Jonathan Leger – SEO And Internet Marketing Blog Internet Marketing Blog

2May/12Off

Ranking in Google after Penguin.

My family and I recently visited the Dallas World Aquarium. They have a lot of great exhibits with some cool exotic animals, including penguins. One thing that really surprised me about the penguins is how bad they smelled. I mean, it was awful.

That's why I think Google's naming of their latest update is so fitting. Like real life penguins, Google's Penguin update just stinks.

The goal of this latest update was respectable enough: prevent spammy backlinking techniques from being counted toward a site's ranking in the search results. The problem was that Google seriously overreached in defining what exactly constituted "spam links". The result is that a lot of high quality sites disappeared from the rankings. What's left is, to put it mildly, often less than ideal.

Without getting too much into what I perceive as Google's philosophy (this is supposed to be a practical post, after all), let me just say this: in my personal analysis of the search results post-Penguin, it appears that Google either didn't realize that a large portion of high quality sites use the backlinking techniques they now consider "spam", or they are so full of their own idealism about what should and shouldn't be rewarded in their algorithm that they simply didn't care how much damage they were going to cause to the quality and relevance of their results with this update.

Okay, enough of that. Let's move on to the practical stuff. Now that the Penguin is here (to stay, apparently), what's different about how you rank in Google?

Authority Domains Highly Favored

Let's start with what's pretty certain. My own analysis, and the analysis of other SEMs that I trust and respect, shows that big authority sites are more heavily favored than ever -- even if that favoritism means far less relevant results. Amazon's stock value should be rising rapidly based on how many search results they're showing up for in comparison to just a few weeks ago.

Here's an example that shows Google wrongly favoring authority over relevance. Do a search for window blinds, and look at who's sitting in the number one position:

A site selling window blinds? Um, no. It's software. While I'm sure a small number of people searching for window blinds are, in fact, looking for that software (since that's its name), it's safe to say that the vast majority are looking for blinds to hang on their windows. You can look at the AdWords ads to figure that out -- notice that they are all advertising window treatments, not software.

The reason Google is showing the software result first is that the domain it sits on (stardock.com) has far more authority than almost every other site in the top ten results (with the exception of overstock.com, who sits at number ten). Stardock.com has some five thousand unique domains linking to it, compared to two thousand or less for the next eight results (and most only have a few hundred domains linking to them). So even though the other results are far more relevant to the primary use of the keywords, they lose.

So why isn't overstock.com winning if it's got more authority than stardock.com? After all, Overstock has almost three times as many domains linking to it as Stardock.

That brings me to my next point.

Anchor Text Still Matters (Just Not Quite The Same Way)

The reason Overstock isn't winning in the window blinds results is because the anchor text of the links aimed at its ranking page don't reflect the query very well. They have some links targeting "window shades", but not "window blinds". On the other hand, the Stardock page has hundreds of links from different domains with the keywords "window blinds" in the anchor text.

As illustrated by this example, Google is still relying heavily on anchor text to help it determine relevance. However, one of Google's stated goals in this and other recent updates was to lessen the value of what they consider "anchor text over-optimization". That is, if the page has a large number of links to it, and too many of those links contain the exact keywords, the value of those links is lessened.

I'm seeing that in a lot of the search results now. More pages are ranking that have the terms in the anchor text of the links without having too many of their links loaded up with the exact search terms. Whereas before lots of pages with tons of exact-match anchor text were ranking.

What's the percentage you should shoot for? That's hard to say, because there's a lot of variation. It seems to be on a query-by-query basis. For some search terms the percentage of exact match anchor text is very high, but it's high for almost all of the top ranking pages. For other queries where exact-match links used to be very prevalent, the current results have far less exact keyword anchor text. So it's a mixed bag, but despite what you may have heard, anchor text is still very much a factor in ranking post-Penguin.

Were Exact Match Domains Targeted?

I've read a lot of claims on popular SEO forums that Google was targeting exact match domains (EMDs) in the Penguin update, but that's simply not the case. For every person who made that claim another member posted that their EMDs are doing better than ever.

I can attest to that. Many of Josh Spaulding's case study sites that he did for our Keyword Canine launch are ranking very well for their keywords -- and Josh likes to use exact match domains. Take a look:

Here you can see one of the case study sites Josh created based on a niche discovered by Keyword Canine, sugar addiction treatment. He created the site in late January of this year, and it's been sitting in the top ten since February. The site is an EMD, and wasn't touched by Penguin -- it currently ranks third for its primary keywords. That's just one example of many.

What's more likely is that many of the exact match domains that got hit by Penguin were using backlinking methods the update flagged as "spam", and so the sites went down. Since it's common for these kind of EMD "throw away" sites to get ranked with poor quality links, an inordinate number may have been affected, giving the impression that Google was targeting those kinds of sites.

But What Is A "SPAM" Link Anyway?

Okay, so Google said that this update was supposed to be targeting low quality ("spam") backlinks -- such as links that come from content that's completely unrelated to the link. Let me quote Matt Cutts directly from his blogpost announcing the update:

"Of course, most sites affected by this change aren’t so blatant. Here’s an example of a site with unusual linking patterns that is also affected by this change. Notice that if you try to read the text aloud you’ll discover that the outgoing links are completely unrelated to the actual content, and in fact the page text has been “spun” beyond recognition:"

Mr. Cutts then shows this image on the blog post:

That image is from this page. Notice that the unrelated link Mr. Cutts was talking about goes to dergimea.info, which simply redirects to checkintocash.com.

However, after the Penguin update checkintocash.com was still ranking number three in Google for "payday loan". There was a lot of riotous laughter about that all over the forums (including my own post at JLForums.com). It was ranking for the keywords until at least April 30th. Did Google apply an embarrassed manual penalty to the site when word got to them about it? Good question.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't an update to the algorithm, because there are still tons of sites ranking on the power of obviously spammy links. Take koobay.com, for example. It ranks number two for cheap cell phones:

What kind of backlinks does koobay.com have? Search this page for the phrase "Cheap Unlocked Cell Phones" and take a look. That page has a PageRank of four, so it passes significant link juice, and koobay.com has one seriously spammy link coming from that page. The link text is in English, but the page and the spam comment are in Spanish. If you search Google for the text of the spam comment, you can see that it was copy/pasted from some other page on the web.

So the link comes from a page that has nothing to do with cell phones or electronics, is in the wrong language, and is obviously spam.

But that's just the beginning. Koobay has tons of obvious spam links. Blog networks, spam blog comments, pages full of unrelated links. And yet Koobay.com ranks number two for a moderately competitive set of keywords. So much for Penguin filtering low quality links.

So How DO You Rank in Google Now?

So if Google wasn't targeting exact match domain names, and if anchor text still matters, and low quality links are still ranking sites -- why do the search results look so different right now?

I think Aaron Wall (an SEM I have a lot of respect for) put it very well on his blog post regarding Penguin:

"Now more than ever SEO requires threading the needle: being sufficiently aggressive to see results, but not so aggressive that you get clipped for it (and hopefully building enough protection that makes it harder for others to clip you). That requires a tighter integration of the end to end process (tying efforts into analytics & analytics back into efforts) & a willing to view SEO through a broader marketing lens & throwing up a number of hail marry passes that likely won't on their own back out but will give you a lower risk profile when combined with your other stuff."

Pay particular attention to the part about tying efforts into analytics and analytics back into efforts. That means you need to research the results for the keywords you want to rank for, and base your efforts on that research.

For instance, many of the keywords I track have results ranked on the power of links coming from link directories (including uncategorized, low quality "directories" that are obviously meant only for backlinking and SEO purposes). Google does not appear to have targeted those kinds of links at all, no matter how low the quality or obvious the manipulation. Those kinds of links have been working for many, many years, and still are.

My own analysis also indicates that Google wants to see more variation in anchor text now than before the Penguin update. Many results that were doing heavy exact-match keyword linking aren't ranking well anymore.

Finally, as I said before, authority domains are being favored more than ever. That includes blogs on Blogger.com. I've got an old blogspot blog that I stopped working on in 2008. It used to rank number one for "cat pictures" until I moved on to other projects and it eventually lost its ranking. But after the Penguin update, guess where it is? Back on page one (and earning a nice chunk of AdSense income as well, by the way). The most recent post to the blog is from February of 2008. So it might make sense to try and piggy back off of some of the authority domains like Blogger.

But as Aaron said, what YOU should be doing depends very much on the analysis of the keywords you're wanting to rank for. That brings me to my final point:

Above All Else, Do Your Research!

My purpose in showing you all of this isn't to point out how much the Penguin update failed to achieve any quality improvements in Google's search results (though it clearly did fail in that regard, and badly). My point is to demonstrate that much of what you may be hearing about this update -- be it on the forums or even from Google itself -- is simply not reflected in the actual search results. That means you need to do your own research and rely on the real-world data surrounding the results for any keywords you want to rank for.

I personally use Keyword Canine's new link analysis features to do my research (all of the data presented to you in this blog post came from Keyword Canine). I designed those features to cater to how my KC partner Josh and I do our SEO research.

Whatever tools you choose to use, though, do the research first and rely on the actual data, not on hearsay. There's just too much of that floating around right now. In the coming weeks and months I'm sure we'll all have a better handle on exactly what Google's algorithm actually targeted, but even then it's always best to do the research and rely on that information rather than on general SEO theories.

Please put your thoughts and questions in a comment after this post.

Related Internet Marketing Q&A

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Comments (157) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I am looking forward to seeing what happens when the tidal wave subsides a little. Every time Google makes an update it appears we all get dumped by a huge wave and then after a few weeks…we see who floats…and who dies in the water.

  2. Yes, i think for the time being the search engine has missed some sites that can’t be in top 3 at all..In the near future we can await the next penguin update for sure just like with the panda 3.6 update.I think google will then try to fix the problems they face now with sites ranking in top 3 which don’t have relevance at all.The same for sites that still rank well which have spam links pointed to them.

  3. My blogs are now nowhere from the first of google. This update hit me. But, I agree that keyword research will always be the main reason to stay. I will do my own research better.

  4. Thank You for All the Great Information. I always look forward to your articles. I’m sure that Google is trying to get a handle on what is happening at the same time they’re keeping their eye over there, back, shoulder. Rumor has it BING is working night and day. 24/7. This could get very interesting.

  5. Jonathan thanks for the wonderful post. It’s sad to see the window blinds effect here. It takes away the relevance from searches in order to find the PR/Authority only. Not good for users. I wonder how many businesses this messed up. Anyways, this post was very informative about the penguin update,

  6. Hey Jon,

    Regarding EMD, I feel Google cannot avoid it simply it’s because it’s just intended for keyword rankings in SERP. I do agree that exact match keywords that presents in a part of URL after the TLDs may lost the importance in SERP rankings. According to your post, the EMD may place as third. Even some EMDs have promoted to top and some not. For such case, I have only one thing in my mind: “if you do a proper SEO (white Hat), Google still promote you even if it is an EMD. Moreover, if not doing proper SEO, then there is no advantage of keeping an EMD…

    What do you think about it Jon???

  7. I own almost 75 websites including some big websites, niche blogs and micro niche blogs, i spent almost 3 days to collect data of my blogs did comparison and anaysis and found and noticed from recent google penguin update that google is penalizing those who have mass backlinks (more than 200) with domain’s age less than 1 year, one the other hand google is ranking micro niche websites with long tail keywords very fast with quality contents even without having a single backlink.

    I was surprised when i checked one of my newly developed micro niche blog having domain age only 41 days without any backlink, but i wrote unique contents and submit it to google and today i saw it is ranking on first page of google after competing almost 7900 allintitle pages. (Great Google)

    But i have been penalized for couple of my blogs because of having mass backlinks and i came to know that i use Senuke x, LinkWheels, bulk article submissions and profile backlinks previous months on these blogs , so google penalized me for these and unlink all the backlinks from my google webmaster tools account for these two blogs and i am nowhere on google for these blogs and their keywords(Bad me not Google, because i did in wrong way)

    Conclusion: Do not focus on link building but focus on quality of contents and create micro niche websites to be focus on the topic and link all your inner pages and articles to your home page with(www.yourdomain.com). Your all inner pages should point to your home page with your focus main theme keyword just do it and you will see the progress, i did same in last month and i achieved great reults even with penguin update.

  8. Hi, Thanks for your thoughts on Penguin, and I thought your readers might be interested in signing this petition and airing your grievances to Google:
    http://www.change.org/petitions/google-please-kill-your-penguin-update-l#

  9. Hi Jonathan
    Thank you very much again for sharing this information with all of us.
    I think that is right what you saying but exist something what I have seen.
    All domains are not treated on the same way; new domains are treated different then old domain.
    By G…. for new domain is maybe preferable to have presented links with the same group keywords. On another hand for old domain is preferable to have more diversity keywords in linking. G…. analyzing now deeper and wider. So, now is presented more analyzing surroundings of links. Probably they can identify better if is surrounding article. And how we can see, on the result of search engine is coming spam sites that are before DE indexed. Probably too much for that algorithm to chewing this information, and decide to index them again.
    But they have so many holes in this algorithm, so everything is look like holy war against witches like in Dark Age.
    Looking for the spam and killing it is more important than find maximum possible good result searching for the right page or post for asking keyword.
    And I think they are going still to update this more. Who knows what, how and when? But for sure they are very determinate to do that.
    How I can see they start with this process even they are not ready for that yet. So strong push for something what can cost them lesser costumers and losing money.
    Social impulse is very important and they are pushing google +.

  10. All my sites were hit very hard which had resulted in a 50% drop in traffic across the board; however, today I noticed that there has been an increase of around 30% in traffic across all my sites. So I’m wondering if Google updated their Penquin algorithm because of complaints, and re-issued it?

  11. I love the strip tease nurses as an example of a bad search result. I’ve found that in many of my niches spammy press releases and lame Zimbio posts are ranking very highly. I’ve seen some online products being outranked for their own product name by some weird stuff, too. I seriously wonder if the people at Google are this inept or they like messing with us!

  12. Looks like we might be in for a bumpy ride with this update

  13. Well Jon, I was one of the people that got seriously whacked. I had hundreds of words on the 6 web URLs for my business web sites. I would say of all the words I was on page 1 for in March, 90% of them are down below 100 now. I have been careful to follow the rules and not overdo it. But the phone has quit ringing totally. I based my business on this way of doing things and I am out of business. I mean it. We had a good year last year. Not now. This sucks. If there was ever a time to drag Google into court this would be it. They must really hate personally. They actually canceled my Adsense account 2 weeks ago too. About the time things really stopped working. This was not an overnight thing. It took several weeks to complete.

    • Bob,

      Same thing hit us as well. It seems to have targeted mainly the small-company websites that are trying to expand and grow their product base. SEO is very sensitive this way in that it continually changes. One night you see a aspect of SEO helping you, the next night, it hurts you.

    • Sorry to hear, Bob, that really stinks. I have been on page 1 and 2 of Google for at least 4-5 years for the keyword ‘alkaline water’. That’s been huge for me. I am way off the charts…meaning low..bad…insignificant. My site has had a 50% reduction in traffic. I have over almost 1000 indexed pages and I’m dying a quick death. Thank you Google, that update really sucked the life blood out of my web existence.

  14. Why so many updates? To be honest they only seem concerned with ranking ehow.com livestrong.com about.com and webmd. Most of these companies just employ writers with fleeting knowledge on a subject.

  15. Google has started to penalize for low quality link directories so you need to rethink what you said above for that as well.

    Example and I don’t mind putting it for an example for others.

    Google said

    “When determining whether a link to your site could be inorganic, keep
    in mind whether the link is intended for users or for the sake of
    search engine rankings. For example, here are some inorganic links to
    your site:
    http://www.theseoking.com/Search_Engine_Optimization/page-2.html?s=A
    anchor text: affordable seo services ”

    Notice it is a link directory on a pr4 website and the everything about the link is 100% in the right section even on a url page. Even my anchor text is in my url of my website. Yet they have penalized us for links just like this. Google sent that example to me in my webmasters.

    So if your building to low quality directories or even quality I am 100% sure that soon you will get penalized for them, just like we did.

    Also note: we only have 49 directories total we built to thats it and they caught on.

    M

    • If you’re saying you own all 49 directories, that’s your problem. That’s far too easy for Google to spot.

      More problems with that directory: it uses mixed languages. The “articles” are one solid block of spammy text. You’ve got links to adult sites (a red flag for sure). There are all kinds of links in the sidebars that are not NOFOLLOW and are obviously being sold. The directory houses more than a quarter MILLION links. The site screams “link farm”. It’s no wonder Google flagged your links as spam.

      • I don’t own any of the directories I have a link on that page. I even quoted the anchor text above. The 1 link on the page that i posted above is my link. Google tracked this specific directory down that I DO NOT OWN and they flagged me for spam for posting on the directory.

        When i said 49, I meant I only have 49 directory backlinks total to my websites and I was flagged for everyone on of them. Google caught them easy. Yes they are different platforms, spread out across many months. Yes they are on different ips.

        Matt

  16. It will be interesting to see what lame products will be flooding the market about gaming Penquin in the weeks to come.

    • Ha ha… I was thinking the same.

      Heck I even thought of releasing one myself called “My Site is Ranking Better than Every Because I Did No Off-Page SEO”. Then I realized that I had more sites doing worse even though they were clean as a whistle and nothing to penalize.

      On a side note I also work in an offline business and we’ve even got a domain redirect ranking in the top #10 of Google. A lot of competition got wiped out and I doubt they did anything ‘wrong’.

      My gut feeling is Google have to adjust, amend or change something. I don’t think Penguin 1.0 has worked.

  17. Great post on the Penguin update. Overall I have seen little change on the majority of my sites. All seem to have fluctuated either up or down but on average I survived intact traffic wise.

    The new link analysis looks super handy in Keyword Canine as well as the social signal report. Do you plan on adding Google +’s to the social signals?

  18. Respectable insight Jon, keep fighting the good fight. Burgess Meredith would be proud ;)

  19. It was fun to see Google results…..lol. I launched a website in 1st week of April with keyword targeted domain and Penguin strikes…..but I still on first page of Google, seems like new website not affected at all.

  20. Hi,

    Most of my sites have also gone of the front page an interesting thing I noted is that some of my sites which have been pushed to oblivion for the exact match keywords now has its privacy and and about us pages in the front page which have nothing to give in terms of the search phrases…

  21. Hello Jonathan
    Nice post about the Google changes, does the determination of ranking and measuring page favorable(s) rely also on if a site is W3C validated? If the site has several problem issues will this determine bad marks (DING’s) to the PR’s and indexing fundamentals?

  22. Great post Jon! Got killed in the last update and I believe unfairly so. I was told that there were too many “unnatural” links to my site. Those links included links from some of my own blogs, which by the way had appropriately themed content. I have been online in my category for over ten years painstakingly building a quality site. I give away 100% of my advice and information, including tutorials, and rely entirely on Adsense and some selected affiliate products for income. Not the greatest business model I know but more in line with the spirit of the Internet since day one.
    I have, of course, appealed my situation but I think because of the volume of email associated with this algorithm change I continue to get, stock answers which are not very helpful and don’t take into consideration the explanation associated with the reconsideration request. It’s pretty exasperating as well as financially devastating (went to zero overnight.) One would think that beneficent Google would be a little more in tune with the small website owner.
    One thing that I’ve noticed with this update is that, more often than not, there are an awful lot of crumby sites that are ranking higher. Also not only have I lost my ranking, I am nowhere to be found for any of my keywords.

  23. Ditto, ditto, ditto…lol.

    In other words, I agree and concur with just about everything in this post. Google not only pushed my site out of the way – they shoved me into oblivion!

    My nine year old domain – for just about every keyword that was important to me – they have taken me out of the index. Even my EMD “products for resale” has been relegated to position 147. But, there are some thin sites that are ahead of me for the same terms. And of course, About.com and Ehow articles are within the top ten mix…

    One site, “productresale.com” (not my site) is sitting in the top ten spot now. It doesn’t even have 100 links – and they are not exactly from authority sites. And my site is at 147 for “products for resale”?

    In addition, I don’t have “spammy links” either – at least in my opinion. Most are from blog comments, some directories, and links related to the wholesale industry.

    But, I guess to Google – they see some of the links as a spam fest. I just don’t know. My content should have passed muster. Accept for a few articles, all of the content is original. Maybe it’s because my site is so ugly? lol…

    Yahoo and Bing have been spreading the love however. They listed said important keywords at the bottom of their search engine results for a long time. Now, they put most of them in the top ten. But, they are not making any money for me. Most of the “money” came from Google.

    This was a huge wake up call for me. It should have been a long time ago. I will never depend on “G” again. I did not get into this business to work for a search engine. Ya live, Ya learn…..Just sayin…..Robert C….

  24. Lol, that’s the best comment on Penguin I have read so far: they named it because Penguins smell so bad.

    Here is another very interesting study on SEOMoz that was done long before the Penguin. An experiment with exact anchor text.

    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/which-type-of-link-anchor-text-is-the-most-effective-an-experiment.

    After you’ve read the article, google how the 3 websites rank now. Very interesting. The one that had no matching anchor text (blue widgets) is wiped out, the total and partial anchor text websites rank at the top.

  25. Great Post! Yes, it’s thrown my sites through a loop. My one site that had been ranking well fell off and like you an old one popped up – so I started working on that one more. Always changing!

  26. Hey Jon,

    Good stuff and inspiring… you inspired me to chime in on our site with my opinions about all of this as well and, btw, I linked back to this article for my readers – good stuff!

    Check it out if you get a minute – love to hear your feedback…

    -Troy

  27. Thank you for updates, Jonathan! A few our websites have been heavily affected by the latest Panda and then Penguin updates (Who came up with these names starting with the letter P?). The filter results are also different from site to site which makes it difficult to figure out what has triggered the updates in the keyword ranking.

  28. Jon,

    You hit the nail on the head with this comment at the beginning of your post

    “Google either didn’t realize that a large portion of high quality sites use the backlinking techniques they now consider “spam”, or they are so full of their own idealism…”

    They are indeed full of it and it isn’t idealism…they are egomanical jerks that enjoy making all of us website owners jump through their latest “hoop”, whatever it may be. First it was reciprocal linking, now they’re into the so called social networks to see who likes us. Who cares, I sure don’t. I have nothing but the highest contempt for Google and it’s spoiled founders. My only wish in life is that someone starts another search engine and puts Google into the deep pits of bankruptcy with a stock value of .01. What a glorius day that would be.

    It doesn’t matter what kind of algo they develop, there are always a lot of smarter individuals who know how to beat it. I could write a book on my feelings or lack thereof for Google, but it wouldn’t sell.

  29. I had a series of links coming from blog networks and as soon as Google caught on to those networks and de-indexed them, my rankings significantly dropped…. Anyways, I probably would have been OK had I not relied solely on those networks for ranking…

    Article directories seem to have been around for a while and help a bit.

  30. Hi Jonathan,

    You’ve got some very good advice here… many blog posts I’ve been reading over the last week about Penguin are giving out advice like “check for keyword stuffing” and “cloaking” and “write original, quality content” other obvious stuff. However I think that there are a huge number of people who write quality content and are completely white hat in their on site and marketing methods, yet they’ve still been hit.

    I know that Google have cleared up some of the more well publicized embarrassing sites that were ranking high in the SERPS e.g. the famous blank make money blogspot blog, but there are still plenty of terrible results to be found.

    I searched a few minutes ago for “make money online” in Google UK and found another blank site that said “launching soon”, plus a blog that hadn’t been posted on for a year. For “home business” there was a site with about 100 words on the home page and 3 other pages in total with very little content on them. So quality content rules? Mmm, I don’t think so.

    It will be interesting to see if sites that can make their backlink profile look more natural will be able to recover from this, and if so, how long will it take.

    In the mean time I’ve been using Bing – the results are much more sensible!

    Cheers,
    Suzanne

    • You aren’t alone. I’ve had to use Bing to get the answers I’ve been searching for lately as well — and for the first time I might add.

  31. My hope is that Google just fired out the Penguin Beta version . We hope they will release soon GPSP1 ( Google Penguin Service Pack 1 ) :)

    • I’m sure we’ll see some adjustments, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for any major reversals. Google’s never done that.

      • Exactly. Everything historically points to Google creating an _ever tighter_ noose of Authority and Trust that’s implicitly designed to consolidate visibility, power and money to the Top. Clearly there’s a need to adjust the Penguin algo because it’s flaws are so visible – and some will find breathing room. But the noose itself isn’t going to magically unwind.

  32. Similar with the above comment. I am also done with Google. I will treat traffic from them as bonus. Some of my sites that do not have any back links (only from RSS directories) get a much better position than before. But the example (koobay.com) tells a different story that spammy links work. A confusing situation.

  33. Great article!
    It is so tedious, this whole thing with Google continuously moving the goalposts. But then again, they are kings of this empire and they are free to do in their kingdom whatever they see fit. I think it’s a shame that some high authority sites have been penalised, though I can kinda see why Google have done this. They are giving merit where it is due, I suppose.

  34. Jon,

    Very information article and great information from the comments.

    Seems that Google is attempting to reward “natural” links coming from relevant authority sites. It appears that aged, so-called authority sites, such as thin blogger.com site, are getting too much authority juice.

    In the end, it’s pretty clear what Google is trying to do. But for those who got hit, it’s a difficult and painful short-term fix.

  35. I have 6 sites up, but only 2 I’ve been focusing on the last 2 months. ALL of my sites need a lot of work. No change in serp for the 4 I am not focusing in on.

    But before and since this last Google fiasco, the 2 I have been trying to rank, have been slowly going to page 1 and a few are at #1 and #3 on page 1 for some chosen keywords.

    These 2 sites are NOT spammy but I believe I do need more content. But what’s there is ranking and was ranking before. [I have waited to see if the other shoe drops. lol]

    About 2 months ago, I did a little backlinking. So I plan to do a little more. But only a little. :)

    Even though I have not been negatively affected (yet) by google, I have come to realize (by reading all posts here and there) that I had better not depend on Google.

    I feel very bad for everyone who has worked so hard.

    I am now looking to the other things to help traffic because Google is a game that’s NOT fun.

    Take care everyone,
    Donna :)

  36. i have two blog, i optimize it together
    blog A just has 6 posts, and blog B has 24 posts. and…. Penguin hit my blog (just blog B)

  37. Personally i see drops on my sites where i anchor text linked only 1 keyword. Those sites dropped fast for the anchor texted keyword but still rank fine for other keywords. My goal is to alternate some new keywords into a more “normal” looking link building campaign.

    Johnathon, how were sites in your link network affected?

  38. Great article Jon,

    Your postings are always informative and educational. I have seen some minor changes in client sites, but no major slap as of yet. But I have always taken care to follow the basic on-page SEO rules with internal and external linking. If you keep things relevant and focused it seems that Google tends to leave you alone.

    Don’t penguins live their lives in the cold? Maybe Google should learn to chill out for a while and let things just cool down.

    “Matt Cutts” what are you thinking??

  39. Nice article, but what do you expect? You need human eyes to see what’s ‘good content’. No algorithm ever gonna change that. The power of our brains.

  40. Hey, Jonathan!

    Thanks very much for the info, I was badly affected by these smelly Penguins and obviously I am really curious about what guys, like you (we appreciate and respect) think, but of course I am matching what you say to my testing and searching.

    Thanks for this post, it helped me seeing even clearer than I could see alone!

    Regards
    Steven

  41. I’m with Mark (comment a few miles back up this track.) Can someone give me a step by step for adjusting my unfairly-penguined site and getting it back to where it was?.

    Do I review every link and observe a lower ratio for KW text?
    Do I analyze every link to verify its relevance?
    OR is this a waste of time and I just need to fit inside the box going forward?

    Thanks Jon. Great stuff — I just need help with the specifics

    chris

  42. Thank you Jon!

    I checked my ranking today and from sitting at the 1 or 2 spot or the past 6 or so months, I dropped to 15 and off the first page on google.

    Immediately I went back to this email for a thorough read. I now sit super confused.

    I do have an exact domain and key word, however I use a variety of anhor texts, not just my key word or domain name.
    I back link to authority sites via variety link texts
    I put much time into my writing and articles to not be spammy.
    I tweak my sites weekly if not every few days.
    So just that Information alone, having read your article, I don’t quite understand why I was dropped.

    It seems googles new way is very contradicting, leaving me not knowing which direction is up to order to fix my rank. Spam sites ranking, exact domain sites ranking, exact domain anchor texts ranking, all the thing they were looking to stop with this new algorithm. Yet I do none of the above and get dropped?

    Any help Or advise is beyond appreciated.

    Thank you again!
    Jessica

  43. I have several quality sites that are now buried in Google’s serps so deep they can’t be found. And some old crappy ones that are now ranking better. 2 sites that sell products are buried and now the first page replaced by sites selling stuff that doesn’t match the kw…

    As for the consumer… Bing’s results look better and better all the time… my sites still rank correctly on Bing… too bad it’s not used as much as Google, but if Google keeps serving up the crap that this update is dishing up, Bing will start getting more and more traffic.

  44. I have noticed some strange results. Looking forward to see how this all sorts out and adapt accordingly.
    Why are these algo slaps are named after “cute” animals? The names should be more foreboding.
    Thanks for the information. You usually have your fingers on Google’s pulse.

  45. Being new to the whole internet business and website scene and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t is hard enough. But getting told that what you have been doing and the efforts you have been making may be counting for next to nothing is a bit hard. Not being all that proficient at this marketing game to begin with and having to learn at a slow pace by trial and error is tough on me. I appreciate being able to read all I can on what’s going on and what is and what is not, or may not work. The only thing for a guy like myself,”the little guy” to do, is keep plugging away till I hit pay dirt. I can only hope it doesn’t take that much longer before people know I’m alive. Thanks for the info and keep it coming.

    • Ha ha ha – I just looked at a site I have that I haven’t touched for a year and a half and found that it is at number one rank in Google. Maybe I should try to monetize the site. It was a learning site for me and when I found out I should do all that marketing and SEO stuff, I just decided to forget about it.
      I really think that people deciding to make millions with websites is what has caused all the problems – what Google is always trying to fix with their algorithms. This is rather ironical because they are using a machine to try to determine who is real and who is providing worthwhile content that people want to read. I agree with Pascal above who says that we really need humans to determine what is good content. Are there any of those types of search directories or whatever they are called around any more? I’d sure prefer to use them.

  46. If you rely on google to create your income … You agree to play by their rules. Did you expect Google to care about your income? No … They only care about theirs. There are lots of ways to make money that don’t rely on Google. This update got rid of some of my spammy competitors so I don’t mind it at all.

  47. Hi, 2 things:
    1. here is a link to the best Penguin data I have seen. The data appears to be real, but just like you I am reading it and am not the origin.
    http://www.micrositemasters.com/blog/penguin-analysis-seo-isnt-dead-but-you-need-to-act-smarter-and-5-easy-ways-to-do-so/

    2. Jonathan, if you remember a thread by Enfusia I did on the warrior Forum that you commented on about 7 – 9 days before the update where I was talking about this happening. I was about 20% or so off target. But Google’s serps are wacky so I think they are off target too.

    I have a Nursing job KW I rank for where now the #1 spot is taken up by “jobs for Ex Felons”. No that is not a joke, I wish it was as I was #1 for that term.

    On a term similar to “what is it that nurses do” there is a video on the 1st page of in home nurses doing strip teases. They don’t go 100% naked and there’s a link to go to their site to see the whole show. I don’t think this is what the majority of Nurses are looking for when job hunting.

    Have a great one, Patrick

    • I did a quick search on the “new improved Google” (sic) for “what is it that nurses do”. I didn’t get any strip tease sites but I got this one ranking #3 which gives this information:

      Top 10 reasons to become a nurse

      Pays better than fast food, though the hours aren’t as good.
      Fashionable shoes & sexy white uniforms.
      Needles: It’s better to give than to receive.
      Reassure your patients that all bleeding stops….eventually.
      Expose yourself to rare, exotic, & exciting new diseases.
      Interesting aromas.
      Do enough charting to navigate around the world.
      Celebrate the holidays with all your friends…..at work.
      Take comfort that most of your patients survive no matter what you do to them.
      Courteous & infallible doctors who always leave clear orders in perfectly legible handwriting.

      www(dot)workjoke(dot)com/nurses-jokes(dot)html
      Really useful information!

  48. maybe penguin needs more time to really accomodate on the entire web. how comes that some sites are affected and other not?

  49. So if it’s spammy links then adding spammy links to your competions site would get them slapped???? That makes no sense … Perhaps I am missingsomething inyour post Jon ?

    • Mobile – As I understand it, there is no “slapping” going on, it is simply that Google may be trying to get sites to drop down in the listings due to the fact that the value of spammy links which were helping, has been reduced. At least, that was their stated aim, but the result has been less than successful.

      If you create spammy links to try to get a site slapped I think you will be disappointed.

  50. Fantastic, very informative article. I especially enjoyed the part about Blogger.com and your old, outdated blog from 2008 ranking well again. It’s hard to believe that Google is now highly ranking sites that aren’t updated often, but I’ve had something very similar happen to me. Two blogs (one on Blogger.com and one from WordPress.com) that I haven’t updated at all in at least two years have all of a sudden started ranking in the top 5 SERP’s again. Both of these blogs have not been updated in at least two years, if not longer, and had not even been in the top 100 SERP’s. Very strange.

  51. I’m reading comments about certain ip addresses being hit, and I think that’s bs.

    Here is a quick example. I have 2 sites on the same server.

    Site1 was moving up in google and back in december I put it on a private blog network. That helped it climbed to page 2, and one of its inner pages made it to 5th place on page 1. However, I didn’t do any linking to this inner page.

    Site2 on a similar niche, I used the same theme and site structure as site 1. And I actually did a mass article distribution which linked to both, site1 and site2.

    Both sites are on the same server. A few days before penguin hit, I noticed that I couldn’t find site 1 at all on the first 30 pages of google. I gave up looking. However, the inner page that was on page 1, still sat there, so didn’t think much of it.

    Then penguin hit, my traffic dropped by 80% and I saw that the inner page which was on page 1, fell to bottom of page 1. Main domain name still missing in google.

    Site2 which only had article submissions and some bookmarks went up to 3rd place in page1. I was sitting at the bottom of page 1 for a while.

    So for those saying that specific IP’s were hit, I don’t think that’s the case.

    From my own sites i can determine that the site which got hit had private blog networks that got de-indexed, and it seems that passed negative juice to my site.

    Site2 has similar links to site1, except for the private blog networks and that one went up in rankings.

    Thus now my stragegy is to get that inner page back to pg 1 by doing article submissions, maybe wikis, and definitely google videos. We’ll see if that works since I got nothing else to lose on that site.

  52. Hello Jon
    I havent really noticed much movement up or down.

  53. As usual, this is first class information Jon – thanks

  54. The only site of ours that didn’t seem to get hit was local brick and mortar site that has never gotten any aggressive backlinking. It had on page SEO similar to other sites we have, but it’s the only one to have weathered this storm. This local site is on the same IP as many other sites that disappeared from the SERPs.

  55. Conclusions are simple for me – we need more links than before, we need more variety of links than before, and we need more anchor text variety than before. And spammy links still work.

  56. Hi John. You know I was starting to deel alone on those forums. I had my moan and got slated for it in the process. I was nice to hear someone backing up your words in the same way without being told to “get over it” We’re now starting to see some information about how we can sort this out. Thanks for the usefull info

  57. Awsome posts on this latest update! First time I have been negatively impacted by a panda update. I know others have asked this question but not sure I have read an answer but what stops competitor from nuking competition into sandbox or at least out of top 20?

  58. Great post. For my sites, half hit to down. But some hit to up. SO analyzing the up ones very much and planing a new similar site but more bigger. Maybe I can get the right direction.

  59. Jon,

    My main affiliate site dropped about 5 ranks and all I used for it was senuke. I am now using article builder and taking more time to make it look more human, so hopefully I see my ranks go back up.

  60. I don’t buy into the suggestion that Google now has an algo that penalize IP addresses automatically or widely. Surely the vast majority of websites on the Internet must be on shared hosts with shared IP addresses. If Google was automatically penalizing IP addresses with its algo, then the vast majority of websites on the Internet would have be hit.

    Of course, Google’s claim about this update making only a 3% difference in SERPs is either a Matt Cutts joke or else shows that Google is now employing complete idiots as opposed to partial idiots!

    As for the effects of this update, I have a website that is completely unaffected. It is a very old website on which no SEO whatsoever has been done. Unfortunately, it was created by me when I was wet behind the ears and it does not cover a money niche and I earn less than 25 cents a day from it.

    Another website I have was hit hard. 75% of SERP visitors disappearing overnight. However, on this site I am at a complete loss. It has quality, unique content that I created from scratch. No spun, copied, reworked, or curated content at all. It has over 100 pages of useful, interesting and highly targeted information.

    I used all the popular SEO tactics on this website, but avoided the more aggressive ploys – mostly because I just could not afford them.

    The results are mixed. All my main pages have been condemned to the depths of SERPs. However, one page that has consistently ranked #1 in Google, still ranks #1 in Google. I cannot recall doing anything different from an SEO point of view to this page. Unfortunately, it is a very low traffic page without much potential for earning. But I am confused just why it has retained its #1 position.

    Finally, this website now seems to rank for searches that are 99% irrelevant to its niche and content. Again, unfortunately, these are not high volume or money-related searches. And, of course, anyone entering my site via these searches exits almost immediately as they are completely unrelated to my content.

    The only conclusion I can come to is Google has really screwed up on this update.

    From now on I’m using bing and duckduckgo.

    Also, do you realise that Google automatically reads emails sent via gmail electronically to target adverts at you?

    So, over the coming weeks it will be bye bye to gmail for me. Also, anyone who sends me an email by gmail will also receive a reply from me asking them to communicate via a provider that doesn’t pry into its contents and respects privacy!

    • Robbie

      I think I read that there is a website service now at which you can register and opt out from your emails being used to target you with ads. I just thought that might save you effort in moving your email address to another provider? Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of it!

  61. Great post Jon Thanks.

    I am sure that EMD’s are getting a boost. I had one which I bought about 5 months ago and have done nothing with. I loaded wordpress and then left it alone apart from using it as a test page to try opt in boxes from a couple of different autoresponder companies. Guess what? checked today and its sitting at number 11 with the words
    “Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging! ”
    Not exactly the great content anyone would be searching for.

  62. I guess for us entrepreneurs it’s time to ‘think different.’ Back to the drawing board…

  63. Thanks for the great article. I’ve “lost” a good few of my sites due to Panda and Penguin, mostly affiliate sites but fortunately my client sites have not been affected despite similar backlinking methods.

    Although Google try to improve search results I’m amazed that you still see sites with no relevant content. The following example also reinforces your observation that EMDs haven’t been targeted.

    If you Google “SEO Scotland” on page 2 you’ll see a site seoscotland.co.uk. The site has the meta title “SEO Scotland | Search Engine Optimisation Scotland” but no meta description and only about 10 poor quality backlinks. The site has no content about SEO – the homepage is about the “Clearly Modern” theme and every other bit of content on the site is Lorem Ipsum.

    I blog posted about this over a year ago and reported the site to Google but it’s still there.

    And as for Google’s loathing for paid links why do they put paid ads above the organics. The most relevant websites for a search should be the first few in the organics not the mostly irrelevant paid links disguised in a slightly pinky orange box that you can’t even see on most laptops.

    Who’s the spammer!

  64. Great post and some great ideas I’ll be working on.

    Google dropped my Convection Oven site which is all original content and pictures and was getting decent visitors. I’ll wait to see how it works out.

    What is annoying for me as a curious person is when I go looking for relevant current information, I’m finding in the top 10 sites that information from 2008 and 2009.

    One recent example was how to update a computer (a search I was doing for a friend). The top 3 results were from microsoft.com, cool, that makes sense, however sitting at #3 was a post from 2009 that didn’t have Vista or Windows 7 on it. How to update a computer with information from 2009 is simply not relevant or current.

    Fail Google, I want my good search results back please.

  65. Heya Jon,

    you say do your research, I don’t think I totally understand that.

    I use google’s kw tool, then MS to assess strength of competition. Usually I go for long tail with good numbers, meaning high exact and low quantity and quality (mainly back links) of competition.

    My blog id in the fitness/health niche.
    Can you elaborate? Without buying KW Canine, how do I “research properly” as you suggest, can you outline the steps?

    That would be much appreciated by me and many others I’m sure, who might not know exactly how to proceed now.

    Thanks,

    Mark

    • Mark,

      I think what John means is to do research on the backlinks of sites that rank on page one for the keyword you want to rank for. In other words, in the case of my site that got totally wiped out of the results I might add, I need to use a tool to look at the backlinks of all the sites that rank on page one for the keyword “save your marriage”. Then I need to go after the type of links that they rank for.

      My concern, and probably the concern of many, is how do we clean up the links that got our sites dropped from the search index?

      Mark

  66. Hi Jon,

    As you pointed out, there are still a lot of spammy sites and low quality sites ranked on the front page. Perhaps Google needs a couple more weeks to tweak the algorithm…

    Another thing is about negative SEO, not sure how Google will cope this.

  67. Brilliant post and good advices !

  68. Jon, thank you for this post – please keep the information coming, sadly it does not make me feel any less depressed!

    Prior to this last update, I was just about to sell my best site (not the one my name links to in this post) to help pay for my son’s wedding – now its traffic has dropped from 1500 visitors a day to around 200.

    I believe this is a result of my inexperience, having used UAW and TK almost exclusively to build links to my sites with a little commenting added in. I tried to vary my anchor text profile to be as wide as possible – but I didn’t add in any page urls or ‘noise’ (“click here” type links).

    I cannot build the number of links needed to recover manually using guest posting and unique content, so I am unsure of what to do or how to go forward.
    It seems like the big guys who could afford to build expensive backlinks have survived as have older sites that used unique and quality content but built few backlinks.

    I tried to build sites with quality (or at least, unique and useful) content and lots of backlinks and got burned!

    • “I am unsure of what to do or how to go forward.”

      Nor is Jon Leger.

      IN the end, this is going to be a good thing. Black hat link building was bound to get trashed eventually. I have sites that have very few links, just valuable, thoughtful content. Guess what – they are still ranking high.

      All the sites that use artificial link building have been steadily falling, since Panda. Now its worse for those sites.

      I also have clients where all we focused on was quality – unique content from the standpoint of unique thinking. Not just the same old crud rehashed across every website having the same subject. Guess what – STILL page one on Google, with perhaps a hundred backlinks – not even using 1wl or 3wl at all. The sites I have that used those tools all went in the garbage. Not saying thats the total reason, but makes you wonder.

      Unique content is not just rewriting articles. Its bringing freshness to a subject. THAT is what will get you on top and keep you there.

      • Sorry Mark, but you’re seriously mistaken. 100% “white hat” sites got tossed in the toilet along with many so-called spam sites. What’s left for many queries is either all Big Box brands or outdated, abandoned trash. Just look at the koobay.com example in my blog post if you think that Google isn’t still rewarding spam links, too.

        It’s nice that your sites were spared, but don’t think for one minute that others who were only engaged in “white hat” methodologies were all spared — they weren’t. You have a very naive view of Google if you think that quality content is all it takes to be on top. Maybe for very low competition keywords, but none of the big dogs are ranking only because they have great content — they rank primarily because of the links to their sites.

        Meanwhile, the sites I use my link networks for are still humming along just fine, thank you.

  69. Great advice, just check the data on what is still ranking – dup that.

    So sorry for all the folks who have lost their income – just insane *L*

    You know Google think it is their business to do what they think best with their algorithm but how can they do this without any recourse for those unfairly destroyed?

    Who owns the search queries?

    Google?

    No way we do!

    They own a parasitic search engine that exists only because the world no longer takes their queries to the Yellow Pages. Remember them, used to be the standard for where to put your business to advertise.

    Google rose up by providing great organic search results, remember back in 1998 when they started. No adwords then. Gee how they gonna make any money?

    Social shift has dictated where we go to find what we are looking for. Not Google, they are just a conduit and there is power in numbers. Piss enough people off and guess what we will take our business elsewhere.

    Until then everyone, explore the alternatives to traffic from G, I have one site that makes good adsense income from a site that got slammed by G and now gets it’s 300 visitors a day from a couple of Youtube videos.

    As for my sites, some up, some down and yes some welcome bumps to #1.

  70. Its really frustating Jon, I have use your software like spinner, 1waylinks and some other. Does any of them still help? which is the best software that you have that can help??

    Thx
    Ryan

  71. Another excellent post Jonathan. Well balanced and completely logical! Thanks.

  72. Thanks a lot for this useful information about Google’s new update. To me, it’s always wise to use ethical link building strategies in order to avoid any penalization from Google.

    Google owns the search engine and as an IM, your success online depends largely on Google’s ranking policy. Why don’t you abide by their rules and be free from any undesirable penalization.

    Bottom Line is: it’s about time you start using ethical link build strategies for your business!

    Thanks again Jon. for this awesome piece of information. PEACE!

  73. Hi Jon,

    Thanks for your post. I have followed the whole themed mininet concept for quite some time now. Saw a great post about that and what they found, which basically supports what you have posted over at: http://www.micrositemasters.com/blog/penguin-analysis-seo-isnt-dead-but-you-need-to-act-smarter-and-5-easy-ways-to-do-so/

    I too would be keen to know if/when someone manages to pull sites out of the Page 10+ penalty. It seems reasonable to be able to get the 50% cloud cover links out there and also vary the anchor text (thats something that can be fixed). Just wondering if its too late when a manual penalty has been made?

    Cheers – Dallas

  74. Jon,

    What about the comments?Black Hat Seo is dead?Do you think that software like Senuke,Scraplebox etc..still works?.I personally did not feel much change, but I have not created a single link since Google Penguin

    • Yeah, software like that still works well as long as you don’t use garbage unreadable spun content. Spin well, make sure it’s quality. The links still work.

      • Senuke x is going to perform even better after this update, especially its social network module which post to web 2.0 sites like blogger (which, surprisingly, is performing much better as in your case). The integration of ArticleBuilder in Senuke x is goign to prove quite useful now.

        As for your blogspot cat pictures blog, I found that all the posts are just 2 liners (less than even 100 words). Now, as for my sites (all on tld with self hosted wordpress), many of those suffered after the initial panda update last year because of less amount of words per post (I was using around 300 words per post then). However, Your blogger casestudy strangely contradicts that.

        So, Do you feel quantity of content/article still matters ? (Although google never announced it clearly, but it always mattered since the panda update)

        Also, for the EMDs, I have seen a slight rise in my EMDs sites but a steep rise in my “EMDs+some word” sites (like those which has an ‘hq’ in the end of the keyword).

        What do you think of that ?

        Overall, I believe This is nothing of a big update and google is falsely spreading false in the hopes that marketers would make their mindset accordingly and would stop spamming. Duh !

        • As for content quality, that’s something google has been working on but has never been good at determining. As to my cat blog having little content, you have to remember that all the sites related to the keywords are photo sites. So not having much textual content isn’t an issue for these specific keywords. As to the EMD+ something, I haven’t seen that it makes much difference personally.

  75. I think Google penguin is more dangerous for those websites which are over optimized and used cheap tricks to get rank well in Google.backlinks from irrelevant websites can also be a cause of Google penguin penalization.

  76. thanks for clearing on this one, some of my higher earning adsense sites got penalized that were high on the search engines, and my lower earning sites that were barely ranking or were on page 2 or 3 have moved up. Google just seems to be messing with people.

  77. Google need to take a leaf out of their own book when it comes to putting too many ads above the fold.

    There’s one search result in view when you click on that window blinds link.

    Isn’t supposed to be a search engine? ;)

  78. Thanks Jonathan, can always rely on you to cut through to the “nitty gritty”

  79. Jon,

    I understand the importance of this post, and I totally agree with you! As to my sites, I have been receiving more request for my writing sites as many of my clients sites have been blown out of the water as far as ‘G’ is concerned!

    Many others are making changes prior to that happening!

    Not all of the sites I have up as affiliate sites are doing so well, including yours! Which makes no sense, as all of the content is relevant and well written!

    Thank you for keeping us updated on both the forum and with this blog post,

    HoneyJo

  80. This is a very interesting and subjective discussion.

    I find it annoying that Google just changes their rules, so that good sites lose ranking and spam sites get promoted. Trying to get rid of spam sites and linking strategies is all well and good, but only if it works right. They obviously didn’t get it right this time – or any other time for that matter!

    Someone should tell them to go and get a life.

    Thanks for your viewpoint.

  81. Excellent Article, I must say. Well done!

    I’ve also been a victim of Mr. Penguin, and my site which was ranking #3 for the KW “blogger templates” prior to update, is no where to be seen. I’ve used a lot of exact match anchor text, by placing the link at the footer of each template, which might be the reason…

    Now my question is, how do I get back my rankings? I can not remove all the links from the sites using the templates from my site. Should I keep it the way it is and hope that Google will modify the update (ver 2.0)? Or should I start building links that are not exact match? Will that help?

    I would really appreciate your help on this… :)

    Thank you!

  82. Hi Jonathon,
    I had a carefully designed network of sites with 18 authority sites all around a common theme. Everything sat there for five years rock solid on page 1.
    The penguin has decimated my network and my income. I want to send some leopard seals after that little black and white bird.
    Just as a passing thought Pandas and penguins are black and white animals. Will the next algorithm change be the zebra stampede or is this just a reflection of Google’s interpretation of how the web works ?

  83. Like always Jonathan does a very good analysis of Google’s update. I also liked to post regarding “Make money Online” where for this key words an empty blog was on number 5 in Google’s results. I’ve also taken a “print screen” picture as a reminder. After a few days the result was gone ( probably G. guys took it down). I think that Google is losing more more and ground with this harsh updates. I don’t think they even had the time to evaluate precisely the effects of Panda update and now they’re throwing another update that as JL demonstrated has the exact opposite results that G. desired.

  84. And since when Google started favouring blogspot domains? I have not noticed. None of my sites (not IM related) show up though they are most relevant to search inquiry. I agree that the exact domain match still matters though. I think that Google weight backlinks way far over relevancy. Indeed getting relevant results are becoming harder and harder.

  85. Wonderful stuff Jon. As usual you do your home work well before you post anything. By the way how do you find the time to do all those researches? I have seen traffic to my blogspot blogs which I haven’t touched in years.

    I feel those at Google didn’t realize the extent this may go or maybe they intentionally did it. Revenue is in question here.

  86. I have a feeling Youtube will be hit next. Spammy one … because all of a sudden youtube ranks really well where it could not be ranked before. They did this prior to Penguin. I also feel that if you have the same anchor text in the 4 digits backlinks (like 1000 back links for example) your site will be at the bottom of list or you used one of those drip feed index links services.

    I also feel that for as long as you are not deindexe, just redo your back links LSI styles – slowly — 50 a month — hey this is strictly arbitrary numbers. And the only reason I said it because I put myself in a place where I have no SEO experience and I’d like to have my site out there what do I do?

    And here is another thing — whatever you do — if you can do it by yourself do it but it’s best to do everything manually — because that is what a “normal” people would do.

    The minutes you use other services like senuke, article submitter, uaw -etc. there will be foot prints.

    Google is definitely evil — and they know everything. Most of us do not possess the discipline to cover our tracks good enough.

    So whatever you do — do it manually and I think we will be fine.

  87. Good post Jonathan, I’ve noticed some major shifting in my smaller estabilished niche sites, but my authority sites haven’t changed much.

    Aaron

  88. Nothing I ever put out was unreadable by humans. I did have spun content in blog networks.

    There may be something to the IP penalty. All of my sites lost all of their rankings.

    I’m really having a hard time keep a stiff upper lip through this. Seeing my income drop to one dollar a day might make anyone the same.

    What I did have was about 10,000 links pointing directly at my websites. I do believe that’s the issue. They are not there any more. I’ll be getting a new IP I have to downgrade my hosting. :)

    I highly doubt that will help. I’m going to invite a human review. Because my site is high quality and I do not fear it. This crappy bird update took out my 10,000 page website!

  89. Microsite Masters have a good analysis on the differences between sites that got hit and sites that survived. I don’t know how many sites were included here, but it seems to be based on a recently large dataset.

    http://www.micrositemasters.com/blog/penguin-analysis-seo-isnt-dead-but-you-need-to-act-smarter-and-5-easy-ways-to-do-so/

    Here’s what I got from the post:

    - Sites that got penalized had too many exact match anchor text links whereas sites that survived had a much more diverse anchor text profile
    - Sites that got penalized had far higher percentage of links from unrelated sites.

    This is really nothing new, but it’s nice to see a good analysis verifying it.

  90. Hi Jon, please re-check again.. this site checkintocash.com was not rank anymore for “payday loan”. Maybe get banned??

    Also, I really want to know. Are sites that got link from spammy blog (e.g. profitmonarchs.com/get-fit-using-these-simple-and-easy-methods/) get banned/penalized?

    Also, I see, profitmonarchs.com is de-indexed from google search..

    • Yeah, I know. That’s why I said in the blog post that it may have gotten a manual penalty. Either that or the blog networks it was using to rank itself were deindexed after that embarrassing realization.

  91. I think Google did a double hit with this most recent updated.

    They’ve been slowly closing in on what they consider natural anchor text diversity for the past year. What they did recently was tighten the rope.

    Google had to kick the peg out from under blog networks. It was bad for business to (a) have all that spam content in their index and (b) have people obviously manipulating search.

  92. Just one note:
    simply because WindowBlinds (a UI skinning utility for MS Windows) is not relevant in your view, it does not make it irrelevant.

    If I search for “window blinds” finding a link to that piece of software on the first page of Google’s search result makes this result HIGHLY relevant to me. I could not care less about window blinds as a piece of interior decoration.

    Your argument that AdWords is in correlation with relevance does mainly express how myopic your view of Google’s search engine has become during your years as a internet marketer.

    • I didn’t say that the result is irrelevant — I said that it is not the primary use or meaning of the keywords, and therefore should not be the number one result. The primary use of the phrase “window blinds” is for interior decorating, not a Windows utility. The AdWords ads make that very obvious, even if your common sense doesn’t.

  93. Yes, I am with you on this one Jonathan, noticing something very similar! I am creating variety of anchor text versions with my main keywords for clients. For the time being if you want to keep linking and creating anchor text make it look as natural as possible adding the name of the website, click here ect.
    Cheers
    Marty Ware the SEO DAD

  94. Great post, Jon.

    On our end we are definitely seeing the effects of Penguin in regards to specific keyword SERPs, where we had hundreds or thousands of anchored BLs, greatly disproportionate to the “real” BLs or naked links.

    However, things are really dancing around alot right now. Still seeing wild fluctuations in some verticals. Others seem to be stabilizing.

    We had some losers, some winners, and only a few sites unaffected.

    The sites that lost the most traction had been established for years, had great content, and seemingly “okay” BLs (stuff like article marketing, web 2.0s), but again with the heavy anchor focus being on 2-3 main keywords.

    Funnily enough – and this may be coincedential and temporary – our winners in the Penguin update are outright artificial. Not a single authentic link was earned, at least not directly anyway. We bought high PR links from horribly obvious built-for-linksale blogs, we used a combination of networks – you name it, we did it.

    One particular site has gone from doing a few bucks a day in leadgen revenue to edging on 4 figures a day.

    I fully expect the axe to drop soon for that site… but hey – might as well ride the wave and enjoy the moment.

    Our new sites seem unaffected, although there was some influence from the Panda update that rolled a couple weeks ago now on those. Panda seems to be more universal, hits the whole site (and traffic profile).

    The big concern though for me – for everyone – is negative SEO. I know your position on it, and I know the data is somewhat hazy. But one cannot deny the negative effects from loading up on exact-match anchors.

    Just ask a certain pharmaceutical company that starts with “V” and ends in “agra”, whose site was obviously manually reinstated by Google following the public lashing received… and perhaps some stern words between Pfizer and Google execs.

    It will be interesting to see where this goes.

    Myself, I’m going to be focusing on hedging against future “updates” by churning out even more mini-sites, more frequently, rather than only building authority sites. Spread the bets, a bit. That is the way of survival for the aggressive affiliate in 2012 and beyond.

    “Building great content” is obviously a fool’s errand. It makes sense from a BUSINESS VALUATION standpoint, and the endgame (exit), and therefore authority sites are a must. But it shouldn’t be the ONLY thing you have…

    -Chris

  95. I am so sick an tired of Google. I no longer bother looking at my Google SERPs. Yahoo and Bing are less offensive and I find that traffic from these converts better.

  96. Conspiracy theories abound and I am waiting for google’s numbers next quarter. If there is a noticeable jump in revenue then the “dump sites to page 10, force them to use adwords” theory may well hold true.

    What’s sad is this is a total slash and burn of the small folk that they claim to be helping – “even sites that do no SEO” as Cutts pointed out – yet the small sites seem to be the ones that are getting dumped in favor of Wikipedia, about.com, hearst media properties etc. I’m sure the F1000 companies are way happy with this update as they rank higher, but the forums are lighting up with post after post of ethical, non-spamming small businesses explaining how they are laying off staff and even closing down due to no traffic to their sites. So much for the internet being a level playing field.

    As for signals, I have sites that have had the exact same treatment in SEO / link building yet some have not moved and others have tanked. There are some identifiable signals between the winners and losers so I will be applying those to see if they help the losers, or not.

    I’m done with Gogole – too much like having a job. Y’know, where they fire you and you have no income. From now on my aim is to make google traffic a bonus, not the main source.

    In the long term – who knows how google will fare – but a good number of people have mentioned they are getting poor results on G and have started using Bing – and switching away from Firefox – but that’s a whole other conversation :)

  97. Not sure what they are up to myself. I road out the earlier update this year with higher rankings in Google. But now most of my sites have suffered. However I am ranking number one page one in Bing and Yahoo for some of my keywords. I might just completely forget about Google and work with the other search engines…. I just have to hope that many other internet users do the same. Time to walk away from Google, Google Analytics etc… because seriously, if one company can cause so much mayhem with little changes here and there aren’t we better off living without them?

  98. Hi Jon,

    As a result of Penguin, the SERPs for some of my sites have got somewhat affected but none of my sites has sufferred heavily.

    I do use Keyword Canine and it is a fantastic tool for keyword, market and competition research.

  99. In other words, they killed small businesses, yet still failed to fight that hidden shadow of spamming. Google was able to slap “some” spammy sites and IP’s, but the collateral damage of killing legitimate small businesses was just great.

  100. How much longer can Google hold on before someone else comes along and builds a search engine that doesn’t muck things up so much. Google reminds me of the federal reserve, forever tinkering with the money supply while the country burns *L* DuckDuckGo.com anyone??

    • I love DuckDuckGo! Here’s an interesting article from searchengineland.com about DDG’s rapid growth.

      • I too love DuckDuckGo. One of the things I really like is that, since I am on a slow internet connection right now, I don’t have to keep waiting for another page to load if I am not happy with Google’s top 10 choices.
        I read the above article and I really hope that DDG does become a real contender as search engine of choice over Google. Google is like a typical large corporation now that puts its own interests way ahead of the customer’s.

  101. Hi Jonathan,

    Another great post from you as usual. ;)
    Yep, one of my blogspot is now on 2nd position and give me some good adsense earning too. For my own website, I am now put more target on social media than Google.
    Thank you.

  102. Excellent post Jonathan! It makes sense that backlinking should cater to your neighbors backlinks and slightly out do them rather than blow them out of the water. I suppose you wouldn’t but a mansion in a poverty neighborhood.

  103. Hey John,

    Great post.

    Maybe it’s because I’m completely new, or ignorant to all the supposed methods that are supposed to work, or supposed to fail, but I just started building blogs and out of the 5 that I’ve built, 3 of them have all made it to page one.

    My phrase match competition is up to “150,000″ and I’m ranking up to #3 for my keywords which supposedly get around 6000 searches per month in exact match.

    I think I did my on page SEO, keyword research and back linking well, and I guess it shows. Hopefully my blogs aren’t the crap that rise to the top tho.

    I get my own unique content written for about 3 posts, and then auto-post related You Tube video’s for other pages. It seems to be working very well.

    :)

    Ian

  104. Hi Jonathan,

    As Usual, You are doing good research on recent Penguin Updates, Article is really good and informative. Keep Us Up to date by such kind of Articles

    Regards

    Mark

  105. Thank you Jon. I always appreciate your logical and factual take on these issues. As you say, too many people make assumptions based on a narrow point of view. I wonder where it will all end as by it’s very nature link building is, to a certain extent spammy as relying on naturally acquired links through authority and good content would probably take a lifetime.

  106. Great post as always!!!! I have been using exact match anchor text and still rank #5

  107. I would have to agree with you on all points. I have been testing as well on my main ecom site and my blog site. I have noticed that with high quality aged domain backlinks and some regular spun social bookmarking, a keyword that is in the software niche, has been increasing in search results rankings.

    I was quite shocked when I put on some aged backlinks with pagerank from page 18 to page 7 within about 4 days.

    Also, I see that social signals do play a factor, but it will come down to high quality backlinks as well as google plus. I added google plus about 5 days and just in the past 2 days, my profile is now getting indexed for keywords that I was not ranking for and I can just about promise you that this will be again factor in google in the coming months and then I am just guessing this, but mobilized websites will be the next phase and sites that can or are mobilized will see an increase in rankings which of course means traffic.

  108. It really does seem like this update did not improve the search results at all… It just kinda was done against SEO but a lot of legitimate site that might not be as big as Amazon (or some of the other examples in your post) still have great content and now received a big penalty for using what was once a good way to improve your rankings and let people know about your content. Either way, great post showing a lot of the discrepancy about what Google Says and the reality. Penguin is probably here to stay sadly but I wonder if they will go a bit softer on the new set of rules they established over the upcoming months…

  109. I’d like to know if you can resurrect a site from Penguin.

    I started varying my anchor texts well before penguin, with naked links, junk text, and related keywords that did not have the main keyword anywhere in it.

    Penguin hit and BOOM. Every page on the site was at 100 or greater.

    Tons of my sites took hits, but some remained and even went to number 1. I did pretty much the same on all of them, so I can’t figure out what the heck caused some to win and some to disappear.

    I do know this, it sucks. Losing over 100k in income at the blink of an eye is tough to stomach…

    Should I try to get the site back? Get a new domain, transfer the content and drop the old domain? Go get a job?

    Probably the latter.

    • Paul, You are not the only person this has happened to common issue.
      looks like start again time.
      You have to get all new including hosting, whois etc. The content has to be changed as well as it is embedded in google. EMD are still ok. New linking strategy forget how you used to do it.
      Plus get a job as well. You will build up again.
      All the best.

      • I have two different sites on the same hosting – 2 addon domains even. 1 is ranked 156 one is ranked 1. Wouldn’t they both be ranked 156 if the ip thing was true?

  110. A fascinating read Jonathan and alot to consider. After the initial “Its not fair reaction” or poor me reaction i have also done some research. One thing i have noticed is my youtube videos that never featured prior are in some cases on front page in very competitive sectors which is nice but the previous high ranking site (linked with the video) is on its way to Antarctica…not even in the top 100 any more :( . I wonder if there will be a Penguin version 2 soon to try to iron out the abnormalies ??

    • Maybe Penguin 2.0 will get things more how they should be because the searcher experience is what Google is ultimately wanting/needing to improve. Since obviously they were unsuccessful this time, they need to re-work the current algorithm so that “good” sites come back as they should but the “bad” are still nowhere to be found.

    • Who says your site out of the top 100 is an abnormality?

  111. Great post as always Jon.

  112. Penguin killed half my sites and some still bouncing, this update hit me much harder than Panda, still waiting for the dust to settle on this one.

  113. we have a number of EMD’s relating to the finance industry that are ranking 1,2 or 3 organically and have not been affected by the changes.
    These sites have never had a lot of back links so they appear to be unaffected.

  114. “it appears that Google either didn’t realize that a large portion of high quality sites use the backlinking techniques they now consider “spam”, or they are so full of their own idealism about what should and shouldn’t be rewarded in their algorithm that they simply didn’t care how much damage they were going to cause to the quality and relevance of their results with this update.”

    Or they are perfectly fine with displaying less relevant results. Only the relevant results can only be found in the adwords ads. ;)

    • I’ve heard that theory repeated many times as well. Obviously Google wants to earn lots of money from AdWords, but are they willing to chuck their search quality into the toilet to do it? I’m not sure I’m buying that just yet.

      • That would be such a shortsighted way to get more income… Sure it could be true but surely noone at Google that is a high up could not see how other search engines would replace them in the long term if this was their goal… Right…?

        On the other hand, they have been adding more and more Google Ads/properties that can be displayed on the first page of search results which probably has the same long term result (but definitely to a lesser extreme).

        • They sure have been putting more ads on the results. Which is rather ironic, considering that Google says one of their “quality” signals is not having too many ads above the fold.

          I swear, HALF the results page (above the fold) is taken up by AdWords ads.

          • Ha Ha, Good point!

          • Wouldn’t put it past them in any way. Funny thing to me is, or coincidence (hmm, right) maybe, was just this week I got a letter and an email from Google (not a hosting company) for $100 adword credits to improve the traffic to my site. A physical mail AND an email. Funny how things seem to line up sometimes.

      • Especially when you consider they’ve kicked out about 700,000 adwords advertisers over the past couple of years just for the heck of it.

      • I have a conspiracy theory that is scary about all this, but if you tie it in with what’s going on out there, it may not be so far fetched after all. We can all agree that Google HATES people to be making money off their search engine, but we MUST ask, WHY?

  115. Jon,

    Yes I do rank, spam links are still working.
    They penalized certain IPs…


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