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I don't understand Penguin



3:25 pm on Aug 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

My site is only just scraping it on to the first page for a high volume search term and I think it's because of penguin - and it's annoying that my competitor is still ranked at number 2 for this term. I remember chasing this website as my primary competitor in the old days and eventually I got my site to rank for 3 separate pages, all above this competitor. But itís like I have been time warped back to 3 years ago and suddenly Iím at the bottom of the pile again. I know I am biased towards my own website but I cannot understand this. My competitorís website is largely neglected and should frankly be taken offline as it does not offer any value to visitors Ė itís broken and has not been updated since the 'provider' it uses started blocking free SMS robot sites.

It is ironic that I actually made content changes to my website to reflect the change in the availability of SMS from the provider on my site, though I think this was not the major reason for my plummeting search position as I have since reworked a lot of the old content back with very little effect on my rankings. I have to unfortunately suspect that the primary reason for my drop is the Google Penguin update, though frustratingly I donít really understand exactly why it is affecting me (I did not receive any warnings or recommendations in Google Webmaster tools).

I have never paid for any links and I have close to 4000 followers on Twitter (hundreds of whom are genuinely engaged); 200 Likes on one Facebook page and another 82 likes on another Facebook page; I have more than 60 genuine +1s on Google. My competitor has zero social presence and is on the same domain as a blog that was last updated in 2009 Ė This makes it hard for me to believe that social media is a really important factor in SEO. Never mind the fact that my site actually works, but also looks much cooler than my competitorís, loads faster and provides a much better user experience (I have received compliments saying as much from several users over the years).

This is a rant mostly I guess, but if anyone would like to add anything I would appreciate it... I would basically like to know how I can identify if penguin is responsible for the drop in my rankings and what can I do about it? Clearly something was working before that isn't working any more...



3:44 pm on Aug 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Is this the same site described in your previous "Fallen off the rankings" post, or a different one?

Have you considered over optimisation as a possible cause for your lowered rankings?


3:45 pm on Aug 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

You can check this list - [webmasterworld.com ] against your traffic stats. That may help you get an idea of which, if any, of the publicized updates are affecting your site.

I'm sure you've done this already, but check the backlink profile of your competitor's site as a first step.


3:59 pm on Aug 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Jinxed, nope unfortunately this is a different site to the other one that fell off the rankings (fortunately I managed to recover that one actually and it is so far unaffected by penguin).

It is very possible that this site is over optimized. It feels so against all the effort I have put in to go around 'breaking stuff', though I have been slowly de-optimising small things here and there with no affect so far...

Thanks for the nice list Panthro, I will give it a read through...

I have never understood the strength of my competitors rankings before. They have what I would describe as an average backlink profile with no links from any special / influential sites that I can spot. I have way more backlinks than they do (probably 10 times more), though this may actually be my problem?


4:18 pm on Aug 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

p.s. Looks like I was a victim of the March changes according to that list - My traffic has been way down since then...


4:50 pm on Aug 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Would be hard to tell without a closer look, but maybe your site is "over-optimized" in that it just has too many links.

Of course, if I remember correctly, that didn't seem to start affecting people until Penguin came along. If your traffic dropped in March, could be something else.

Of course, sometimes it can be hard to isolate any one particular cause.


7:53 pm on Aug 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

When I look at more analytics data against those dates in that other post I can actually see other correlations between the 2. So it looks like I may have lost ground through several algorithm updates including the May 26th 'Penguin Refresh' and June 25th 'Panda Refresh'

It is discouraging though, because my site really should be doing better in the serps than my competitor's broken and neglected site.

Anyway, I will be sure to post back here if I manage to recover my rankings, thanks again for the feedback.


8:53 am on Aug 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Okay, so I haven't made any positive progress but I have made a kind of interesting discovery. In an attempt to address the 'over optimization' issue in terms of 'too many links' I removed all of the links that I had immediate / easy control over. Within two weeks my ranking dropped from position 9 to position 302. I have since restored the links and I am now back at position 9 again. This is encouraging as it shows that there is clearly some value in these links.

However I may need to find a balance - perhaps if I cut back on a smaller percentage of the links then my ranking will actually improve? I have been doing a little more penguin research and it sounds like there may be specific emphasis on unnatural anchor text. So I guess I should also vary my link anchor text more as part of this experiment. I've seen the warning from Matt Cutts to expect dramatic changes when Penguin is tweaked again - I guess we can only hope to see some good dramatic changes...

I'll post back here once I've decided on what to do next and when the next part of my experiment is complete, hopefully with some even more interesting results to show...


9:00 am on Sep 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes, probably over optimization would be one of the factor of fall in ranking, but, Penguin update can also be a factor of decrease in ranking of your site, as it hadn't match the proper standards required to be at the top, after that update.


9:29 am on Sep 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


What about on page factors? Are you being too aggressive with your keywords? I think this is an issue with many that do not even realise it.

rajesh magar

11:39 am on Sep 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

In simple word I would explain it as this is the very latest major search update Google has lunch, which is specially design to kick out the websites who is having creepy or bad back-links profile link to their website.

Hop that helps, Cheers!


5:11 pm on Sep 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks jinxed, I haven't actually cosidered on page stuff too much - I'll fiddle with that too and see what happens. But I am also nervous about this new Google patent I've heard about that throws a bit of randomness into the ranking mix as well now and penalises you for responding to it...


7:17 pm on Sep 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

I haven't actually cosidered on page stuff too much

You should. Google specifically highlighted keyword stuffing and unnatural *outgoing* links as examples.

I am also nervous about this new Google patent

The patent was granted in August but filed in January 2010 so, if in use, its effects have been seen for at least 2 1/2 years. There's quite a few threads about bouncing around the SERPs that make many people at least suspect that.

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