Were you hit by the updates? Dr. Pete over at SEOmoz sums it up:
If you saw major traffic losses between Thursday, April 24th and Friday, April 25th, odds are good that Penguin is at least part of the problem.
Some websites experienced penalties before the 19th as Google prepared for the big Penguin release, which explains why some innkeepers I talked to outside of buuteeq saw a drop in search rankings, as Modesto Siotos explains:
Even though Google announced the Penguin update on the 24th of April 2012, changes on Google’s link evaluation system have been noticeable several weeks before the public announcement.
I checked under the hood and thankfully, neither buuteeq.com nor any of our clients were negatively impacted by Panda 3.5 or Penguin, which I believe vindicates our company’s stance on SEO and SEO agencies. Here is a screen grab of buuteeq’s April traffic from Google Analytics:
It appears our traffic has continued its steady bob of busy during the work week, slower on the weekends, as is common with online businesses. Interestingly, our organic traffic was slightly higher than usual on the 24th when Penguin was released.
I checked a good sample of our clients and all of them showed encouraging results. Here is the April traffic of one of our North American bed and breakfast clients:
Their website visits began to climb after Panda 3.5 on the 19th, and spiked a few days after Penguin on the 24th. Their traffic is higher now after Google’s updates, which is what we should expect since Google wants to reward high quality, non-spammy traffic.
I found similar results with our international clients. Here is an example of the April traffic of one of our many Chilean clients.
Again, they exhibit the expected highs and lows of weekend to weekday traffic. The 19th showed normal traffic levels, the 24th showed the third highest trafficked day of the month, and they spiked at the beginning of May. They came out clearly unscathed by Google’s Penguin and Panda updates.
Unfortunately, not everyone was quite as fortunate. SEOs theorize that smaller businesses were the hardest hit. As one frustrated SEO professional on the SEOmoz blog, Carlos Fernandes, succinctly puts it:
All they [Google] do is feed an ever growing exasperated community of SEO’s and webmasters so they constantly are chasing their tails – while the biggest losers are small businesses that just scratch their heads and wonder why the phone aint ringing.
Because smaller businesses have limited finances they can devote to marketing, it is far too tempting for them to pick the low-hanging fruit of buying cheap backlinks. As we covered in a previous article, buying backlinks is like playing with fire, and Penguin was released specifically to combat spam tactics like this. The following are over-optimization techniques that many SEOs think Penguin will penalize you for (courtesy of Dr. Pete):
What to Avoid
Aggressive exact-match anchor text.
Let’s say the primary keyword you want to rank for is ‘Seattle bed and breakfast’ so you buy backlinks or solicit backlinks from friends, and you make sure that the text people click on to arrive on your website reads ‘Seattle bed and breakfast’. This is anchor text, and since it is the exact keyword you hope to rank for, it is exact-match anchor text. A little of this is fine. Too much of this is a giant red flag.
Overuse of exact-match domains.
Similarly, exact-match domains are domain names that exactly match your keywords. So instead of ‘MyPropertyBrand.com’ you opt for ‘SeattleBedAndBreakfast.com’. Google now sees exact-match domains as a ‘gray-hat’ SEO manipulation. This is really frustrating because some people have had exact-match domains for years, and had them without ever intending to manipulate Google search engine results.
So you have an exact-match domain. How much should you be scared? Well, log into buuteeq’s 360 Analytics or Google Analytics and take a look at your organic traffic between the 19th and 24th of April. If you didn’t get hit with a traffic drop, then you can breathe easy. Remember, Google is trying to combat spam. It is looking for a combination of many black- or gray-hat SEO techniques before it starts handing out penalties. If you have an exact-match domain name, but your website has amazing content, then you should be safe.
Low-quality article marketing & blog spam.
Guest blogging has always been a great tool to generate backlinks, but some people write horrible guest blog posts and publish them to article farms instead of legitimate, popular blogs. Google looks not only at how many links you have and what anchor text comes from those links, but also the quality of websites those links come from. With Penguin, you are increasingly at risk of getting penalized when low quality websites link to you.
Keyword stuffing in internal/outbound links.
Cross linking (linking to other pages on your website from within your website) and back linking (having other websites link to your website) are important, but stuffing multiple keywords into the anchor text of your links is a spammy tactic that Google is now cracking down on. Instead of making the anchor text look like ‘Seattle bed and breakfast inn lake union b&b’, try something less spammy like ‘…as you can read on our Seattle bed and breakfast website’ or ‘follow us on our B&B blog about our Seattle property’. Both of these are very long examples and you may want something shorter, but they read more naturally and that’s the point.
It’s clear that Google is taking drastic steps to encourage more natural website creation and link building and to discourage aggressive black- and gray-hat SEO. The moral of this story is to not waste time on SEO. Write great content, promote your content to quality bloggers, friends and partners and build your online presence slowly to avoid any penalties from Google.
- SEO – Peircing the Veil - buuteeq
- Penguin Update Recovery Tips – Search Engine Land
- Penguins, Pandas and Panic at the Zoo – SEOmoz