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Penguin 2.1 Penalty surprises Make Money Online website


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.


Google Penguin 2.1 penalty feature image

SEO and Backlink Audit Case Study

Here is our 1st Penguin 2.1 deep-dive case study. We found a site with a sharp drop in traffic and rankings after the Google Penguin 2.1 update – this time for a german "how to succeed at making money online" website;

Our Certified LRT Professional, Sigrid Holzner, discovered a site that is still using old spammy link building methods.

This analysis looks at a domain that appears to be a typical crash & burn SEO project. There were too many bad tactics going on for too little value. And those methods were penalized when Penguin 2.1 arrived.

Take a look for yourself.

We look forward to your feedback and greatly appreciate you sharing this.

- Enjoy & Learn!
Christoph C. Cemper


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.

Easy come, easy go - How bad links harmed the website,, when Penguin 2.1 came

The Penguin 2.1 was launched on the 4th of October. Therefore, there are not yet many analyses about this 5th Penguin update. So, I decided to write a case study about one of its victims.

I worked my way through the winner/loser list for Germany by SEOlytics for the calendar week 41, where I found a very typical example at first sight:

Penguin 2.1 winners and losers

The Domain is an exact match domain (EMD) and means something like "make money online successfully".

Domain Name


SEO Visibility

Search Metrics

The Domain started to increase rankings at a noticeable degree in May and June. After Penguin 2.1 was launched, it started to drop hard on the 6th of October.

Search Metrics

The Sistrix update overview has the same opinion about what happened. The visibility curve of the domain went up during the last Penguin Update (2.0, #4) on the 22nd of May.

Systrix Graph

and went all the way down with the latest one (2.1, #5) on the 4th of October (please note that Sistrix marks that date to have happened on October 14 in Germany in the chart).

Systrix Graph

Historical stage

I had a look at the indexation status and at the Waybackmachine, because I wanted to know how old the domain is:

Google Site Search

Way Back MachineThe Domain was first It was crawled by the waybackmachine in September 2004, and the history shows that the site seemed to be offline between 2007 and 2013 - so for nearly 6,5 years. Why? Because the site was redirected.

Way Back Machine*/

redirects me to

from the 12th of Feb 2006 until the 12th of June 2013.

Way Back Machine

For that Page there is not data in the waybackmaschine available. So the latest version of the site is 8 years old. In the past, this kind of layout and keyword stuffing in the bottom of the site was more or less the regular way and state of the art in SEO.

Way Back Machine

(February 2005)

This shows us clearly that the domain couldn't have had any kind of trust or authority in the eyes of Google. At that moment, the link building began.

I can't find an owner of the website back in the years before the redirect. However seeing this history, I guess it is an expired domain snapped by the new owner; because of the keywords in the domain and maybe existing Backlinks? We will find out with the LinkResearchTools.

Backlink Profile

I go to the project settings first to set up my case study project.

Select Project

I set name, Project URL, Search Engine country, and language settings; and save my project. It is crucial to tell LRT the right country and language settings for various SEO metrics used.

Project Settings

Now I run the Backlink Profiler, the BLP.

Backlink Profiler Tool

and switch in the settings to Sitewide-links-filter. Here I select the option: Skip sitewide links after 5. Because sitewide links would distort the whole picture of our backlink profile, and this would result in various ratios heavily biased towards the sitewide linking domains. Therefore, it is important to enable the sitewide links filter function in most of the cases.

Sitewide Links Filter

Skipe Sitewide Links after 5

Anchor texts

One of the most obvious facts in Penguin drops are the anchor text profiles. Many of them are stuffed with money keywords. Money keywords being overdone is one of the strongest signals Penguin looks for.

The Tab "Anchor Text" shows the importance of each linking anchor measured by LRT Power*Trust™ in the Tag cloud. Power*Trust is preset, other options are also available, by Power or by Trust:

Anchor Text Cloud

Underneath you can find the anchor text distribution with the same values in a pie-chart

Anchor Text Distribution

and in numbers.

Anchor Text Total Power*Trust % Average Power*Trust
heimarbeit (work from home) 35 48.6% 7
geld im internet verdienen (earning money on the internet) 14 19.4% 1.4
einkommen (income) 14 19.4% 3.5
geld verdienen am computer 7 9.7% 3.5
verdienstmöglichkeiten (potential earnings) 2 2.8% 2

It is very clearly just stuffed! Not even the domain keywords play a part here.

Keyword Stuffing

But the anchor is not the only common attribute among the Penguin victims. Another number seemed very suspicious to me at the first sight: the Power*Trust Ratio of the backlinks here in the same table is poor all the way through.

I downloaded the CSV to see all of the anchors incl. those which make a lower part than 0.5% of the anchors. Apart from the above named there is a very little part of the links with almost 0% that shows anchors with a more natural appearance, like "visit website" an image link or the URL:

Anchor Text Total Power*Trust % Average Power*Trust
visit website 0 0% 0
n/a 0 0% 0 0 0% 0 0 0% 0
[mention] 0 0% 0
erfolgreich geld im internet verdienen 0 0% 0
[img] screenshot 0 0% 0 0 0% 0

All of these more natural looking link sources have a Power*Trust of 0. Therefore, they could hardly be worth anything for the site and its trust. So we can see that anchor texts still have a strong impact on rankings - at least until they are overdone and get sorted out by Google's anti-spam efforts.

Next, I classified a big part of the most common keywords with Keyword Classification; to be able to get a picture about the distribution of money keys, brand names, compound and others. It is very important to classify at least 80% of the Keywords, so that all rules are triggered if applicable. This is especially important with the new Link Detox Genesis algorithm, as we’ll see a bit later.

Keyword Classification

The result shows me a very high percentage of Money keyword anchors. As default, I see the absolute report which shows me the total number of each anchor type.

I click on the tab “Relative” to see the percentages. Nearly 80% are links with money keyword anchors, which is truly not state of the art in good SEO.

Link Profile By Metrics

The first typical penalty factor for the Penguin hit is fulfilled: too many links with exact match money anchor texts.

The new Link Detox Genesis

I have used the Link Detox tool for client projects. For further reconsideration it gives me a quick insight in different bad signals that might come along with some links.

And as an LRT Associate, working my way to professional certification, I had the honor to try the new Link Detox Genesis on the beta server before launch for this. Thanks for that Christoph.

In the announcement, it says to collect millions of data-points from the web, users, own systems to detect unnatural links. Checking a potential toxic link manually takes much more time and will not be that reliable as the new Link Detox. It is impossible to gather all this data in manual research, or with regular tools.

Running my report

As I run the report, I see the first option is new:

Detox Top Domain and Subdomain

I now can choose between checking only my topdomain (root domain), or both, topdomain and www subdomain. The previous Link Detox gave me just one of the results, and I had to run it for both www and non-www. Now, this is not necessary any more. So, I check "Detox both". The results of both will be combined and could potentially trigger additional detox signals.

If that research would be for my or a client's site, then I would also upload all available link data; especially from Google Webmaster Tools and disavowed links.

Report overview

Report Overview

The Link Detox Risk is clearly Deadly at first sight.

Highly Toxic Links

27% of the Links look toxic, 73% suspicious (I will check them) and 0.0% are healthy.

To see first only toxic links, I click on its sector in the table.

Link Detox Screener

Now I see all toxic backlinks in a list with all the metrics. A very comfortable feature here is the Link Detox Screener.

Link Detox Screener Tool

Here I can see the linking page in a frame below the metrics of the link. The metrics are shown in a clear and easy manner. I see the screenshot of the page, and don't need to open it. The frame is secure and blocks scripts and different dangerous stuff for my computer. I also see in the top the most important metrics like anchor text, link status, toxic status and the applicable Detox rule.In this case (pic below) Detox triggered the TOX3 and SUSP1 rules.

On the same screen, I can also mark the link as GOOD or BAD, if I think it was not identified properly, as well as add the page or whole domain to my disavow file.

Link examples

Now I take a look at toxic links

This first Backlink I have a look at is

Toxic Link Example

This link is toxic. It comes from a very weak web directory, which seems to have been penalized back in 2010; as you can tell from the visibility chart below.


The next Link marked as toxic is from a stats site:

Deadly Risk Toxic Link

These kinds of stats sites don't contribute any link value to, or the internet as a whole. Most footprints are known by Google and probably don't count - hopefully, because it is not up to the webmaster to appear in this kind of sites most of the time. To be sure and train the Genesis algorithm, I mark the link here in the screener as BAD to give LRT the feedback that it is not a link I want to have. Note: This vote just counts for my report for now. Only if other LRT users vote the same for this page or domain significantly then LRT rules may be adjusted.

Other links marked as toxic are not found:

Dropped Toxic Links

I suspect some patterns with the word "aktuell" (German for newsworthy) in the domain names. It could be a network.

Detox Genesis marked all those links in the chart above as malware and applied the Rule Tox2:

This domain’s Theme is listed as dangerous (Malware, Malicious or Virus)
The TOX2 rule means that the domains theme is listed as dangerous with possible malware, malicious activity or a virus which is classified as a bad neighborhood. If this link is pointing to your site then Google may automatically assume that you are connected to this bad neighborhood. We recommend that you remove these links as soon as possible.

I have a look at the first link

Very High Link Detox Risk

Apart from that toxic rule other suspicious ones are applied on these pages. On this one here we find lots of them:

  • SUSP5 (Theme listed as suspicious)
  • SUSP1 (Page has no LRT Power*Trust™ and LRT Power*Trust™ Domain < 5 – a page without external links on a weak domain)
  • SUSP19 (Old domain with no homepage PageRank)
  • SUSP2 (Domain has no LRT Power*Trust™ Domain. – probably a new or very weak domain, or a penalty)
  • SUSP6 (Domain has the same REG (Domain name registrant) as other linking domains – possible Link Network)
  • SUSP7 (Domain has the same IP as other linking domains – possible Link Network)
  • SUSP8 (Domain has the same Class-C as other linking domains – possible Link Network)
  • SUSP9(Domain has the same DNS as other linking domains – possible Link Network)

Rule SUSP7 and 8 seem to confirm my guess.

I filter all the Link sources by "aktuell". 110 Links from the 158 are from this network and probably some more, and as seen above some of them are identified as malicious or with Malware/Virus.

DTOX Summary Table

I will have a look at these links later with the BLP.

I continue with the Link Detox Screener, and have a look at the backlinks classified as suspicious. I start with the page

Money Keywords Links

Footer Links

This case is clearly a toxic backlink because:

  • SUSP1: it comes from a page without external backlinks on a weak domain.
  • SUSP31: (– this is a new rule in Genesis) the backlink is placed in the footer of the page which could be another signal for a spammy backlink.
  • AND SUSP28( – also a new rule) (this is why it is so important to classify your anchor texts) it is a backlink with a money keyword which appears in more than 5% of all backlinks.

Apart from these two I found a lot of new Suspicious Link Rules which help to find the bad thing about each link immediately.

I go on in the suspicious marked links and find another very bad backlink:

This is clearly a link selling website which has been penalized long time ago but Google kept its high PageRank of 7, maybe to confuse newbie SEOs. Anyway, some SEOs call that a golden trap. I hope the webmaster of didn’t pay too much for this garbage. Note the other links going to Poker, Bad Credit Loans (“KreditohneSchufa”) and Insurance (“Versicherung”) sites.

Link Detox Screener Moderate Risk

The rules are:

  • SUSP28 (Money-Keyword anchor text appears in more than 5% of all backlinks)
  • and SUSP31 (Anchor Text placement looks suspicious)

Intext Money Keywords Links

The link is placed with the money keyword anchor in the really poor text among many others - most probaby sold - links. Other Anchors to other sites in this text are e.g. "Online Geld verdienen" (earning money online), "PC Hilfe" (PC help) "Webhosting Holland" and "Textlinks mieten" (text links to rent).

If I was Google, I would also probably think this is a sold link:

Detox Genesis applies the same rules than in the Link before: SUSP28 and SUSP31.

Link Detox Screener SUSP28 and SUSP31

The next Backlink also links with a money keyword, and looks very much like a bought link to me.

Highly Toxic Links

The Domain is not de-indexed, but as rule SUSP1 says it is a page without external links on a weak domain. I had a look at other pages. The outgoing links in that sidebar are different on any page and all of them link with money keywords. On the page there is just the keyword link, all the other www-addresses shown like, and are mentions and don't link to other pages.


The next backlink is from a spammy directory, probably from Spain. The domain has no Page Rank, but 37900 pages indexed.

Link Detox Screener

On the homepage, I find languages to choose, and the option to add an URL:


Clicking there I get informed that a link costs me 5 Euro, payable with Paypal.

Link Seller

So 2 things are clear:

  • this link was bought
  • 5 Euros were wasted

I also give this a thumbs down, to mark it BAD, for this and future analyses.

The next Domain looks better to me, at least after all the links I have seen here. The link comes from the page: and is about a book. There is some social integration, the domain and the page have a Page Rank of 2 and 3 and the theme is all right:

Link Detox Screener

But the webmaster maybe hasn't heard of Penguin jet. The link placement looks once again very much like a sold link:

Link Placement

A money keyword link once again. It is easy to recognize the pattern of that link building strategy.

Apart from the eye-catching anchor text (SUSP 31) Detox applies another rule:

High Risk score associated with URL
The SUSP20 rule means that a high risk score has been detected for this link and it is recommended that you review these links carefully, the higher the risk score the higher the probability that you should get rid of these links. Review this link carefully before removing.

I can't see on the first sight why, but the domain probably got into some filter and lost almost all of its visibility this summer.


So there are lots of bad links.

After clicking my way through all the backlinks. I also realize that there were no relevant pages linking to at all.

It is important to always confirm toxic links and mark non-toxic links (those that we like) with a thumb up (“Good Link”) to keep onrefiningLink Detox Genesis results. Those ratings will be applied immediately after the free re-processing of the report.

The same is true for Suspicious links that we find to be really bad.

Rate Link

  1. You should always remember a few things as must-do actions when working with the new Link Detox Genesis:
  2. Classify the keywords to at least 80%
  3. Upload Backlink source files, e.g. from Google Webmaster Tools and any other link lists you might have, so they can get combined with the other 20+ link sources.
  4. Rate Links

Another new feature of Link Detox Genesis is to be able to reprocess the DTOX Rules for the current report. For Free. And Fast.

Reprocess DTOX Rules

That means, if you had your Link Detox Genesis report done and afterwards classify the keywords; make sure to reprocess the Detox Rules, in order to trigger the rules about suspicious link placement and anchors (SUSP28-SUSP31). After voting the links as good or bad, or uploading new disavowed links, reprocessing re-calculates the risk for a more accurate result.

Now after reprocessing, the overall risk for is lower than the original 2.309, but with 1403 still deadly and >1.000. From what I heard from the LRT team, a risk higher than 1,000 usually means it was hit by Penguin or will be very soon… no wonder, if the average link risk is already a
“Deadly Risk”... 😉

Deadly Link Detox Risk

The missing links from the “news-network” (“aktuell” above) have 302 redirects and some have 301 redirects to the category.  I reran the Detox report a couple days later. I guess Google noticed by now that the links are not there anymore, or at least don't give them so much weight any more.

So by rerunning, I open the menu for "Dropped Links Handling" ...

Dropped Links Handling

...and check the option "Remove Dropped Links"

Remove Dropped Links

Now we have only 25 referring domains left, and of 8152 links are 81 deleted, and 8030 sitewide links removed. The average Link Detox Risk is just 3 points lower, so it is with 1339 points almost the same deadly risk.

After all this I understood how powerful the new Link Detox Genesis is, as it gives me a much more detailed feedback about the analyzed links. From my point of view all those details are crucial to do my job well as an SEO and link audit consultant.

Average Link Detox Risk

Other Backlink Metrics

The strength of the Backlinks measured with the LRT Power*Trust

Back to the BLP Report, I see the very high percentage of 0 Power*Trust links. Penguin has a hunger for these kind of link profiles, too. All in all, the profile looks very suspicious at first sight.

Link Profile by Metrics

Author ID

Another eye catching fact is that nearly none of the backlinking pages/domains has a Google Author ID:

Author ID

There are 374 without a Google Author ID and 7 with. This can be an indicator for a untrustworthy link profile.

IP of linking domains

Now I want to see if we find signals of link farms or something similar. So I rerun my report and activate the metric "Domain Registration Details" to be able to see the IP addresses of each linking page later in my report.

IP of Linking Domains

By sorting the column IP addresses, I quickly find what I was looking for:

49 domains on the same IP-address. Very thin content on each, and all with the same layout. Plus they are all interlinking.

Maybe this wouldn’t be exactly match the size of a serious link farm, but for sure a network of very poor sites with nearly no search visibility. In addition, some of them where even identified as malicious, or there where viruses or malware on them.

Link Farm

All the linking pages on all domains have already been removed and a lot of them redirected.

For example, the link we already had in the Link Detox Genesis:

had a link to our candidate and is now redirecting to the homepage

We looked into the Google Cache to see which pages have been linking to, and found still 619 linking pages only for this subdomain, which has a total of 3.430 indexed pages.

Google Site Search

This looks very much like a sitewide or at least category-wide text ad.

The Google snippet still shows us the following:

Wie man wirklich leichtes Geld im Internet verdient. Ohne Verkauf.
· Noch nie war es so einfach

Which means something like:

"Where else can you find this?
How to earn money easily in the internet. No sales.
· It never has been so easy"

All the other external links on those sites don’t have the nofollow attribute, so I get the conclusion that those ads probably had a follow link to our site. This would be classified ads spam; as described in one of the first Penguin 5 Analysis :

As I analyzed more sites hit by Penguin 2.1, I saw low-quality classified websites show up with links pointing at destination sites. Classified ad listings were used to drop exact match anchor text links, and sometimes in great volume. For some sites I was analyzing, there were hundreds of pages showing from each domain with links to their websites (from the classified ad websites). I’ve analyzed many sites hit by Penguin (historically), and haven’t come across many classified websites showing up in the various link profiles. But with 2.1, I saw this a number of times.“

This seems to be one of the new algorithms of Penguin 2.1, and in this case involved a big part of the whole backlink profile.

Deeper look at the backlinks

Having a quick look over all links I find another abnormality, which seems like a link network (link farm).

Another high PR site is linking to our candidate and as well to, where I found a backlink to our candidate earlier in this analysis out of the exact same paragraph as in

The domains are on different IPs and DNS.
There are a few other links to Online Casinos etc. These are unnatural backlinks with bad neighborhood which shouldn't have a good effect on the backlink profile. They are not links I would like to have.

Note from Christoph: Looks like the link builder was hot on open source mirror pages, something that has been a “secret tip” to build dirt cheap strong links for years… But those “Features for Users” are the exact opposite and don’t
contribute any value.

Link Network

This is a classic example for a linkfarm, which Google warns us in the Guidelines for Webmasters.

  • I even dig a little bit deeper, and have a look at the other websites linked from this micro network. has a link in the same paragraph, and was penalized in the same Penguin Update 2.1. Meanwhile, the site is offline.

Link Farm Example

  • Another funny external link on those domains is referring to, which is also linked from our candidate‘s website. This domain has already dropped, even still showing a PR of 5. Guess why!
  • Checking other metrics like deeplink ratio, nofollow/dofollow ratio, etc. doesn’t show any major abnormalities.
  • Links from Theme-related or Unrelated Websites: most of the links are from unrelated websites or mixed websites which have the main intend to serve backlinks.
  • I also check in the column theme of my BLP for dofollow blogs, blogroll links and forum or forum bio spam, which seem to have been the major goals for the Penguin 2.1. I only found one forum and two do follow blog links.
  • Another Penguin factor was excessive link exchange. One little network we found already just above. Therefore, I have a look at the outgoing links from our candidate’s website.

Website Links

I run Xenu to get all outgoing links from and export those to Excel.

Outgoing Links

I create a csv file. Then I download all of my external backlinks out of the BLP and compare both lists in Excel with the "vlookup" function.

External Backlinks

None of those linked sites are linking directly back, and nearly all the outgoing links are nofollow anyway. So this shouldn‘t be an issue here.


Now we have a look at the competitor’s backlinks in his niche. The Sistrix tool box also shows the top keywords a website is (or has been) ranking for.

Competitor Keywords

Now I look for the phrase with the highest monthly search volume and find "Geld verdienen" as the most interesting at this time. So I check more details and have a look at the ranking curve.

Note: When I look at the anchor texts it looks like these guys also wanted to rank for "Heimarbeit". They rank for it with longtail combinations, but have not appeared in the top 10 search results with the exact match search at any time. Also title,
description, URLs and point to a strategy with the phrase "Geld verdienen", so this is better for our research.

Sistrix Keyword geld verdienen

The keyword combination "Geld verdienen" went straight up, was even on to the top until the Penguin came again and went down on 17th place. Now it is not any longer in the top 100.

Keyword Combination

The next thing I wanted to know is the time the linkswhere built. So I pick out the top 10 competitors which rank for that keyword and are kind of comparable to our site:

  • (surprise, surprise! – this domain is a phenomenon. It ranks for ages for lots of these money topics)

The competitor's links are not relevant any more after seeing the strategy by now, so instead of digging deeper into the backlinks of them we decide to compare the velocity trend now.

Link velocity & competitive link velocity

So let's have a look at the Link Velocity of all of them.

Competitive Link Velocity

The chart above shows me the link growth of each domain per month. There were no new links found at all until March as you can see in the two charts below.

Competitive Link Velocity

Here I also had a look at the strength of link building efforts of all the domains compared to our case by clicking "Heatmap relative to" "your domain".

Link Velocity had the most new links in April. All other competitors had a more stable link growth.

Our case had almost no new links coming after the big wave in April. I heard Christoph Cemper
talk about this in a Webinar Q&A on 101 Great Links for Interflora that Penguin losers tend to have had a strong link growing velocity, which stopped or slowed down a lot. With our Domain this was also the case.

This gives me one more conclusion about the penalization of this domain.

CDTOX – The Competitive Link Detox

At last, I have a look at the CDTOX. At first there is just one domain weaker than (surprise, surprise it's an exact match domain (EMD, Keyword domain) as well)

Competitive Link Detox

Here the average risk looks much lower than the ones of the top 3.

Average Link DTOX Risk

I classify all of the keywords which was quite a bit of work, until I found the bulk classification feature. By doing the classification I realize that most of the competitors have some keyword links, but for sure not overdone in the overall percentages.

After that, I reprocess the report.

The rules for keyword links get applied and now the picture mirrors the SERPs.

Average Link DTOX Risk

The total average of the top 10 have a moderate risk, and the top 5 have a high risk; but with 724 points still not bad enough for Penguin. The top 3 also show a high risk. So this number -660- could probably be seen as a kind of standard for this niche. Especially the Top 3 don't have good links, but they were more carefully with their link building tactics concerning the anchor text.

Note from Christoph: This very well illustrates why running CDTOX for your niche is so crucial. Only then you understand that this niche is a pretty spammy one with very risky links in general. As a Google engineer once told me – if we only have poor sites, we try to show the best of the poor ones.


A new website on a very weak dropped exact match domain (EMD, also referred to as keyword domain in Germany) started to rank after Penguin 2.0 very fast - very high, and dropped then rapidly to almost zero with the Penguin 2.1 update.

Possible Reasons IMHO

  • Too many links with money key anchor texts
  • Too high percentage of weak or even spammy Backlinks(toxic)
  • High percentage of 0 Power*Trust links
  • Links from penalized domains
  • Part of a high PR link farm
  • Paid links
  • Classified ads spam
  • Probably too high percentage of dofollow links
  • Too many links from unrelated websites
  • Initial link growth velocity too high
  • Sudden link growth stop

Factors that did NOT contribute to the drop

  • There weren’t much Links with more LRT Power than LRT Trust
  • There weren’t any redirects involved
  • There weren’t any unnatural country issues
  • There was no unnatural deep link ratio


Intended purpose of

Looking at the domain (e.g. name and title), the content, the link building strategy and the outgoing links and having in mind that the domain is part of a micro network I guess that it is just a part of the webmasters project and strategy.

Some outgoing links are probably set for the good neighborhood. One example is a homepage link to (a highly respected news magazine in Germany), but mainly there are affiliate links as well as some regular links to homepages or deeplinks without parameters (I guess their purpose is link exchange or this sites are another part of one project.).

I can't see any further marketing strategies like mailing, social or PR. However, I set up Link Alerts and there was one link new found:

New Links

It is weak and not relevant but at least the placement tactic looks different.

My point of view

I recommend dropping the website project completely, because there were too many bad tactics going on and too little of value. The site is new anyway, and therefore has not much trust and credit for these kind of penalizations. In fact it looks like a typical crash & burn SEO project.

I didn’t even look at the products the domain is linking to. But if the webmaster or project owner decides to continue developing the domain, he should make sure to remove all the bad stuff pointing to

Using LinkResearchTools, he could use the Contact Finder (short CF), and run the list filtered out with the help of the new DTOX Genesis; and contact the webmasters in order to remove the Links pointing to, and start with a stabile content strategy.

I am kind of surprised that our case started to rank right away in the first place. The link building and the ranking started more or less simultaneously to the Penguin 2.0 update.

One should think this kind of link profile trips a Google filter right away, because it was exactly the Penguin 2.0 cluster. Surprisingly, the next update had to come to extract this trial of old spammy link building methods.

The only reason I can see is that Google after Penguin 2.0 still wasn’t able to detect those unnatural links. With the fresher data of Penguin 2.1, it was able and penalized the site with the rollout.

As a base of this theory I used the summary of the analysis from Glenn Gabe.

While analyzing sites hit by Penguin 2.1, I wanted to check the creation dates for the unnatural links I was coming across.  For most of the sites, the links were first found in late spring 2013, and many were found during the summer.  That makes complete sense, since the sites in question weren’t hit by Penguin 2.0 on May 22.  Instead, they were hit with this latest Penguin update on October 4, 2013.  So, it does seem like fresher unnatural link data is being used.

In addition, maybe in this niche... there is also a bit more tolerance for this bad stuff than in other niches. At least that could be the reason why the site's visibility is not completely down to zero after Penguin 5.


Even if the owner goes on link building like this and the domain would stand up again (what is unlikely), it wouldn't be for long, because one thing is for sure:

Google will continue running Penguin updates!!!

Harald and Christoph showed us Matt Cutts’ Tweet in the lead in of the case study for Cheapoair saying that there will be more rollouts coming:

Tweet Matt Cutts

This case study was written by Sigrid Holzner, Online Marketing Expert at Bavaria SEO, and proud user of LinkResearchTools and Link Detox.

A word from Christoph C. Cemper

Certified LRT Professional This analysis was conducted and post written by our new Certified LRT Professional, Sigrid Holzner.

Sigrid showed proficiency in doing a backlink profile and SEO audit using the LinkResearchTools and pointed out quite some critical issues to fix. I am thrilled by the detail and structure she accomplished in her case study. Therefore, I'm very happy to certify Sigrid Holzner as the latest Certfied LRT Professional; by approving and publishing her research on our site.

Our goal is to provide our user community and clients with quality service and knowledge. Our certified professionals and experts are key to achieving this goal.

I look forward to her future work, and personally recommend Sigrid Holzner to work with you whenever you get the opportunity!

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Sigrid Holzner
Sigrid Holzner search marketing is specialized in SEO and has several certifications. She founded the Online Marketing agency "SEO Bavaria" in 2010, a consulting and service provider with the focus on Strategy, Search, Social, Web Analytics and Conversion Optimization.
Sigrid Holzner
Sigrid Holzner


  1. Krzysztof Furtak on November 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Congratulations Sigrid! I have my own penguin 2.1 projects and I’m still waiting. I also recommend improving website for all website owners to follow all google guidelines. That’ll boost rankings (and don’t forget speed/cache/301optimization). Quality, unique, fresh and user friendly content is the king. Still.

    I’ll translate that case and post on my blog for my visitors.

    • Sigrid on November 21, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      Thank you very much Krzysztof! To follow the Google guidelines is for sure a good idea as well as quality content and all factors which influence good user signals. Thank you very much for your opinion and the translation in your blog. Let me know when it’s published. 🙂

  2. Sergo on November 22, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Good! thank you so much. Found uses for some of their projects and so very grateful for the information.

    • Sigrid on November 25, 2013 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you! I am happy I could help! 🙂

  3. CH on November 25, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    This is all very interesting, but I wonder what the point is of all the analysis following the initial report of it being a highly-toxic website?
    As you know, it’s almost impossible to get these links removed. Writing to webmasters of these spammy websites may at best yield a 5% removal rate, usually less.
    What’s missing in all of this software and analysis is a way to force links to be taken down.
    Incidentally, I have a website which was hit badly around a year ago. I’ve spent 6 months trying to get it extracted from the mire without success. I’ve submitted 5 recon requests each time demonstrating extensive work done in researching links and the results of removals and no-follows.
    On my most recent recon request I declared that I’ve exhausted all possibilities in removal of links. Yet still they come back and decline my request. Also, each time with their refusal/reply they provide a couple of link examples with problematic anchor text which do not appear in GWT, here or any of the other backlink tracking services I’ve tried. How can one remove links when one doesn’t know that they exist?

    Anyway, I’m looking to hand this project off and pay someone to take it through to the next level. If anyone is interested please let me know. And, my website is nothing like the one in the case study, in fact it actually showed up as low risk after the analysis.

    • Sigrid on November 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      Hi CH,

      thank you for your detailed response. I’m sorry to hear you are in such a difficult situation for so long now.
      ” As you know, it’s almost impossible to get these links removed.”
      It also depends on the kind of site but luckily I have some experiences talking to webmasters and often find my way through.

      Just lately I reviewed the backlink profile from a client’s site and I never only relay on the tools just as you see in the case study above. The tools are a big help: they give me lots of relevant information in a short time. I can see faster what is going on, but still I have to review all the links carefully. It took me days to write to all of the Webmasters and asked them to remove the entries, but it worked. Now around 65% are removed already and the site is back in the top positions. We haven’t even disavowed any links jet. This two methods plus some new good links worked fast – not the first time – and in the end they are less work than the precarious reconsideration request.

      When Google finds two or three more bad links than the BLP that shouldn’t be the issue, if the majority of bad links is cleaned out.

      Just let me know and I or Christoph and I will have a look for you. I am sure we can help you.

      • CH on November 26, 2013 at 5:15 pm

        Thanks Sigrid,
        I’m not quite sure what my next move is with the website, but I’d certainly welcome any opinion. My understanding, which may be wrong, is that with a manual penalty it is necessary to go through the Recon process, the penalty won’t be lifted algorithmically based on removing bad links. And I feel that via the Recon process I’m just not going to be able to demonstrate that I’ve done enough to have them lift the penalty. So I’m feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.

        As Alex commented below, de-indexing the site is an option I’ve given a lot of thought to. However, my domain is my brand name, and it would be problematic in other ways for my business. That said, if I thought I could regain my old traffic levels with a domain change I would do it in a flash, but I have no confidence in this being the case. Why? well for one reason, having gone through this nightmare with Google, I really don’t know how/where to build new links that wouldn’t be penalized (if not now, then later). There seems to be no straightforward way to link-build WITHIN the Google terms of service and quality guidelines. I’ve tried Facebook, Twitter etc, but my content is very niche and doesn’t seem to be something people want to readily share with others. So where does one go to build up a new link profile?
        Anyway, my site is thenaturalshopper dot com
        Oddly enough, I don’t feel that I fall into the category of ‘spammer’ in the way that I’ve promoted my website. I’ve run this business for 15 years and I’ve never paid anyone to do SEO and never used bulk-submission software. I have written articles and submitted them to syndication websites, but perhaps only 15 articles in 15 years. Yes, I’ve tried a few things here and there such as guest blogging, but always myself, never paid, and always in small volume.
        So I’m perplexed.

        I don’t expect that anyone should jump to my help, as I know that time is a valuable commodity, but if you or Christopher or anyone else had any basic suggestions I’d be very grateful indeed.



        • Sigrid on November 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm

          Thanks Carl,

          I will write you an email about this and we will have a deeper look.
          Best regards!


    • Alex Filler on November 25, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      You might think about deindexing the site and starting over reusing the old content and build up a new backlink profile from scratch.

      • CH on November 26, 2013 at 5:21 pm

        Thanks for the suggestion Alex.

        This is something I have given thought to, but I really wouldn’t know where to start to build up a new link profile on a new domain. It seems that Google has every base covered, and the only route to link building is through the power of social media. But my content is very niche and does not have a great deal of interest to the masses, so whenever I’ve tried to promote it through SM it really hasn’t gone anywhere. Clearly this could be down to me not having the skills and vision to be successful at SM, but where does one go to find such a person? The thought of putting my trust in an SEO company gives me cold sweats, since there’s so many out there who are still working to the old pre Penguin and pre Panda standards.


        • Sigrid on November 27, 2013 at 11:54 pm

          Deindexing the shop is a rigorous step, you have to start from cero. I recommend you attend the webinar of Christoph first – which comes just in time – before you decide how to move on:

          “How to Get Rid of a Google Penalty in 3 DAYS. Tomorrow is booked out already. 2nd Free Webinar Friday Nov29

          Either way there are ways to do quality linkbuilding and there are quality SEOs to help.

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