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Home > Blog > Case Studies hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim


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Penguin 2.0 hit hard. And there is more to come.

This is true for us as well. As promised during Penguin 2.0 launch and the previous Penguin 2.0 Deep Dive here is the next detailled look into a Penguin 2.0 victim. We will look at and many details of their backlink profile, just like any good SEO consultant would do.

This research will look into Advertorials, Sneaky Redirects, Sitewide Links, Weak Links, Offtopic Links, Penalited Link Selling Networks and so much more.

There's a lot to learn in here, and I'm psyched to present you the next case-study only a few days after Penguin 2.0 hit the world, globally.

Christoph C. Cemper

Protect your online business from the real-time Google Penguin!


In this case study we will analyze why Penguin 2.0 hit

Some things we will look at:

On May 23 2013, Markus Tober from Searchmetrics published the first Penguin 2.0 loser. As u can see, lost about 28% after the update was rolled out on May 22.

In this list u can see the top losers after the Penguin 2.0. update:

Searchmetrics Penguin Losers

Looking at Searchmetric’s SEO Visibility, we notice a MASSIVE drop after the Penguin 2.0 release.

SEO Visibility

Drops of that really hurt

So which important keyword rankings did lose to fall that deep in SEO Visibility?
Keyword Ranking Drops
Let’s look at some keywords with high search volume in detail:

Sharp Drop for “Cheap Flights”

keyword cheap flights

Sharp Drop for “Cheap Tickets”

keyword cheap tickets

Sharp Drop for “Cheap Flights”

keyword flights

Sharp Drop for “Cheap Airline Tickets”

keyword cheap airline tickets

Sharp Drop for “Cheap Hotel”

keyword cheap hotel

Sharp Drop for “Plane Tickets”

keyword plane tickets

Did only lose some good rankings or lots of traffic as well?

As we do not have access to their analytics data we don’t really know for sure – but looking at the following screenshot that will answer the question:

SEO Visibility vs. Paid

The blue line displays the SEO Visibility, the green one reports the Paid Visibility (Adwords).

It is logical to assume that increased its spending on Google Adwords after their loss in rankings in order to get some traffic back.

Let’s dive deeper into it and find the reasons why was hit so hard.

From what we know by now, the following reasons could have been the triggers. Let’s look at each one in detail and see how you can dive deep into every detail below the iceberg 🙂

Possible Reasons dropped

Possible reasons why has been hit by Penguin 2.0:

a.) Are too many links with exact match anchor they reason for the drop?

Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links with exact match anchor text?

Let’s look at the 3 keywords with the highest search volume in more detail:

Keyword: cheap flights
search volume: 1,241,66
position before Penguin 2.0: 8
position after Penguin 2.0: 11

Now we will use the LinkResearchTools to analyze the anchor text ratios.

For this task we will use the Quick Backlinks Tool (QBL). This tool provides you with a very quick list of top backlinks plus some basic SEO metrics for a domain or page.

Step 1: Enter the Domain you’d like to analyze and activate the sitewide links filter (we don’t want our results skewed for now):
Quick Backlinks Tool

Step 2: Go to the anchor text tab and sort by count:
(we want to find out absolute numbers, old-style, although that doesn’t mean the most links helped most, this view shows us what the SEO tried to target)
Anchor Text

The graph above shows us that has 266 links with the exact match anchor text “cheap flights” (2,7%).

Is this ratio already too high after the Penguin 2.0 update?

Well, there is no general answer for this question. In order to answer this question we have to look at some competitors and their link profiles.

To find out if 2,7% exact match for the anchor text “cheap flights” is already too much for this particular industry, we will start the LRT Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA).

The Competitive Landscape Analyzer compares any site to its competition for any keyword you want based on a number of metrics you select.

Step 3: Enter your URL into the first box and then find up to 10 competitors either manually or by hitting the “Find Competing Pages” as below.
Competitive Landscape Analyzer

Type in the keyword you’d like to compete with the Top10. Also select the particular search engine, country and language.

Find Competing Pages

Now the CLA fetches the Top10 ranking sites in and displays their URLs to compare. You can choose between analyzing Domain Backlinks, Page Backlinks or Subfolder Backlinks. As we want to dive deep we are going to analyze the Domain Backlinks. We’re also going to use the “Link Boost” function that will allow us to analyze up to 12,500 strongest links instead of 2,500.

Before we start our report, we also have to activate the sitewide link filter in order to skip sitewide links after 5 links found per domain. This would skew our results too much.

competitive landscape analyzer

Step 4: Remember: We are using the Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA) to find out, if has already too many exact match links with the anchor text “cheap flights” in its link profile (2,7%.).

To find this out, the first thing we have to do is to classify all keywords within the following keyword types:

    • a) Brand Keywords (brand name, URL)
    • b) Compound Keywords (a mix of Brand and Money Keywords)
    • c) Money Keywords (These are the keywords people usually want to rank for e.g. “cheap flights”)
    • d) Other Keywords (All keywords that don’t fit in the above categories e.g. “find here”, “click here”)

classify keywords

More about keyword classifications and other examples can be found here.

Note: to get a representative and meaningful output you have to classify at least 90% of your keywords.

Step 5: In the next step we will move to the keywords tab and look at the results of our keyword classification process. As we can see on the chart, has 66% Money Keywords while the total average of the other 10 competitors at only 29%. This is twice as much as the competitors have, and doesn’t look like “blending in”, does it?

Also if we look at the brand bar and the compound bar we can see that has a very unnatural link profile compared to their competitors!

keyword comparison

This report shows a link profile comparison of against the Top10 websites ranking for the keyword "cheap flights" on

We did further link profile comparisons for 3 more important keywords of in order to get a better understanding of its link profile.

The workflow for the other keywords is the same as described above. Many keywords were already classified, but of course new variations could pop up, obviously.

These are the results for the keywords “cheap tickets”, “cheap airline tickets” and “airline tickets”.

Keyword: “cheap tickets”
keyword cheap tickets

Brand vs. Money Keyword distribution for “Cheap Tickets” on

Keyword: “cheap airline tickets”
keyword cheap airline tickets

Brand vs. Money Keyword distribution for “Cheap Airline Tickets” on

Keyword: “cheap flights”
keyword cheap flights

Brand vs. Money Keyword distribution for “Cheap Flights” on

Is this really overdone exact match anchortext the reason why was hit by Penguin 2.0?

Well, I think this is not the only reason but it is part of it I suggest - so let’s dig deeper into it.

b.) Did too many site wide links cause the drop?

Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many sitewide links?

Let’s find out!

Step 1: For this task we have to start the Quick Domain Compare Tool (QDC)
Quick Domain Compare

Step 2: After a few seconds we get a nice comparison chart:
Quick Domain Compare

To get the average amount of sitewide links/ domain, we have to divide “Backlinks to Domain” by “Domain Popularity”.

The easiest way to get the average amount of sitewide links is to use the Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool)) and select the SWR (Sitewide Ratio) metric, that you have in other tools like BLP and CLA as well.

Step 1: Switch to “Detail Analysis” Mode, enter the domains you’d like to analyze, activate the “Link Ratio Metric” and run the report:
Bulk URL Analyzer

The result page shows you the sitewide ratios of all domains in question:
sitewide ratios

Here are the sitewide link ratios in detail:

Side-Wide Links: ~ 79 links/ domain

Side-Wide Links: ~ 56 links/ domain

Side-Wide Links: ~ 170 links/ domain

Side-Wide Links: ~ 84 links/ domain

And our candidate
Side-Wide Links: ~ 38 links/ domain

All competitors of have a very high ratio of sidewide links. has a comparatively small sitewide-ratio. Therefore, having too many sitewide links doesn’t seem to the reason for the Penguin 2.0 hit in this case.

It is important to mention that these values are just an average. Much more important than the ratio of a domain’s sitewide links is their quality. We will look at that a bit later…

c.) Are too many weak links the reason for the decline?

Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many weak links?

As we know, a link is not just a link: you need links which have power and trust to stay on top. So maybe they have too weak or untrusted links?

Let’s check it out!

Step1: If you want to get a quick overview of Power and Trust across the whole domain you can check out these three columns from the QDC report you’ve just created.

Again, as in the first case study Christoph released about the Penguin 2.0 victim (see also in the case of the power is WAY higher than the trust!

CEMPER Power*Trust

Step 2: To dive deeper into that topic we can use the CLA report we created before to look at the keyword metrics and the Power*Trust signals.

Again, it is essential to do this for each keyword! So once again, let’s look at our looser keywords and check out if Penguin 2.0 hit this website because they have weak links!

Keyword: cheap flights
power*trust cheap flights

Keyword: cheap tickets
power*trust cheap tickets

Keyword: cheap airline tickets
power*trust cheap airline tickets

As you see in this charts the Power*Trust spread looks very unnatural / but remember as we did the CLA we also did set a sitewide filter – maybe that is the reason.

So lets measure the quality of all Inbound links including’ all sitewide links, let’s start again the Competitive Landscape Analyzer:

Step 1: As we did before, let’s start the CLA in “Quick Analysis” and find the competing websites.
competitive landscape analyzer

Step 2: As we’d like to find out more about the quality of the sitewide links, this time we do NOT tick the sitewide links filter:
competitive landscape metrics

Step 3: Because we didn’t select the sitewide links filter this time, there would be more keywords to categorize in total. But because we’ve already categorized a certain amount of keywords for these particular domains within our last report, we don’t have to classify the same words again.
keyword classification

After classifying, we receive the following results:

Keyword: cheap flights
power*trust cheap flights

Keyword: cheap tickets
power*trust cheap tickets

Keyword: cheap airline tickets
power*trust cheap airline tickets

To find out about the quality of a domain’s sitewide links, we have to compare the Power*Trust ratio of a link profile including sitewide links to a link profile excluding sitewide links. As you are going to see by comparing the above results with the findings of our next chapter, has some strong sitewide links (e.g. the rate of Power*Trust 8 – 12 links for the keyword “cheap airline ticket” INCLUDING SWR stays at 67%, without SWRs the rate stays at 36%)

So did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many weak links?

In this case I would say NO if you compare it with the other top ranking sites.

Although hasn’t got more weak links than its competitors, I would suggest it has too many strong links!

This link profile seems unnatural, it literally sticks out like a red flag compared to the others.

The Link profile looks very unnatural! So as you can see, it looks like even lots of strong links can influence your link profile in a negative way if your link profile differs heavily from your competitor’s link profiles.

d.) Are too many links from own company networks the factor for the drop?

Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from own company networks?

To be specific: Do they have many big multi-national company websites from their major brand (e.g.,, ) that are all linking to each other out of the footer?

Step 1: To solve this task we pick the Top10 competitors for the keyword “cheap flights”. This list was created with the CLA tool.
CLA cheap flights

Step 2: To find out if the websites are having footer links which are internally linking to each other, we have to visit each URL and check it manually.

These are the results for the TOP10 websites ranking for the keyword “cheap flights”:
internal footer links: YES
internal footer links: YES
internal footer links: YES
internal footer links: different

Sitewide-Footer links are present for, and but they are “hidden” behind a Javascript link in the footer.

That used to be a way to avoid passing link juice, a method somethings referred to as “Pagerank Sculpting” and definitely something that some shady sites do sometimes for a lot other reasons. Did Google object this?

pagerank sculpting

On top of that they have a language dropdown for all sites with FOLLOW links

follow links has got internal footer links, but less than its competitors. Therefore I would say NO, didn’t get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from own company networks.

The question arose because of the consideration that Google maybe sees company network linking as a form of link network and therefore devalues some link power.

But in the case of, this can’t be the reason because has almost no internal footer links. It doesn’t look too bad, but that Javascript-stuff is questionable in both intention and effect.

Until now, it seems that was hit by Penguin 2.0 because it has built far more money keywords than its competitors and although they have some good and strong backlinks, their distribution seems very unnatural.

e.) Are too many links from de-indexed websites the reason for the fall?

Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from de-indexed websites?

With the Penguin Launch in April 2012 Google started de-listing link networks heavily. From that moment, Google heavily continued to unmask and de-index link networks.

So if you have lots of backlinks from de-indexed websites you could be in trouble!

But how can you find out if you have de-indexed websites linking to you?

The easiest way to find out is by using the LRT DTOX Tool. It is part of the LinkResearchTools but also stands on its own (

DTOX supports you in researching all links to your website and cleaning up all toxic ones.

Step 1: Again, as in the other tools we used in this Penguin 2.0 case study, we just have to enter the URL to get started.

As we don’t know if got an “unnatural links warning”, we will select “Don’t know” and start the tool in “classic mode” (More advanced users can also upload their already disavow’ed links. These links will then be marked as ignored. Save that for later).

Link Detox Tool

Step 2: Now as we are looking for the de-indexed links, we will use the filter in the grid and select the rule “TOX1”:

Toxic 1 Link Rule

Toxic 1 Link table

Wow! has links from 148 pages that are not indexed anymore!

That’s quite a lot and could be one of the reasons why Penguin 2.0 hit

f.) Did malware links cause a drop?

Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many malware links?

As I heard, some blackhat SEOs are practicing shooting toxic/malware links at a victim as negative SEO tactic successfully after Penguin 1.0.

Let’s look at this in detail:
If you have lots of malware infected sites linking to you, you can be in trouble!
In order to answer the above question let’s use the DTOX tool again.

Just change the rule filter from “TOX1” to “TOX2”:

Toxic 2 Link Rule

As you can see, has 182 pages linking to them that are reported to contain malware and virus! All of the 182 links are only from 24 websites in total. This doesn’t look like a crazy signal for a negative SEO attack in my opinion, yet. But it should be cleaned up anyways.

Toxic 2 Link table

So what could do to clean up this malware link mess?

1. If the link is of TOX2 type (This means those links are “deadly risky”) find out to which page of your website the malware infected website is linking to.

To get this information simply enable the “To Url” Row in DTOX Grid:


This will show you to witch of your subpages the TOX2 pages are linking to:


If they are linking directly to the home page there is not much you can do, but if the mal infected sites are linking to subpages, you could try to change the URL. Therefore the link is going to run to a 404 page and won’t count anymore.

That would mean no negative link juice for you anymore.

2. Disavow these links! Go to the Rules Tab and select TOX1 and TOX2:

disavow links

Click on Export Filtered Data as: Google Disavow Links:

export disavow links

Download the disavow file:

disavow links file

Go and upload the disavow links to Google!

3. Try to get rid of these bad links:

Keep in mind: Even if you disavowed all spammy links it would be good to remove them as well. Don’t’ forget: the disavow file is just a recommendation to Google not to count these links – so for the long run it is more safe to get rid of them completely.

g.) Are offtopic links the root cause for this Penguin 2.0 drop?

As we know, it is getting more and more important to get the right links from the right websites. Also with Penguin 2.0 it is going to be more important to have links from topic related websites.

Once again let’s dive deeper into the link profile of and let’s check out if its link profile consists of a lot of off topic links.

To solve this task we are going to start the LRT Backlink Profiler (BLP). This Tool helps you to analyze the backlink profile of your website through crawling the anchor text and link status for each link as well as metrics that help you determine the quality of your backlinks.

Step 1: We copy into the URL/Domain analyze box and also set a Link Boost of 5x to make sure we get the maximum number of links (50000).

Next we have to select the right metrics to check out from what kind of themes the backlinks are coming.

To get the theme metric it is important to activate the “Basic SEO stats” check box.

basic seo stats

Step 2: After hitting the “Run Report” button it can take several minutes to get all the data, because the BLP Tool is crawling each link to make sure the link is still existent and gather cool stuff like redirect-traces.

After receiving the data we go to the “More” tab on the very right side above and klick on the “Theme” button.

Power*Trust theme

Finally the BLP report shows us the link profile for sorted by theme as you can see in the following chart:

Link profile theme

It looks like has most of its links from travel websites which should be perfectly fine.

Once again I want to point out that one of the most important factors for a good ranking is to have a natural link profile which in fact means to have a similar link profile as your competitors. Blend in and outperform them just a little, as Christoph uses to say.

Hence, even if has most of its links from topic related websites, I want to have a look at the theme ratios of its competitors.

Step 3: To compare the theme ratios we are going to start the Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA) once again. In order to get the “Theme of a Domain” this time we have to run the CLA in the “Detail Analysis” mode

cla detail analysis

we also need to select the right metric see below:

cla detail analysis

Now let’s have a look at’s important keywords:

Keyword: cheap flights
kw theme cheap flights

Keyword: cheap tickets
kw theme cheap tickets

Keyword: cheap airline tickets
kw theme cheap airline tickets

As you can see in the charts above, has way more related topic links from the travel space compared to their competition!

Therefore, we have to answer the question, if got hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from off topic websites? NO!

The paradox: had too many links from related topic websites. “Too many” means too many compared to its competitors!

Or in other words – the mix wasn’t natural enough.

Those bars subtitled “Other” are links from many other themes, LRT knows 100 or so, and it appears that the spread is way better for the competition than it is for Cheapoair.

To get an idea of the spread, we can use the complex filter in the table, exclude Cheapoair, and possible dive thru all those other themes manually.

filter theme

Another option is to use Excel – the only powerful tool for SEOs before LinkResearchTools was launched and use the raw data in a simple Pivot Table. So we download the filtered data completely into and XLSX to do that.

What we get is a breakdown of over 400 combinations of themes in the links, and that’s why they were grouped together in the chart – or can you image a chart with 400 bars – unreadable.

theme breakdown

So at least one competitor had links from sites about Shopping, Military, even Sex Education. Well – that’s what a natural link mix looks like. Noise.

To avoid confusion, that’s just noise. For reference here are the most popular topics of those “Other” links.

Theme of Link Number of Links










Blogs/Personal Pages


Search Engines/Portals










Real Estate




Financial Services




Web Hosting


Society/Daily Living










Political/Activist Groups






Job Search/Careers




Blogs/Personal Pages, Computers/Internet


Reference, Travel


Reference, Education


h) Did Advertorial Links cause a Penguin 2.0 penalty?

As Matt Cutts announced in one of his last videos (, Google is going to take action against advertorial posts as well. Refereed to Google’s quality guidelines, advertorial posts have to have nofollow status.

pass PageRank

On the basis of this consideration we are going to try to find out if has lots of advertorial links and if these links have follow or nofollow status.
Let’s get started by having a look at the BLP report we have done before and let’s check if we can find some advertorial links with exact match keywords.

Step 1: We start a BLP report and as soon as the report is finished we will go down to the link details section.

Of course it would take far too much time to go through all the 9518 backlinks. Therefore I will show how easy you can apply filters in order to see only the relevant results. As we are looking for advertorial links, it is very likely that the type of the advertorial links is to be found in “In Content”. So we go to the “Link Location” tab and select the “In Content” filter:

Link Location

The application of this filter will shrink our prospective advertorial backlinks from 9518 to 988!

Well this is still a high amount of links we are unable to check manually whether it is an advertorial link or not. That’s why we will apply one more filter. Now we are assuming advertorial links are mostly located on pages with a high Power*Trust.

Thus let’s apply the Power*Trust filter.
We will set it from 12 to 20 to get the strongest websites listed.

Power*Trust filter

Another easy way to find advertorial links is to apply the “Site Type” filter, set this filter to “News” and sort the results again by using the Power*Trust Filter as well.

Power*Trust site type

By checking the links I’ve found I noticed that some articles look like advertorials but aren’t marked as advertorials and the links within the supposed advertorial are having the status “follow” instead of “nofollow” (see Google Guidelines for advertorials). In general we found very few articles that could be advertorials. That’s why I assume follow advertorial links are not a linkbuilding tactic of

Therefore use of advertorials are probably also not the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

i) Are “naturally” automated links the cause?

Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had a natural link profile that looks like it was built with automated linkbuilding tools?

Google told us that Penguin 2.0 will be a spam penalty. So let’s look at some metrics that can be a hint on what parts of the linkbuilding process have been made automatically by using set and forget linkbuilding tools like XRumer or Linkvana.

Once more we will start our analysis by looking at the CLA report in detail mode. We will pick the following metrics to get the data we need to dive even deeper.

In order to see if has used set and forget linkbuilding tools, we have to analyze its forum and blog backlinks. Therefore select the link metric “Site Type” in the CLA report:

CLA type of site

So will get the following results:

cla site type metrics

Looking at this chart we can see that the “Site Type” link ratio of blends perfectly fine into what their competitors have. If would have lots of spammy links out of forums or other sources we would be able to see this in the chart (forum posts would be a categorized as “Other”) If you’d like to analyze “Site Type” results in more detail you could make a BLP report. There you can filter by “Forum” to dig deeper.

Also the host IP address can be an indicator for using spam software. To see if has a lot of Russian, Chinese or other foreign country links that are known as typical spam link sources we have to select “Hosting IP address country code” as well as “Hosting IP address city”:

Hosting IP address country

Hosting IP address country

This chart shows us, that the overall spread is o.k., doesn’t have a lot of non-US or non-EU links. But seems to be more active in Europe than its competitors. Only 56% of its links are from US based sites. This distribution could lead Google to the conclusion that is less relevant for the US market than its competitors, therefore Google maybe adjusted’s ranking. But there is no sign of Blackhat Link Building, it’s rather a more diverse spread across countries. A bit odd tough if they only market to the US, CA and UK.

j) Homepage Redirects as cause for the Penguin 2.0 Penalty?

Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had lots of sneaky redirects from old pages to the homepage?

So let’s check if we can find some sneaky looking redirects for!
Step 1: Let’s start a BLP and apply the “Link Type/redirect” filter:

homepage redirects

As we can see we found only 24 redirected pages. Most of them are not even transmitting link juice.

Step 2: Let’s have a deeper look at the links transferring link juice:

transfer link juice

The first 3 links in the table above are URLs from the URL Shorting Service These links seem normal.

The links from the other pages are also o.k pages – I was expecting some other domains that have been redirected to to pass link juice like expired domains or out of date projects that redirect to in order to get some link juice for this website.

Hence, the answer is NO. Sneaky redirects can’t be the reason why to got hit by Penguin 2.0.

Important Hint: On May 21 John Mueller from Google confirmed that from now on Google will treat 301 internal redirects in a different way: Google will treat 301 redirects that redirect to a home page as a 404 error page (

See the confirmation here in the video starting around minute 22.

This means that Google won’t let pass any link juice from this kind of 301 redirect.
To make sure not to lose your link juice, redirect all your 301s to another relevant subpage instead of the start page.

Currently the default suggestion in the Link Juice Recovery Tool (LJR) is the homepage – and Christoph confirmed - he already works on changing that, as it is no longer the recommended way to recover link juice as it was for years.

Does this mean, that internal redirects could pose a problem now? Yes. This needs further investigation as internal redirects have been common practice for years.

Also, we find that the non-www version 301-redirects to the

So when pulling all links going directly to the URL (which we know is redirected to we find a lot more.

101 redirecting pages to be precise. All but 3 are passing link juice with a 301. And they don’t look too sneaky, it’s just typo domains.


But then over a 100 redirects in 301-redirect chains maybe triggered another flag in the new Penguin 2.0 algo anyways? We see above that first 301s to and then off to

That’s a lot of redirects to digest. And we can agree, that it would make sense to eliminate that 301-chain anyways and let them all go to the www version.

Did this cause a Penguin 2.0 problem? We don’t know, but it could be possible, as redirects seem to be interpreted differently in Penguin 2.0 anyways.

k.) Unnatural Link Velocity causing this Penguin 2.0 Penalty?

Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because its link velocity has been unnatural?

One of the key metrics we haven’t looked at yet is the link velocity.

After the release of Penguin 1.0 Christoph already discovered domains that had big drops in their link growth got hit hard.

To find out if has had a natural link growth we are going to use the Competitive Link Velocity Tool (CLV) to compare the link growth of and its competitors. Again, we will use the keyword “cheap flights”.

Step 1: Start the CLV, enter the Domain and select up to 10 competitors. First we have a look at the Link Velocity of the last 30 days:

Competitive Link Velocity

As we can see at the link velocity trend (Domain Popularity) of, the website had a good and healthy link growth.

The only abnormality I noticed was that has got far less text links as most of its competitors.

Competive Link Velocity

Hence, a negative or to fast link velocity is not the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

Conclusion of this Penguin 2.0 deep dive for

In most of the cases getting hit by Google’s Updates has more than one reason.

In this case study, we analyzed different possible causes for the loss in rankings of

Our analysis brought the following results:

a) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links with exact match anchor text?

I would say YES. has much more money keywords than its competitors.

That’s a classical case of over-optimization. There are no general lines to draw in SEO – whatever you estimate, could be wrong estimated. To be on the safe side it is essential to compare your own link profile with the link profile of your competitors on a regularly basis (as we have seen above with the Competitive Landscape Analyzer). In this case,’s ratio of money keywords was up to 66%, almost as double as its competitors for the keywords analyzed. So in my opinion, it is very likely that got hit by Penguin 2.0 because of this factor.

b.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many sitewide links?

NO. The study has shown that hasn’t got too many sidewide links. On the contrary, it’s sidewide links ratio is below the average of its competitors. Therefore, too many sidewide links can’t be the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

c.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many weak links?

Well, the answer of this question is NO. But I would suggest it has too many strong links! has lots of good and strong links but again the important factor is that the distribution of the links has to be quite similar to the competitors. Although has strong links, its’ link profile seems unnatural because the distribution of its strong links doesn’t fit into the average distribution.

d.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from own company networks?

The answer is NO. has got internal footer links, but its competitors have them as well. Therefore is probably not the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0. However, those javascript-blocked links could trigger some spam signal and the question really is – who needs those?

e.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from de-indexed websites?

I would say YES. has 148 links from pages that are not indexed anymore. That is a quite high value and therefore might be another reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

Deindexed websites can be sign of a problem, because that usually means Google deindexed the website for selling links or other violations. We could see 1000s of website from article link networks since the first Penguin update. Of course if there’s a website that blocked Google intentionally it would be deindexed too, and a false positive, but then – who in his right mind would NOT want Google to index his website?

f.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from malware infected websites?

I would say YES. has 182 pages linking to it that are reported to contain malware and virus. The Link Detox tool (DTOX) classifies these links as “deadly risky”. should have cleaned this mess up. This factor can be yet another reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

g.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many links from offtopic websites?

The answer of the question is NO. On the contrary: has too many links from related topic websites compared to its competitors. Again, to make sure not to be a victim of Google’s Updates it is essential (!!!) to compare all factors of your link profile with your competitors. As you can see in this case, too many topic related links can be the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

h.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had too many advertorial links that do not pass any link juice?

NO. has very few marked and non marked advertorial links. So having too many advertorial links can’t be the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

i.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had a natural link profile that looks like it was built with automated linkbuilding tools?

NO. has very little links from non-US or non-EU websites. But has more links from EU websites than its competitors. Google might conclude that is less important for the US market than the competitor websites- This factor can also be one reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

j.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because it had lots of sneaky redirects?

NO. hasn’t got redirects from expired domains or out of date projects in order to get some extra link juice. Therefore, having sneaky redirects can’t be the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

k.) Did get hit by Penguin 2.0 because its link growth has been unnatural?

NO. The link velocity trend of, seems very normal that means the website has a good and healthy link growth. Therefore an unnatural link growth can’t be the reason why got hit by Penguin 2.0.

In my opinion, has far too many exact money keywords, lots of links from malware infected websites, a quite unnatural Power*Trust link profile and an unnatural amount of links from related topic websites.

These 4 things triggered the algorithm, I suppose.

What steps should take to get out of the Penguin 2.0 trap?

  1. has to get rid of its entire malware infected links by following the instructions explained in chapter f.) of this paper.
  2. has to try to compensate it’s link profile:

a) Fix the Keyword Profile:

fix keyword profile has to build more Brand and Other Keywords. Be careful! It is a big mistake to stop building money keywords from one day to another. This can be seen by Google as a signal for unnatural link. Therefore still has to build money keywords but it has to set its linkbuilding ratio for money and compound keywords at 5-10%.

b) Fix the Power*Trust Issue

Power*Trust issues

According to this chart, needs to get some Links with Power Trust 0-3 and 13-21. Also this activity has to be as natural as possible.

Depending on the case, compensating a link profile takes months!

This case study was written by Harry Tschuggnall and reviewed and approved by Christoph C. Cemper for publishing as Certification work.

A word from Christoph C. Cemper

Case closed for now. Enough work to do and definitely even more to look into (redirects!).

This analysis was conducted and post written by our LRT Associate Harry Tschuggnall, Founder of Mediabase, an Austria based SEO and Link Building Agency. I highly appreciate and recommend this work for reading and further research and therefore grant Harry our Certified LRT Professional status by approving and publishing his research on our site.

This is Harry’s next step towards the Certified LRT Xpert level which is pre-requisite for the Certified LRT Agency certification. But until that is reached and Harry can reap all the benefits from it, I can already wholeheartly recommend you to work with him when you get a chance!

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Harry Tschuggnall
Harald Tschuggnall is the Founder of Mediabase, an Austria based SEO and Link Building Agency. He's holding a Certified LRT Xpert accreditation and runs the first ever LRT Certified Agency thanks to his extensive knowledge and case-studies published.
Harry Tschuggnall


  1. @savage_seo on May 28, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    WOW –> hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper #seo #penguin

  2. Ed on May 29, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Very exciting! Can a Certified LRT Xpert be one of the first accredited qualifications in the SEO world? 🙂 Those certificates look hand pressed!

    A great study, keep them coming! – it’s useful to see how you’ve broken down a judgement call based on the evidence that your tools provide.

    • Michael Marshall on May 29, 2013 at 1:01 am

      The certification LRT has is very impressive. They would not be the first in the SEO industry to offer that however. Search Engine Academy also offers certification and it is backed up by the U.S. Education System through a university in the U.S. and its CEUs can be transferred to any university in the U.S.

      LRT is definitely powerful enough and sophisticated enough to warrant a certification program and I applaud them for putting one together.

  3. Matthew Boley on May 29, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Great job, you went much more in depth than my case study. Did you happen to notice that almost every site has a higher onpage content amount too? I analyzed 440 websites and found that the average content was 1000 words for the page they were ranking for. That is a lot of content compared to before.

    Anyways, great job and I hope to see some more of these when the new algorithm updates roll out soon.

    Honestly this makes me want to target some cheap terms, I love those, and have had great luck with them in the past.

  4. @omnireso on May 29, 2013 at 1:29 am

    +1 RT @bertimus Une belle étude de cas sur un site touché par Penguin 2.0 :

  5. @fionnd on May 29, 2013 at 2:56 am hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper

  6. @targuzo on May 29, 2013 at 7:07 am hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper

  7. Harry Tschuggnall on May 29, 2013 at 8:19 am

    @Ed – thx glad you like my Case Study

    @ Michael Marshall – yes you are right it’s not the first certification – this certification is very focused on linkbuilding and the LRT tools

    @ Matthew Boley – thx – Matthew that’s interesting to hear – as this post is some meters long already 😉 I thought it would be better not to look at onPage issue as well – but its a good point!


  8. @rgannon4 on May 29, 2013 at 9:57 am

    “@screamingfrog: Reading ‘ hit hard’ – great read!

  9. Joe on May 29, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Great case study.

    How does the tool determine a “weak” link?


  10. @Koozai_Laura on May 29, 2013 at 10:50 am hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper

  11. j on May 29, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Very nice work but:
    without analysis of social profile and reputation of the vertical
    the work is not complete.


  12. Harry Tschuggnall on May 29, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Hi J.
    thx for your command!

    As Matt Cutts confirmed at SMX Advanced” links are still, for the foreseeable future, going to be a more powerful signal for search rankings than social signals”

    …it may have a little impact in the moment already / but Google themself is saying that they are having big problems making social a relent/reliable ranking factor.

    So in this case especially in this Industry I don’t think that social has an impact when it comes to Penguin 2.0.


  13. @harrogateseo on May 29, 2013 at 11:50 am hit by Penguin 2.0 – Deep Dive with Link Research Tools #harrogateseo

  14. Pieter-Jan on May 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    First of all, congratulations with this analysis, it is awesome.

    I agree that links are still a very important signal, but I also believe that they are now heavily connected with social signals. Having too much quality links shouldn’t result in a penalty if there are a lot of QUALITY social signals which confirm the popularity of your site. So I agree with J that this aspect is still missing.

    • Harry Tschuggnall on May 29, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Pieter,
      thx for your comment – yes that’s a good point I also don’t think that the QUALITY links will trigger the penalty.
      As you are the second person already machining the social importance I am going to update this post very soon.
      I will take a look at all relevant social media Metrics 🙂


      • ~e~ on June 3, 2013 at 7:04 am

        I am shocked because you fail to note that so many of Cheapoair’s links come from sites that are obviously (and sometimes not so obviously) selling links.

        Your tool needs to start to take link-association reputation into account, and not just these metrics. This also means looking at lots of pages from the linking site. Maybe you should start building an index with this data.

  15. @DCoordes on May 29, 2013 at 12:36 pm hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper

  16. @SEOheartsMe on May 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    CheapoAir hit by Penguin 2.0: Deep Dive with Link Research Tools

  17. Jon on May 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Hi, at the end you say “following the instructions explained in chapter f.) of this paper” – I cannot see the paper for some reason, please can you point me in the right direction.

    • Harry Tschuggnall on May 29, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Jon,
      its not a separate pager – u have to scroll up and check out:

      f.) Did malware links cause a drop?

      In tis part of the post I suggest that you should try to 404 this bad links and
      also disavow them.

      thx for your comment!


  18. @seozwolle on May 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Mag het wat uitgebreider? hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim #SEO

    • Christoph C. Cemper on May 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      I guess yes 🙂 actually we’re preparing an update to this case study based on the questions from here 🙂

  19. @DigiMatt on May 29, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Awesome, really good analysis into penalties – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper & @seo_mediabase

  20. @webgnomes on May 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    CheapoAir hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim by @seo_mediabase (Great Penguin 2.0 case study!)

  21. Aji (CEO, on May 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    This is great, have forwarded it to many so that they can understand esp the agencies need to understand that package base SEO is easy to fool sell but difficult to show real result. We have been supporting many agencies, it is sometimes difficult to tell people in.

    When we got hit by Florida update in 2003, after that we changed our methods … we never got hit after that … best was SEO was no SEO (Means no pattern based SEO, do things without leaving any pattern)

    Also the new age SEO is more than typical work. Get on to campaigns etc

    Great work, looking forward to use some of the tools at LRT … being an Indian agency, the costing is on higher side though but still I see great value compare to all tools.

    • Harry Tschuggnall on May 29, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Hi Aji,
      thx for forwarding my post!

      Yes its imported to understand because this are the basics of linkbuilding!!
      And as I know the LinkReserachTools are the only Tools that provide a Competitive Landscape Analyzer – so this Tools are very important to get the Basics right!

      I understand that for an Indian based Company the costs are high- but I think its essential to use the Tools to go into the right direction.

      It dos not make sense to star linkbuilding if you don’t know what the Metrics look like!

      In my ice if u start linkbuilding without knowing all the details – the risk is to high to get caught maybe already in the next penalty!

      thx for your comment


  22. @jacknorell on May 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Extremely thorough audit of why CheapoAir got penalized in the latest Penguin update. #seo #penguin

  23. Stellan on May 29, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Awesome analysis – LRT is a mighty monster if the right conclusions are drawn…

    One thing I would really like to know is which data sources LRT uses for link research? The majority of the 24 sources are pretty evident, but… 😉

    • Christoph on May 29, 2013 at 9:47 pm


      for obvious competitive reasons we do NOT disclose our link data sources.


  24. Andreas Ostheimer on May 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Anyways: Congratulations Harald!

  25. @fighto on May 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    @WhitneyCEden @MarkFlemingUK Latest one: #seopub

  26. @marcuswestberg on May 30, 2013 at 8:33 am

    En av de bättre bloggposterna på länge: #svSEO #pingivin #algoritmer

  27. @bestseopractice on May 30, 2013 at 9:27 am

    A great #seo analysis of a site hit by #panda2.0

  28. Steve Larkins on May 30, 2013 at 11:32 am

    This is an interesting appraisal, but I think there are a lot of assumptions here without solid foundation. Cheapoair having “too many strong links” is one such case. There is no evidence that I am aware of that backs that having too many strong links can cause problems with Penguin or any other algorithmic filter. It is much more likely that the distribution of anchor text is too aligned with paying keywords and/or the rate of link growth has been flagged.

    • Harry Tschuggnall on May 30, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      Hi Steve,
      thx for your commend.

      Yes I also don’t think that the strong links are the problem – more of a problem is that their linkprofile looks very unnatural in many ways.

      I also think the main reason is the exact match anchor text ratio….


  29. Gareth on May 30, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Great post Harry, must have taken a few hours. Do you think a Penguin hit page has a knock on effect for other pages linked to from that page? There was a lot of talk about Penguin being page based, but I’ve seen many examples where a lot of the pages drop. Like Penguin can affect a domain’s trust metrics.

    • Harry Tschuggnall on May 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      Hi Gareth,
      Yes thx it took me a wile to writ this post ☺

      Yes I have also seen some examples.

      I think do get clear about that we would have to take a very close look at some examples. (Maybe in on of the next Case Study’s ;-))


  30. Abdi Mohammed on May 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Very comprehensive indeed – it just goes to show that the ONLY way to make plausible conclusions is to analyse the sites currently ranking (competitors) and make suitable comparisons.

    Thanks for the insightful read

    • Harry Tschuggnall on May 30, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      Hi Abdi,
      yes it’s the ONLY way to work professional and to into the right direction! ☺

  31. @attaweej on May 30, 2013 at 2:30 pm hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim

  32. @BeckyLehmann on May 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper

  33. @savage_seo on May 30, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    @joehall this –>

  34. @thelostagency on May 30, 2013 at 10:18 pm hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper

  35. @buzzstream on May 30, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Penguin 2.0 Ranking Drop Analysis – – from @LinkResearchTools

  36. @niklasaronsson on May 31, 2013 at 9:56 am

    CheapoAir – Deep Dive into a Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper
    En Underbar SEO – Analys. Första jag sett på länge #svSEO

  37. Shirish on May 31, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Nice one! One of the most comprehensive articles i have come across yet.

    I have included this post in a list of useful Penguin 2.0 related posts from around the web which you might find useful:

  38. @dan_patterson on May 31, 2013 at 4:47 pm hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper

  39. @danielscheer on May 31, 2013 at 6:49 pm hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim via @cemper

  40. Racz-Akacosi Attila on May 31, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Hello! This is a professional article, and I’m not surprised.
    In our country (Hungary) the Pingvin 2.0 scrumbled the search results.
    For example, a hungarian keyword: “hitel” (“hitel” = “credit”) search: now the Google top1 site is ( ~ creditjournal).
    But the Hitelfolyoirat is a “literature, art, social magazine”, not credit site.
    Everyone just looks that this is what the hell… :/

    • Harry Tschuggnall on June 2, 2013 at 7:36 pm

      Hi Attila,
      thx – seams that Google dos not speak
      hungarian very well 🙂


  41. @moneytized on June 1, 2013 at 3:17 am a Penguin 2.0 Penalty and Deep Dive into Spammy Links LRT Link Research Tools

  42. Christoph on June 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Great job, Harald!

    I really enjoyed reading your case study!
    Thanks for the detailed info about the changes concerning internal redirects… another factor to consider when doing link audits…


  43. Sanjay Shenoy on June 5, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    This is unbelievable. I have never such a well laid out case study in the recent past. I have come across Link research tools in the past but this post clearly showcases the power it has. I am definitely thinking of getting my hands on this!

    Also, I checked out more about the Certification program and it seems like for most of them class room training is necessary. Any alternatives planned in the future?


    • Harry Tschuggnall on June 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      Hi Sanjay,

      I think Christoph will also offer the Certification program as online training in the future.


  44. Uwe B. on June 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Thank you for so much information. Now I am even more perplexed than before. My site is losing more and more and more quickly. How fast can I delete any links or build new ones. I’m really desperate … Google, have mercy!

    • Harry Tschuggnall on June 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      Hi Uwe,
      thx for your post!

      I suggest that u look at your link profile in detail – as I saw some keywords like “vogelhaus | vogelfutterhaus” 😉 are already over optimized.

      I would also suggest that u run a DTOX report for your side to see witch links you should remove or disavow:

      If u have any questions u can write me a mail


      • Uwe B. on June 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

        Hi Harry, Thanks for your tip. I use your tool and have the toxic links removed. Now I’m working my way through the next category. An astonishing number of links can not be deleted and are not set by me. Greetings Uwe

        • Harry Tschuggnall on June 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

          Hi Uwe,
          that sounds good – remember if u can – try to get the links removed as well.
          The disavow is just a recommendation that we can give Google – its better to make sure the links will get removed as well. (I know sometimes its not possible)


  45. Dominic on June 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Harry – it is going to be a huge help. Lots of work to do now that I have this case study as a guide.

  46. Annie Wieg on June 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Amazing info and great tool – but can this industry PLEASE stop using the term “deep dive”. I hear it everywhere – from everyone – about everything data related. Latching on to a term and using it over and over like everyone else makes us look cheap and small.

  47. sagbeec on June 26, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Hey Harry, Now this was fantastic work!! I like LRT working on nice concept. People want to see live case studies and they are doing it. All 5 stars for you!!

    beside your profile link is not working. I mean you having dead links over there… do you want LRT rankings die because of your dead links… lol

    • Harry Tschuggnall on June 26, 2013 at 8:11 am

      Hi sagbeec thx for your commend!
      Glad you enjoyed reading the case study – I almost finished the next on that will go live next week.

      Also thx for the hint (profile link) 😉


  48. Mspc on February 12, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Excellent analysis!

  49. Simon Dalley on March 26, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Wow! Can’t believe I’ve not read this post already, I bet that took you ages to put together – looks like LRT is far more powerful than I thought it was, more playing required.

  50. Seddik on May 27, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    Hi thanks for the great analysis can you please tell me about forum links
    i am talking about contextual ones not profiles

    • Matthew Boley on June 30, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      You don’t want forum links, unless the forum is 100% related and you are an active user on it weekly or even daily. I would say 1 or 2 is okay, but you don’t want 10’s or even 20’s of them.

      Have a great day.

  51. @EslikAli on June 4, 2014 at 11:51 am hit hard – Deep Dive into another Penguin 2.0 Victim @cemper aracılığıyla

  52. Alvin Russell on July 24, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Extremely detailed analysis on building backlinks. I cannot remember the last time spent on case study. I am going to look into your product.

    Truly enjoyed the read.

  53. Ucase on October 22, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Today seems to have been another BIG penguin day.
    SERPS have been showing a lot of movement and looking around forums (especially some of the BH ones) many people are reporting big drops.
    Any specific news on this?

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