Should The Google Penguin Update Hit Sites Like WPMU.org?

    May 26, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

We recently told you about WPMU.org apparently getting hit by Google’s Penguin update. The site went from 8,580 visits (pretty standard for the site, having looked through the Analytics myself) to 1,527 a week later. It’s been hovering around similar numbers ever since, with a pretty clear dip right around Penguin time.

Do you think this site deserved to get hit by Penguin? Let us know in the comments.

Penguin drop

We spoke with James Farmer, Founder and CEO of Incsub, which runs the site. Farmer maintains that WPMU.org engages in no keyword stuffing, link schemes, and has no quality issues. In fact, the site has actually done well throughout Google’s series of Panda updates.

Farmer tells WebProNews, “We did great after Panda, it was like that update recognized we were decent folk… you can’t win them all huh?”

“Apart from not being able to guess what Google was going to do in April, 3 years ago, we haven’t done anything wrong,” he says.

Last week, Farmer received some second-hand info from Google’s Matt Cutts, who reportedly spoke with the Sydney Morning Herald about WPMU.org. According to Farmer, Cutts provided three problem links pointing to the site. These included a site pirating their software and two links from one spam blog using an old version of one of their WordPress themes with a link in the footer. Farmer reported that Cutts “said that we should consider the fact that we were possibly damaged by the removal of credit from links such as these.”

It’s pretty interesting that if such links were the problem that it could have such a tremendous impact. It’s no wonder there have been so many discussions about negative SEO (competitors attacking each other with these kinds of tactics) since Penguin launched.

The site has over 10,400+ Facebook likes, 15,600+ Twitter followers, 2,537 +1s and 4,276 FeedBurner subscribers, according to Farmer. Apparently not enough to outweigh some questionable links from third parties.

“How could a bunch of incredibly low quality, spammy, rubbish (I mean a .info site… please!) footer links have made that much of a difference to a site of our size, content and reputation, unless Google has been absolutely, utterly inept for the last 4 years (and I doubt that that’s the case),” Farmer wrote in his article on the matter.

When asked how many links he has out there just from footers for WordPress themes, he tells WebProNews, “Given that we stopped adding links years ago, actually not that many at all.”

“However, the challenge is that given that we provided themes to a lot of multisite installs, which have since become overrun with splogs, there’s an enormous amount of links from not that many actual root domains,” he adds. “I’d guesstimate 1-2K, 99% of clearly low quality sites.”

We asked if he’s heard from other WordPress theme creators, having similar issues.

“Actually no, although that doesn’t surprise me that much,” he says. “Not many folk are as open as us, and in this field they probably have good reason to be. WordPress terms are very, very competitive so I wouldn’t be surprised if 9/10 competitors had something to hide!”

Like many webmasters, Farmer just doesn’t know what to expect from Google, in terms of whether or not Google will consider the site to be one of the innocent casualties of Penguin.

“I have no idea, I would love it if they did. I guess the thing I’m begging for is some sort of qualitative mechanism (NOT the manual webspam web, faster approach) that allows quality operators, like us, to survive and carry on providing Google users exactly the kind of helpful content they need!”

Google does have a form users can submit to, if they think they’ve been wrongfully hit by the Penguin update.

Google’s Matt Cutts recently told Danny Sullivan that Google considers the Penguin update a success, despite the large number of complaints from those commenting on blogs and in forums. Of course, the Penguin update, much like the Panda update, should be periodically coming back around, giving sites a chance to make fixes and recover. That also means however, sites will also have more chances to get hit.

We asked Farmer if he thinks Penguin has helped or hurt search results in general, outside of his site’s issues.

“Especially in the WP field they have gone wild,” he emphasizes. “For example our flagship site WPMU DEV – if you go to search for that now a competitor writing something ridiculous about us and copyright appears above our massively popular Facebook page. It even looks like our YouTube channel has been demoted. Crazy stuff.”

We’ve certainly seen some other questionable search results following the update, and others have complained aplenty.

Do you think the search results have improved since Penguin? Should WPMU have been hit by Penguin? Share your thoughts.

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

    Following up your post on Google+:
    It’s actually sad to see sites like Wpmu getting hit by Penguin and this shows the basic flaw in the Google anti Spam BL policies…!!
    Infact, this clearly shows the impact of Negative SEO where a site lost it’s search engine visibility because low quality links from Themes footer credit is pointing to one site..!!

    Well, in such cases a Webmaster can’t do anything and Google should give this much control in the hands of legit webmasters.


    Google can add a complete list of domain names from where BL is pointing to your site and Webmasters have control the davlue any links pointing to them……
    This will make sure that legit Webmaster can control their site SEO…..!! And there is no direct harm in giving such control to WebMasters…..

    • Sammy P

      – google is a parasitic scraper site trying to make some money with free content created by webmasters.

      – sites like wmpu.org getting hit for no reason should put up a banner saying google is no more trustworthy try: duckduckgo.com, ixquick.com, search.yahoo.com, blekko.com etc and see what happens.

      – What banksters are trying to do, create two large search engines.

      – What is good for the world: 5-6 search engines with 15-20% market share.

      – Webmasters put up banners promoting duckduckgo.com, ixquick.com, search.yahoo.com, blekko.com and let us do it!

  • Jhon MC

    There is something I agree with the article….”unless Google has been absolutely, utterly inept for the last 4 years”… that’s the only TRUTH, sad but it is just like that.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/103154919553895310674/about Social Penguin Assassin

    Too bad Google has to match businesses up against each other. Oh wait that’s the best way to activate much o diner o in google addwords and that is why google is king.. but king of what? Scaring people into paying to be on the first page. Let the small business guy work his Rear-knee off and get to the first page… oh he has it all figured out, then Biz-nap “Another google update “… oh NO “what do we do”?? we dropped to the 2nd and 3rd page for some major keywords… hey Bruce just fill up the Add words account…

    • Renaldo

      Do you think anyone reads your stream-of-consciousness comments?

      • Boris

        I do…

  • http://blog.onlinecompetitions.org/ Mark

    I hope Google sort this penguin out soon

  • http://magemojo.com Joe

    Negative seo is now a major issue in any smaller, niche market. If a site has the budget or content to become a major authority site in its market, then it can survive negative seo. Any site that does not have major authority can easily be knocked down.

  • http://www.nowinnofeesolicitors.co.uk no win no solicitors

    This is sad to hear because 3 bad links mean goodbye rankings!! wow!!! Imagine I hate my competition, and blast 10,000 links for them…how will google know who’s doing what, I mean I could be their seo guy doing this because they asked me, or I could be bad competition!!! I honestly think the new update is much more bad than good. seems like google has just deleted everyone from page 1, and bought everyone from page 10 to page 1.

  • http://www.paulsidahohomes.com Boise Realtor

    I pride myself and teach to do it the right way, slow and easy and quality content and backlinks. I was hit with penguin the update shockingly, while Panda had actually improved my site. Flustered for sure. Lastly you always can’t control who may link to you so you shouldn’t get dinged so bad if there are a few out there that do.

  • Tony77

    You could always cancel yout Google Plus account and urge all of your customers to do the same.

  • http://www.web-development-blog.com/ Olaf Lederer

    Great I have the same picture in Google Analytics :(
    My blog has lost ~70% of the organic traffic while Panda nver harmed that site. My blog is listed on site like feeds.adobe.com and phpplanet.net, both site are providing their search results to Google which is bad. It seems like that these 100K of backlinks are maybe the reason for this penalty?
    I don’t get this footer credit problem? WordPress and a lot of other software product having those links…

    • Renaldo

      The problem is that Google uses links to ranks sites. But this strategy is only useful if the links are put in place by human editors who choose to link only to quality sites. Footer links are a link scheme. They are not put there by human editors, but by theme designers. Google doesn’t want those non-editorial links to affect the SERPs. So, they devalued those links in the Penguin update. They possibly also penalized sites that previously used those links to rise unnaturally in the SERPs. So that’s why footer links are a problem in Google’s eyes — they’re not put there by the website owner/editor, but by a 3rd party. The shouldn’t count as a ‘vote’ for a particular site because they are nothing more than a link scheme designed to artificially inflate the search engine rankings.

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

    I can’t believe a few bad links would have such an impact on such a trusted site. I can understand if the majority of your link portfolio was spammy and low quality, but a few low quality links shouldn’t be able to undo the rest of your SEO. It leaves site in a very vulnerable position and actually undermines the whole purpose of linking (which is what holds the web together). If you’re afraid one bad link can ruin your site you’re not going to let anyone link!

  • http://www.ryanmjones.com Ryan Jones

    Do you think it could have something to do with the massive amount of backlinks they lost right before the penguin update hit? That’s my guess:


    • http://www.aboutweb.eu Victor Roibu

      This graph is the same for many sites. In that period Google devalued links because of its update.

  • http://www.nichewebsitehelp.com denzil

    These guys are not playing be rules. Then when their site gets hit they start complaining.

    • Boris

      Agreed, I despise WPMU. Having said that I find it fascinating that a few “bad” links can kills the rankings so fast. I guess from now on SEO can become something of a “shoot-em-up-with-spammy-links” game for many. And why not? How long does it take to create a few thousands spammy automated links and how long it takes to create SEO-friendly original content?
      Whoever has decided to penalize sites for “spammy” links is out of their mind.

  • http://wwww.carolinarustica.com Richard Sexton

    We have a well-established 12-year old website that re-launched on Magento the day before Penguin. Wow, try sorting out what happened to your organic traffic with a simultaneous replatforming and algo update! Its a bit of a mess but we are sorting through it…backlinks not so much of an issue, though. It took us about 3 months to regain (then exceed) our lost Panda traffic, and I think the Penguin updates will do much the same. I agree with Nick, though…a few bad links should not totally unravel your long term organic efforts.

    • http://creditcreator.com Sharon Miles

      You mention:
      “It took us about 3 months to regain (then exceed) our lost Panda traffic”
      How did you recover from Panda and then exceed your former traffic numbers in 3 months?

  • Venk

    Lets Switch off Google, SEO, bla bla…this is a lesson to build business outside SEO !


  • Gordon

    i’ve pretty much quit using google for 3 years for doing any search

  • http://www.makebeats.org Paul

    I think that Bing is missing an opportunity to pick up market share because right now it results appear to be better than Google’s.

    More relevant with a lot less floatsam and jetsam gurgling around it the search results.

    I think Google was so intent on controlling who gets to the top of their search results that even if a site was 100% relevant and what people were looking for they knocked it off if it didn’t get their through their permission.


  • http://www.stevegillman.com Steve Gillman

    Results almost have to suffer if Google has decided to punish quality websites for off-site factors (links), and it seems clear that they are doing so. Apart from the existence of the negative SEO industry, there is this evidence: Google sends out warnings telling website owners to remove “unatural links” to their sites (I got one for one of our sites) and has a “reconsideration” request form that goes with this process; why would they do this if there was no harm that could come from those links?

  • Michael

    This is EXACTLY why I don’t buy the SEOmoz negative SEO test results. Cutts flippant comments about links from a pirating website and a couple of low quality links flies in the face of the snake oil BS they are trying to feed SMB’s with the SEOmoz study.

    Well there’s a REAL quick way to figure this out. Open ScrapeBox, scrape a list, use the Malware filter to detect which sites have malware on them, post competitor links to these sites, monitor their rankings.

    I’m not so unscrupulous to try the above, but I bet you anything Google is trying like mad to spread misinformation about the realities of the Penguin update to avoid a major fallout until they can develop and implement a “fix”. The SEOmoz test affirms this for me, but it’s just my opinion.

  • David Charles

    I’ve seen spammy casino, porn, and other sites trying to link to my sites like this for years now, however Google was smart enough before Penguin to not penalize a site for other sites linking to you. Just as we cannot control quality sites linking to us, we cannot control bad neighborhoods/spammy sites doing it either. I really can’t believe Google would be so naive about this to allow negative SEO to be a factor now. It’s like Google wen’t backward 10 years in their thinking here.

  • william

    “700,000 webmasters can not be wrong”

    I think WPMU.org is a great example happening to plenty of great sites – but hear is what it means

    1. Google is not an organic search engine – but now a hybrid as it is “penalizing sites”

    2. Google says it sent 700,000 webmasters email – so they are insinuating they have a way to determine bad seo.

    3. Google is sentencing webmasters “GUILTY” with no way to resolve in a timely manner

    ATTN: Amazon would not be able to pass the same critia Matt Cuts mentioned were the issues for WPMU.org

    Yet Amazon became the clear winner in this update as Tens of Thousands of ecom companies got displaced and Amazon ranked #1

    Even for sites that still exsist like http://www.jewelryboxes.com are now 3rd and Amazon 1.

    You can Google+ Facebook, have great links and do everything right – but even http://www.jewelryboxes.com is displace 30% do to Amazon


    If you were dropped – well your just lost forever

    Even if you make it back – you will lose 30-50% to Amazon, Overstock, Zappos – ect

    Another site LasVegasRealEstate .org

    reports getting the email and dropped and still has been unable to resolve filling out all forms ect.

    obviously they are legit for “las vegas real estate”
    over 30 great YouTube videos
    over 30 unique PRweb article

    here is no win in the PENGUIN update for small businesses

    Here is my take

    “700,000 webmasters can not be wrong”

  • http://artsweightloss.com Art

    I agree with Paul, why are we all using Google as our search provider. If a site like WPMU.org can be trashed so badly whats to say we are next.
    Bing is an excellent search engine and its growing quickly, great potential.

  • http://www.wssmedia.com Chris Weller

    Do I think that the SERP’s have improved since Penguin? No not in the slightest. Google’s ethos of “don’t be crawl” seems to have completely gone out of the window. Maybe the success of Facebook and other web platforms have been an influence in them making (I think) the worst algorithmic update for years. I think that any update that makes SEO more intelligent is a good move but anyone working in the business only needs to spend 10 minutes reading online to see that the update has lots of mistakes and has hit companies that have done nothing wrong (one being my clients site that has not cost me thousands in fees)

  • http://www.rush-it-uk.com sam

    Well, if you wanted to create panic that lead to people paying for ad-words etc. then you might do whatever you felt like and name it after another bird, knock back a load of high ranking sites for no real reason and give no definitive answers to anything.

    I bet if you look you might find a link in areas that very little paid advertising is happening and sites that have suffered, because after all why would you pay unless you needed to!

    I am not saying this is correct, just that it’s possible, after all they want money like any other large company.

  • http://www.super-solutions.com Ira Wolfe

    Like several others, I too have been clobbered by Penquin after being seemingly reward by Panda. I’ve been posting newsletter and articles to my site -weekly – since 1999. Recently I started posting to 2 blogs instead of creating individual web pages. I write original content for each post as I did for each article in the post. I thought Panda rewarded me for the amount and original content although I’ve been ripped off by other consultants and aggregators. But apparently the theory that one who posts first get the credit is somewhat b.s. Several articles were copied verbatim including meta and title – they rank top 3; I’m lucky to be in the top 100. For one of our products I dropped from top 3 to the 100s. One of the two competitors on the 1st page had several hundred keywords, a paragraph long sales pitch for a description, and mentioned the search word once on the entire page – but ranks #2. I’ve had my page reviewed by several people and other than a better call to action, they see no errors or black hat.

    Figuring this out is like spitting in the ocean and trying to create a wave.

  • Jason Gammon

    This is an easy fix everyone just STOP using Google remember they make their Billions from US! Change your search to BING, change your clients search to Bing, your families search to Bing, and guess what Google will suddenly “fix” the problem.

    It is up to us to “fix” this people. Google is acting like an out of control mall cop lets shut them down.

  • John Biggs

    “Google’s Matt Cutts recently told Danny Sullivan that Google considers the Penguin update a success”

    yeah, like he is going to publically admit what a screw up it was. For our sites we have seen ebay, walmart, overstock and amazon appear top of the list with pages that are dynamic search result pages that dont even contain a product that matches the keyword search. For example: lawn mower tires brings up a walmart page as position 6 that has no tires on it at all, not a single one. It also brings an amazon search at 7, and 2 ebay search results at 4 and 5.
    Don’t tell us Cutts that it is working, we can see what bull that is.

    • http://none penguinism

      I think they manipulated the search result in that way big company will be on top of search result. Google is really becoming a freddy krueger of our dreams

      • John Biggs

        I hate to cast aspersions but there are more than a few people that are wondering if money has been changing hands behind the scenes, and that impartiality has been thrown out the door.

  • http://thebingomaker.com Kety (Kathy)

    We got hit hard as well and we have a lot of original cobtent + good links. Now search terms like “bingo cards” give bad results for gambling sites and even a site named bulls**tbingo.com. These are bad results. I started using duckduckgo and bing more often because they give better results on many terms. Sorry but Google is no longer the king of search and I am not saying that because I got hit, I am saying that because the results are bad.

  • http://twitter.com/bryansiegel Bryan Siegel

    I’m waiting for the EU to slap an antitrust case against the big G. The last year of updates haven’t improved the search quality for me personally. Won’t be too far until the US gets involved as well. Google is just too big and their mistakes are putting business out of business because of their actions. They should devalue the links not penalize the websites, that’s just plain crazy.

  • http://www.xprocreative.com Brandon

    The results have definitely gotten worse and Google thinks they did a good job. Sounds like G.W. Bush congratulating the director of FEMA, Michael Brown, after Hurricane Katrina. You’re doing a heck of a job Greenie! I’ve switched to Bing and I’m switching my friends and family to Bing and they’re doing the same with their friends and family.

    Google is giving themselves a pat on the back when they should be getting a smack on the back of the head. Negative SEO is the last thing Google should be wanting to make popular. One of my legit sites got it. Maybe it has bad links but how do I find out where those are and remove them? I have no idea, nor do I want to spend my time tracking them down. It’s much easier and satisfying to get people to switch to Bing. Google doesn’t care who they hurt or if there is collateral damage.

    The only thing we can do as people is SWITCH. The people that use Google give Google it’s power. I will not use it, I will not buy adwords. I only use youtube when I have to and I use nothing Google that I don’t have to use. If I can use something else, I will.

  • Text Enhance

    Ok, these links are not the issue. WPMU.org is full of recycled, copied, and duplicate content with horrible articles, ones that are actually hateful towards other websites and businesses for no purpose.
    Of course they should be losing viewers, their rates show no sign of a collective audience.
    Stop complaining WPMU, just do things right.
    Google is not your enemy.

    • http://www.php-developer.org/ Codex Meridian

      Show some proof…

  • http://www.destinationgraphix.com gabrielle

    Google serves Google, period. Google hasn’t served real real organic results in years so I don’t know how anyone can truly be suprised.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/seo-experts-the-best-in-the-world SEO Experts

    I don’t think Google is inept, either – I think they’re just trying to get people on the internet better / more motivated at policing themselves and each other. Perhaps it’s just too hard to catch every new spammy technique that comes along, so the better way to prevent spam in the long run is to make every web develop super-paranoid about every link they’ve got going for them. I hope I’m wrong, since that makes thing a lot harder for all of us…

  • http://www.telcom-data.com Ricardo Trinidad

    I would call this a plan to get web site owners to belly up to the adword whole and start throwing money in it. Google does not now do anyone favors. It makes up the rules as it goes along and the rest of us slugs have to fall in line. We need a ground level campaign to upstage them with something better.

  • Brian

    Google search is currently irrelevant. I have switched to Bing and am very satisfied with the results I am getting.

  • Jade

    It’s pretty disheartening when you work like a dog to get good content on your site and try to play by Google’s ever changing rules, only to be hit by the Penguin update and lose half your traffic. Way to go Google. I worked night and day to keep my site clean and updated with fresh content and now it has dropped dramatically. When they say you get SLAPPED by Google, that is an understatement. Try doing a search for some topic on Google and have a look at the inane results. It makes no sense at all. I agree with everyone that mentioned turning everything over to Bing. I am sick and tired of Google and how they can manipulate people’s livelihood with the flick of a new algorithm. Shame on you Matt Cutts and the rest of Google’s minions.

  • http://ez93.com Penguin Recovery

    Well i don’t think many people read these comments, although maybe the guys at Google.. (The Google Gods) should take a breath.. just about every big company in the IT world that has appeared out of nowhere, gets lost. Some recover some don’t.. Hmm who remembers Webcrawler and Altiavisa when the web was newish?? Mainly these types of companies go through a phase where they think they must keep growing.. trying to do everything.. its a common failing with power hungry ridiculous people. Point of fact Google was good at search Microsft was not .. then came Facebook .. Google decides it must do the social thing.. mean while Microsoft is still chasing the search… I spend Alot of time looking watching and analyzing.. EVERYTHING to do with the 50 or so sites we run.. I will put it on the line and state FACT Bing has better results.. Google has completely forgotten that WE the webmasters content is Google.. Natural Search is Google.. This advertising model mashed piece of **** that Google has turned into will fade away.. Market forces will just take over.. 90% of all webmasters i talk to HATE Google.. Bing and or an new company will appear … this is just the way of market forces balancing the books.. Google’s results are atrocious.. because they keep manipulating the SERPS … the site WPMU is a prime example of how ridiculous Penguin is. I could post 20k links on sites that i know are bad areas to post.. like TCMGUIDE i could post 20k links to my competitors sites and i could do this on as many areas that i know will take links.. and bobs your uncle .. outside links have affected the target site.. Something that Google used to say could never happen.. So a sites content is not enough.. Surely if Google is that good.. LINKS SHOULD BE IRRELAVENT.. If The “Google Gods” say there new crawler can read the content and assess its reverence.. ie Panda.. then how could external links weight against it.. Its a Joke.. and Microsoft is all over them as far as SERPS are concerned.. Google’s original market took a year to grow exponentially.. I predict in a years time they are going to of lost significant market share.. Nobody wants to use an adverting based “Paid For Inclusion
    Search Engine” like the NEW GOOGLE…

  • http://www.easylocalsem.com James Steiner

    This is indeed tragic! In fact somewhat ironic as I have one of my client sites that exhibits nearly identical analytics reaction to the Penguin update on a lower overall visitor volume level. I have been spending considerable hours trying to sort out the why and why not’s along with the leave, remove and add to’s. Very difficult to discern overall to say the least. Being punished for certain things, for the most part out of your immediate control, is quite problematic in my opinion and furthermore the recent Google “search result quality” is also somewhat suspect in my humble opinion. I have LOTS to say about all of this and want nothing more than to get together with those people looking to PROPERLY fix the problem rather than prey on those that have been damaged. To add insult to injury I am referring to ALL the “magic cures” and “quick fixes” being sold via WSO’s and the like. Please let me know if you have an interest in forming a “group” that specifically deals with Panda/Penguin analysis and better still honest effective solutions to VERY real and serious issues. Thanks For Letting Me Yammer A Bit! Jim S.

  • Terry

    I’m sorry the website is complete rubbish no wonder google is knocking these type of web sites

  • Boycott Google

    Google is no longer relevant and Matt Cutts and his team are out of control.

    The FTC needs to investigate what this company (google) is doing to not only search results, but also their impact on the economy and businesses.

    Bing is now the most relevant search engine and hopefully will capitalize on this ridiculous update called Penguin.

    No longer can you find relevant search results on google no matter what you search for.

    Recently I searched for a few things, such as a new graphics card – my results? 2 year old articles on how to upgrade my computer. Huh?

    The websites that now occupy page 1 results are irrelevant and have information at best years old and outdated.

    And this is a good thing?

  • http://www.lanikee.com/ Lani

    I think Google is designing so many supposedly helpful tools to entrap all the information to monitor what is being processed online, by the dominant movers and shakers in monetizing online. I can understand the abusers who are trying to cheat their way to rank above most, but this post is a primary example that Google really is not looking out for the good guys.

    Making lame excuses, and ways to minimize the good guys. Mahalo for the informed information.

  • https://plus.google.com/113717307800788062035 Peter Watson

    I think the results are definitely worse! It’s obvious without further explaination.

    Also being based in Sydney, I could relate to this story. Our site Business-Trader.com.au also did extremely well through every single Panda update! We never practiced questionable techniques and maintained top rankings for 3 + years. Then on the 24th our traffic and ranking tanked and my analytics traffic chart looks exactly the same as WPMU.org.

    I’m looking forward to the next Penguin update as I am hoping for our sites rankings to return.

  • http://www.greyolltwit.com/ Grey Olltwit

    I notice that Cutts actually spoke about WPMU.org, presumably because of their popularity. I would therefore not be surprised if they get their ranking altered upwards in the not too distant future (Oh look it’s already happened).

    Unfortunately hundreds of thousands of smaller sites who have done nothing wrong but have been similarly demoted don’t have the luxury of catching Cutts’ attention.

  • http://www.ontarget-media.com Manoj

    Well, there have been a few articles I read recently that talk about links from WordPress themes being the issue and that being correlated to “negative SEO”. I doubt if such conspiracy theories are warranted.
    My view is that it is not the fact that links to a website were distributed via WordPress themes (or any such), but rather that Google has de-valued those links. Therefore, while previously those links may actually have contributed to greater weightage and consequently, better rankings and traffic for a website, when the weightage for those links was removed, rankings and traffic suffered. This shouldn’t be read as a penalty, rather as being caught in a tighter filter.

  • http://www.cnx-software.com cnxsoft

    The latest penguin update is rather questionable. I’ve been slightly hit, with at least 2 high traffic pages (for my site) that have been send much lower in the search results. I’ve been told it could be because I have to much content in title-attributes. I can see wpmu.org also have lots of title attributes.

    I’ve also surprised that a website with an Alexa rank around 4,000 only gets about 8,500 visits per day. Maybe the rank is inflated because it’s a webmaster site.

  • http://makemoneyadsenseonline.com TheGreenovator

    One might consider that perhaps Google has outgrown it’s overall objectivity as a search engine rather than the advertising giant it has become. Do we see another search engine in our future???

  • Ric

    Google search has gone commercial. Organic search transition is going in favor of the big adword commercial accounts. Think about it, is Google going to cater to the little guy who is trying to make a buck or two from organic search, or will they cater to multi million dollar clients? What would you do in their shoes?

  • http://www.jobsearchworld.com Sankaran Sivaramakrishnan

    The Google Search is more commercial …Adwords, sponsored results etc are minuses …google should start giving pure results.
    timesjobs.com Quickr.com Naukri.com are some of the sites that misuse key words in adwords……Google is helping them

  • http://www.idigitalhosting.com Guido E. Zecckine III

    Google isn’t the only SE out there! Facebook uses Bing for SERPS. I think Google is doing too much for themselves, and not enough for us. What about Google being more like DMOZ? That would cut into their profits having to hire more real people to do the validation, and not relying on automated algorithmic results. WPMUDEV and WPMU.org are great sites, and should NOT have been penalized. Google should have taken into consideration their stature, and contacted the site to let them know they had issues, and allow them to fix them, BEFORE whacking them. BAD GOOGLE!

  • http://Rocky-mountain-tour-guide.com Marcel

    Maybe everyone should start promoting Bing! Spread the word social sites like FB Twitter etc. 700,000 publishers and get it viral!

  • http://www.computerhowtoguide.com/2011/08/google-gravity-awesome-trick-for-your-browser.html google gravity

    Penguin a success Matt? You are either outta your mind or you are just trying to avoid admitting failure!

  • http://www.lolntroll.com/ Richard Johnson

    Even my site has been hit by penguin update and i want to update it as much as i can.

  • George Ikyeson

    No, i dnt think a site does not deserve to be hit by penguin. It should given second chances

  • http://www.bizsuccessguide.com Efoghor Joseph Ezie

    If the whole thing is exactly the way Farmer has presented it then I don’t personally think his site deserved to be punished.

    If Google is punishing a site and makes it lose over 6,000 visitors just bescause of 3 dangerous sites linking to it, what then happens to the thousands of good sites linking to it? How much value does Google attach to each established/authority site linking to the site?

    The whole thing seems so confusing. To an extent, I am even beginning to wonder myself if the people in Google are really fully aware of the parameter for punishing a site. It seems to me that so many things are happening by accident and then coming out to publicly accept this error is difficult.

    Since the Panda and Penguin updates a lot of controversial issues have ben raised and Google needs to let the site owners and webmasters know some of the actual parameters for passing or punishing a website.

  • http://ventadepisosenalcaladehenares.es/ Venta de Pisos en alcala de henares

    Seo will change… and we can see it

  • http://www.thegrizasonline.com/inmotion-hosting-review-inmotion-hosting-coupon Virak

    Google Penguin seam to be good at filter spam website, however that top 10 result websites are not the great contents as Google and Visitors want yet.

  • http://www.sv4.net Carlos

    In the past Google try to be everytime more “logic” and was great.. but with this lasted Penguin I think theys become to lose the “target”

  • http://www.backlinkbooster.com Backlink Booster

    Google is playing with fire with their latest algo changes. If Negative SEO is truly rewarded then they just opened Pandora’s box and their search results will suffer. And if their search results become invalid, then that is the first step in accelerating a mass exodus of users to Bing/Yahoo.

    I can’t believe the people at Google would be that stupid…would they?

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    I think that this has opened a Pandora’s Box for malicious behavior!

  • http://www.rebeccarachmany.com Rebecca Rachmany

    An interesting question one could now ask is: will a anti-SEO competitive industry develop. Given that you can hurt your competitor buy purchasing cheap and unreliable links to their site, what if aggressive competitors decided to get super-sleazy and do just that? You could beat your competition by paying sleazy SEOs to promote them.

    • stuart

      there are people who have already done ( and still do) that.
      its a tough world in the wild wild west.

  • http://www.edinburghcarrental.com Car Rental In Edinburgh

    There’s an awful lot of moaning from webmasters who are complaining because they are almost totally dependent upon Google.

    Yes, Google is the number one search engine but it is a business too and it doesn’t owe any website anything. If they want to change how they rank sites then they can do that.

    I understand how bad it can be to loose large amounts of traffic overnight but maybe it’s time to consider not putting all you eggs in one basket so to speak.

    • bob

      yes, it why you moaning here with car rental in edinburgh. spammer.

  • http://www.freesheetmusic.net Joey

    So … if a few sites copy large portions of yours, then YOU are the one penalized??? I know there are a couple of websites that have copied pieces of mine (at least one that’s copied the entire thing) … there’s no way I can stop them from doing so. If there were American, I could file a law suit — but they’re international sites that I have no way to affect.

    Seems to me an unscrupulous webmaster could target a competitor and create a couple of screenscraped sites … and then let his competitor get the penalty.

    This is a really, really, really stupid idea, Google.

  • http://liveonblogs.com Reeja Mathews

    sad to here penguin hurts
    so i simply leave these thing aside
    good blogs always deserve high rankings

    • bob

      but nobody not going to give high ranking to this good blogs. Because only links working for search engines now.

  • http://www.dewaldthuysamen.com Dewaldt Huysamen

    Well here is proof that Google has double standards when it comes to the penguin update:

  • stuart

    even before this latest update,
    I could never understand how google, with all its expertise and muscle returns some of its results.
    ie: I type in a product brand name, and insterad of going to the manufacturer/suppliers website, fully promoting that product, I am given pages of warez and pirate sites, affiliate or othewr dubious promotional sites, I know this is what google is trying to remedy,but surely they can find a way to recognize the rightful owner of a brandname and return them on page one.
    its even more mysterious when the brand/ product name is also the website name, and when you find it is professionally presented and ticks all the boxes ( except probably not for 1million spam textlinks!)

    ON other occassions I have typed in website urls, for sites I know have been live for sometime but never listed or promoted,
    instead of finding the correct url (that you search for) google will return domain who-is pages or some vague directory listing…surely when your search term is an url, google should find that url first?

    when so many depend on google to supply website traffic, and therefore a large slice of their potential income, we should at least have some consistency and commonsense in results.

    search for any online software or premium themes/templates by name, you are quite likely to get a warez or file sharing site before the proper owner of that product,
    the same type of sites that WPMU are being penalised because of third party backlinks from.
    (so these sites are bad, you cant have backlinks from them, yet google still returns page one listings for them for other peoples products)

    come on google, your powerful but if you dont get your act together soon, the market will look elsewhere!

  • http://www.knead.co.nz Jeff

    I empathize with webmasters that have been affected, but to be frank i think that much of the talk around the update has been a beat-up.

    In New Zealand we have a small saturation for websites. In our largest city business penetration sits around 50% that have websites. This number plummets in the regions to about 35%.

    Add to this the historic (though misguided) belief that keywords will help you rank. Kiwis have been taken for a ride for far to long in my opinion. The online space really is cowboy company.

    So then how does penguin sit in the NZ context? Very well i think.

    As penetration digs deeper into business behavior, smarter forms of localization that will occurs in search results (i suppose through future google updates), as this happens new sites will designed well. Above all they should have relevant and unique content.

    The biggest problem facing the sector here is the residual hangover from the keyword is king days.

    Thus this update should put webmasters firmly on notice.

    Oh and we are trying to grow your fledgling SEO company – check out our

  • http://www.spiralscripts.co.uk/ Fiona Coulter

    There are a lot of web design websites that built their business model around giving away free stuff like WordPress templates, with a link to the site in the footer. The positive effect on SEO, with the resulting traffic was used to sell advertising or commercial services. There are many businesses that will now find themselves in trouble as a result.

    I have mixed feelings about this. These kind of practices were for a long time considered acceptable, it seems deeply unfair that they are now resulting in penalties. My own site should not be affected, we never actually engaged in this sort of practice. We thought about it though.

    Maybe the long term effect will be that there will be fewer second rate ‘free’ templates available – for which I will be glad, we might actually see an improvement in general design on the web.

    • bob

      google changing game rules on the way. then less money them have – then tighter rules. it just ‘money spam’ update, google becoming MFA site, not good organic search results – peoples clicking on ads.

  • http://www.skin-care-solution.biz Ruby

    This whole thing about penguin is crazy. I wonder why a giant like Google should not test their algorithms well before launching it. I am a supporter of quality but we have seen highly reputable sites with professionally written contents being hit.

    If your site gets links which you can’t control, should your site be punished for that? I can hear malicious individuals laughing their heads off since this may be a way to destroy competition.

    I think things have gone out of hand.

    WPMU.org for Christ Sake!

    If they have been hit then what can we the small fishes hope for?

  • http://www.knead.co.nz Jeff

    Great post.

    I agree that Google is looking to reward positive (read unique and engaging content) over backlinked content. However i see that the trend is different depending on what part of the globe you are from.

    Our company based in NZ have dealt with several companies who were penalised in the penguin update. 3 were for keyword stuffing, the other had their links removed. Tellingly the backlink problem was from .co.uk tlds.

    It seems that across Australasia the online industry it us filled with ‘keyword = good’ amateur webmasters. This has lead to poor quality sites and results, which makes justifying the good work SEO professionals do, that much harder.

    I hope that this update scares the “keyword = good’ mentality out of the industry, but im fearful for all those companies who have no idea about the ongoing management of their site and the penguin effects that they havent even noticed yet.

    Thanks for the post!

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    Matt Cutts only pointed out three links but that doesn’t mean there were/are only three.

    He’s supposed to do their work for them?

    Here’s a hint, when you want your name splattered all over everyone’s ‘site’ that uses your product or service, you can probably expect your name will end up places you might not want it to be.


    • bob

      it just show their profanity, and what google algorithm is so far from perfect one. Webmaster don’t have idea who link him if his links natural. Even if not-natural links, webmaster often not have ability to remove or do something about this links.
      this is absolutely google fault.

  • http://www.googleplus1king.com sam

    It’s a very confusing time right now, or it seems to be. I’m skeptical of those who say they have answers on many of the blogs and I like this list with your take.

    I guess I can infer something from your ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ answers, though more detailed answers as to why would be great, even if they would show up only on the paid newsletter to which I happily subscribed.

  • Ben Corke

    I strongly suspect all those moaning about Google or negative SEO are suffering from Bitch Slapped Syndrome, because all that spammy link building has been a waste of time. The reason in this case is highlighted in the post. “damaged by removal of credit from links such as these” WPMU lost longstanding link juice from spammy sites. That said, there is some research to suggest that having more than 40-60% of inbound links with “money term” anchor text can trigger a penguin filter tag on the domain. The comments around G doing this for extra adwords is partially true but G are just now getting revenue from sites that should have paid Google rather than Indian comment spam punks in the first place.

    • bob

      google just don’t know what to do next. their idea calculating links is really not working well. now them trying to create site & links & anchors models, and later will more and more strict on this model. But it way to nowhere anyway. them lost their potential with last penguin update.
      this is the best google spam update, get rid of good sites, show only agregattors. if remove wikipedia/yahoo answers and amazon – their search results will empty.
      but as them looks like happy about penguin update – it show what purpose of this update is only money from adsense. google become MFA (made for adwords) website (it even not search engine anymore, because it now not index all).

  • vic garbutt

    So, i would think that google itself has the most links to itself than any site on the planet. Did it get hit by the recent changes? Hmmmmmmmm.

    • bob

      no, them in special google white list. but google websites totally not follow ‘good website webmaster guidelines by google’.

  • vic garbutt

    So what my question is, if we can’t use keyword density to make sure google understands what the page is about? Or should we care. What are the main keys to its understanding of what a page is about? URL, page title and page content?, with a meta description to show in the results listings?

    • bob

      google want naked urls. later when everybody will link like this – him make new penalty not more than 50% of naked and 50% of anchors, max 10% of commercal keywords. Later google will make not more than 10% of naked and 10% of anchors and 80% of click here. Later them make no any commercial keywords allowed. because them only for google top3 adwords in organic search only and google affiliates sites.

  • bob

    it always be like this with new pandas/zebras/penguins/other google hates animals. most funny what google matts cutts show 2 some links from warez sites in footer. Looks like him was sure what it fault of wpmu webmaster what that warez sites link him. But it totally non-sense!

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  • http://hangupin.com hudixt

    Well, in such cases a Webmaster can’t do anything and Google should give this much control in the hands of legit webmasters.

  • http://hangupin.com hudixt

    Well, in such cases a Webmaster can’t do anything and Google should give this much control in the hands of legit webmasters.

  • http://hangupin.com hudixt

    This is a nice update which google do to improve its search result