Ever since April 24th, the SEO world has been one of confusion, to say the least.
The reason for this is that on the 24th, Google released their Penguin update. If you aren’t familiar with what Penguin is all about, here’s what Wikipedia has to say.
Google Penguin is a code name for a Google algorithm update that was first announced on April 24, 2012. The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Googleâ€™s Webmaster Guidelines by using black-hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, deliberate creation of duplicate content, and others.
In other words, Penguin is Google latest attempt at removing what they call Webspam from their search engine results pages (SERPs).
In today’s post, I’m going to attempt to provide you with what I hope will be about as definitive a guide as can be provided at this point in time on what you can do to recover your site(s) from the attack of the little bird in the tux.
A Word of Warning
Now, before we get into the meat of this post, I want to preface the entire thing by saying that at this point, it appears to me that the SEO community as a whole really doesn’t know preciselyÂ what to do to recover a site from Penguin – its just too early in the game.
Common sense would also suggest that no one has really had enough time to properly test a recovery strategy, so please take everything you read with a grain of salt.
In my case, several of my ‘made-for-adsense’ niche sites saw huge drops in the SERPs, while others didn’t drop at all. If I could accurately determine why some dropped and some didn’t, then I could tell you (with confidence) what you should do to recover your site(s) if in fact they took a similar beating.
Sadly, at this point in time, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t is rather confusing; hence today’s post!Â
Some Background from SEOMoz
In their very comprehensive post, SEOMozÂ provides a list of 7 achievable steps for great SEO after Penguin. Here’s a snippet from the post…
The Penguin update sent a strong message that not knowing SEO basics is going to be dangerous in the future. You have to have the basics down or you could be at risk.Â PenguinÂ is a signal from Google that these updates are going to continue at a rapid pace and they don’t care what color your hat is, it’s all about relevance. You need to take a look at every seemingly viable “SEO strategy” with this lens. What you don’t know can hurt you. It’s not that what you are doing is wrong or bad, the reality is that the march towards relevance is comingÂ faster than ever before.Â Google doesn’t care what used to work, they are determined to provide relevance and that means big changes are the new normal.
Among all the sources for hard core SEO knowledge on the web, I consider SEOMoz to be among the very best, so be sure and take a few minutes to check out their post.
Some other SEOMoz posts worth checking out include:
- The Penguin Update – Whiteboard Friday
- Whiteboard+ on Google’s Penguin Update
- The Noob Guide to Link Building
Once you’ve done that, come on back here and have a look at the 3 case studies that I’ve provided below.
Case Study #1
In searching for solutions to this problem, one of the best posts that I have found came from Nate over at IMFuse. In his post, Nate (who I’d never heard of before finding this post), does a really terrific job of sharing what happened with one of his sites.Â
Unlike many of the posts that I found, Nate’s case history and timeline is extremely specific; and therefore very interesting!
Below is an image that gives you a clue to the level of detail he’s gone into in his post.
For me, the best part of Nate’s post was that he went into detail on all the activities that he undertook to recover his site from the penalty. Best of all, his earnings actually surpassed the prior level! Well done Nate!Â
My last take away for you in Nate’s post is that he (like me) stresses that you invest your time to create authority sites because they are much more resistant to this kind of thing. In the case of my cleaning site, this is definitely true.
Case Study #2
In this next case study, Spencer Haws over at NichePursuits does a terrific job of sharing with his readers how his sites are doing. Like me, some of his site were hit hard, and others were not. This was a very common theme in everything that I read.
Here’s Spencer’s conclusion on what Penguin was all about…
Penguin was primarily targeting sites that were using too much keyword anchor text or were linking for less than relevant sources.Â At least these were 2 of the bigger parts of the updates.
By contrast, theÂ Panda updateÂ was targeting sites that had poorly written content or had very short/thin articles.Â This is why article directories or wiki type sites like Mahalo.com and others were hit so hard.Â The Panda update had nothing to do with targeting â€œsmallâ€ niche sites, but targeted both large and small sites that had either short articles or poorly written content.Â Both big and small sites were affected equally.
This is also true of the Penguin update.Â Big sites were hit just as hard as small sites.Â Again, this update had nothing to do with targeting small niche sites and everything to do with targeting link building practices.
In the remainder of his post, Spencer talks about how to build links Post Penguin. Nate over at Strayblogger did a similar thing in this post. Both are worth the read.
Case Study #3
In this third case study, I’m going to share with you some data from one of my own sites. Plus, in future posts, I’m going to share with you the results of my trying to recover this site to its former glory.
This site is my of the last sites that I created with the “old” model (meaning it has just 7 articles on it and all the links were built with UAW and MAN). My investment to create the site was under $100 and beyond launching it and driving a bunch of links to it, I have completely ignored it for months.
As you can see below, the earnings went from just under $20 a day to zilch…Â
…when the site dropped from #1 for its primary keyword to #15.
If you’d like to watch the progress I hope to make with this site, just sign up for my newsletter in the right sidebar and you’ll get a notice of all future posts on this topic.
Chris Rempel over at The Lazy Marketer has also put together a comprehensive post of his opinions on what is going on. Below is a snippet that pretty much sums up the situation in the short term…
But as it stands, Penguin 1.0 is pretty atrocious. It wasnâ€™t just â€œweb-spamâ€ that got hit in this update. Some did, but it was just as quickly replaced with more spam â€“ much of it being worse than that which it replaced. In fact, something weâ€™re seeing again and again is that scraper blogs are outranking the source sites, more than ever. This is insane.
More troubling is thatÂ manyÂ salt-of-the-earth publishers (like AskTheBuilder.com, DaniWeb, and countless others) were severely affected by Penguin. Sites that are in some cases over a decade old, comprised of thousands of pages of quality, unique content, and plenty of social/brand signals â€“ and theyâ€™re tanking, hard. These are sites that provide an awesome user experience.
John Leger over on his blog also had a lot to say in his post titled, Ranking in Google after Penguin.Â
My purpose in showing you all of this isn’t to point out how much the Penguin update failed to achieve any quality improvements in Google’s search results (though it clearly did fail in that regard, and badly). My point is to demonstrate that much of what you may be hearing about this update — be it on the forums or even from Google itself — is simply not reflected in the actual search results. That means you need to do your own research and rely on theÂ real-world dataÂ surrounding the results for any keywords you want to rank for.
As I wrote above, as its not really been that long since the Penguin update, I don’t really think that anyone has had sufficient time to be able to draw any concrete conclusions on the precise methods you should employ to recover your site(s) from Penguin.Â In fact, judging from the crap search results in many niches, I think its fairly safe to say that Penguin has several more improvements coming in the near future.
If you’ve been building only thin sites, your sites may not be worth recovering. I am junking many of mine so that I can focus only on the sites that I believe are in niches that I can dominate because I believe doing so is going to ultimately give me a more viable business, with less risk, and a more stable stream of income.Â
If you aren’t yet on board with building authority sites, I strongly believe you need to really give yourself a gut check as it seems abundantly clear that, when it comes to earning money from a website that gets free traffic from search engines, authority sites are (now) the only way to go.
What Do You Think?
I am well aware that I don’t have all the answers and that some of my readers will definitely have some valuable thoughts to share. If that is you, or you have questions about this post, please take the time to comment and then share with post on your social networks by clicking a few of the buttons over on the left.
Your comments are always welcome,