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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]


5:58 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think this update is primarily going after EM Anchor Text/Full Site Links. I've looked through a few sites that took a hit, pretty big Link Graph issues, but they all had a fairly large number of exact match anchor text links from very few sources (5-7). Rather then build up the number of referring domains, I am just removing them from the link graph to see what happens.

Note: It is not content, Google ranked these sites pretty high for a multitude of terms and the sites had steered clear of any and all panda updates.

Anyone notice anything similar?


6:33 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

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?

No, I didn't.
Since this Spam Update my traffic is back to pre Panda levels and the highest since February 2011. At the same time however my bounce rate is the lowest ever! My income yesterday was the highest since February 2011 too. Thus, I think that I can say that the quality of traffic is good and that Google is doing a good job (in my niche).


6:40 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Has anyone else seen this?

I've seen this - Traffic is great but page per visit is the lowest as compared to the average days.


6:44 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Finally found one of my sites in the index. Dead Last! How in the world can a site that has ranked for 5 years in the top 3 suddenly become dead last?

Does that mean Google thinks I have been spamming and gaming them for the past 5 years? Somehow I think they give me too much credit


6:48 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

Google has named this one "Penguin"

Obviously they have a thing about black and white animals. Watch out skunks, lemurs and zebras.


7:19 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

We got hit by the last update without a doubt. We've held spot 1-2 for our main keyword for the last year nearly and now boom, we're back to 14.

I'm nearly certain we're getting hit for keyword stuffing/over optimization. I'll be reviewing every page on our site and try to reduce over usage to clear the penalty if possible.


7:29 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

Do we know for sure that this update has already been launched?

Since this Spam Update my traffic is back to pre Panda levels and the highest since February 2011.

There was a comment on searchengineland a few days ago about the OOP update not yet being rolled out, but a minor update to Panda being rolled out around April 19th.

Maybe tis Panda and the long anticipated spam / OOP update is still in the works?


7:41 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member crobb305 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Do we know for sure that this update has already been launched?

Yes, it has been launched. In fact, MC tweeted about it on the 24th, moments after it began, and told everyone to follow the coverage at SearchEngineLand, and provided a link to the story in his tweet:

"Google just pushed an algorithmic ranking change: [goo.gl...] Coverage at Search Engine Land: [goo.gl...] " -MC, Apr 24


7:53 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Its the anti-seo update.

> Penguin

Yep - Google is giving us the bird.

Lane R Ellis

7:58 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Yesterday I started calling this the "Google Drive-By" update, because it both coincided with the release of Google Drive and has also had, at least for some folks, somewhat of a drive-by-like effect on rankings.


8:05 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

New here although I've been reading these threads for years.

My blog that I'm seeing sink into oblivion is non-profit and has been hit three separate times in the last month. Each time on a Wednesday (last time yesterday), Webmaster Tools fetched a certain page, which was followed by what looked like one or more visits from real Google humans. Then soon after a big drop for terms I've held for years, now for a total of a 50% drop in traffic. Most of the content on the blog is original, but it's a blog and I do link to my source material a lot, which is often on one of a few other sites that covers the same subject. I do reprint news articles occasionally. This one page they keep pulling is one of those reprints that is several years old and doesn't have much else to it, but my visitors find it useful so I don't want to get rid of it.

It's a site that is critical of a major corporation that is one of Google's BIG money advertisers, and the name of the corp is also a very popular term for spammers. I've seen speculation about whether black hat linking campaigns can affect a site and I can say for sure that they do, because in 2005 this corporation's SEO people spammed my link into thousands of blog comments over the course of three or four days, using a bot. Two months later the blog took a big dive that took 4 years and several reconsideration requests to get undone.

Since then all has been well until this month. I don't make money from the site -- the few Google ads I have just cover the costs. The site is not built for search engines, but for my visitors who are always telling me what a great service I'm providing. No one could look at it and say it's not relevant or useful to people seeking info on this corp. The keywords probably appear spammy because they are used a lot but the site is about this corporation so it's natural for the name to be repeated. I take complaints from consumers that repeat the keywords in their stories. Commenters use them a lot too. Am I supposed to tell my visitors not to use the corporation's name because it's affecting my SEO?

This is ridiculous.


8:19 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have some points I need to discuss with SEO people.

First about the updates.
I believe there are 2 different updates that are doing all this.
- The first update is a Panda iteration. It stroke on the 12th or the 20th - just before the weekend.
- The other one stroke on the 24th (this should be the Penguin update.

Second - how it affects websites.
One of these updates affect the long tail keywords and their variations. Also penalizes some internal pages if there are multiple pages targeting the same keyword. You will most likely see only one of your pages in the SERPs where they used to be 2 (or more).

Third - about the actual algo.
I want to ask all of the penalized website owners about their internal link profiles. I want to point your attention to the anchor texts of your internal links. I suspect that one of the updates penalizes pages what receive a lot of anchor text heavy links from within the domain.

What do you think? What are your observations?


8:22 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you want to discuss the business issues then go here


If people will discus it I will start to give some insights into how corporations truly work because I know. At this moment, Google are very scared there will be a backlash in terms of search volumes. I mean they are terrified of getting a reputation putting them into the same class as those "greedy bankers". They can handle government, they can handle competition but they can't handle a market of searchers that turns against them.

I am pretty convinced this is an algorithmic change to meet a business need called adwords and their next financial report - call it an upstage of the FB IPO - their last announcement could not have been better timed. All jokes aside - you are not going to be mining asteroids without a lot of money either.

Technically, my main site is nearly 9 years old, one of the first in its market - brand name url, no keywords in it and it has been dumped. People sit on my site doing searches, often for 30 minutes and sometimes longer. Bounce rate is at 22%. Clearly my visitors like it but Google doesn't. Page 1 for a long time. Number one on a modest search term for 8 years. Constant refresh of data on that page as new products arrive.

Now if I had a bounce rate of 90%, and I just bought a thousand links, I could understand but it is not the case. If I have some massive blog network I could also understand but I haven't. I have a complete spectrum of links in terms of tags and types of sites over 9 years. Sometimes I publish on the BBC, Reuters or whomever. Sometimes it could even be a small blog talking about wine or why the Berlin wall fell down. The point is in business you make publicity wherever you can. And these people, yes this company are telling you that they will decide where you advertise, how you will advertise etc. Makes my blood boil - more reminiscent of the Soviet Union - I am old enough and my statement about a fortune 500 business is true.


8:30 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

My observation is that I'm suddenly ranking for random dozen-word run-on sentences that have about 1% relevance to my content. Bouncy-bouncy.


8:44 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Anyone else seeing this as mainly a home page issue? Looking at a couple of clients who have suffered, it's the home pages that don't rank anymore but internal pages still do. Long-tail traffic is still good but head-terms have been wiped out.


8:57 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

Yes, i've seen examples of long tail doing well, and home page missing.

Until the shuffling of serps is over i'm not going to make my mind up.


9:01 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

my observation is following:

my brand new site on brand new domain that i bought in jan 2012 - the site has only few incoming links, average of Pages/Visit: 4.95 and Avg. Visit Duration: 04:09 had increased in serps and is now ranking on 1,2 or 3rd place for most important keywords.

my other, older site in same niche, with Avg. Visit Duration: 02:15 dropped 30% traffic. same amount of links from same domains.

my guess is visit duration is what counts now.


9:04 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

My "science experiment spam" site is now ranking number 1 for a highly competitive term.. We also have a 7 yeah old site that has been pretty much left alone other than content and its been nuked in a big way. We are also seeing tons of US traffic on AU domains which is unusual. Google can't be happy with these results.


9:08 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)


Yes, I think so. I'm still getting the same long tail traffic to internal pages as before, it's the traffic to my home page and for my main keywords that has gone.

I think this may be something to do with the relation between anchor text (external and internal) and keywords you've optimised for on-page.

I also think, if you are an affiliate, you now have to be extra whiter than white with extra teeth-whitener, or suffer deep scrutiny from this algorithm.


9:10 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Simple question.

Has CTR gone up on adwords. Evidence - Google financial statements.

Don't even try to tell me there is no connection. This is all becoming very naive.


9:14 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@kidder -- interesting about the US traffic on AU sites. After the first drop my blog experienced I thought it might help to choose to target US traffic in Webmaster Tools, but now I'm getting more irrelevant foreign traffic than ever.


9:27 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I just find it bizarre how the heads of the departments and the engineers at Google are posting on social networks as if nothing has bad has happened.

Meanwhile in the real world businesses and lively hoods drop into oblivion.

It seems to them the Adwords based operation Penguin is working as planned.

I liked this recent headline "April 20 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Inc. should sell its Bing search business to Facebook Inc., a deal worth about $5 billion that would help both companies compete with Google Inc., said Rick Sherlund, an analyst at Nomura Equity Research."


9:45 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

On an analytical note: I have noticed two 4 year old exact match domains, .net & .org (of mine) sharply climbing the rankings from somewhere outside the top 100 (my reports to dot check further) to position 27 (to date) with only dupe content and no back links.


9:45 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I think this update is primarily going after EM Anchor Text/Full Site Links

@dunivan I am seeing this. i added a few links for the first time to 2 sites that had top 5 positions and they are gone for the EM AT. Gone. Nothing changed - just added link with EM AT.

re: homepage - yes, seeing the homepage affected moreso than internal pages


9:47 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I am going to try to take down the 2 links I added and see if rankings return. Should be able to isolate that variable pretty well since one site (emd) never had any link buidling, and the other has not had much, and nothing for years.


10:19 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I'll agree with brett that this update is giving us the bird. I won't agree that it is anti-SEO. Too many spam search engine manipulators are ranking for terms they have no justification. It's doing the opposite of it's stated purpose. It's not rewarding excellent content. It's rewarding thin content. It's rewarding link schemes that should have gone out with JCPenney. It's rewarding social network spam.

OOPS is the only appropriate acronym.

I'm reminded of Zefrank on how politicans name a bill. Say the opposite, say the opposite.


10:21 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I manage 10 niche sites for a client in a similar area. Each website is on a separate ip range, they are more than 7 years old and they have a diverse link profile, with a mixture of some keyword perfect text and some non-keyword perfect text. here's what I can share about our sites (I hope it will help to formulate some answers about Penguin).

1. We write high quality unique articles that are actually very useful to their audience. We also engage in what might be considered as link manipulation, but in a very considered way. Comments / links are only every part of a useful discussion, and we never use keyword perfect text to link from on and only link to pages we think would be of use to the people who are looking at them.

2. the site that has been hit hardest was at #11 for the main keyword phrase in a very competitive market. It has now dropped on average between 20 and 50 pages for every search term we are tracking it for. What makes this site different? It has a keyword-in-domain-with-hypens.com. It also has a lot of content based around information that can be found on other meta sites (in a state by state directory structure).

This site also a has a single keyword perfect link from a homepage of a PR6 website that I run. It might look like a purchased link? thoughts?

3. have just checked another site that I used to manage that was number 1 for about 5 years, it was a keyword-in-title.net domain and it is completely gone.

4. Our business websites, which contain somebrand.com in the domain haven't seen a lot of movement.

5. sites that have been hit 2nd hardest are exactphraseindomain.com without hyphens, but they have only dropped a few places each, but enough to wipe out a chunk of traffic.

6. Another site which has directory style content (but unique and well written content for each page, like a review for each listing) has also been pawned (about a 50% drop in traffic). Maybe linking back to the source of your information is a bad idea?

7. Somekeyword.org also 75% drop in traffic in the last week, but another keywordphrase.org with fewer pages has actually not moved much, and might even have gone up in the last few days. Both have similar link profiles, and the same writers and marketing tactics behind them.

I've been doing SEO for about 8 years and I'm stumped. This is the strangest update I've seen. We have only done the things we thought would help our sites. Most of the effort has gone into compliance, technical optimization and writing quality well researched articles that are useful to their audience. I'm not sure what else we are expected to do.....


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

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

All I see here is another attempt from Google to award brands which are seen by many as the only salvation in the SERPs

“Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool. … Brand affinity is clearly hard wired. It is so fundamental to human existence that it's not going away. It must have a genetic component.”

As more and more websites come onto the web, the single best way to determine quality is brand.

The only definitive correlation I see in rankings and this update is the effect of branding and inbound links to brands.

-Exact match domains are not all penalized
-Affiliate websites are not all penalized
-Lots of sites with poor links are penalized, yet some are not

Most brands have:

- A higher value proposition
- Well written content
- Social and community stickiness
- Signals which support a logical company
- Naturally built inbound links

My opinion is that the unnatural links campaign Google sent out starting late last year was done for feedback and data and that the point of all of this is to eventually weed out generic websites that are not brands.

Eventually there will easily be enough non-generic brands to cover page one Google for almost any known vertical. I believe that is the direction we are headed.


11:13 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

marsattack; You are now getting somewhere. This is what needs to happen. And it may happen quicker than you think. Especially if FB or another player gets a sniff that Google can be put on the back foot.

As a top rated forum, I really had hoped that people would rally not just around dancing to the latest tune but wake up and smell the coffee. This is a change designed to improve profits at Google regardless of the search results quality. It has nothing to do with making better search results and everything to do with CTR on adwords. It has been an ongoing process now for over 2 years - the word actually that describes this update should be called INSIDIOUS. If the grass roots internet do not start asking questions about the monopoly position that Google enjoys then nothing is going to change and I will see you all again 6 months for another dance when they squeeze a little more.

Quite frankly, Google could have made random changes and you would still be trying to figure it out.

In solving any crime, you need to look at motives. What does Google gain from doing this major update to their rankings. Evidence so far is they made a complete hash of it or it was designed that CTR on adwords would climb. I am sure they will clean it up a bit but don't hold your breadth that they are not seeking a good nudge in their adwords CTR.

So in SEO terms because that is what most people want to hear, stop competing with high paying Google adwords and annoying their advertisers with better content, more links or whatever.


11:41 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Form to show google your hand: [docs.google.com...]
This 743 message thread spans 25 pages: 743

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