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Should I continue updating penalized site?

     
6:35 am on May 14, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have a site that was hit by Penguin when it came out, and has not fully recovered even after disavowing links and submitting Reconsideration (which was accepted). Regardless, all other search engines still rank me very well, with the ONLY exception of Google.

Although Google still sends me traffic (which has increased somewhat after my disavow files were processed, I assume), many of my pages are stuck back around pages 3-5 and it looks like some algo filter within Google is still keeping me in this purgatory which is neither heaven nor hell. They are stuck there, literally. Also, because Penguin is (intentionally) updated like maybe once a year, I cannot sit around waiting for that to come.

My question for the experts is.....Is it worthwhile to continue updating my site or will this "penalty" stay forever? What would you do if you were me?

I can definitely update my site and expand it a lot more, but I am hesitant because of this filter. This doubt that all my work would go to waste is preventing me from doing anything much. At the same time, I know the "main" penalty has been lifted when I see Google listing that site with Sitelinks, which to me, is a positive sign (but my site IS a quality site to begin with).

My belief is that Google still doesn't know (or more likely doesn't want) to rank sites based on quality metrics (and this metric differs from topic to topic so you might think everything is ok based on your "area"), and are much more interested in continuing their practices/penalties. Which (coupled with increasing negative press in the media) will actually hurt them in the long run - but that is another matter.
9:01 am on May 14, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It is a long time since Penguin was first released, and a lot of algorithm changes have happened since then. Also, a lot of other webmasters have made changes (some of them substantial) to their sites in the meantime, so you can't assume that what you have done to address that one problem should return your pages to the positions they held before Penguin was released.

If your site can be improved in any area, improve it. Even if it makes no immediate difference to Google SERPs it is worth doing. The web is constantly expanding and changing, and you won't keep up with it by standing still.
11:07 am on May 14, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Take a look at the competition in your niche... were they affected the same way?

You do want to rank everywhere you can, but sometimes that's not possible. If Bing is sending you good traffic your site is not dead.... if you are page 3-5 on G, then tweak and work as commonsense suggests. And if you are on those pages you are not dead to G... just not where you used to be... and that happens a lot these days. Some recover,, so don't.
12:33 pm on May 14, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Are you positive it's just Penguin and not Panda? I had a site that was pandalyzed (false positive I believe because my other seven sites that were pretty much identical except for the target location were fine) and it took about 20 months but it came back roaring last May with Panda 4. I didn't do a thing to that site that I didn't to the other seven, and just kept updating it like the others (it's an event site) So if you have the time for it, and it's not costing you a lot of money, you might want to leave it up and keep going with it.
4:44 pm on May 14, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Is it worthwhile to continue updating my site

As opposed to what?
-- Back-burner the site and leave everything in stasis (this does not strike me as a good idea)
-- Dump the site entirely and move to a new name
?
5:02 pm on May 14, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the responses

@ Netmeg

I am positive its Penguin related, since the site tanked after Penguin 1, and I still have my SiteLinks intact today, which is a sign of trust rank in Google. Panda would remove those links and you won't even come up for your site name when you search for it in Google.

@ lucy24

I was entertaining the idea of dumping the site and moving to a new domain entirely. I still have a copy of the site all ready on another domain, just not activated.

But my site ranks well in every (other) search engine, so I don't think its a good idea. And since Google has restored a bit of my traffic, it adds to my dilemma.

I think a better way to put my question is - Is my site "tainted" forever? That would suck, seriously.........

I really devoted a few years of my life to this site, so for Google to continue being such a bitch is just unforgivable. I'm in purgatory, neither heaven nor hell, LOL.

Besides, I never spammed my links, my mistake was hiring a bad SEO service and using a few blog networks and article marketing. I never had 10s of thousands of spam links, compared to many others who got tanked by Penguin.

What makes things complicated is my site is not your (above average) run-of-the-mill spammy site (even).

It really was good, and I had people coming to me all the time to either use my content, or ask me for direct advertising, even till today. People will notice why my site ranks at the top in other search engines but not Google. And why they get lesser results instead on Google. This is not looking good for Google in the long run, but hey, what right do I have to tell the big G what to do? ;)
2:36 am on May 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Another bit of info I will share is this - Both Bing and Yahoo traffic to my penalized site exceeds that from Google and has been growing. And here's the kicker - it's not even a small growth. It's not drastic growth, but it's significant.

So, it isn't so simple to just dump the domain name and move on to another -- for the sake of Google.

The inference I can make from this is Google is LOSING market share. And I think they will continue to lose market share as long as they continue their policies. A lot of people are saying Google SERPs suck, and not without reason.
3:10 am on May 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Ebuzz - Welcome to the forums. Yes, you must work on your site if you expect to recover. Back in September 2014, we discussed several comments from Google's John Mueller in a thread about Penguin recovery. I think you should regard what John said ultimately as an encouragement... but it's also a challenge...

Google confirms Penguin recovery requires algorithm refresh
September 2014
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4700685.htm [webmasterworld.com]

My second post on the thread is relevant to your question now...
A fuller quote from what John Mueller posted in the above Google product forums discussion... suggests that a site that has really begun fixing its spam issues might see a benefit before the data/algorithm refresh....

John's comments also suggest that Google is more complicated than just one algorithm, and that its various algorithms can interact. User interaction also enters into it. As John summed it up...
... (it) helps to keep in mind here is that you shouldn't be focusing on individual factors of individual algorithms, it makes much more sense to focus on your site overall -- cleaning up individual issues, but not assuming that these are the only aspects worth working on.

So yes, there is chance of recovery. The challenge is that you may be viewing your old rankings as something you deserve to have right now, and that could end up side-tracking you. We don't know how perfect your disavow has to be. We don't know how long you'd been coasting ahead of your competition on links a bad SEO company built for you, or on other iffy links... nor do we know how well your competitors have been building up their own content and inbound linking.

At a certain point, though, (and to oversimplify)... if you're really getting better natural links than your competitors are getting, Google will notice. That may or may not require your having a substantially better site than you had before. Or it may require a completely different type of promotion. If you've put a few years into your site and you know it's good, absolutely keep at it... but know that you've lost ground and that you're rebuilding certain kinds of foundations, and that it will take time.

PS: If you choose to take believe that the other engines are overtaking Google and that is only a matter of time, that's your choice too.
3:50 am on May 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ Robert Charlton

Thanks for pointing that thread to me. Very interesting discussion there. Yes, I guess I will continue working on the site. Regardless if other search engines are overtaking Google; but if you have rankings for major terms in Bing/Yahoo, I'm sure you would notice this phenomenon as well by a simple look at your stats.

It used to be that Bing/Yahoo combined, only comprised 15% of what Google sends, but now, it is a completely different story. In the past couple of years alone, they have really made significant inroads into Google's stake, which Google probably assumes is "their right" as well.

As an amusing sidenote, even the smaller search engines like DuckDuckGo seem to have gone up and overtaken others like....AOL. DDG is now officially the third biggest referrer after Bing/Yahoo for me (yes, DDG is still microscopic, but just saying). This topic (people moving away from Google) could be a subject for a new thread here, but I won't be the one to start it.

For the record, I do not believe Google will be overtaken, but it is very likely they will lose a lot more ground in the next few years, and that I do believe.

At the end I don't really care who sends the traffic, but I really do think Google needs to sort out the Pandora's Box they themselves opened with their Penguin/Panda updates. The damage and fallout has been, and continues to be enormous. I ended up just putting my site on freeze for years, and concentrated on others because I didn't know how or whether to proceed.
8:34 am on May 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In answer to the original question: It all depends on your business model (ie. how you try and make money)

The OP has described a scenario that fits my circumstances exactly and I’m sure there are many, many others as well in the same state of uncertainty.

I have seen the top 15-20 sites in a particular Australian tourism niche all taken out by Penguin ver 1 and not one has ever resurfaced. A portfolio of 8 sites, all being country destination guides with different content, different linking patterns, different hosting etc and every single one hit by Penguin. What do all these sites have in common? A business model that depends on free traffic via SERP placements and competition with Google’s properties for revenue. There are no other common denominators.

Like the OP, I have also jumped through all the hoops… rel=nofollow, disavowal lists, removal of all possible over optimisation signals… etc etc etc and all to no avail. Not the slightest improvement. So there has to be some other factor(s) in effect.

So… as the OP said

I can definitely update my site and expand it a lot more, but I am hesitant because of this filter. This doubt that all my work would go to waste is preventing me from doing anything much.


That’s it in a nutshell.

If Penguin, as I suspect, has shut the door on what was left of affiliates and sites that depend on free traffic, there is no point in reworking a site if it keeps the same business model. For me, the issue is not whether I can revamp a website but whether I can find a way forward with a business model that Google does not penalise.
10:59 am on May 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ austtr

Have you seen your sites come back up to within pages 3-5 of Google? Mine have all "recovered" to this extent, but there is *something* holding them back from going higher. Before they "recovered" it was much worse, and they were mostly all banished to Timbaktu, with the exception of small, and low key terms.

My situation is unique in the sense that my rankings in the other search engines is still good, and as I explained, they send me more traffic (combined) than Google and - this figure still grows. Google has lost touch with the ground crew and forgot their roots along the way. Now it's all about govt, large companies and conglomerates, their knowledge graph, sub-standard SERP results, and pushing more of their ads onto page one. How long will this sustain? Go figure ;)

From here on out, I'm pretty certain Google will never gain ground in the search engine pie "war"; only continue to lose ground. Upon analysis, I can reasonably expect my traffic to grow, not decrease, even if it doesn't come from Google anymore. So, in conclusion, I do have a reason to continue updating my site. Traffic is still traffic and we all need to wean/detox ourselves of this programming that Google is the be-all and end-all for search engine traffic.

And you guys did help with the thought process.... ;)
5:24 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I just published a new page, and guess where it ends up? Yep, on page 3 of Google for the target keyword (which is a very small keyword btw).

Google is so predictable. The more they lose ground, the more I rejoice.
6:46 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've had this very question internally on more than one occasion. I don't want to get overly deep on it, but let me just say this. I spent a portion of my life attempting to "fix" what might be wrong. There was always the hope or the promised land that it could turn around. Well, the fact is I try to live with no regrets. I can honestly say that I regret a lot of my time that I've invested in my websites. The reason is because it can be washed away. The written word can have next to no eye balls, no real revenue generation, and thus has no redeeming value unless I pay to get visitors to that site. The fact is the site never came back to anything. I still have it online because I chipped away with that belief in fairness, balance and a return to right. It "might happen". People might win the lottery. We see that all the time in the newspapers. I'm far more realistic now. I have little attachment to my pre existing sites. My approach was always based on organic traffic. Perhaps you're the same. The fact is I could have spent time on a website that would not depend on a search engine, but would rather be it's own entity. So at this point, if what I'm spending time on cannot exist without fairness from search engines, then it's not worth the investment in time. You could learn piano. That takes time, but at the end of all those hours, you have something real. Ranking are a false sense of security. I have been attached to my website because of the time invested in them in the past. Well, I've watched enough Shark Tank to realize that sometimes the best advice is to walk away. Sorry for getting deep on this, but I can honestly say your question is something I've battled with since the plague of Panda and Penguin.
7:20 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I just published a new page, and guess where it ends up? Yep, on page 3 of Google for the target keyword (which is a very small keyword btw).

Ebuzz, I think you may have unrealistic expectations about the time it takes to rank... particularly when the site is penalized. Here's another thread based on the sayings of John Mueller, which I think goes well with the first thread I suggested....

Search engines need time & other signals to confirm a site is "fantastic"
June, 2012
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4467831.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Note that impatience is not your friend.
7:45 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ Robert Charlton

Actually, I'm not surprised at all that the page ends up on page 3 for a microscopic long tail search term (if it even exists as one, and I was not aware it was even a search term - I just published my page "as is"). My latest post in this thread is to add what I feel is evidence that the "taint" from Google's Penguin is clearly in effect.

As I have stated in my OP, 90% of my pages are stuck in a "vertical" from page 3-5.. It doesn't matter if the page is new or old. Page 3-5 of Google is where it's at.

Note that I also have been updating my other sites recently, and for other "authority" sites that I have, the newest pages always land instantly on page one (from nowhere) assuming the keyword is not a hotly contested one. This is my experience with "non penalized" sites, and it is the same for everyone else.

So why would my latest page on this Penguinized site land on page 3? It's because the penalty is still in effect, and looks to be permanent (in spite of everything I do). That much is obvious.

I would be extremely surprised if it moved up to page one. Google doesn't need anymore time to decide if my (new) page is fantastic or not......They have already judged my entire site with Penguin back in 2012.
8:39 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So why would my latest page on this Penguinized site land on page 3? It's because the penalty is still in effect


I think that is a very speculative assumption. There were strong signs that Penguin was both page- and term-specific (although the strength of internal links to any new page would obviously be a factor).

The question you need to address is why that page would be anywhere other than page 3, and it is not down to any single factor. However, if it is new, it cannot have acquired much link juice of its own (that is one factor), or have had any appreciable traffic record for Google to evaluate (another factor).

What you are saying reads as if you assume a "good" page "should" be on page 1, which is a considerable over-simplification. Panda and Penguin both had false-positive effects on many sites (including mine), but if that is what is affecting you, you will not rectify it with content alone. You need to look at you whole site from top to bottom, and include - in no particular order - validation, presentation, semantics, link-structure, backlink profile (look at the links you can control or affect, and consider disavowing some of those you can't), the ratio of code to content, and indirect content issues like over- or under-use of key words and phrases. That list is not exhaustive.
8:49 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ Wilburforce

You should read my OP again, to understand that I did submit a disavow list several times, and also a Reconsideration Request (approved). And yes, there are signs that there is a partial recovery from Penguin, after all those measures were done. But partial is not full. And partial can mean what? 20%? 30%? 50%?

In the past BEFORE Penguin, most of my new pages end up strongly on page one (sometimes within hours of getting published), and today, as I have said AGAIN, things are the same today (except on a slower basis). A site not penalized and well regarded by Google will always have new pages jumping straight to page one, with no effort on the part of the webmaster, apart from creating that page.

Yes, it is correct not to assume that this behavior within Google will always apply for every new page, but assuming you put some decent amount of effort into the page creation and it is quality content, and your site is "liked" by Google, you can usually count on page one.

If you're not liked by Google (for whatever reason), none of those factors will play any significant part in getting to page one for a NEW PAGE. And that is why most people "build" links.

[edited by: Ebuzz at 8:58 am (utc) on May 20, 2015]

8:58 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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A site not penalized and well regarded by Google will always have new pages jumping straight to page one, with no effort on the part of the webmaster, apart from creating that page.


I think that is a fundamental flaw in your thinking. It is not so.
9:00 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ Wilburforce

I do have control groups to validate my statement. Of course, how competitive the keyword is, makes a lot of difference. But a penalized site will have difficulty even getting to page one for very uncompetitive keywords.
9:34 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@Ebuzz

A "penalized site" is not the same thing as a penalised page, and being on page 3 for a particular term does not necessarily mean any penalty - of either variety - has been applied.

However, in my view you would do better to focus on every aspect of your site (and every page in it) than to rely on assumptions about what should or shouldn't rank. You should not ignore the possibility, either, that every positive change you make will be similarly implemented by the twenty-something pages above you. Getting to and staying on page 1 is an increasingly difficult challenge, not an inalienable right.
9:46 am on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ Wilburforce

I don't know what industry you are involved in, how competitive it is, but in one of my niches, I just had two pages hitting page one within this month alone; the pages were published this month as well. I knew by looking at the competition, and how "relevant" my site was with regards to the keywords, and how much "favor" I have with Google (at present), and I correctly guessed that those pages will end up on Page one for their target keywords.

And that is exactly what happened. I didn't do anything else, besides publish those pages. And relying on my instinct.

I've been involved in this for a long time now. I do have an account here with WebmasterWorld back in 2006, except that I forgot the username and password. ;)

For a penalized site, in which the penalty is sitewide, none of those rules apply. That is the point of my whole thread. I am asking if this penalty ever expires. In the past, Google has said their penalties do expire. But Penguin changed all that it may seem.

The only reason why I would continue with the penalized site is because I get substantial traffic from Bing and Yahoo, which is increasing slowly and surely. It will increase, because Google is losing traffic. Google is increasingly seen as Darth Vader now (aka the Establishment); no longer the search engine that favored mom & pop.

Either way, I don't care.
12:45 pm on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I think you're suffering under a lot of misapprehensions (sitelinks are not a signal of trust, nor is trust an indicator of penguin not panda, maintaining high rankings on Bing and Yahoo - which are the same - while tanking in Google is not at all a unique situation, and there's only ten results, so *everyone* can't jump to #1 immediately) There's more, but I don't have the time to pick through it line by line.

But you seem pretty convinced, so good luck and I hope you recover it if in fact, you do care.
12:58 pm on May 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ Netmeg

To each their own. But thanks for the well wishes.
4:22 am on May 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone noticed that Google started to put a selection for people to make Google their Default Search engine starting today?

Didn't I say Google is losing the search engine war, not gaining ground? LOL.

I know what I am seeing.

And why is it there has been no official Penguin/Panda updates in a looong time? Is it because it has dawned on them that they are losing the plot with countless penalty-style updates, and their SERPs are not looking so good because of that? They don't announce their updates anymore, in fact.

I am quietly smiling....
5:21 am on May 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone noticed that Google started to put a selection for people to make Google their Default Search engine starting today?

Come to think of it, I did, though it now seems to have disappeared again. Pretty funny, because how do they think you got there in the first place? "Oh, there's this thing called Google on my search-engines list. Maybe I'll give them a try."
7:01 am on May 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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First post by the way.

A friend's website was struck with the Panda (or was it Penguin?) years ago, and he ditched the old domain and took in a new one.

Regardless though, if you do invest in a new domain, keep the old one working for several months (for the benefit of your old users) and always announce that you're moving over. Well, yeah, you're gonna hit some pitfalls on the way, but it's better than investing in a futility, I guess.
8:25 am on May 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hi Ebuzz, are you seeing that some keywords / sectors of your site are performing OK whilst others don't seem to be able to move out of page 3 to 5? Are the ones that don't move the worst offenders for the sort of links google wanted to penalize for? I am interested as I see something similar with my own site. about 80 to 90 % bounced back after October 2013 Penguin refresh but the remaining 20% does not and remains stubbornly in "purgatory" as you put it. These pages were the ones that I had tried to get most links to (from my own sites mainly so they were easy to fix, I disavowed a couple of hundred spam links that all spawned from one article I wrote in 2006) as they were probably the most competitive. Are you seeing anything similar to that?
1:55 pm on May 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ Jez123

My situation is quite similar to yours, but not all the pages where I was dinged were those that I "built" links to. They have one thing in common though, a hint of commercial value. As long as that page had a bit of commercial value, it gets held back by some unseen force, LOL

Those pages that have no problems ranking in Google are those with academic value/interest, and zero commercial value.

So, it sure looks like Google is playing a game with me, but I am not amused one bit ;)