There’s no doubting the story of last week – the latest Google update (originally called Panda 3.5 now called Penguin) having a seismic effect on rankings.
Google’s official line is that the update would penalize those who practice keyword stuffing and sites that have unusual linking patterns – such as links from spun content with anchor text that is unrelated to the actual page content. This official post gave two images of extreme examples of the above practices.
In actual fact the update was far, far more acute with many innocents getting penalized. Usually, with updates of this nature Google starts with the dial at max to show the strongest effects of the change and then after tracking the results it will hone and tone down the change to settle down to a new “norm”. And, of course, tweaks and changes to the algorithm will continue on a daily basis.
Who are the winners and losers?
The losers will be relatively new sites that have links pointing to their home page with similar anchor text. The winners will be older sites with more pages, lots of authority and a greater number of links from a variety of sources. So, Google is favoring big brands and individual webmasters will have to work harder.
The effect of Penguin on WPblogTalk
I’m actually coming up to the year’s anniversary of this site. I’ve really enjoyed writing about WordPress, blogging and how we can help our small businesses on the web. However, I’m seriously thinking about calling it a day now because of this…
And have a look at some of the ranking changes for various keywords. EMSPM stands for exact match searches per month according to the Google keyword tool and the dates are dd.mm.yy (I’m from UK).
|wordpress seo marketing||<10||4||175||-|
|setting up web 2.0 sites||-||2||-||-|
|customize youtube channel||720||4||-||-|
The above table shows two keywords I’ve tried to rank for (“wordpress seo” and “wordpress seo marketing”) and a couple I’ve ranked for by accident (“setting up web 2.0 sites” and “customize youtube channel”).
Now, when I say “tried to rank for” I’m talking pretty white hat here. I have optimized pages for these terms. I have created titles and headings on these subjects. I’ve written articles that I assume my readers have wanted to read – I’ve never keyword stuffed. I’ve also built a few Web 2.0 properties and did a little bit of article marketing. This was all done by hand, by me. I challenge anyone to find a spammy link pointing to this domain.
Instead of devaluing links Google is now penalizing sites with what they see as “over-optimized” links. If one keyword is seen to have been gamed then rankings for all other keywords will be lost (see above).
If you are a web designer from London and have put the anchor text “Web designer London” site-wide on the sites you’ve designed – you will be penalized.
As things stand at the moment, negative SEO is perfectly possible and very easy – this is another reason I expect Google to tone down Penguin soon. Negative SEO is where a competitor “creates a mass of cr@ppy and spammy links to your site and/or web page with the intention of dropping your ranking” according to PotPieGirl.
There has even been an experimental negative SEO hit on a “pro-Google” member of the SEO community. Seeing how this site has been penalized with a handful of backlinks (guest posts, Web 2.0, articles, and people linking to me) it would seem a competitor with a new site could possibly be taken down with a Fiverr hit!
What this means for search results
As we’ve already seen, Google is favoring the large, old authority sites. These are precisely the sort of sites you’re not looking for in a Google search in my opinion.
“Part of the idea of the web was that it could connect supply and demand directly, but an excessive focus on domain authority leads users to have to go through another set of arbitragers. Efforts to squeeze out micro-parasites has led to the creation of macro-parasites (and micro-parasites that ride on the macro-parasite platforms).” Aaron Wall in SEOBook
Google would be better off concentrating on rating the content using metrics like time on site, bounce rate and social signals – backlinks was the idea that made Google in the first place but it seems to be causing them confusion at the moment.
What you can do
First of all if you want to get some good, quick search results, go to DuckDuckGo – I’ve been using it a lot recently and it seems to deliver good results without the Google hangups.
Secondly, it is a good idea to wait for the dust to settle as new changes like this take a while to bed down. However, if you have a site that is younger than two years old it may be an idea to change the anchor text in the backlinks to the domain name rather than a targeted keyword.
Google has a form if you think you have been affected unfairly by the latest changes. However, I won’t be filling it out just yet.