Got Hit by Penguin with... Unexpected Results

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  • SEO
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Hi Guys

Thought I would share this with you and maybe you might be able to help me understand exactly what is going on. Hope it helps some people if they're seeing the same results in Analytics as well. Also, please don't let this turn into a massive tirade against Google. I really couldn't care that much how evil they are at the moment, profits will always be profits to companies.

So...

My main website that is my main earner (still not huge earner though) is a mortgage website. I've built it from scratch with a friend and we jumped way into the deep end working our arses off for the past 1 1/2 years.

The main trick to our success has been writing quality content and longtail. But rather than trying to micro niche every page we use keyword tool to identify what mortgage advice and information a lot of potential customers online are looking for. We then turn that into big FAQ type articles where applicable or smaller advice articles where less important. We don't micro target keywords but rather write content based on a number of related ones and hope that my friends real-world broker experience will mean that the original content he writes will bring about a load of traffic from keywords that we wouldn't otherwise target.

The real trick to our survival and competing with the big boys has been the in-depth advice and information we offer. Whilst we were initially trying to target big money keywords, we ended up doing the opposite and, to some extent, doing both.

There are two things in the early days that I think could potentially have got us hit by penguin. In the very early days (when we were young, eager and naive whippersnappers) we put our trust in an SEO guy to take care of our site for us safely and bring us a shed-load of "safe" back-links. I can't really complain too much about this guy though, he was a nice person and was responsible for a lot of our early small successes which led us on to work harder and achieve even more.

I was surprised in the early days that the original penguin update didn't get us (like it got one of my other really shitty sites). Anyhoo, we went on and all the minor algorithm updates and refreshes seemed to actually help us every time.

This one didn't though. But, unlike my other site who's homepage got completely wiped off the face of the earth, I cannot figure out what I'm getting penalised for.



The above image shows the traffic drop after penguin. We were achieving an average daily unique new visitor count of about 160. It's now dropped to an approximate daily average of about 70.

My first thought was, "oh it's because the links are too spammy" (the guy that did the SEO work in the very early days also used on average about three anchor texts with one making up about 70% of them).

However, no penalisations seem to have occurred. The two pages that he was doing the heavy back-linking for hadn't dropped out of the search engines or anything like I'd experienced with my older site.

I thought that perhaps it was anchor text related (although there was quite a fair bit of variation in the anchor text it was still money keyword heavy on those two pages).

I did a search for those money keywords. No significant changes in ranking had occurred. They had dropped a little bit from since the last time I'd checked (about a month ago) but that was probably mainly due to the fact that I'd stopped relying on ranking for big search volume exact keywords a very long time ago and had, thus, stopped caring or trying to get them ranking higher. About 95% of our traffic comes from long tail stuff, a lot of which we've not intentionally even specifically tried to rank for.

It seems as if it had just lowered my site down slightly as a whole. Perhaps there was some change in the algorithm and I wasn't ranking for those long tails anymore?? I then looked at it and the proportion of traffic was still heavily long tail and all from the same types of search terms ( highly varied, often very specific, but on the same kind of themes).

I wondered if, perhaps, one page as a whole has been knocked down a bit. So I checked the traffic stats for each individual page (the ones with loads of hits and the one's without that many). All of them seemed to have experienced that same kinds of proportional drops in traffic.

This was utterly baffling because some of the pages on my site get monthly traffic (albeit not thousands) without having any back-links on them at all. I even got some niche pages on the site ranking number one for decently searched search terms with say only one guest post.

So, in summary, I'm just a bit confused by this penguin update. The drop doesn't seem to have come from anything in particular, or to have badly effected any page in particular. It doesn't seem to be from spammy links or lack of anchor text diversity because those keyword rankings haven't changed much at all. Finaly, I'm still getting the same proportion of long-tail.

Any ideas anybody? This has really frustrated me.

I've just finished a degree and was falling our with my girlfriend squeezing this into late shifts alongside a full time engineering degree and a part-time job. My mate was travelling for the past six month. He'd just got back and I'd just finished my degree. We were really eager to get cracking on it full-time and really spend time cleaning it up and improving it's quality and size and cleaning up those old links.

We were in talks with a potential investor who was going to pay us a small wage to enable us to work full-time on our dream for the next six months!! Not so sure the number will be so encouraging now. If only it would have hit us three months from now .

Anyway, any help or advice or insight you guys could offer would certainly be appreciated!!! I also hope that, if anybody is experiencing something similar to this, that this post will be of help to them.

Thanks in advance for any insight you experts can offer!

Regards,

Dave
#hit #penguin #results #unexpected
  • Profile picture of the author online only
    This "SEO" guy probably spammed your site(s) to death...I really can't see any other reason here.. Mind sharing URL so we could actually see what kind of "safe" backlinks he created?
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    • Profile picture of the author birdman87
      Lol he did spam it, he definitely did! I was quoting the words he used.

      He didn't create thousands of links though. I think it was probably about 50 at an absolute maximum. Only used him for a month or two.

      Like I said in the post, I would have thought it was his spammy, un-diversified anchor text links that created it but I'm not seeing the results that I would have expected had that been the case.
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  • Profile picture of the author sandra98
    I think you have already figured out a big part of what's happening. You mentioned that you think rankings dropped slightly across the board. That seems logical based on what you've observed. The money keywords are still ranking but slightly lower than when you last checked.

    If you have a lot of long tail keywords that were say ranking in the top 3 but dropped to the bottom of page 1, then the 60% decline in traffic makes sense. You can search around for charts that show you then decline in clickthroughs to your site based on rankings (eg. #1 gets 45% of clickthroughs, #2 gets 25% of clickthroughs etc).

    Overall, I would say that your site is weathering the penguin better than many. I would suggest to build up the quality of your link profile, and include more diversified anchor text, such as the site URL. You may also want to consider building out "support" sites that bring traffic to your main site, smaller niche sites that you build and promote with good link profiles given all you've learned. In case the main website doesn't survive future penguin attacks, the support sites can still remain an asset to you. Wishing you the best.
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    • Profile picture of the author birdman87
      Hi Sandra

      Thanks for your input. I think you may be right but then it begs the question, what caused the drop in traffic across the board?

      If it was spammy links that caused a penalty, they would have dissapeared, not dropped down a couple of spots (which I'm not entirely convinced is due to penguin) as they were consistently dropping before penguin.

      I don't need to rely of back-links really, I get traffic without them so I should be good for the future. But I'm wary about moving forward until I know exactly what I've done wrong?

      Do you think that maybe I've not been penalised at all? Perhaps over-all page rank or domain authority of the site has dropped because Google has stopped counting links from those old articles?

      Does this happen with penguin do you know?

      Thanks,

      Dave
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    • Profile picture of the author Grettcs
      Originally Posted by sandra98 View Post

      I think you have already figured out a big part of what's happening. You mentioned that you think rankings dropped slightly across the board. That seems logical based on what you've observed. The money keywords are still ranking but slightly lower than when you last checked.

      If you have a lot of long tail keywords that were say ranking in the top 3 but dropped to the bottom of page 1, then the 60% decline in traffic makes sense. You can search around for charts that show you then decline in clickthroughs to your site based on rankings (eg. #1 gets 45% of clickthroughs, #2 gets 25% of clickthroughs etc).

      Overall, I would say that your site is weathering the penguin better than many. I would suggest to build up the quality of your link profile, and include more diversified anchor text, such as the site URL. You may also want to consider building out "support" sites that bring traffic to your main site, smaller niche sites that you build and promote with good link profiles given all you've learned. In case the main website doesn't survive future penguin attacks, the support sites can still remain an asset to you. Wishing you the best.
      Overall, I would say that your site is weathering the penguin better than many. I would suggest to build up the quality of your link profile, and include more diversified anchor text, such as the site URL. You may also want to consider building out "support" sites that bring traffic to your main site, smaller niche sites that you build and promote with good link profiles given all you've learned. In case the main website doesn't survive future penguin attacks, the support sites can still remain an asset to you. Wishing you the best.
      Hye sandra i am really convinced by your answer but what i not get die to lack of knowldege from my side may be , that what u have said about in the last paragraph. how we have to make out support sites & build small niche sites to promote with good link profiles . can elaborate me & guide me for that so that i gaing some additional & useful informational for my SEO.
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  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    I think Sandra is right. I don't think you really got hit by Penguin. When you are targeting a few keywords, a slight drop of just a few spots in even just 2-3 keywords can result in this kind of traffic loss.

    I'm working on a site that keeps juggling between #2 and #3 for its primary keyword. The days it drops to #3, the traffic drops by 60-75%. Just one spot, on one keyword.

    The good news for you is that you can most likely easily recover the rankings.
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  • Profile picture of the author Theeban
    Yes, even me too had a similar changes like TOP 1 become top 5, top 3 become top 6 and etc for some local keywords. But sometimes, I notice the ranks are back to old position, sometimes it is back. Just about to cross one week of Penguin, So, I guess, still not a settled ranks. Anyhow, I had noticed many people saying that, Google counts traffic from the page where your link is and value links in terms of traffic from there - I am not sure how far it is true... But of course that is fallen under natural way of getting links.

    For your case, rather than finding the cause ((it is really hard to point out the cause for rank-fall as far as Google algo is a BLACK-BOX for everyone who are out of Google) it is better to improve your link building profile in other words your traffic sources - For example blog on another platform & drive traffic to that platform, and then get a link from such blog and divert traffic from there... or stick more with Social Media, specially Google plus.
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  • Profile picture of the author TZ
    That graph you showed is almost verbatim for thousands of domains. I don't think your site was penalized, but more that rankings were improved for bigger brand domains and some random junk like spammy blogspot blogs, etc.

    Our niche is similar in loans and we see all sorts of big brand domains above us now for some keywords, and the landing pages of these big brands sites don't even have any information links showing visitors where to get a loan.

    I think Google is still in flux, so if you stick to some good meaty FAQ pages you will climb higher in the coming months. You should have noticed a traffic bump up the last 3 days, because most have who share the same graph line that you posted here.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kevin Maguire
    Wow
    Shitty deal man. I entered the Mortgage arena myself a few months back. But to be honest, I've done little to no work on site. (Another shelf sitter from me)

    But your story and situation seems really genuine and sincere. So I'm gonna try help you out a bit. I did do a boatload of keyword research for pages/articles, and picked up a good 100+ easy winners. That would be perfect for the style of your site. They've been sitting on my HD for 3 months now. And I'm happily going to pm them to you.
    Hope you get back in the flow.
    Regards
    Kevin
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    • Profile picture of the author birdman87
      Thank you to everyone. I really do appreciate the Warrior Forum more and more the more I ask for advice on it. Thanks for everyones responses, really does stop me pancking and make me feel a little more sane in this very lonely business.

      I have thought about it and really do consider myself somewhat lucky for escaping complete penalisation.

      Rather than trying to get load of traffic like I have been previously I think the way forward is to continue what I'm doing but for smaller niches with much better quality clients. Remortgage type niches where I'm fairly sure that they're going to be customers that are help-able, so less but higher quality and more profitable customers.




      Originally Posted by Kevin Maguire View Post

      Wow
      Shitty deal man. I entered the Mortgage arena myself a few months back. But to be honest, I've done little to no work on site. (Another shelf sitter from me)

      But your story and situation seems really genuine and sincere. So I'm gonna try help you out a bit. I did do a boatload of keyword research for pages/articles, and picked up a good 100+ easy winners. That would be perfect for the style of your site. They've been sitting on my HD for 3 months now. And I'm happily going to pm them to you.
      Hope you get back in the flow.
      Regards
      Kevin
      Mate thanks for that a lot. Yeah they were very similar to the types that we go for. However, something specifically about the one's you sent that has given me a good idea. I will PM you right now.
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  • Profile picture of the author SirThomas
    TZ is correct. Check the sites that pushed your down. From what you're saying, it doesn't seem your site has been penalized.
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  • Profile picture of the author sandra98
    Hi Dave,

    Google is such a black box to me, I can't be definitively sure what caused your rankings to fall across the board. My best guess is that your site was affected by the penguin update because of the timing when all these rankings from your long tail keywords across the board dropped. Saying that it was penalized seem too heavy a description. After all, you are still ranking, albielt a few positions lower.

    You asked "... what I've done wrong?" The one thing that I would suggest to improve on is to stop using any more bad linking packages. I think you already know that. You may also want to boost up your link profile, and diversify your existing anchor text (eg. add raw URLs as anchor etc), to mitigate the effects of the previous poor links.

    SEO is always changing and what works now may not work later. White hat sites with white hat backlinks get trashed in Google rankings too, and who knows why. The only way I see to stay in the online business long term is to diversify and work on alternative traffic sources, alternative business models that keeps you Google independent.

    I think you are doing really well by the way. While most people graduating are just starting to look for jobs, you've already built up a viable side business. It's not easy, you deserve credit for all you've achieved. I'm sure that same spirit will propel to great success. All the best.

    Hi Grettcs,

    What I meant is that you can make separate smaller sites that you can promote and build up SEO traffic on. These sites can then be used to direct traffic to your main site. You can have a few of these and use different but quality link profiles to each. Now, if the main site gets penalized, your hopefully still have these smaller sites working and bringing in traffic.

    If the main site is penalized beyond repair, you have the option of choosing to expand the smaller site into a bigger site. The advantage is that the domain is already getting good traffic and has some level of authority with Google. You can also channel the traffic to a new site you build. There are other variations you can play with, but the general idea is to diversify your SEO. So that one main site failing doesn't crumble you. Hope this helps. Best to you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Igor Fridrihs
    Hi, Dave

    Trying to improve website when it was hit by Google is just wasting your time and money. I tried already. It is painful, but better to start from scratch again, using your ideas from the present one.
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  • Profile picture of the author ibietela2
    I got hit too
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  • Profile picture of the author usmantech
    Two of my main sites also experienced the graph like your site. I have concluded that we have been definitely hit by Penguin 2.0 but in such a way that bigger and authority sites have started to get preference and that has pushed the rankings a few positions down in case of all the keywords and that led to overall drop in traffic. In my case, however, i moved my web server from a shared hosting in US to a VPS in italy. I think that also might have got something to do with this.
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    • Profile picture of the author jahangir89
      With all these updates since last year, I've changed my approach to making a living on the internet. I used to have a site that was making me 5 figures a month pre-panda (April 2012). It got hit and took a plunge and gives me absolutely nothing today. The problem with the site was a lack of diverse back links. There were just too many strong links coming from a high pr blog network.

      However, the thing is, Google has punished sites for several other reasons. Back links isn't the only reason and many innocent websites and webmasters that have tried to play by the book have also seen their sites plunge. Google is mess a these days.

      It's very risky depending on just one website now. Even more so if that one website happens to be your own domain that you just set up. New websites are the most vulnerable to being victimized by one of Google's updates.

      Things with Google aren't going to always be the same and this online era, where you're able to make a living online is just one big long-term fad, and one it will fade. Therefore my advice to all of you is to go with the flow. How do you do this? You build niche sites with web 2.0 sites and rank those. They'll take Google's blows better than any one of your own constructed-from-scratch websites and still get you sales/leads.

      When Google changes it's attitude with web 2.0's, there will certainly be something else you could do. As I said, stay with the follow. Take advantage of this long-term online fad. Later on, use the money you made in the REAL WORLD. Invest in a company, invest by buying land, buy shares or start a real business that doesn't live on the internet or depends on Google.

      If you want to make a brand of your website, make an entity of it, so that it's able to generate traffic on it's own without Google's help, then by all means do it. But then you really really have to play be the rules and hope Google doesn't do anything to your site. As I said, Google has gone crazy these days with new and established websites alike. If you're trying to build something that can stand independently of Google, the better way to promote it would be not by building back links but by other means and marketing strategies.
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      • Profile picture of the author mmh3
        jahangir89, sad to read that, but it's probably true. It may be good google ran alot of people off for some of us. Then they wanna float balloons with internet access over africa, and then all those folks are gonna be spamming, wanting to make money on the net... Oh my...
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  • Profile picture of the author Dead Body
    lol spammed to death.. a new term..
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