalty when Google updated to Penguin 2.0. Taking a superficial look at their metrics, they had all the right elements: high PR/authority links with a large number of unique C class links, including .edu and .gov sites. So why did they suffer a Penguin penalty? And what can you learn from their mistakes to protect your own site?

Penguin penalties are preventable — if you know what you’re looking for and how to protect yourself.

By using, I’ve undertaken a deep, step-by-step analysis into various backlink metrics, revealing numerous red flags that—seen from Google’s perspective—created unnatural ratios resulting in a harsh penalty.

In this case study, I will lay out a step by step strategy that you can follow to analyze your backlink profile, identify potential landmines, and change your ratios to normalize your profile with that of your competitors.

Don’t follow in Elearners footsteps. By paying attention to the metrics analyzed below, you can know what behaviors to avoid to keep your site safe from the next dreaded Penguin update.

Step 1: Identify your Competitors (SEMrush)

Start by identifying the main competitors in the space

Step 2: Quick Comparison

Quick Domain Compare (QDC)

How does your site compare to your competitors?

When the total backlinks, including links to subdomains, are analyzed, you can see that there are over 2 million backlinks, much higher than the other domains in the space. This is an instant red flag.

Quick Competitive Overview (CLA)

How does your site compare to your competitors in terms of Power and Trust?

Elearners has the highest LRT Power*Trust, yet it doesn’t have the highest number of root domains, indicating there are too many links from domains with high power or high trust.

Link Stats Comparison (Juice Tool)

Elearners is ranked #4 in terms of the number of unique C class links. Power and Trust is similar for all of their competitors (minus, which wasn't analyzed further).

Elearners has a normal distribution of Power and Trust.

Elearners also has over 14k keywords ranking in the top 20 according to SEM rush, making it #3 in this list. This should be an indicator of trust, yet you can see the steep decline in traffic.

You see in the chart below that Elearners has a very high ratio of sitewide links. This is another definite red flag.

How do various link factors compare?

In terms of Age, ACrank, PR, and Indexed pages, Elearners has a strong profile, similar to it’s competitors. Although the TitleRank isn’t that low, the fact that it isn’t #1 is a definite sign of a Google Penalty.

In all of these stats, Elearners is comparable, in fact it’s even stronger than most of the other sites.

Could a lack of social signals have been a factor in Elearners penalty? Even though Elearners has fewer than average Facebook likes, shares and comments, this isn't enough to prove significant. Strong social signals didn't prevent the site from contracting a penalty.

Summary of Findings from Quick Comparisons

At a quick glance, looking at these various factors yielded no significant findings. Elearners might have been a little off-balance in a couple of metrics, but there was nothing immediately visible to give us a concrete indication of why it suffered a Penguin 2.0 penalty.

Step 3: Detailed Competitive Analysis

In the next detailed step we’ll use the Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA) a lot more to get a better understanding of the playing field.

Link Status (CLA)

Are most links followed, nofollowed, or redirected?
Elearners has the highest percentage of follow links, which is often—especially from Google’s point of view—evidence of contrived links.

How are the links coded?

Looking at the Link Type metrics you can quickly see that Elearners has a major percentage of links from iframes. Why are there so many links in frames? More importantly, why is this number so high compared to their competitors?

This is something that definitely needs to be investigated as part of this link audit.

Deep Links Ratio (CLA)

How many of the links point to home vs internal pages?

Elearners has a higher deep links ratio than its competitors. Even though 5% is hardly significant, it stands out enough to call to question why this site is above average as compared to others in the niche.

Sitewide Links Ratio (CLA)

What is the sitewide links ratio of the inbound links?

Overall Elearners has a similar sitewide links ratio profile as other competitors, with the exception of a slightly elevated number of linking sites with 1-10 inbound links. This doesn't give us any conclusive information, however.

Referring Class C (CLA)

What is the distribution of the link popularity of the inbound links?

Here we see that Elearners has an unnatural ratio of links with more than 100K inbound links. While the average is 4%, Elearners has double that with an average of 8% of their links on sites with over 100K links.

Moz Domain Authority (CLA)

What is the distribution of the Domain Authority of the backlinks?

Elearners has a similar profile as other sites in the niche for Domain Authority.

Google Page Rank (CLA)

What is the PageRank distribution of the backlinks?

Elearners has an average PR distribution. They have 520 N/A links, one of the lowest of the group, as well as only 70 PR0 backlinks. On the high PR spectrum, they have 2 PR8 links, and 1 PR7 link, which is on the higher end of the average.

Link Velocity Trends (CLA)

How quickly are the sites building backlinks?

Elearners’ backlinks have a similar LVT as other competitors in the space.

By Retweets (CLA)

How active are the sites on Twitter?

Elearners seems to have a similar social profile to other competitors. No unnatural activity is apparent.

By Google +1's (CLA)

How active are the sites on Google Plus?

Again, Elearners seems to have a similar social profile to other competitors, and no unnatural activity is apparent.

TitleRank Home Page (CLA)

How are backlink sites ranking for their home page title?

Elearners has the lowest number of backlinks ranking #1. At 669, they are only at 52%, compared to the total average of 63%. Elearners also has the highest number of sites that are not ranking in the top 30 results (31% where the average is 19%). This is another red flag.

Link profile By PR & AC Rank (BLP)

What is the PR and AC rank of the inbound links?

Elearners has too many inbound links from sites that are not indexed in Google or have a PR or AC rank of 0. This is disproportionate to other backlinks as well as to other competitors.

Summary of Detailed Competitive Analysis

Did Detailed Comparisons yield any Red Flags?

We found significant findings in the following areas:

  • Too many links in iframes
  • Deep links ratio is higher than competitors
  • Many of their inbound links have more than 100K inbound links
  • High number of high PR links. Both of these indicate high Power in their backlink profile as compared to other domains.
  • They have the lowest number of sites ranking #1 for their home page title
  • Social Signals don't give us any conclusive information
  • They have a very high number of inbound links from sites that are not indexed in Google, but the number isn't significant when compared to competitors


Step 4: Anchor Text Analysis

For a detailed, accurate anchor text analysis we use the Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA) a lot again.

Keyword Breakdown Money vs. Brand links (CLA)

What is the breakdown between Money terms vs. Brand and vs. Others?

To begin, we have to categorize the keywords into Brand, Compound, Money, and Other. This step can be time consuming but it is essential to the process.

Please note that you can use filters to bulk-check many brand or money keyword phrases by clicking the small “all” on top. Also notice that the first couple of keywords can already add to a 70% classification if they were overdone a lot. Make sure you classify 90% or more for accuracy.

The classification data is local to your user account and project, but Christoph mentioned that they are going to provide some great automation features in that area very soon.

Money Keywords (CLA)

What is the percentage of Money Terms in the Anchor Text Profile? has the highest % for money, and lowest for Brand. This is a major red flag, for reasons we can identify when we look at the anchor text distribution of Elearners as well as some of its biggest competitors.

Anchor Text Distribution compared (QBL)

By using the Quick Backlinks Tool (QBL) or the more accurate Backlink Profiler (BLP) we can quickly understand the anchor text distribution by looking at the keyword clouds, weighted by number of links or by LRT Power*Trust.

What is the Anchor Text Distribution for Elearners?

Looking at anchor text distribution we can quickly see that they have too many money keywords in anchor text—the top 4, 5, and 6 keywords are money terms. This is an instant red flag that this is a contrived link profile with active anchor text manipulation. None of the densities are too high, but the overall density for "Money" terms is too high.

What is the Anchor Text Distribution for Devry (QBL)

In comparison we have Notice their word map and how varied it is, focusing mostly on brand terms. None of the money terms show up in the top of the list for anchor density. This appears to be a very natural profile.

What is the Anchor Text Distribution for Kaplan (QBL)

Kaplan, on the other hand, also has money terms at the top of their anchor text profile. In fact, Kaplan is probably worse because the actual densities are higher. If this was thye only major issue for Elearners, then Kaplan would've gone down too. However, Kaplan is stronger than ever after Penguin 2.0.

Why didn't Kaplan get hit by Penguin 2.0?

What is the Money Keyword Distribution for Kaplan (BLP)

Since we already classified our keywords, we have them in all the other tools available for this project.

Why is Kaplan not penalized by Penguin?

I started by categorizing Kaplan's backlinks and performing a detailed link analysis.

Although Kaplan has money terms in the anchor distribution and the anchor density is high, the distribution between brand and money terms is greatly normalized—unlike 64% of Kaplan’s backlinks are Brand links, as opposed to 34% for Elearners. By having a greater variety and variations of Brand terms in their backlink profile, they are protected from algorithmic penalties. A quick analysis into their backlinks also shows a great number of natural, unpaid links.

What is the Anchor Text Distribution for Phoenix (BLP)

Phoenix has the most natural looking profile, with lots of brand, click here, and organic terms. It's obvious that there's been little done to contrive this backlink profile.

What is the Anchor Text Distribution for Capella (QBL)

As with Phoenix, Capella has a natural and diverse backlink profile.

Summary of Findings of Anchor Text Analyis

What did Anchor Text Data Reveal?

  • Too many Money terms in the Anchor Text profile
  • Competitors that have high anchor text density were not penalized, possibly because of high Brand term density
  • Anchor text word cloud looks very contrived for Elearners, with the smallest percentage of Brand Terms

Step 5: Link Detox & Detailed Link Analysis

Link Detox Overview (LD)

What is the Average Link Detox Risk?

According to the system, Elearners has a very low average link risk. This means that the bad links have been very well disguised in order to avoid detection. Keep in mind the average link risk here is still the average over all links.

Do any of the links stand out?

As soon as we check out the breakdown between healthy, suspicious and toxic links we see that they only have a mere 62% of healthy links.

Even though only 1% of the links are perceived to be “toxic,” we still have 36% of the links that are considered suspicious. These suspicious links may be where the problem is hidden. Now we'll take a look at some of these links individually for further information.

Scan Combined Backlinks (CLA)

Does anything jump out when you sort and scan through the backlinks of the group?

Download the CLA spreadsheet to Excel, and start scanning the backlinks.

I found a PR 8 to Elearners from StudyAbroad, and noticed that it's a"Partners link" at the footer. This is a footer link that's sitewide and available on every page of those 4 sites.

This is an indication of a potential network, leading to negative interlinkage and that co-citation with other link buyers certainly doesn’t help.

Looking at other competitor backlinks, many look natural. However, Elearners has many educational sites with keywords in the URL, which look unnatural.

Network alert! Network alert!

When further analyzing these links in the BLP link report, we can instantly see that many of these domains are owned by the same person, creating a link network. This is a HUGE red flag.

Identical sites on different domains

We also noticed that many of the sites are almost exactly the same, with identical templates and content, but with different domains and color schemes. There are other sites that are not quite as obvious but are still part of the same network.

Spot Test Elearners Backlinks (BLP)

If you spot test the links, do they seem clean/natural, or are they acquired/contrived?

First I sorted by PR, deleted all of the N/A's (links without any page rank at all, of which there are a lot!!! Another suspicious sign), and started spot-testing the high quality links. Here are a few examples of my findings:

Paid contextual links



All of the links end up at Elearners, which is obviously another site that is part of this link network.

Paid Links on USAToday?!

Even a link on USAtoday, which might've looked at first sight editorial, is purchased! You can see at the top of the page, the link to

Summary of Paid Link Spot Tests

Why did the Link Profile look healthy?

Elearners hide their toxic links very well behind high profile / high quality paid links and link networks.

How can Link Detox identify very healthy, high quality sites as toxic links algorithmically?

This is, and has been, Google’s biggest conundrum when it comes to algorithmically fighting spam manipulation. Healthy links that affect pagerank and rankings are hard to identify without manual intervention.

So the question is, what can they do algorithmically to identify manipulated links? Look for unnatural ratios!

These unnatural ratios can trigger red flags and, when enough of the red flags are triggered, then an algorithmic penalty or a manual review can follow.

Christoph also mentioned some more improvements in this area, and similar to Google they are working hard on automating everything, but even Google needs manual review today still.

So what gave Elearners away, and caused the Penguin 2.0 penalty?

Take a look at this summary of my findings:


Power ok
Trust ok
Power Trust ok
PR ok
Hosting Country ok
Keyword Ranking ok
Domain Popularity ok
IP Popularity ok
Class C Popularity ok
Backlinks To Domain Over 2 Million Links x
.edu backlinks ok
.gov backlinks ok


Anchor density too many money terms x


Link Detox
Link Health 36% Suspicious links x


Keyword Low Brand x
High Brand x
Link Status ok
Link Position ok
Link Type Too many iFrame links x
Deep Links Ratio deep links ratio high x
Sitewide Ratio TopDom too many backlinks with more than 100K sitewides x
Moz Dom Auth ok
Google Author ID ok
PR Distribution ok
AC Rank Distribution too many high acrank links x
TitleRank lowest #1's x
Domain Popularity ok
LVT ok
SEMrush Keywords Unnatural distribution x
Retweets ok
Google Plus 1's ok


The X's are the number of strikes. Could it be that after a certain amount of strikes a site automatically incurs a penalty? Or could it trigger a manual evaluation, resulting in a slap?


So why did get a Penguin 2.0 penalty?

Too Many Unnatural Ratios

After analyzing about 20 factors, we found red flags in about 10 of the different items.

Too many links with Money Terms in their Anchor Text

Their anchor text profile shows a large number of money terms, higher than other competitors in the space. Simultaneously, the number of Brand terms is lower than other competitors in the niche. Looking at their anchor density word map also shows that there are few "noise" keywords, thus showing a contrived backlink profile.

Too Many Paid Links

Given that many of their high PR links are paid links, these may have been identified by the algorithm or a manual review, resulting in the penalty. By penalizing Text Link Ads and their network, Google is making it clear that they have no tolerance for people buying or selling links. Spot testing their backlinks shows many paid links, with just a few examples below:







Elearners is part of a Link Network

Many of their inbound links are part of the same network, many registered by the same person, others hidden behind different registrars, even more hidden behind private registrars. Upon inspection it's fairly obvious that they're owned by the same company.

It's likely the network started years ago with them buying high PR links, which earned them visibility. This visibility led to some natural links, including links from some .gov and .edu sites. From this authority and pagerank, they continued to create more sites to create a large link network of sites, all interlinked or randomly linked.

This network includes hundreds of niche sites, each focusing on specific degrees. By linking within the network using footer links or iframes, all of those sites gained high pagerank.

By looking at the BLP backlinks and investigating each of these network links, many of them retain pagerank, titlerank, and SEMrush keywords, therefore the entire network hasn't yet been popped. Many of the sites continue to thrive and feed the main site,

Protect your site Against Penguin!

So what does this Penalty tell us about Penguin 2.0?

Watch your Ratios!

As evidenced by this study, it is vital to keep an eye on all of your ratios. If too many of your ratios look unnatural as compared to others in your niche, these red flags may result in a manual review or automatic penalty.

Watch the number of Money Terms in your Anchor Text

It's not enough to just watch your anchor density—you also have to watch the percentage of money terms in your anchor text. Study other competitors that have healthy, natural link profiles and emulate them. Or, better yet, follow their same tactics to acquire natural links with natural anchor text.

Use Brand and Noise Terms in your Anchor Text

Try working on link building without contriving your anchor text. Allow people to link to you however they want, to result in natural looking links.

Don't Buy Links!

Buying links worked for years, but Google knows this is a weakness in their algorithm. By using Penguin with a combination of manual reviews, they are now able to penalize sites that are buying links.

You may buy links and get away with it for a time, but eventually it's possible that your link buying may trigger a penalty, causing your site to tank in the rankings. And, as many people know by now, once you have a Penguin penalty it's very difficult, almost impossible, to recover.

Avoid Link Networks

It's very tempting to buy into a link network, or to create your own network of niche sites. Many people do it by buying expired domains, or by finding established networks and joining. This may work for a time, but eventually some of these ratios will be triggered, and the network will be found. Once you catch the tail of a network, exposing the rest is fairly easy.

Network builders try hard, but there are always footprints left to find, and with the sophistication of Google's algorithms, you better believe the network will be identified and penalized.

Don’t Procrastinate! Do your Link Research TODAY!

To algorithmically monitor for spam, Google looks at your site as compared to your competitors. If your site sticks out with many metrics outside of the norm, it may be a call out towards a penalty. One trigger is not enough—as we saw with the comparison to Kaplan and its high density of anchor texts. One signal didn’t lead to a penalty; having many unnatural ratios can. Ratios are increasingly important as Google looks deeper into unnatural link building and controlling spam.

What does this mean for your site? If you’ve already been penalized, run an audit with LinkResearchTools and look at your link ratios to see what you can normalize. Watch your rankings and traffic from Google to see if it normalizing helps your site recover and perform better.

If you haven’t yet been penalized, protect your site by continuously running these Link Research reports to keep your ratios safe. Be extra-vigilant in your optimization efforts to make sure that you are not triggering red flags. If you are prepared and avoiding triggering linking behaviors, you won’t have to worry when the next Google Penguin update comes around.

This case study was written by Marcela de Vivo, CLRTP and was reviewed and approved by Christoph C. Cemper for publishing as Certification work for the Certified LRT Professional level.

A word from Christoph C. Cemper

Certified LRT Professional

This analysis was conducted and post written by our LRT Associate Marcela De Vivo, CLRTP.

Marcela really went to great lengths with this case study and I'm happy to certify her for our Certfied LRT Professional level by approving and publishing her research on our site.

This is Marcelas next step towards the Certified LRT Xpert level which is pre-requisite for the Certified LRT Agency certification. Both will qualify her to receive consulting leads from us. Our goal is to provide our community and clients a high quality service, and our certified experts are key to that.

I am sure Marcela will be there soon. As you can probably judge from her work already, I can already wholeheartedly recommend her to work with you whenever you get a chance!

Marcela De Vivo, CLRTP

Marcela De Vivo has been an SEO professional since 1999, focusing on advanced link research and organic link building tactics. Working with both small sites as well as Fortune 500 clients, she is capable of working with a variety of competition levels and requirements. Her current focus is on deep link research to help protect sites from Google penalties and to develop safe and successful content marketing strategies. Have questions about your site? Don't hesitate to reach out!

Latest posts by MarcelaDeVivo (see all)


  1. James on June 14, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Wow! Impressive piece of link analysis Marcela. Well done!.

  2. Krinal Mehta on June 14, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    If only Google was smart enough to identify all the paid text links across the internet, I wonder what the new web would look like.

    • Marcela on June 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Lol, me too. But they are trying. Why do you think content marketing is all anyone talks about these days?

  3. Mike on June 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Why are paid links any different than “advertising”? Or does Google only like it when you use their own advertising network and not anyone elses?

    This was a great analysis and it’s one of the first times I’ve really understood what Google is looking for. Great work!

    • Marcela on June 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      Mike – that’s the irony of it, it’s so hypocritial. I have a screen shot somewhere of an ad for google adwords on the day that Penguin 1.0 hit. Lost your organic rankings? Pay for adwords instead.

      It’s all in having the right data in front of you, that’s why I’m a diehard fan of LinkResearchTools.

  4. Jigar on June 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    elearners has an affiliate program that allows iframes (link to their schools). That’s probably why you see a lot of it. Also when you see the degree widget on other sites, it is offered for affiliates to capture leads. I dont think all of their links have been contrived or acquired (may be a few) , its just that the affiliates are linking to their widgets & schools. So it might look like a link network but it is probably the affiliate owning all the sites. My personal take is that the anchor text (fewer brand links), # of linking sites not indexed probably triggered the penalty.

    By the way, great analysis!

    • Christoph on June 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Google specifically dont like “Linkbuilding thru widgets” especially when varying money keywords are on the game too.

      would be worth a closer look, and we have something baking in that area too… stay tuned


  5. Seo Expert on June 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    I subscribe to the idea that too many X’s or in other words too many red flags will result in tripping the penalty into action. The analysis from this tool seems to far exceed that available in products like, its quite compelling.

    • Christoph on June 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm


  6. Dimitris on June 14, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Long but interesting article on Penguin 2.0 penalty. Exremely useful info with case stydy. The only way to anoid a Penalty is by building great content.

  7. Gabe Garcia on June 14, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Great body of work! I question two areas. 1. Why is the Deeplink Ratio a red flag? I appears that Elearners has the best deeplink ratio in comparison to its competitors. Also, in one of Christoph’s early Peguin reports “Penguin 3 Update – The Return of the Penruin” he identifies that more links to deeper pages is ideal. Perhaps Elearners goes overboard on deeper links. 2. What is an ideal percentage for Suspicious links? I believe Christoph indicated that less than 60% is a good target, but I may have misunderstood.

    Well done.

    • Christoph on June 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      ad 1) it depends! you hould blend in with the competition, thats what the CLA answers for ANY specific niche, and rules vary by niche, language, country

      ad 2) it was 60% supsicious, but I think we’re moving towards 50 or less to trip a problem in SOME niches… more on that soon!

      cheers Christoph

      • Gabe Garcia on June 19, 2013 at 1:36 am

        Thanks Christoph!

        Always learning…

  8. Hans on June 14, 2013 at 7:46 pm


    i am not sure, what the chart means by

    Sitewide Links Ratio (CLA)

    That 33% of Domains with 1-10 inbound links is fromfrom all inbound links to

    33% of Domains pointing to with backlinks habe only each 1-10 inbound links or 33% Domains are pointing with 1-10 inbound links to

    Greetings from Hamburg,

  9. Tyson on June 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Did USAToday get penalized for selling links? Not seeing any news on leGoog for that. Interesting but not surprising.

  10. […] Elearners’ Penguin 2.0 Penalty Analysis, Link Research Tools […]

  11. Chris on June 15, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    To follow up on previous comment, so is Google penalizing for buying advertising? I thought if links like this would be Ok if no followed or had some sort of adcode associated with them, I didn’t check the code on some of their paid links. I’m in the process of looking at buying advertising for strictly advertising, nothing to do with a link benefit so am ok with this?

  12. Joshua on June 17, 2013 at 1:58 am

    I am guessing the deep link ratios are higher because the increase in site wide links on elearners. Is that a good assumption Chris?

    After reviewing the TitleRank Home Page (CLA) report provided, it is apparent many of the links pointing to elearners may have been penalized as well for selling links. To Tyler’s point, with the exception of the big brand USA Today. I would not know for sure without analyzing the links from the sites that did not rank for their title tag in the #1 position.

  13. Christoph on June 18, 2013 at 12:52 am

    Great work, Marcela! I’ve analyzed quite a few Penguin 2.0 victims now and all of them had an excessive amount of money keyword anchor text links plus some other (but differing) signals indicating unnatural link growth.

    I think that the “widget issue” will be a problem for many site owners, especially when it comes to infographics and the like, as you may not be able to “stop” it, as soon as it got viral and you continuously get more and more links with the same anchor text…


  14. agentblackhat on June 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    I also did a brief case study of 18 blackhat websites after penguin 2.0, what we found was an actual increase in ranking for most of these websites and only a small number were hit. Strange stuff.

    Check it out

  15. Jason on June 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm


    Don’t think you will publish this comment but my humour may make you chuckle?

    This is once again an excellent case study and the attention to detail and analysis is exceptional. Where it falls downs is your own attention to detail, you are unable to convey the sex of Marcela De Vivo in your last quotation, referring to Marcela as ‘her’ or ‘his’ multiple times…. Bit embarrassing for Marcela as she looks like a sort, if she is a she? 🙂 I do hope you can strike accord with my humour, then again, you are German!??? 🙂

    Whilst you show how to use your tools to analyse and determine the chances a penguin or manual action having occurred, any of us can do this by just monitoring a drop in rankings and traffic. You fail to show any success using your tools to exhibit a successful recovery from one of these penguin or manual penalty brinks!

    I think.., I and many others would be more impressed with a ratio balancing exercise, positive and safe link building using your tools, resulting in a successful recovery case study. Do you think this would be possible? Concrete evidence that you can use these tools to resurrect a recovery in the rankings would be very encouraging and an extremely positive case study for your business!

    Are you game to show your hand here or this this merely a bunch of very expensive tools, that offer little more than, retrospective analysis without the ability to get you back in the recovery game and ranking again!

    I have a couple of photography clients looking exactly for this sort of help? I’ll wager you a Currywurst + few Dortmund Unions if you are willing to play?

    I have 2 domains, one with an unnatural link warning back in Feb 2011 and one hit by penguin: – unnatural link warning and failing to rank for ‘London wedding photographer’ and wedding photographer London’. But anything he blogs usually go page one, if not majorly competitive. Done 2 extensive detox’s, resubmission rejected! – hit by penguin, did rank for ‘photographer London’ and ‘corporate photographer London’. Backlink portfolio is poor.

    Let’s face it, I’ve giving you the opportunity to correct your glaring error with Marcela’s sexuality! Will you help me in return?

    Look forward to hearing from you, hopefully?



    • Christoph C. Cemper on June 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm


      thanks for your honest feedback, I appreciate.

      My comments

      1. typos fixed, was in a rush to a flight – thanks again!

      2. don’t agree that monitoring rankings gives you the same insights. What I’m trying to do here is actually point out the detailled problems that site-owners might not see or know how to find in terms of link building and onsite problems

      3. you cannot expect a relief from a Penguin penalty by just running a link detox a couple times, but not acting. the process of actually recovering means
      a) A LOT of link removal
      b) A LOT of new good links
      c) A LOT of time
      we already plan to document such a process in similar detail, which took over 8 months, but of course you will read a lot of things you might not want to read. It’s not easy!

      4. RE: successful recovery case study. Do you think this would be possible?

      that being said, it’s def. a different story to document OBVIOUS problems as we saw them quite often now, and fixing them actually… the tools show you what to do, but don’t do the work for you

      YES, there is Concrete evidence 🙂

      5. When it comes to the sites you mentioned I immediately wondered if and how many links you removed, how you disavowed, etc.etc.
      but I could invite you to our LRT associate training next week which should help you further as well, I’m mailing you a signup link for that

      6. and finally, the upcoming Link Detox Pro version will work even better – keep in mind we are getting better and better after the year we’re on the market with it now,
      so I’m not sure when you actually tried it…

      7. Did you actually watch the free Link Detox webinar?

      Cheers, Christoph

      PS: I’m Austrian, not German – so the humor theory is way off, two different worlds 🙂

      • Jason on June 24, 2013 at 7:40 pm

        Thanks for the reply and the kind invitations, I’m all signed up! See you tomorrow! 🙂

        I must apologise for my glaring error! It’s like asking a Canadian what part of the USA do they come from? Sincerest apologies for the Austrian oversight!

        Having lived in Germany for 15years+ I should have notice the accent in your webinars. I had you down as a hoch-deutscher, no offence meant! I retract the ignorant offer a “Currywurst + few Dortmund Unions” and would happily replace it with dinner of Speckknödel and a few Doppelmaß of Edelwiess. Catch ya tomorrow! 🙂

  16. Adeel Sami on June 22, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Marcela, very very impressive and congratulations on being The LRT Certified Expert!!

    Again, very great analysis!

  17. F MARTIN on June 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Excelente trabajo hecho por una chica guapa. Por favor analiza mi sitio penalizado

  18. действующий каталог avon on June 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this post and
    the rest of the site is also really good.

  19. Danny Howard on June 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Hey Chris,

    Another fantastic Penguin 2.0 review. I just love reading them. It’s also great to learn more about your tools in action.

    Really looking forward to your next review.

    Well done Marcela, you did a great job



  20. david on June 26, 2013 at 9:03 am

    It’s really fantastic review about penguin 2 i praise your post as well as learn something new thanks.

  21. 1-ter-net on June 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Wow ! Great analysis.
    But how Google can see when you buy a link ?

  22. Dhams on July 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    this is indeed superb analysis… must have to bookmark this.. thanks for sharing

  23. @bonhomie_16 on February 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Elearners Penguin 2.0 Penalty – the 4th Deep Dive Analysis via @cemper

  24. alex on March 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    It’s really fantastic review about penguin 2 i really love to read it

  25. Heather Physioc on April 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    That was an INTENSE read, but truly eye-opening. I admit this goes much deeper than I had going for my analysis of the penalized site I’m currently working on – so helpful to see the thought process you went through. Thanks for sharing.

    I really wish I could go back in time and stop clients from making these mistakes in the first place, but such is life. The process of finding and removing these spammy links is truly grueling. But despite how rough it’s been for me to help them dig out of the hole, I’m sort of grateful that this is finally happening. I knew the situation was bad, but I didn’t realize just HOW messy the search indexes were with garbage until I started going through this process for clients.

  26. polishgranite on May 9, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I need help with my website which was affected by penguin almost 2 years ago, i’ve done lots but still no luck…

  27. Dimitris on March 15, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Nice analysis about penguin 2.0. I think a lot of metrics changed from then in order to roll out new updates in penguin

  28. Tano lam on March 17, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Thank you! This is such a great read. Your analysis was very detailed. Thanks again!

  29. […] doing an analysis with the tool, the average link detox risk of all the links was […]

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