Ever since the arrival of the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates from Google and the dreaded display of unnatural links warnings on computer screens, webmasters and SEOs have been confused on the right action to take to avoid getting penalized. While some warnings require reconsideration requests, others seem to need using the disavowing links tool to avoid falling afoul of these updates.
Google announced its Penguin update way back in April, 2012 and ever since affected webmasters and SEOs have gone into a tizzy after watching their rankings plummet. The Penguin update was an algorithm aimed at sites that indulged in heavy keyword stuffing and those that participated in link schemes. Sites that used links containing anchor text derived or purchased from sites that included article marketing websites were punished by Google by way of this update.
Once Google determines that a website is trying to influence search engine results in an unnatural manner, they send out an unnatural link warning to the website. However, the actual process of whether Google scrutinizes a site after receiving a spam complaint or if the company tracks specific niches such as casino websites, car insurance sites, etc., is still not known.
The Panda algorithm, on the other hand, was created in a bid to weed out web-pages that contained duplicate content or weak content. In fact, an entire website could end up being punished even if only a few pages contained weak or duplicate content. Thus, Panda was seen to review on page content rather than focus on links, which seemed to be the main criteria of the Penguin update.
Most webmasters and SEOs need to understand that the Penguin update is just an algorithm that automatically seeks out sites with bad links. On the other hand, unnatural links penalties require manual intervention from Google employees that send out these warnings after manually screening your website when they receive a specific complaint. This complaint could even be filed by your competitor in the form of a spam report. Once Google employees look at your backlinks and confirm that you have used undesirable techniques then you will receive an unnatural links warning.
A Penguin penalty usually does not affect an entire site, but only specific pages. However, if you have several anchor texted links that use several keywords and lead mainly to your homepage then your homepage itself will not be ranked as punishment.
The unnatural links penalty can affect a single keyword or a page or even an entire website. A site may be indexed but may not be displayed on the first ten pages for any keywords while in severe cases an entire site may be removed from indexing by Google.
A Panda penalty too may affect only a section of the site or in extreme cases the entire site. If your website possesses duplicate and weak content on a few pages then Panda could punish your entire website with poor ranking.
If you have been penalized by Penguin or Panda with a warning in your WMT then you should not opt for a reconsideration request since this option is open only for sites that receive a manual warning. An unnatural links warning will require a reconsideration request once you have taken all steps to clean your website.
You can try using the disavow tool in case you are penalized by the Penguin. However, there is no concrete proof that it will work and Google’s clarification is too vague to be sure. Nevertheless, the disavow tool will certainly work for an unnatural links penalty. Since a Panda penalty is not related to backlinks, using the disavow tool for Panda is of no use.
In case you have been warned by Penguin then it may not be necessary to manually remove links and using the disavow tool to remove bad links should do the trick. On the other hand, you can always remove bad links manually if you can do so. An unnatural links warning will require a lot of effort in terms of manually removing all flagged links as well as using the disavow tool whenever manual removal is not possible.
A Panda warning is not related to links removal and no manual removal is required.
In case you have taken all necessary action on a Penguin warning then your rankings will recover after the next Penguin refresh. However, if you do not want to wait till the next update, then one step is to just create a new page of the penalized page, but with high-quality links and then submit the new one for ranking. However, this move too could take time since Google now prefers sites to earn links rather than making them instantly.
In case of an unnatural links penalty, you will have to file a reconsideration request after clearing up your mess and your request may be processed from anywhere between 3 and 14 days, although it could even take a few weeks depending on the current load on Google employees. Once you get the much-anticipated “Manual Spam Action Revoked” message then you can expect your website to recover within 2 days. However, depending on the severity of the problem it could take anywhere from a couple of days to many months for a site to recover from an unnatural links penalty.
A site recovering from a Panda hit will also need to wait until Panda is refreshed even though some sites may need repeated Panda refreshes to recover.
The above points should hopefully reduce confusion related to Panda, Penguin, and Unnatural Links Penalties.