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Google Launches Update Targeting Spam... Again? Penguin Update



9:50 pm on Apr 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Matt Cutts "In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can't divulge specific signals because we don't want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics."


Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.

[edited by: Brett_Tabke at 4:31 pm (utc) on Apr 25, 2012]
[edit reason] added quotes - updated link [/edit]


2:53 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Were screwed ... our largest website got lost almost all of its rankings ... we built spammy links years ago, but nothing in the last 18 months. We sailed through PANDA and actually gain rankings, but not this time ... we spend $800 - $1000 per month on fresh content plus write content ourselves ... our only SEO for the last year and a half has been article placements on respectable PR bloggers websites

... I would assume that making a re-inclusion request to G would be a waste of time? Anybody have thoyghts on this?


3:01 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@Bong: You're preaching to the choir. Try getting USERS to switch. Many webmasters have no choice but to lick Google's boots. I turned off my Adwords account. Amazingly, sales went up. At least it's one small step away from the monster.


3:01 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Long time lurker here. Hurt pretty massively by this whole update, but waiting it out for now. What I'm saying is that I certainly have no love for Google, but...

Have you actually seen the results in Bing?

Garbage. Complete garbage.

I wish I could say they were spammy and full of marketing stuff (at least then some of these results would be focused and make sense), but they're not.

Instead, they are freaky-random.

So as bad as this update is, Google probably won't be sucking worse than Bing anytime soon.


3:32 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)


I find the Bing results considerably better than google's its been like that for some time.

Whatever google is doing with this update it simply cannot be the final reiteration. The results are not just bad. But really bad.

I'll give you an example. I play in adult webites. I have 2 sites EDM for a gay and a straight version of a particular activity. Gay version is actually outranking itself on a search for the straight version than it is for a search on the gay version.

Its nuts!


3:35 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

More observations for a highly competitive vertical:
-my affiliate clients hit hard, BUT other affiliates (5 of page 1 serps) filled in.
-checking 'brand terms' as anchor text percentage vs top kw phrases, nothing conclusive so far
-affiliate sites that moved into the top 10 have really weak domain names, and are low quality aesthetically, and content wise. Doesn't fit the profile of what g says it wants at all
-something link related, or off page, must be allowing these sites to benefit
-no social media being on the new ranking affiliate sites


3:37 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Please don't forget that Bing was never under pressure of spammers and black hats, who usually don't bother with niche search engines.


3:44 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Its nuts!

Very apt.


4:11 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


What a catch!


4:11 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Gay version is actually outranking itself on a search for the straight version than it is for a search on the gay version.

It's political correctness in the extreme!


4:17 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Mod's note... again, SeymourJames post, about his topic, published in the Business Issues forum...

Google - What went wrong this April 2012
The Google Business Plan
< snip - off-topic >

I am going to finish there - you can all make up your own minds but I know what I am doing and it no longer means learning a new dance.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 6:09 pm (utc) on Apr 26, 2012]


4:24 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Searches for <snip> are so clean what you mean? I see all 5 star (rich snippet hacks), .edu domain hacks, redirects.

This is quality moving forward. I am just shocked what is going on and not a single person from Google is talking about all this. It is like nothing happened.

They say it impacted 3.1% of the searches but every keyword I search shows me crazy results on the top 10.

<snip> related keywords are SHOCKING in Google.com right now.


They are all on top once again.

[edited by: goodroi at 3:33 pm (utc) on Apr 30, 2012]
[edit reason] Keywords [/edit]


4:29 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm very serious when I say that I think they got a minus where they meant a plus in the recent update. I've seen a backlink profile that's just sidebar junk that looks very JCPenney to me (I'd bet the same network, in fact). That's going to a thin site that ranks.

Check your math please Google.


4:29 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Maybe it is in fact better to have discussion about relying on Google as a business model as a separate thread? You said you tried to create a new thread but that it did not work and hence you added your discussion to the current thread.

FYI, each new thread needs to be approved by moderators, so once you submit a new thread, all you need to do is to wait from 10 - 120 minutes (approx.) for your thread to be approved.


4:41 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

If you are having to dance every few months to a different tune, how can you have a sustainable business that employs people.

Easy... fire the band!

All sarcasm aside, you made the point earlier that making a business dependent upon the whims of google is probably not a great idea.

Sure, I love free traffic as much as anybody. But at the end of the day, you get what you pay for.


4:44 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

In the UK definately seeing some of our websites with the keyword within the url being hit, (not all though), but even more annoying is that we purchased some years ago the domains without hyphens, having previously owned the hyphenated domains. What has replaced our positioning almost exactly are these old domains that have been re purchased with 2 pages to a site! Most galling.


4:47 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Thanks Nomis5. "Rich Snippets" Explains everything.
I am so behind the times :(


4:49 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

Google doesn't get it. eHow, ebay, etc... if we WANTED these sites we'd go search them directly. I use Google less and less all the time as they become more and more like my yellow pages, may the biggest spender win.


4:56 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

aakk9999 OK. I have said my piece now on that point.

I will sit and watch the technical discussion unfold. The top three causes why sites have been downgraded would be good to see whilst crappy sites have been promoted.

I have parked domains sitting on page 2 for only moderately competitive phrases. The thing I am seeing in my market is that very old sites even if they are parked domains are now ranking. Sites which had no trafic beforehand. Some quality sites have at the same time disappeared from page 1 and 2.

I note also that no site which regularly uses adwords who also sit on page one or two from 5 different phrases in my market have been downgraded. And this may be a clue. Find an example of a site which has been seriously downgraded from page 1 or 2 but has also regularly used adwords. None in my market.


4:58 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I wonder if it makes any sense to draw some parallels with what Google did on the Adwords side of things a couple years ago...ie massive purge of affiliates and sites with business models they don't like?

1) Affiliates got massacred in Adwords, so many switched to SEO. Now that results are cluttered with tons of thin affiliates Google now wants to purge them out of the SERPS

2) Google would issue numerous warnings to Adwords advertisers about low "quality scores". Often these were ignored as they were easy to circumvent...until Google used that against you and banned Adwords accounts.

What about the same thing happening in Google Webmaster Tools? Throw warnings about "unnatural links" if they are ignored or a link profile is not improved at some point down the road could this lead to a site being completely deindexed?

3) With Adwords, if you promoted a dodgy site (according to Google) say 6 years ago but nothing unacceptable since then, Google could and would still ban your account for that past transgression.

What about sites with very old but poor link profiles going against a site now?

4) Lots of legit Adwords advertisers got banned just like lots of good sites are taking hits now while obvious and blatant exceptions to the "rules" go unscathed.

In other words, Google doesn't really care about collateral damage as long as in the long run with a tweak here and a tweak there they can optimize revenue, keep brands and major advertisers happy and have just enough "litte guy" diversity to be able to point to and say "See, even the little guy gets a shot against the big boys"

5) For every site/business demolished with Google's whims there is someone else to fill the slot.


5:00 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I think the underlying frustration here, especially for me, is when you do everything "by the book" (no black hat anything) and your site bounces up and down in Google's SERPS for no apparent reason. Whereas in BING the site remains steady. One e-commerce site I manage comes to mind. It is well established (12 years old) and in BING it has been in the top 5 SERPS seemingly forever, whereas in Google it has jumped from page one to page 30 and anywhere in between without changing a thing on the site. There is no logical explanation for it. Subsequently, one day your sales are up, the next they are down, and you have no clue how to adjust to make Google happy.

And this is way I said earlier I think Google is just trying to get people to buy AdWords.



5:06 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

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i think the serps are volatile because the results arent created from just one run. it takes a few iterations for it all to settle out. the first time they do it they always get a load of lousy sites float to the top, which everyone notices and complains about, but they never stay there. in my experience if i drop down, i can usually just sit it out and recover.

its when you panic and make wholesale changes, trying to fix non-existant problems, that you do yourself more harm than good.


5:08 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I note also that no site which regularly uses adwords who also sit on page one or two from 5 different phrases in my market have been downgraded.

Surely this is simply because almost by definition a webspam site is designed to profit from free traffic without paying for adwords - so the vast majority of sites that advertise with adwords wouldn't also be spam sites?


5:08 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I like this, quoted for reference. Thank you.

I'd like to share what I have observed:
-positions of previously high ranking terms fell completely out of the top 50 for keyword phrases that were used as exact match anchor text links
-good positions 'survived' in some cases where no exact match anchor text links were pointed
-positions improved for heavily naturally branded site despite having acquired exact match anchor text links recently
-EMDs where branding is difficult b/c it is the keyword phrase got blasted
-Sites hit with sloppy backlink profiles from YEARS ago (adopted project) despite only adding quality diversified links for past 18 months
-no wbmstr tools messages for any of the sites
-top keywords I focused on (primarily with anchor text links) smashed. kws I did not focus on doing 'ok'.

I went through a list of the anchor text used in the most recent links that were added ('acquired', blog posts, social, etc.) and in almost every instance the position for that keyword was lost. Except for one site, with solid branding.

This is a bit of a ramble, but if we're able to share observations some commonalities may become apparent.


5:09 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Don't be fooled by the smoke screens. All Google wants to see is an increase in ad revenue, so the more ways they devise to identify sites that have been professionally groomed and sites that depend on search results for their business, the more those sites will get screwed... because they are the ones that Google reckons should be paying for Adwords. Dunno about you but I call this "extortion".

The Panda debacle increased Google revenue by 30% within only 3 months, so you can look forward to more shenanigans like that.


5:18 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Well, if this thing has negatively effected you in some way - don't do a thing to your sites for at least a couple of weeks.

I just can't imagine these results are going to stick, and generally the Google MO on changes this big is to evaluate, then slowly roll things back until they get to some sort of reasonable result that matches the feed back they get from the rooms full of human evaluators that have going.

I'm all for a reduction in spam sites (whatever those are) but my money says the folks at the plex that cooked up this "anti spam" algo change are doing some explaining to their bosses, and some adjusting at this very moment.


5:32 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Don't fall into the trap of thinking this *must* be AdWords related and then squeezing everything into that model. Only 25% of the sites I manage for myself and for clients use AdWords at all, and only one non-AdWords site suffered any loss - and only two spots at that.

Personally, I think the AdWords track is a red herring.


5:34 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month

For sure, we need to wait a day or two for it to settle.

On the positive side, my initial observations indicate some older long tail pages doing better.

I'm still seeing some affiliates nicely placed, and some EMD doing well.

I'll being going back to those same searches in a couple of days.


5:37 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)


I fear, wishful thinking I am afraid. Uncertainty in the "organic" results pushes people towards Adwords as a business model and this is a good time to do it as they have no real competition...


5:51 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

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UK ecommerce site, Pandalised April 2011, traffic fell 10% on the 19th, major shake up in results in our niche, increased to 20% drop at the start of the week but now seems to be coming back up as results settle down (conversion is another story however!).

Seeing some ranking improvements today, newly introduced sites have gradually fallen away along with some old affiliate sites although only in select cases, not all. The only successful affiliate sites in our niche have been EMD's with several pages of content but they seem to have suffered with this update.

However, one network of single page EMD's is holding its' own, all interlinked, all single page domains with affiliate content units (i.e. no content) - the very definition of spam in my book. Difficult to justify why those are doing okay at this point while content affiliate sites have suffered. Terms are equally as competitive.

However, things are still moving around big time so it's not over.

Haven't used Adwords for 6 months. I once suspected there was an Adwords/organic rankings connection but purely from the viewpoint that if you're prepared to spend to be seen for a certain phrase and presumably you're getting a ROI, then you're probably an important player for that phrase. But I think it would only be a minor influence at most, taken into context with everything else you're doing. We never saw a backlash from ditching Adwords, put it that way.

Quality links are producing small gains on the main terms whereas pages with no or fewer quality inbound links have fallen to varying degrees depending on competitiveness.

I would say wait a week and see, but next week there will be something else!


5:53 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm just wondering about the "quality" of traffic I am now getting to my trade directory site. Yesterday's uniques were up with average page views down and today I have already had my highest uniques of 2012 but with the lowest average page views ever!

Has anyone else seen this?
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