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Possible conflict between Penguin and other parts of Google's ranking algorithm
aristotle




msg:4476056
 1:31 pm on Jul 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Suppose a site has a lot of unique content, excellent user metrics, has acquired hundreds of natural backlinks, and has numerous repeat visitors who spend a lot of time on the site. In addition, suppose that many people search for the site by its name, so that it has a kind of "mini-brand" status.

But also suppose that this same site is over-optimized from an SEO viewpooint. For example, suppose that the webmaster built a lot of artificial backlinks years ago when the site was new, and also used page titles, headers, and internal anchor text to optimize for certain keywords.

The reason I'm wondering about this is because I have two sites with these characteristics which were hit by Penguin on April 25, and lost a significant amount of Google traffic as a result. I'm convinced that the main reason these sites were hit is because I submitted them to hundreds of free directories back in 2006 and 2007. Although these directories were free at the time, some of them later converted to pay-for-listing directories that charge a fee. I used a form filler to make the original submissions, so that the anchor text and descriptions were always the same. I believe that these "unnatural" backlinks caused these two sites to be penguinized.

Most of the pages on these two sites only fell 1-3 positions in the rankings (for their main keywords) when Penquin hit, and they have basically remained at or near these new positions since then. A few pages fell much further initially and have continued to fall since.

My theory is that the pages that only fell a few positions may demonstrate a conflict between Penguin and other parts of the algorithm. In other words, these pages were negatively affected by Penquin, but the positive signals (unique content, excellent user metrics, etc) prevented them from falling more than 1-3 positions. But the pages that fell much further don't have strong enough positive signals to counteract Penquin.

So this is my theory for why some pages on my affected sites fell much further than others when Penguin hit. It reveals a conflict between Penguin and other parts of Google's ranking algorithm. Any comments?

 

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4476083
 3:23 pm on Jul 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

This pretty much echoes my own experience, not so much with the old links but perhaps I overdid page titles, headers, and internal anchor text. A couple of my sites have lost > 80% of traffic.

I have tried to crank back a bit to no avail but their SEO guidelines still basically tell us to do what could be causing the damage.
[static.googleusercontent.com...]

Robert Charlton




msg:4476177
 7:47 pm on Jul 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have tried to crank back a bit to no avail but their SEO guidelines still basically tell us to do what could be causing the damage.

BDW - I've heard it said by others as well that "Google made me do it", so I just reread the excellent Google Search Optimization Starter Guide you linked to, with that in mind, and I don't see where Google suggests anything that could get you into trouble.

Can you cite suggestions they make which you feel might have created Panda difficulties?

I suppose the Starter Guide could warn you more that just because something is good, overdoing it can lead to problems. So they don't say to keep exact match anchor text under blank-blank percent. They do say: "Avoid purchasing links from another site with the aim of getting PageRank instead of traffic", which IMO is fairly clear. But they don't warn against common spam techniques like keyword stuffing. That's where their Quality Guidelines come in....

Webmaster Guidelines
[support.google.com...]

Quality Guidelines

These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here.... Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.

The Quality Guidelines then go on to cover individually all of the Penguin factors that I've heard about. It's a very specific list.

My guess is that the "artificial backlinks when the site was new" may be hitting a lot of otherwise pretty good sites... or that their upstream link sources had such links. Using link building techniques that got you into the problem, IMO, aren't going to help you get out of it.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4476214
 9:18 pm on Jul 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Can you cite suggestions they make which you feel might have created Panda difficulties?

I think the main problem for me may have been too many internal links using KW anchor text, which the guide tell us to do.

I don't do link building or pay for links.

Robert Charlton




msg:4476346
 7:48 am on Jul 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

You wrote...
I think the main problem for me may have been too many internal links using KW anchor text, which the guide tell us to do.

This is what I'm seeing in the Guide that relates to internal links and KW anchor text...
Think about anchor text for internal links too
You may usually think about linking in terms of pointing to outside websites, but paying more attention to the anchor text used for internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better.

Avoid:
- using excessively keyword-filled or lengthy anchor text just for search engines
- creating unnecessary links that don't help with the user's navigation of the site

What am I not seeing that led you to "too many internal links using KW anchor text"? I can think of lots of discussion on various SEO forums, but I don't see Google suggesting this approach.

santapaws




msg:4476348
 7:59 am on Jul 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

what else can anchor text helps us navigate better mean?
they specify the text which we know doesnt make any difference to the ability to navigate, only to supply relevance to those links. So yes i also read that as make the text bang on relevant to the page you are linking to. Down the road this has become a point to downgrade you on, too much relevance or repeated terms across navigation when thats originally what they said to do.
So what made sense and to me still does, the keyword being in the title, links, meta description is now more likely to see you NOT rank. Because only webmasters clued up go each detail bang on google then decided to dial down the scoring if you score too much. The funny thing being this meant only webmasters even more clued up then the other clued up webmasters got a sense of the middle ground now being the high ground and thus the middle ground became the true seo'd ground.
So i ask what does over optimizing really mean? It just means falling foul of the algo, nothing more technical than that.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4476359
 8:26 am on Jul 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

what else can anchor text helps us navigate better mean?
Precisely!

I am not here to try to defend myself or my practices. What has happened has happened. It is up to me to try to fix it but another quote from the SEO guide tells us ...
Links on your page maybe internal—pointing to other pages on your site—or external—leading to content on other sites. In either of these cases, the better your anchor text is, the easier it is for users to navigate and for Google to understand what the page you're linking to is about.


A specific example the guide provides is ...
<a href="http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/articles/ten-rarest-baseballcards.htm">Top Ten Rarest Baseball Cards</a>

That is essentially all that I was doing. It is of course all subjective but their baseball example could possibly be interpreted as a contravention of what it says in the quality guideline you quoted.


.

[edited by: BeeDeeDubbleU at 8:43 am (utc) on Jul 17, 2012]

Shaddows




msg:4476362
 8:41 am on Jul 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

So i ask what does over optimizing really mean?

Interesting question.

I would refine your answer slightly:
"Overt optimisation without sufficient knowledge of the current acceptable limits"

From which it follows, learn and stay abreast of the limits, or work well within them. For most, that should mean the latter.

Marketing Guy makes a point on another thread, about Branding. SEO is just one marketing channel. Don't peg your success on your SEO proficiency.

If you are pegging your success on SEO, then you should act like SEO is your core product. In which case, get out the forums and do some testing. Engaging in sophistry in the hope of enlightenment is probably not the way to go.

To extend the lipstick/pig analogy. For most, makeup is a way of accentuating your natural beauty. For some, makeup is a business in itself, transforming the plain into the beautiful. Those people are probably not reading makeup tips in glossy magazines. And they still can't transform a pig with just lipstick.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4476364
 8:48 am on Jul 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

So i ask what does over optimizing really mean? It just means falling foul of the algo, nothing more technical than that.

Probably the best definition there is. :)

.

Shaddows




msg:4476365
 9:01 am on Jul 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ref the OP (and sorry for the off-topic). I agree that Penguin "conflicts" with the rest of the algo. As I stated elsewhere
There is some evidence that this has gone slightly too far, in that [some SEO is] getting hit, regardless of the underlying content. But that is an inherent feature in the sensitivity/specificity [en.wikipedia.org] trade-off.


But thinking about it, Penguin is a different module, looking at different things. You could equally well say that semantics "conflicts" with PR, whereby better relevancy trumps big, important links.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4476379
 10:52 am on Jul 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you make a dramatic change be prepared to wait months for it to take effect, Google hurried up and got slow again.

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