Whereas “never” is too definitive because the reality is any site has the potential to recover from Penguin, “may” is the optimal word in the title of Ben Pfeiffer’s article, “You May Never Recover From Google’s Penguin”.
Sure, you can rationalize the definitiveness of the “never, ever” scenario, with a nod to Taylor Swift singing “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, but this is SEO, not a pop song about a relationship breakup. SEO is not a “never, ever” type of scenario.
Coming back from a Google penalty may mean making big changes, but I’m optimistic enough to say that a strong focus on user experience and value-add for visitors presents an opportunity to rebound (are you listening Taylor?) and get back in with Google.
It’s true there isn’t much of a leg to stand on in terms of success stories from penalty recovery because there hasn’t been much in the way of recovery noted outside of strong brands. But before you go kicking out one of the three legs of the ole’ SEO stool, consider the challenge every site now faces (post-Penguin): the assessment (and possible removal!) of copious links and the rebuilding process required to replace them organically, over time. This equates to dismantling years of hard link-building work that is going to be costly, time-consuming and feasibly impossible to repeat. It’s likely that the sites which have recovered from Penguin had relatively strong link profiles, brand awareness, and other authority signals to begin with, so they were able to move past the update as compared to their competitors.
Maybe there is a reality check that’s relevant in Ms. Swift’s break-up song after all:
Then you come around again and say,
Baby, I miss you and I swear I’m gonna change
Trust me, remember how that lasted for a day
Metaphorically speaking, many SEO folks were “gaming” the system and Google, much like Swift, had had enough. Penguin was Google’s way of putting a foot down (in the form on an algorithmic kick) to get many back in line. Let’s face it, varying-shades-of-gray-to-black hat SEOs had it coming, right? Even given a rightly deserved swift kick, it moves practitioners toward a longer-term strategy of building a quality website with an understanding that there are no (easy) shortcuts when it comes to playing by Google’s rules.
Wait a second, this really is sounding like a relationship…
You go talk to your friends, talk
And my friends talk to me.
But we are never ever, ever, ever getting back together
The reality for anyone suffering from the Penguin penalty is that webmasters need time to evaluate, revamp, and rebuild. In the end, providing a quality user experience with content that satisfies the searcher intent, establishes topic authority and inspires strong engagement signals (and yes links) is the new roadmap to repairing your, shall we say, rather public breakup with Google. You heartbreaker, you.