How to get out of the filter for unnatural backlinks? or how to deal with the Penguin

20 January 2015

As I mentioned in the previous article about filters, one of the most common reasons for penalties are unnatural backlinks pointing to the website. This topic has been very popular lately. This is due to, among other things, the release of the update  Penguin 3.0. For people less familiar with the topic. Penguin is the official name of the Google algorithm update, whose task is to penalize websites that obtain unnatural links in order to achieve better positions in SERPs. If you think that your website has been punished and you would like to get rid of the filter as quickly as possible, please read the article below.

My website has been penalized, what should I do?

The first step, mentioned in the previous text, is an appropriate diagnosis. Before you take any action, you need to know what the most likely scenario is. For the purposes of the article, let's assume that your website suffered after an update called Penguin or in Google Webmaster Tools in the Search traffic -> tab. Manual actionsyou have information similar to the graphic below.

Regardless of whether a manual penalty or an algorithmic filter has been imposed on the website. The corrective actions in both cases are practically the same, but they differ in the last step (more on this later in the article). First, you need to collect and analyze the links that lead to your website. Once you have a selected list of unnatural links, you should ensure that they are removed or updated. Links that you are unable to remove or change should be added to the disavow file and reported to Google. Often, if you have a large number of links, e.g. from website directories, you will not be very effective in removing links yourself. Therefore, you will need to prepare the appropriate file.

You will learn later in the article how to prepare a file for the disavow tool and how to write a request to reconsider your website.

Step 1. preparing a list of links

Your first task will be to prepare a list of URL addresses of pages that contain links to your website. According to a Google employee, for this purpose the data that can be found at Google Webmaster Tools. To download them, go to theSearch traffic -> tab. Links to your website. Then in the Sources for the largest number of links section, click More.

Then click the Download more sample links button and save the file in CSV format.

Step 2. thorough analysis of backlinks

The next step, which is the most important in all corrective actions, is the appropriate analysis of backlinks. What should you consider when determining the quality of a given link? What links are unnatural in Google's eyes? When determining your link profile, you should pay attention to, among other things, anchor texts. An unnatural profile is characterized by a large number of links with commercial anchors, e.g. Adidas running shoes, Szczecin pharmacy, car repair in Warsaw, etc. For Internet users and, therefore, for search engine robots, links with such anchor texts are not natural. When linking on a forum or in a blog post to your favorite online store, we will not add a link in the form of "women's running shoes". It will be more natural for us to place a link in the form of a URL or company name. An excellent tool for a more detailed analysis of backlinks leading to your website will be

When analyzing links leading to websites, you must also pay attention to their sources. A link, e.g. in the form of a URL or company name, will not always be worth leaving. Therefore, below you will find a list of places and ways to obtain links that you should watch out for:


Link exchange systems existed at one timeone of the most popular methods of obtaining links. With just a few mouse clicks, it was possible to obtain very large amounts of links. Unfortunately, these links were mostly located on low-quality websites that were created especially for this type of activities. You could often find subpages with little content and dozens of links in the footers.

In addition, links from recently quite popular link exchanges on our market are also treated by Google as unnatural. Recently, my comment appeared on the Bluerank blog regarding a recently high-profile situation with fines imposed on a client in one of the link exchanges: Prolink and its customers fined for buying links


User profiles on online forums are another easy way to obtain links to a positioned website. Thanks to the use of appropriate tools, these activities are carried out automatically. As in the case of link exchange systems, in this case it is also possible to obtain many links with a few mouse clicks. The main problem in the case of this type of links is the fact that profiles are created on various forums, often foreign, which have nothing to do with the topic of the website and are completely spammed. Additionally, such profiles are created solely for the purpose of placing a link, they do not have any posts and do not participate in the development of forums. Moreover, these links have accurate anchor texts, which further reduce their value.

Of course, not all links in profiles are bad. Companies often set up accounts on many thematic forums to help their users solve problems, thus building authority among potential customers and increasing the recognition of their brand. You shouldn't be afraid of these types of links. However, try to make them in the form of your company name or URL.


Catalogs are another very popular source of links. A few years ago, many websites based their positioning activities mainly on this type of links. Unfortunately, actions taken earlier may lead to big problems today. Over-optimized entry titles, links in page descriptions with precise anchor texts, dozens of copied entries in many website directories are today a very common reason for imposing penalties on websites.


I.e. blogs, websites allowing the publication of thematic articles with SEO links. Speaking of "pretzels?" I mean low-quality websites whose main goal is not to provide users with valuable content, but only to place an article with a link to the website. Often, one article was published on several websites just to obtain a new link. Moreover, articles posted on such websites were usually worthless from the users' point of view. Basing your positioning strategy on pretzels used to be very popular, but today they are often the reason for filters imposed by Google.

Step 3. disavow file and removing unwanted links

Having prepared a list of domains with unnatural links leading to your website, you should consider which places you can easily remove links from. If you are the owner of some websites, you should remove or change links to your website. If, by contacting the webmaster of a given website, you are able to update or remove an unnatural link, you should do so. Of course, don't fight with single links for several hours or days. You will certainly have a problem with removing links obtained, for example, by a positioning company. Usually, they have all the login details, e.g. to catalogs or pretzels, and they will be reluctant to remove these links. Don't even start a fight if your profile contains a lot of links from forum profiles or link exchange systems. Remove such links by adding the domains to the disavow.


What should the disavow file look like?

The disavow file used to show/list domains or pages with non-intaural links is calleda regular .txt file which may consist of:

  • comments, which are preceded by the #
  • sign
  • excluded domains, which are preceded by the prefix ?domain:? e.g.
  • single URL addresses, e.g. in the form

Google on its site gives an example of such file:

# Most links have been removed from, but these have been omitted:
# I contacted the owner of on January 7, 2012,
# asking to remove links, but received no response
If, while analyzing the link profile, you come to the conclusion that the selected domains with links to your website are strictly spam websites, add them to the disavow file as "". You don't need to add many individual subpages if the entire website is very weak anyway. Reporting a disavow file is done via Google Webmaster Tools, and the submission form is available here.

If an algorithmic filter has been installed on your website, this step is also your last action in the fight against the Google penalty. In this case, you should wait until Google reaches the pages reported in file and will stop taking into account unnatural links leading to your website. From now on, you should monitor the entire situation on an ongoing basis? check whether your website returns to its previous positions.

Just a few months ago, you could only leave the algorithmic filter for unnatural links only when Google released another update called Penguin. Good news for you should be the fact that since the end of 2014 Penguin has been continuous and you will not have to wait for the next update. If the algorithm determines that your link profile is OK, you will enjoy being penalized. It is also worth mentioning the fact that the continuous construction of new valuable links is very important. Do not stop your actions by removing thousands of unnatural links, build new links that are natural in the eyes of search engine robots. Thanks to this, you will be able to get out of the filter even faster. In one of his hangouts, John Mueller from Google informed that it is also possible to leave the filter only thanks to new valuable links (link). However, it is difficult to imagine balancing often thousands or even tens of thousands of unnatural links solely by acquiring new ones.

Step 4. reconsideration request

Writing a request for reconsideration of the application, i.e. a reconsideration request, is the last step you should take when the penalty imposed on your website is a manual penalty (information about unnatural links to your website appears in GWT). In this message you should include information about the penalty, the actions you have taken to clean up your unnatural link profile and the disavow file you have prepared. It is worth showing Google that, despite previous SEO activities that are inconsistent with Google's guidelines, you are no longer doing so. You are working on increasing the recognition of your website in a natural way, e.g. by publishing expert articles, creating a community around your website, etc. After sending the application, you will have to be patient and wait for Google's response, which may come within a few or a dozen or so days (I have never waited longer). There can be two answers, one of them is information about the removal of the penalty, the other about its continued existence. Together with a negative response, you will also receive examples of links that Google considers unnatural. Check your profile for these types of links, you may have missed them in your previous analysis.

Don't be discouraged by the first negative response, sometimes you will have to send several reports and remove more links to get rid of the manual penalty.


Penalties for unnatural links may result in very large drops in the number of visits from natural search results, which in turn may translate into drops in earnings.from the website, regardless of whether it is an online store or a thematic portal. A lower number of visits by even several dozen percent may lead to the project's lack of profitability and thus its closure. Therefore, if your website has been penalized by Google, you should remove the filter as soon as possible.

Also read

Local SEO – what you need to know

Local SEO – what you need to know

Local SEO is crucial for smaller companies that operate on a regional rather than national level.

11 March 2021