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Can you be affected by Penguin without a warning?

     
7:35 pm on Sep 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm still trying to establish why my site has been hit. I have reached out to a company who say that I have some very iffy looking links and they believe that is my problem.

I have never engaged in link building, and am not sure how or why I would have these links. Our backs are pretty much to the wall over what's happened.

I guess my question is before I start spending money to try and fix it, is it possible to be hit with a penalty but not be notified? I have had no manual penalty warnings via WMT. My two hits were Jan 2013 and May 2014. Which don't align with Penguin.
8:47 pm on Sept 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I think it would be useful for you to read this thread Google confirms Penguin recovery requires algorithm refresh [webmasterworld.com] and specifically John Mueller's reply on Google Products Forums this thread links to.

Whilst the thread talks about recovery, looking at the opposite direction would be "fall in rankings". John is referring to more than just Penguin, he is referring to algorithms in general.
8:55 pm on Sept 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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As you say, the dates you've mentioned don't tie in with Penguin - so I think that's a most unlikely reason.

It could be a manual action, I guess. There's no obligation for Google to let you know they've taken action of course, but unless you've had a history in dubious techniques or been particularly excessive bending the rules, I'd (at least like to) think you'd be notified via WMT. So a manual action is probably unlikely too imho.

Possibly Panda? There were updates in Jan 2013 and May 2014, see:
[moz.com...]

Perhaps also have another look through the monthly WebmasterWorld update threads in Jan 2013 and May 2014 to see if anyone else mentions seeing changes around those dates that might shed some light on what you've seen.
9:00 pm on Sept 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks aakk999 and Bones.

I have been keeping an eye on the penguin recovery thread, which is what actually got me wondering (and looking for possible help) about my own site.

I've never engaged in black hat SEO, link building etc. What does seem to have happened is that Google have turned up the dial on one of my competitors and they almost always rank no. 1, regardless. They also often have multiple listings for a search term, further reducing the chances of other sites to get onto page one, or at least get a decent spot. On average, you see 2-3 listings for this one site. Frustrating.

I also saw an email from Google about my analytics last night, and it said the average amount of time on my site is 40 seconds (what?), so right now I'm going through analytics, looking for all these articles. I haven't found a single one with 40 seconds of less, but am reviewing articles with less than 2-3 minutes. I could understand if my forums were linked to analytics.
10:05 pm on Sept 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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To answer your question Saffron, Yes, you can be affected by penguin without notice.
5:40 am on Sept 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If you are issued a notice, it is not a Penguin Penalty
5:57 am on Sept 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I could understand if my forums were linked to analytics.
UGC has run into problems for various reasons. If the sites that are losing ground are forums, it may be part of the reason. I would need to look up specifics but there have been several discussions that involve some perceived or real devaluation for forums.
6:01 am on Sept 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Oh my forums have been dying slowly for a couple of years now, which I'm not worried about. I never factor them into my statistics. But the problem is my content has been dropping too. First time 22nd Jan, 2013, recovery in September 2013, second time 19th May, 2014.

Somebody on this forum who clearly knows more than me about all this stuff (thank you by the way) just sent me a link to a black hat site which had my site listed. I'm not quite sure why my site was listed on a black hat site, but it is.

So Google expects us to email these iffy sites and nicely ask them to remove our links? Is that how it works? And then when they're not removed, we do the disavow thing? The problem is, some of these links are to sites in China, Taiwan etc., and I don't actually know if they're iffy or not (I'm presuming they are).

Honestly, I'm no doubt naive, but because I've never engaged in link building, I didn't think I'd have to worry about a penalty or disavowing stuff. I'm worried I might disavow good stuff too and make things worse.

Edit: Sorry, now I'm freaking out. I've read a post on moz.com (I think it's okay to mention that, please remove if it's not), and the author says that when disavowing, you have to own up (I'm paraphrasing) to every link that was made for the purpose of SEO. Essentially, admit guilt. But I haven't done this. I'm really scared that owning up to something I've not actually done is going to cause more harm. Is this what other site owners do, they disavow links they've not built? Can it make things worse?
6:27 am on Sept 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm not quite sure why my site was listed on a black hat site, but it is.


Did you visit the site to find out?
6:46 am on Sept 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I visited the forum, it was something about angela? From what I could gather, they join forums to post links to their site? I know my forums have had a lot of dodgy people trying to join, but my mods are pretty good at nipping them in the bud.

I would have thought that would hurt the black hatters more than my site though.
7:27 am on Sept 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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angela & paul = Links

I would have thought that would hurt the black hatters more than my site though.


Iím speculating but I do not think so. We experienced slaps on a few sites (same dates) and it didnít affect sites that we were linked to...
8:16 am on Sept 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If I had the money, I would pay somebody to go through my site and tell me what they think, but the problem is, the drop in visits has hit my hop pocket and I can't afford to pay somebody. I suspect there's a few reasons.

1) Possibly iffy links.
2) Not mobile friendly.
3) Some other factor.

The content is pretty good. Some weaker articles, but the bulk are good, well written (IMO) articles. The weaker ones could be dragging down the site, but they'd be 10%, if that.

I guess it's just something I need to work on. Try to get rid of iffy links, and I still don't really understand how I do that. How do I email a Chinese site when I can't even read the content. And do I have to expose my email address to a bunch of spammers?

The content is being dealt with. The bulk is good, I'm fixing up the weaker ones.

And hope they drop their love of my competitor who can do no wrong.

What do sites like Amazon do about dodgy links? Surely Google would understand that these links happen 'naturally' too?
8:38 am on Sept 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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But the problem is my content has been dropping too. First time 22nd Jan, 2013, recovery in September 2013, second time 19th May, 2014.


There is a chance that your site may recover without you doing anything.

Two of our sites were Ďslappedí on the 20th May,2014.
The one (information) recovered completely on the 6th June..
The other (ecommerce) recovered completely on the 25th August..

We didnít do anything.
3:47 pm on Oct 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Oh my forums have been dying slowly for a couple of years now, which I'm not worried about. I never factor them into my statistics


But Google does factor them into their algorithm since you have them indexed. I pointed out to you previously that you had a lot of thin content in there and you should consider no indexing them. The very first forum post I saw when I looked at your site then was a person asking a question and the only response was someone telling them they posted in the wrong forum. That kind of stuff isn't what Google wants to index. Having too much of it can bring your entire site down with Panda.
6:35 pm on Oct 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I have never engaged in link building, and am not sure how or why I would have these links. Our backs are pretty much to the wall over what's happened.

Assuming that your forums are moderated and not full of spammy links, there is the rare possibility that your logs are inside the domain root rather than higher up hidden from crawlers. In those setups, bot generated referrer spam can run wild as word gets out.
10:22 am on Oct 4, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I've read a post on moz.com (I think it's okay to mention that, please remove if it's not), and the author says that when disavowing, you have to own up (I'm paraphrasing) to every link that was made for the purpose of SEO.


Either the person who wrote that was confused, or you may have misinterpreted it.

If you are filing a reconsideration request, then yeah, you will have to document why you should be trusted (and part of that documentation will be listing spammy links that were removed, along with disavowing links that couldn't be removed).

But a disavow is not a confession, and even if you wanted to confess, you really couldn't. While there is a way to add comments to the disavow file, google has said that the comments area is for YOU alone and they don't bother reading the comments. (And yes, I believe that they DON'T read the comments in the disavow file. Why make them optional / at the webmaster's discretion if they really wanted to read them?)