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Google Penguin's Unbelievably DEVASTATING Effects on SEO

Discussion in 'Black Hat SEO' started by SuperLinks, Apr 28, 2012.

  1. SuperLinks

    SuperLinks Elite Member

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    Disclaimer: OK...Nothing that you are reading is fact, we haven't even begun to scratch the surface in understanding Penguin. The goal of this thread is to provide a resource to discuss evidence and begin formulating theories of Penguin.

    I've been spending a painful amount of time analyzing Penguin's effects, and talking with other bulldog SEO's to discover what factors were implemented in the latest algorithm update. One thing that we all instantly agreed on, was that the Penguin update has been unlike anything we've ever seen before. We expect to see a major revamp and tweaks to the algo soon.

    Examples of Low Quality Garbage Rising to the Top:

    Credit Card Refinance
    5th result on Page 1

    The site that's ranked has 7 pages indexed, of which are all default pages for a stock CMS. The total content on this site is all on the homepage, which is a short blurb that was clearly written in a matter of minutes.

    [​IMG]
    Website Stats:
    Exact Match Domain
    Backlinks: Zero Backlinks
    Age of domain: 2 yrs old
    PageRank: 0

    Paid Surveys
    5th result on Page 1

    The site has 140 pages indexed, but most are duplicate, tag, or thin pages in general. Overall the site is very thin, with unmasked affiliate links! Overall, not a site you'd expect to be prominently displayed on the first page of Google for the keyword 'paid surveys'.

    Not an exact match domain, but includes the keyword 'survey' in domain

    [​IMG]

    Website Stats:
    Backlinks: 354 (ahrefs)
    Notes about backlinks: A great majority of the backlinks to this domain are from BuildMyRank and other networks that have been deindexed entirely. Some directory links, but overall a very thin link profile that is blatantly artificial with little anchor text diversity
    Age of domain: 4 yrs old
    PageRank: 1

    Other Crappy Rankings:

    mexico pharmacy
    5th result is a movie review for a Christian Movie on a popular movie review website
    Zero links pointed to this page with any keywords related to "mexico pharmacy"
    It's very unlikely that this was a hacked, redirect, Google mask, or anything more than a ranking mistake.

    credit card review
    10th result on Page 1 is a Wikipedia link to Amazon's page!

    Similarities Among Sites Crushed by Penguin:

    Sitewide Above the Fold Call to Actions/Forms

    I've been spending a god awful amount of time on Google's Webmaster Forum, which is a great resource to find sites that were negatively affected by the recent algorithm update. Frustrated webmasters provide their full URL in hopes that someone will point out the horrible mistake(s) they've made so that they can correct it. Don't waste time reading the responses, you'd get better advice from an Eskimo. Regardless, its a good resource for finding actual URL's of sites affected, and in niches that you may never hear about or think about.

    One commonality I'm seeing is that sites with large sitewide Call To Actions/forms above the fold were hit, and hit hard. Think insurance related websites, investigative websites, and most lead gen type sites.

    Case-Studies of Above-the-Fold Penalty Theory

    Site #1

    [​IMG]
    Website Stats:
    Backlinks: 9,000
    Age of domain: 16 yrs old (well branded)
    PageRank: 5

    Notice the huge orange button? The large form to enter information in? Each and every page on this website has this same exact lead gen form on the top of the page. It's clear that a team of people have poured their hearts and souls into this site. Painstakingly optimizing each page on the site with unique, well written content. But, there's a lot of overlap in terms of design of each page, and that big form takes up most of the real estate ABOVE the fold. Viewing the site in 800x600 resolutions, there's NO content above the fold.

    All other optimization factors could qualify as amazing, great backlinks, good anchor text and incoming link diversity. A very well branded domain with an ancient old domain (16 yrs old!)! The SEOMoz team would get their rocks off if they had something to do with this domain, its that good. It's astonishing, if anything, this domain's optimization is too good (another Penguin theory of mine).

    Site #2
    [​IMG]
    Website Stats:
    Backlinks: 37,000
    An unbelievable backlink profile, with no signs of artificial linkbuilding. Links from .edu's, .gov's, .mil, and just about every authority type of TLD that you can imagine. This is nearly the pinnacle of a backlink profile that SEOMoz would give as an example of what to do for a white-hat, well branded domain.
    Age of domain: 12 yrs old
    PageRank: 7

    Again, notice the white fields at the top of the page? That's how it is on EVERY page of the domain. The top header section is simply a lead gen form that's sitewide. According to this guy in the Webmaster forum he had sustained amazing rankings until the recent Penguin update. This was a leader in this niche, and had been for many years.

    Site #3

    [​IMG]
    Website Stats:
    Backlinks: 257
    All backlinks appear to be natural, with no sign of manually built links.
    Age of domain: 8 yrs old
    PageRank: 4

    This is a UK based site that was also hit very hard according to the owner on GWT forums. According to the owner the site has plummeted in the rankings after Penguin was rolled out. Notice the huge header image? When viewing on the pinnacle 800x600 resolution there is NO visible content on the site. For the content itself, and title tags, it could be considered over-optimized with the primary keyword showing up on just about every page, with slight modification.

    Major Take Aways:


    While it's still early to determine the actual changes in the algorithm, when can begin to paint a picture and make some hypothesis about potential changes. My gut feeling is that Penguin largely affected on-site factors rather than off-site factors. Sites that would be considered perfectly optimized, are some of the best examples of sites that got crushed in the latest Penguin update.

    Above the fold penalty

    It's very likely that Google has implemented this into Penguin. Sites with forms, advertisements or large images that fill up area above the fold sitewide appear to have been hit hardest. If you think this was your problem try viewing your site in a 800x600 screen resolution, how much unique content is visible in this area? You can use Google's own tool (http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/)

    "Bad Backlinks" AREN'T Reason for Ranking Drops

    Like many BH SEO's, I've got a ton of domains that I've done testing with. Manytest domains with nothing but massive Xrumer and Scrapebox spam skyrocketed in the SERPs after the recent algorithm update.

    A couple examples I provided above that increased in rankings have links from BMR, ALN, and other networks that have been deindexed! The rest are lower quality article directory links, low quality social bookmarks, and nothing to really write home about.

    If anything, link "penalties", because of over-optimization, were distributed a few weeks ago, but not as a direct result of Penguin.

    How can YOU Help?
    Let's make this the best thread on BHW discussing theories, based on evidence, of what the latest factors of algorithm change were!

    What trends are you seeing? If you were affected by Penguin, in a good or bad way, please share some details about your site. How is the content on your site? How many pages do you have indexed? On a scale of 1-10, how good is your on-site optimization. What is your gut telling you about Penguin?
     
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    Last edited: Apr 28, 2012
  2. Expertpeon

    Expertpeon Elite Member

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    I do not think call to action is the problem at all, even with sites with little authority.
    Below is a site that is #4 in one of the most fluid financial terms (one of the only ones your best SEOer by himself can compete in and still make a killing)
    All it is is a thin site with a huge call to action...

    I have added it here... This site has little text on the homepage, and a keyword density of 11%!! It's #4 for a huge finance term.
    It's actually right after sec.gov! It's backlinks profile is ABSOLUTE garbage... in fact, the site BELOW it has 80 times as many backlinks this month alone...

    [​IMG]

    Majestic on this site:
    [​IMG]

    What what I AM seeing is redirects redirects and more redirects on page 1 for ultra competitive terms.

    This isn't some tiny term... it's a mid 5 figure/day term.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 28, 2012
  3. trevorhoang

    trevorhoang Power Member

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    this is my input for the new update.

    My 1 EMD MNS got hit from 2nd spot to page 5. It has 5 pages all with 400-600 words targetting only 1 KW (my nooby mistake ) I believe google puts more emphasis on LSI now more than ever.

    3 of my other sites with good quality content written myself were all hit. I believe the backlinking is to blame. All the backlinks were done with the link push method that i learn here on BHW. Creating tiers 1 and 2 web20 with unique spun content in each web2.0 . anchor txt is varied with the KW im targeting and other LSI KWs. I blsted all the web20 with SB. But now i got bitch slapped by google. so now its time to wait and see what happens
     
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  4. sw1abr

    sw1abr Newbie

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    Nice post, thanks for sharing.... However, I don't believe on-page factors are as important as the off-page factors. My gut tells me this is more about link building. Anything that looks artificial is being hit. One possible reason why direct crappy links to the money site are not being hit are due to safeguards against negative SEO. Spammy / artificial links on tier sites on the other hand may not have such safeguards and are hitting the money site as a result.

    That's my 2 cents anyway, could be wrong, I think there are too many factors to consider this time around, going to take thousands and thousands of case studies rather than just a handful unfortunately.
     
  5. assphuck

    assphuck Senior Member

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    Are the datacenters even returning stable results? For me, they are not. This update is not over...
     
  6. SuperLinks

    SuperLinks Elite Member

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    Exactly why I'm hoping to develop this into a case study thread to dive into the SERPs together.

    Having said that, I believe that Google did roll out a link analysis bot several weeks ago. Shortly after blog networks got crushed/deindexed, and before Penguin was released.

    We had some pretty active discussions on this forum about that when those "penalties" started getting rolled out. However, from what I can tell that was a separate bot/part of the algorithm which is still active till this day.

    Blatant and artificial linkbuilding with little to no diversity, in incoming anchor text links, URLs being backlinked, and style of links are at jeopardy of seeing penalties. However, link pyramids/pushes, which I've used on a variety of sites don't seem to have any rhyme or reason as to why they were affected.

    Essentially I used the same services on a variety of sites, same packages, and some were hit and others weren't. The strong differences of the sites were the on-site factors.
     
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  7. sw1abr

    sw1abr Newbie

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    Hmmm.. well I have an odd theory that it could be due to edu/gov links -- if your packages had edu/gov links in the mix then perhaps that may have hit some niches and not others... were niches that should have virtually no edu/gov links get hit?
     
  8. Expertpeon

    Expertpeon Elite Member

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    I've been doing web 2.0s + PRs + wikis for tier 1 (lots of manual commenting and such as well) and then tiering this with a 2nd tier that is a link wheel of web 2.0s (at least 200 domains)
    I do these with tier 1s in the 1-2k range then tier 2s in the 20k range (page count, domain/account count is about 1k) I then only link in with spam after the 3rd tier, which is usually Article ranks or some other large network.

    This method has worked great since feb, and my sites I did this on have only gone up post the 24th, however, it's too early to tell even now. What I did change was anchor text (I use around 15 different ones with 50% raw URLs) and each web 2.0 in tier 1 gets 3 articles, all linking to different sites in this niche + an authority site...
     
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  9. SuperLinks

    SuperLinks Elite Member

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    Could you open up a spot in your PM box? I tried to PM but your inbox is full...
     
  10. HostStage

    HostStage Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member UnGagged Attendee

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    @OP ; What i could bring to the topic is that to me blog network are so far still working.

    I did a blast on an unaffected website and it climbed AFTER the update. I'm now 3rd. The website is crappy content wise.

    For testing purpose i used 3 anchors and no rawr URL or click here. I'm waiting to be spanked.

    I'm running test on a website where i'm going to do what i used to do. Huge link diversity including spun Web 2.0 starting from monday.

    I'm going to try neg SEO with some moderate SB blasts on AA list. No too massive though.

    And i've tried to redirect 301 the pages of my website which has dropped, and i've recreated the sitemap, optimized a few stuff on page, add fresh content and i've noticed a quick and small recovery up to +120, but the 301 isn't indexed yet.

    I'll keep you updated.

    Cheers
     
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  11. jb2008

    jb2008 Senior Member

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    Lol, it's funny how you mention negative SEO so casually now. Almost like you're blasting your own site to make it go up the rankings, when in fact you're trying to ruin someone else's business. With this update, Google has opened up the playing field for such tactics. I wouldn't even call them black hat, I would classify them as illegal myself but the law will be slow to catch up on a practise brought into mainstream SEO so recently.
     
  12. manny521

    manny521 Supreme Member

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    What I have been noticing is that google is not ranking the page that I want it to rank for, matched with the keyword. Let me give you an example:

    For example, if I optimize an inner page on my site to sell "big blue trucks", google will rank the page on my site that sells "little green cars"...its really weird...

    this is happening throughout my SERPs, its really frustrating b/c how is that returning a result that the user was looking for?

    My SERPs tanked on April 24th across the board.
     
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  13. pompano

    pompano Power Member

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    Honestly from the rankings I am seeing with all my sites. It is completely random. I am still trying to work out what is going on because everything is jumping like crazy.
     
  14. ComputerEngineer

    ComputerEngineer Senior Member

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    the algo is pretty much screwed. i think making assumptions won't work
     
  15. HostStage

    HostStage Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member UnGagged Attendee

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    Oh don't worry, i don't appreciate much either, i find it unfair and unprofessional. But you know what you are driving to do in the name of science ;).


    I'm going to pick one website of mine and a random one with no stakes involved. The purpose isn't to massblast it, but see if it became easy as so much are claiming already. If i improve rankings great, if not i believe i'm going to send the results to google.

    It is because people had made assumptions before that you have senukeX, scrapebox in your hands ..

    This is a quality thread, thanks to not spoil it ...
     
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  16. darrensss

    darrensss Power Member

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    Agree with the OP ... I don't think this update has much to do with BL's, maybe 10% of the update is effected by them but no more.
    Personally i think this is all to do with onpage seo.
    So can i ask the following question to anyone who has lost rankings or seen a crap site appear on page 1 ...

    Has your site lost rankings or are you seeing a crap site on page 1?
    If you site has lost ranking do you regard yourself as a good SEO ... or do you rely mainly on BL's to gain good serps?
    Now take a look at your source code and answer the following ...

    - Page title/description, do they both include your KW? More then once? do they make sense when you read them?
    - Image, do they all have 'alt' tags which do include your KW? and are the image names optermised for the KW?
    - Do you use <h1> <h2> <p> and <li> etc in your content ...
    - Does your content contain 'in-content' links?
    - how many words do you have on each page?
    - Do you use video on your page?
    - Is your page built using css (div's) or tables?
    - Does your footer contain loads of text links?
    - Do you use 301's at all? even for legit reasons? if yes, how? in .htaccess? or php header? etc ...
    - Is you domain a EMD? or does it contain your KW?
    - How old is the site?

    Would be worth reading answers to the above for dropped sites + sites that have appeared since the update?
     
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  17. islandcoli

    islandcoli Regular Member

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    I have MULTIPLE buffer sites outranking my money sites. Not just one, multiple spun articles on one page wiki,blogger,(free wordpress), tumblr sites that link to my moneysite once at the bottom.
     
  18. burgers

    burgers Junior Member

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    Thank you for your studies and observations, its important to figure things out to know how to best proceed. Like many, a lot of my sites that are backlinked have tanked, even with link diversity, anchor text diversity. Could it be possible that the penalty for overoptimization is related to all the "standard" on-page tactices like keyword density, headers, bold, italic, underline, internal links, alt ... so for example, when every page is "properly" set up, the new algo can pick it up and assess overoptimization?

    The only one obvious site of mine that didn't move at all was a site that was only lightly backlinked and had much more social interaction through FB, Twitter, G+, Stumbleupon & Pintrest. Is it possible that real social signals "diluted" the over-optimization of backlinks?
     
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  19. cemedia

    cemedia Registered Member

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    i won't be drawing conclusions yet because it is too early to tell. my site also tanked and i think it is mainly because of so many backlinks.
     
  20. darrensss

    darrensss Power Member

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    This is what i think is happening ... sites that are "properly" SEO'd but good SEO people maybe raising red flags to google?