Is It Google’s Fault You Got Hit By Penguin?

    June 7, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Since Google unleashed the original Penguin update, there has been a lot of finger pointing at the search giant. That continues to this day, and will likely continue for the foreseeable future, not unlike we’ve seen with the Panda update. There have been plenty of stories about both algorithm updates leading to job cuts.

Google has said on more than one occasion that it considers the Penguin update a success. While the company has also acknowledged that no algorithm is perfect, they seem pretty satisfied with the results. Of course, they’ll continue to push data refreshes, but it seems that Penguin is doing what Google wants it to do.

Many webmasters are now scrambling to recover, and we’ve seen proof that it is possible, but still the finger pointing continues. If your site was hit by the Penguin update, was it your own fault or was it Google’s?

Here’s a conversation Google’s Matt Cutts had on Twitter yesterday:

Amazing. I’m currently interviewing Filipino workers. So many are now unemployed thanks to Penguin. “Do No Evil?” @mattcutts #seo
1 day ago via Timely by Demandforce · powered by @socialditto
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@marshmallocreme we have 2 make changes that we think will improve our search results. Users that are confronted with spam will leave Google
1 day ago via web · powered by @socialditto
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@mattcutts still… it’s tremendously sad. i wonder how many families lost their primary source of income overnight.
1 day ago via web · powered by @socialditto
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@marshmallocreme Penguin was just the implementation of things we’ve said clearly many times. If people were ignoring that clear guidance, ?
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Danny Sullivan, who spoke with Cutts in a keynote discussion at SMX Advanced, writes in a blog post, “If you were hit by Penguin, don’t want to be hit by it in the future or are serious about winning with Google in the long-term, it’s crucial to understand that easy links will always be vulnerable. It doesn’t matter if easy links worked in the past. It doesn’t matter if easy links still seem to be working now. It doesn’t matter if you think easy links are now some type of potential negative SEO issue that Google isn’t policing well. None of that, valid or not, is going to help you with the winning game of earning the hard links, the links that will matter.”

“I can’t stress this enough,” he adds. “I’ve read too many comments where people want to blame Google for the fact that the easy links they got before no longer work as well.”

Penguin was designed to enforce Google’s quality guidelines algorithmically, and Google believes it has done its job. The guidelines have been around for much longer than the update, and Google has always said to follow them. They’ve penalized sites (manually) for the same things for much longer than Penguin has been around. Penguin just makes Google better at doing what it always tried to do.

Todd Bailey at Search Engine Journal writes, I’ve talked with many web-masters who have been affected and seen some difficult situations. All of which fall within the communities assessment of Penguin. The reduction or outright disappearance of spam in search results may be advantageous to practitioners of white hat SEO, but the perilous Penguin has even struck unsuspecting webmasters. In fact, many of the 700,000+ recipients of GWT messages from Google were not previously aware of the spam content and low-quality links associated with their brand online. Since the update first swept the SERPs, some cases have shown recovery at refresh 1.1. However, many businesses and Internet marketing firms are left wondering what must be done to rebuild their rankings.”

I’d suggest starting with trying to abide by Google’s quality guidelines. You may soon have a tool that helps you tell Google what links you want it to ignore as well. That will make a lot of webmasters happy.

A new report also suggests that Facebook shares are even more significant than links. You know how to get both? Create good content that people want to share. Then, keep doing that.

  • http://keithbrown.com/ Keith Brown

    I personally don’t see how it can be that sad. You have to realize that when you live by Google you can also die by Google. Digital revenue can be very easy to come by with SEO, but also vanish quickly. Easy come easy go…

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cooking-Japanese-Sushi-Sashimi-and-Cuisine/126638880764868 Awe Par

    I agree with Keith. Live by Google, die by Google. That’s good! Anytime a business hangs too much importance on one facet of revenue or lead source, then it is vulnerable for a fast fall. The best bet needs to be a balanced business approach on multiple avenues of exposure, with Google being more of an equal share in that respect.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    A think a lot of the uproar is coming from those site owners that didn’t realize they were doing anything wrong and got whacked by Penguin. If you didn’t know any better, why would you think links you built five years ago could come back to haunt you? Penguin isn’t doing anything Google hasn’t preached against for a long time, they just finally acted on it.

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  • http://www.greenteethmm.com/ Ian R Thorpe

    As with other Google updates aimed at shifting the focus from links to “quality content” Penguin is a failure because Google are a bunch of nerds who cannot recognise what is quality content and what is junk.

    That is why we continue to see so many pages appear high in google results that are simply mash ups of stories from mainstream media. I seldom use Google for searches now, there are far better search engines for those who want relevant information rather than advertizing matter.

    But in the end it is and always will be not about quality but about Google’s revenue account.

    • Carl

      I totally agree with you! Googles feks you tube is coming up very high in the results. Alot of good content and quality there? No its obvious that people are catching on to them. They screwed up major this time! And they call it a success. Talk about ignorance.

  • http://www.ShoutMeLoud.com Harsh Agrawal

    Well in most of the cases it’s not Google’s mistake but many innocent sites also become a victim of these algo changes.
    Specially, bloggers who prefer to write articles and don’t worry about SEO and SMO…are affected the most..
    I know many tech bloggers who have quality and useful tech news sites…They are badly affected and recovery is time-consuming…
    Specially Penguin penalty on sites due to link buying and other stuff is well justified..but Panda was like imposing a role on ever blogger.

  • http://www.LAokay.com Steve G

    The way I look at Penguin from what Matt Cutts has said about it makes me wonder if Google put polices in place that it knew it didn’t have the capacity at the time to police them and Penguin is simply that, policing of Google’s policies. Of course we all know how regulation goes…..First you throw up the rules and then you create the methods to which allow you to confirm those rules are being followed and appropriate actions are taken against those who are not following those rules. The problem with these methods is that they’re typically not tested much when they’re launched. There is just too much data to release an algorithm change and know how it’s exactly going to affect the results, including those Google never intended to affect. Basically Google is giving a best guess when it says X% of searches will be affected. It’s very hard to scale things up when you have so many unknowns to deal with, and this is why I appreciated it when Google used to take the time in doing small changes and getting the results back to confirm if it actually made things better or worse. I mean Google still does small changes every year, but these big algorithm updates should have been given a lot more review before they were launched. If Google spent a proportional amount of time based on how major or minor the algorithm update was I have no doubt that Panda and even Penguin would be a bit more robust and have less of an upset for good search results. Instead it seems that most websites were affected and caused a lot of publishers to once again make changes just to satisify Google’s algorithm. For a company that just wants everybody to focus on publishing quality content, they sure seem to keep on doing major changes to their algorithm which punish most sites and force publishers to make changes to please the new algorithm changes. So it’s a mixed message that Google is giving us all and forcing publishers once again to please Google instead of the public.

  • http://integrityexports.com/ Integrity Exports

    Whatever Google said their policy is / was is irrelevant. What is always relevant is what Google’s algorithm actually values.

    What I mean is this: Google may have an official policy saying links should be “natural” and not “spammy”, but the fact of the matter is that until Penguin happened, one of the very few ways a new site (even with the best content) could have a hope of getting near the top of the SERPs was to give Google’s algorithm what it wanted — lots of incoming links with anchor text. That is why operations like Build My Rank worked.

    Let me reiterate: These schemes gave Google’s algorithm what it wanted. (If they hadn’t, then they would not have worked. That’s the point.)

    So basically, Google is saying this to us webmasters: You figured out our algorithm and tailored your SEO to meet its real (not stated) requirements. We don’t like that. So we’re going to punish you. Not by discounting the links you have built to meet our algorithm’s real requirements, but by kicking your site out of any meaningful SERPs completely.

    To summarize:

    1) You found out what Google’s algorithm really wanted. (Not what Google’s guidelines claim Google is looking for.)
    2) You do this and Google rewards you with decent SERPs.
    3) Google gets in a tizzy as you have figured out that what they say they want and what their algorithm is actually rewarding are two different things.
    4) Google slams you — even if you have superb content and many quality, authority links.

    To me, that says one thing: Abuse of monopoly power. Of course Google is not a complete monopoly, there are some other minor players. But if your business requires internet exposure, Google is by far the main game in town so inevitably as a businessperson you do what you need to do to win that game.

    A fair version of Penguin would simply have discounted all of those links which Google wanted to now reclassify as “spammy”. Fine. Re-rank websites based on all the other factors and ignore these links.

    This is not what they did, and this is the real reason there are howls of anger from around the internet.

    • Bimal

      what you did that google has taken positively?

      Thanks :)

  • http://nepallica.com Pritush

    my site was hit by penguin in April and somehow i manged to recover it and again i was hit by panda in June. I don’t know how they categories “quality”, for keyword “si7 tablet” digg bookmark appears in 1st where as original post is nowhere to be found and I have found that duplicate copy-paste site ranking higher than original.

    Again they say, google now has negative link juice. i.e if my site is linked by some bad site i suffer from it as well. I don;t think this justifies we cannot control who link as and there is no way we can manually ignore them.

    And by giving extra emphasis on Google+ for SEO they are forcing webmasters to use Google+. Google+ has made SEO difficult and making it unaffordable for small business.

  • http://www.stockpicturesforeveryone.com/ Nita

    I fall into the category of a photo site owner wrongly picked on by Google. I don’t know whether it was Penguin but my site went from 2000 hits a day to about 200. At first it went from 2000 or so to 1000 and I thought it was normal as I bought a custom domain 5 months ago. But around the Penguin time it plunged from 1000 or so to 180 or so and below a day although it has gone up to around 250 now. I do not do SEO whatever that is, and have original content. When I went to the Google forums for help I was told that this was because I ask for a link if anyone uses a photo from my site. My photos are free to use but I ask for a link. However, I have barely a dozen backlinks despite being around for almost 2 years. People just steal my photos I guess. Anyway, I was told that this was wrong – asking for link for the use of my work. Maybe its true, maybe Google wants to penalize all the sites which provide free content, perhaps because the other big branded sites want to push aside the small fish. That’s what it looks like. I was pushed back on the search results because I don’t charge for my photos but ask for a link instead? If this is so, I think it is most unfair because this just benefits the big branded sites who sell their photos are a high price. Meanwhile I work hard, and am not really doing it for the money, but just want to provide a free service and become well known in the process!

    • Tominguez

      People, if google keeps giving you a hard time, just leave, find a way to invest your money and time and anyway, google will have no choice but to index you, if you concentrate in ranking well in yahoo and bing, google is a piece of cake, you work hard enough to develop content and now do you have to pay google to index it, show it and then on top of it profit from your content? Just nuts.

  • http://nepallica.com Pritush

    Google has made SEO a complex job and made it unaffordable for small business who cannot hire separate manpower to look after SEO.
    My site was hit by penguin in april I some how managed to recover but again i was hit by Panda in June. Still i’m trying to overcome it but no success as there is no official guide.
    According to some sites google has implemented negative link juice thing.. if site get link back from bad site we will be effected as well. We cannot control who link us neither we can ignore the those link.
    Google+ seems to provide SEO boost than other social network, google is trying to force webmaster to use G+ for sake of SEO.

    I have notice for some keyword duplicate post or copypaste site ranking higher than original. for example search for “si7 tablet” digg bookmark appears in first where as original post is nowhere to be found.

  • http://Ideasonic.com Jon Glover

    As a digital agency, post Penguin we have seen some of our best client sites with great quality content, full adherence to Google guidelines and genuine business value tumble while some of our other SOHO clients with negligible SEO seeing an upward spike in their traffic.

    What is more baffling is the fact that some of the new sites showing up on Page 1 are absolute trash – with duplicate content, poor link structure, etc! Google may call Penguin a quality improvement drive but in reality, its made SEO a joke!

  • http://www.defensedevices.com Pepper Spray

    As another Panda/Penguin victim I am confused at what Google wants.
    Yes, I’ve read what they say they want. I just sell products on my website. I’ve added some content in the form of advice to help my customers understand and use the products, but each time Google changes the algo, my visits go down and my big competitors, that also just sell products, like Amazon, eBay and other equipment suppliers, get a bigger slice of the traffic. Unless there are advertising contracts involved, I don’t see how Google is getting more revenue or how search is getting better for the searcher.

  • Tominguez

    I don’t see my post?

  • Oliver

    I lol’d when I read MattCutts Twitter post – he lost any credibility now forever.

    I always followed Google guidelines and never overoptimized and yet somehow I lost 30k visitors per day. Sure! Seriously, thousands of business owners put out of work over night, I can’t imagine what they feel like. I still make decent money but I am now going to develop a product instead of relying on traffic

    They clearly went to far .. they overrank authority sites with a high PR. They rank authority sites for very specific queries and you can’t find anything anymore.

    Google only cares about shareholders now, lost a lot of trust and in the long run this will hurt Google. Yes, a lot of small business owners will now flock to Adwords, but in the long run they will not be able to compete any longer.

    Heck, if I would live in the US I would send in a FTC complaint too – losing 50% traffic despite following all guidelines, it’s ridiculous

  • Oliver

    “we’ve said clearly many times” – how unrealistic was that statement? There are so many examples of sites that followed guidelines and are popular on social networks, yet they lost traffic big time.

    Totally unrealistic – They should reverse the update and collect more user feedback before applying a change that is so grave. Don’t they realize that they will lose a lot of money too? Big corps will advertise less, small businesses will go out of business and never advertise again

    In the long run it will hurt Google and the FTC should force them to undo it because it helps monopolies to build a market dominance and last I checked a democracy did not allow monopolies and should encourage a thriving competition where small business owners can grow to become a big company some day

    It’s virtually useless to start a fresh site now – I cancelled dozens of projects because they are useless now. You can no longer rank high for anything without immense efforts – how is that democratic, fair, good for the user?

    I heard a lot of users complain that they can no longer find what they want – and Google does not care, because they believe it will generate more sales that way

  • esync01

    Good stuff about google’s penguin.Thank you for sharing the stuff.