How long does it take to recover from Penguin? That’s a common question these days. Here’s what you should do if you think you’ve been hit.
First of all, you need to be sure that you’ve been penalized. The SEO triage process divides itself like this:
- Self-imposed penalties: blocking crawlers in robots.txt, accidentally NoIndexing every page on a site, etc.
- Temporary downgrades: the SERPS are in flux, the search engine is “missing data in two files,” etc. Temporary downgrades, in my experience, seldom last more than a week–the longest I have seen was about 2 months and you could reasonably argue that was two algorithmic changes, one undoing the other.
- Truly penalized websites.
If you’ve determined that yes, you definitely were penalized, how long it will take, and what to do, will depend on what kind of penalty we’re talking about.
The rule of thumb seems to be that if you have incurred a manual penalty, you’re probably going to hurt for some multiple of three months. The mind of Google is something of a mystery, but we can all point to recent examples of 90-day manual penalties. If you get in touch with Google and do a bit of groveling– if you have them, disclose unsavory links!– you may get the penalty reduced.
Algorithmic penalties seem to fluster people, but no site owner is helpless before the algorithm. If I had my druthers, I’d rather have to deal with an algorithmic penalty: typically, you can just undo whatever you’ve done and the problem will fix itself.
But how long before you’re back on top? That seems to be closely tied to how long it takes the search engines to crawl your site.
In the worst-case scenario, which may not even work with today’s post-Penguin algorithmic processes, you’d have to wait for a full BSL re-index of your site. If you only have a thousand on your site, you won’t have to wait long; if you have 10 million, it’ll be much worse.
But, even in that hypothetical scenario, there’s a solution. If I had 10 million pages of content that were causing me trouble, I’d just drop them from my site and 301-redirect every bad URL to an update HTML sitemap. I might even use an URL removal request or fifty to get rid of as many directories as possible. If your goal is to rebuild lost traffic, waiting for a full BSL re-indexing on a large site is not the optimal strategy.
Most SEO strategies are implemented without taking BSL factors into consideration. In most cases, this is a benign oversight, but if you’re trying to recover from a penalty and the search engine MUST re-crawl and re-index your website, you need to know your worst-case BSL scenario. It’s always good to clock bow-to-stern latency– at least once a year, preferably 2-3. So get to it and hopefully that will help with your dilemma!