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What a Penguin Penalty looks like – manual, unnatural links warning

What does a Penguin manual penalty look like?

How will a Penguin Penalty affect your site?

This post looks at a site that has received a manual penalty, the manual penalty is from of an unnatural links warning received in Google Search Console.

I decided to publish this as a reference for current and future clients, as to the consequences of building unnatural links. Yes your site will benefit, for a while, But can your business sustain the consequences when it gets penalised ?

Naturally ranking in Google requires a long term commitment to building great content that people naturally want to link to, give or take a push in the right direction.


  • Each site suffering from a manual Penguin Penalty will be affected differently, depending on the severity.
  • This site shown below has (in my opinion) been using a blog network – or link wheel to create their links.
  • Interestingly this site survived the original Penguin or Penguin 1.0 and subsequent updates until Penguin 2.0 in May this year.


This site owner approached me last year to have a look at his site and how his current SEO company was performing. The site was ranking very well for the majority of their money search terms. I was added to their analytics account and webmaster tools, hence my ability to provide screenshots, but for their anonymity i have erased all identifiable features.

During my audit I mentioned that the site was building unnatural and over optimised links. I recommended a full link audit and removal of some of the more unnatural links. This may result in a slight drop in rankings as we aim to replace the bad with good – this is when the conversation stopped.

In all fairness i may or may not have saved the site from a Penguin 2.0 penalty in the 5 months prior to the roll out of Penguin 2.0.


The Unnatural Links Warning

Interestingly the date of the message is almost a full month after Penguin 2.0 rolled out.


Google Unnatural Links Warning


The site then starts to see a drop in Impressions and clicks 2 days after the unnatural links warning


Traffic does not Drop Immediately

Looking in analytics the traffic does not take an immediate drop, but when adding a comparison it becomes abundantly clear as to the impact of the Penguin Penalty


This is where you see the impact of Penguin Penalty. Also when compared to the previous period, it now seems that traffic started to fall around May 22, so the site had already been earmarked for penalty a full 20 days prior to recieving the actual warning.


Search Terms Drop in Search Results

Rankings for keywords start to plummet.


The Link Profile

Looking at the image from Ahrefs it seems that there was a big link building push at the beginning of May, just in time for the roll out of Penguin 2.0.

Did the client push the company for more position 1 results ?  If you are in this position, show your client this article, if they still moan about Rankings, then i am afraid it is time to walk away.




There are very little natural links to the site.

Think before you buy Links!

We never build links for our local SEO clients or national clients and they rank well, how? We concentrate on the site, the product and creating relevant content that users want to link to.