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Has Your Business Unexpectedly Taken a Downturn? The Cause May Be a Penguin!

Having run my own brick and mortar businesses for a number of years I am very familiar with the ebb and flow of customers and their spending habits. I have always tracked sales, customer count, costs and how effective my marketing has been. Whenever I noticed any kind of downturn I immediately looked for answers.

If I were to have had an unexpected downturn in the last month or so I would have been scratching my head wondering why just like many of you may be doing right now. One of the last things I would have considered back then was the Internet and my web presence, but this time around it very well may be what has caused a downturn at your business.

When was the last time you evaluated your online presence? Have you checked your rankings for the keywords that actually drive traffic to your business? It’s time to!

Last year Goggle put out an algorithm update dubbed the Panda Update which targeted duplicate content. Remember back when you did a search for “how to…..” there was little doubt that would have been at the top of the search results. Post Panda, has lost over 80% of their online visibility. Many large quality sites as well as small business sites that have used copied content were whacked.

Enter Goggle’s latest algorithm change. April 24th, 2012 Goggle again came out with a significant update to their algorithm dubbed the Penguin Update. Don’t get me wrong, Goggle does hundreds of updates a year trying to compensate for new tactics to scam the search engines or to refine their results, but when these updates get named they are a significant change and usually effect a large portion of the web. Penguin, like Panda is significant!

The Penguin Update was billed as a over optimization update targeting sites that engaged in keyword stuffing and elaborate linking strategies designed to fool the search engines. Panda and Penguin are alike as they are intended to deliver higher quality results to the searchers, they are different in that Penguin quite frankly didn’t work! Even Goggle knows, although they haven’t admitted it. The Penguin Update has done some real damage to a lot of good quality sites. for instance took a 45% hit in online visibility which plummeted their traffic. Countless small businesses have also taken a beating.

Flooded by Marketers with Recoup from Penguin Promises?

It didn’t take long before emails were full of online marketers pitches for solutions to the Penguin Update. So called SEO experts have jumped on the turbulence trying to capitalize. Do not fall for the hype. The reality of the situation is this; no one knows what to do yet!

Even Goggle realizes that the original update did not do what they were originally hoping. The update hit the web on April 24th, 2012 and since then there have been tweaks to it that were put out on or about May 13th, May 15th and then over this weekend (May 24th) Goggle announced that Penguin 1.1 was now live. Why has Goggle made so many changes to Penguin? Because they know it is just not right!

We Are Analyzing the Data

You must realize that getting through the data is by no means a simple task and without access to thousands of sites it would be close to impossible. Fortunately we have access to thousands of sites but that still does not negate the sheer volume of the work and data that needs to be analyzed.

To get to the real solutions the Penguin Update needs to be isolated from the Panda Update and the subsequent revisions Goggle has made to that one. Once isolated we still have a problem in that Goggle has been as I said earlier, tweaking!

What we have been able to isolate is some of the effects of what Penguin has done over a large sampling of sites. Keep in mind however is that these are preliminary findings and do not necessarily mean you should start changing the factors mentioned as we have not been able to test how changing the factors will effect actual site performance. We are testing deeper now and will have results and recommendations soon.


  • The testing sample: 1500 websites
  • Average Age: 3 years
  • Top Level Domains: 65% .com, 20% .net, 10% .org, 5% other
  • Average # Indexed Pages: 26
    (note: the majority of the sites are 10-15 pages as they are small business sites and not large content sites)


Traffic Losses
>50%: 1%
40%-49%: 5%
30%-39%: 8%
20%-29%: 12%
10%-19%: 18%
0%– 9%: 38%

Traffic Gains
>50%: 0%
40%-49%: 0%
30%-39%: 2%
20%-29%: 4%
10%-19%: 5%
0%– 9%: 7%

Average Traffic Change: -7.7%

Factors that Stood Out

Domain Types: .com faired better than the rest followed by ,org. .net seemed to take a more significant hit than the rest.

Larger sites with over 100 visitors/day took less of a hit than sites with marginal traffic numbers, however newer sites with little traffic showed now significant changes.

Fewer words in title tag showed a significantly less drop in rankings. Keeping titles to 1-3 words and using only one keyword.

Description tags showed no correlation with the decreases except for description tags that were obviously keyword stuffed which suffered the most significant loss percentages.

Keyword tags have not been used for ranking but have been used for indexing and no direct connection was picked up in the initial analysis.

Images on a page and alt tags associated with them did show that the more images on a page resulted in less of a drop in rankings. Pages without images had the most significant decline where pages with 4 images showed the least.

So What Can You Do?

The best thing to do is take an honest look at your website. Have you used any black hat SEO methods? The main reason, according to Goggle for the Penguin Update was to target over optimized sites. We know that it had deeper reach than that, but that was their goal. As with the Panda Update, which targeted duplicate content issues Goggle is trying to produce better results for the searchers and eliminate sites that have been trying to “scam” the search engines. While all of our sites are built with the “best practice” SEO methods we took a hit too, so obviously both Panda and Penguin effected sites much deeper than originally intended.

With the Panda Update we took an initial hit as the update filtered through the internet but after a couple tweaks all of the sites came back within 30 days or so and actually gained positioning and traffic. With Penguin we will do the same, but since it is targeting some fundamental factors we may need to do some tweaking to assure that we get the benefits.

Audit Your Site

Examine your content to be sure that it is original. Even if you know you have written it others may have copied and used it on other sites. Here is a quick and free site to check your content If you have duplicate content change it!

Incoming links are a major focus of the Penguin Update. Goggle is trying to eliminate link farms and reportedly has put a negative value on some types of links. Initially I believe that this was true, but they have since backed off of this because of the inherent problems with that strategy. You see there should be no way for anyone else to affect your site's performance but you. If Goggle would assign a less than neutral value to a link your competitors could build links from the questionable sites to yours and push your site down. That would be a dangerous environment to create.

Goggle has said that this is not the case, but the data suggests, at least initially, there has been a substantial penalty for poor links.

Links fall into three categories:

  • Links that are from good sources, ones you have built.
  • Links that are from poor sources or link farms that you have built
  • Links that others have put up pointing to your site.

The only one that you want to do anything with is the links you have built that are from poor sources. Evaluate the links you have created and any that are from poor or questionable sources remove immediately.

Going Forward

We constantly evaluate positioning of our sites and keep our clients at the top of the search engines. Our service allows our clients to spend their time working on their business instead of on their websites, but for those of you that have the time and knowledge to work on their internet presence we do our best to give you the information to make your site and your business better.

Once the data has been crunched and Goggle settles down with the updates we will send out our site recommendations.

Final Thought

Goggle is constantly changing and refining their search results. It is their business to deliver the best query to the searchers, so build the way Goggle expects. Stay away from “Black Hat” SEO scams. Getting to the top of the search engines takes time and effort but the view from the top is great!

Views: 45

Tags: penguin, seo, site, traffic, web


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