Google’s latest algorithm update, affectionately called “PENGUIN” has caused a few headaches. Aimed at spammers, the update affected businesses who had over optimized their websites. In other words, these business owners used SEO strategies that worked, but they over-used them. Most sites that lost rankings often had some or all of the following:
- Backlinks on sites that are not relevant to their category
- Too many backlinks with keyword specific anchor text
- Rate of backlink acquisition was too fast
- Poor or old content on-site
There’s probably more, but these are the biggest culprits. Funny thing is I remember being at SMX a couple of years ago where I personally heard a representative from Google stand on stage and instruct SEOs to “use keywords in your backlink anchors to indicate to Google what your link is about.” Now the folks who did that “too well” are being penalized for it.
One of the biggest differences between this update and past algorithm updates is the fact that this one didn’t just devalue elements of an SEO campaign that Google deemed “unnatural.” This one seems to have truly penalized sites for their strategies. If you’ve read up on Penguin, you’ve heard the horror stories of sites going from page one to page five, six, seven and so on.
Take a look at this letter from a business owner who fell victim to the Penguin.
Google’s Penguin update has destroyed my rankings! I’ve been on page one for years and since Penguin, it’s all been page five and beyond. And the most frustrating part is that the sites they’ve decided to put on page one don’t hold a candle to my business.
You see, I’m one of the number one dealers of [product]. I have great products, great selection, great prices, great reviews, etc. Now Google is ranking the likes of Wal-Mart ahead of my site and they only carry maybe 2 [products] in their inventory (compared to my 50+ varieties).
There are brand new players outranking my site too. Businesses I’ve never heard of. It doesn’t make sense.
So, I started reading up on Penguin and SEO overall. (That’s how I came to find your site.) You see, I’ve been on page one so long, I haven’t had to think much about SEO. I do pay an SEO agency a few hundred dollars a month to take care of my site, and I was happy to do so, because I was on page one. Now I’m not sure I did the right thing. Now that I’m armed with a little more SEO knowledge, I’ve realized that my backlinks are over optimized. My anchor text is keyword heavy and many of my links come from sites unrelated to my content. No wonder Penguin doesn’t like me very much.
You may be thinking, “Well, you over optimized and now you have to pay the price.” But here’s the thing. I’m just a business owner who didn’t know much about SEO. Why should my business and my employees suffer because of my lack of knowledge in this area? I knew it wasn’t my field of expertise. That’s why I hired an SEO company. And they’re good guys. They were just using strategies that were in their words, “pretty common practice.” And who can blame them? Those strategies were working for many years.
Look. I get it. Google had to do something to stop all the link spam. I actually respect that. But here’s the thing – I’m willing to play by their rules. I’ve started following “Penguin Best Practices.” I’m adding great new content to my site. I’m building really good links on relevant sites. I’m using my business name as the anchor text. But it’s not making a difference. It’s like I’m adding fresh fuel to my car, but I have four flat tires. Some articles are actually advising that if you’re hit by Penguin, you should start over from scratch.
Do you think I should start over? I have some other URLs and could move the content. Then at least I’d have a clean backlink profile. Look, I don’t expect Google to stop going after link spam, but I’d like to ask them why they must PENALIZE my site for using old SEO strategies. If they don’t like my backlinks, maybe they shouldn’t count them. But by penalizing me, they make it practically impossible for me to recover.
Also, I have to confess that I’ve been thinking about the concept of using negative SEO. I can’t help but consider how easy it would be for me to buy some really cheap links, over optimize the anchor text and point them at my competitors. I’m not going to do that, but I know there are some people out there who will go that route. In fact, once I do all the work to get back to page one, who’s to say someone won’t do that to my site? Maybe they already have!
I’m just so frustrated. I don’t feel like anything I do makes a difference. I have no way of removing the old links, so I think I may have to start over. It just makes me so angry when I see inferior sites outranking mine because of a handful of backlinks that some SEO probably bought on my behalf several years ago without my knowledge or permission.
Please take a look at my site and if you have any ideas, let me know. Thanks.
[Client information withheld.]
I’m struggling to help this person. I’ve given him my best advice on how to build quality, relevant backlinks but it sounds like he’s already doing a lot of that. Maybe it’s just going to take a lot of work to overcome that ugly backlink profile. Maybe he would be better starting from scratch. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that his site is awesome; he sells really great [products] and he should be outranking some of the sites that are now on page one.
Anyone have any advice I can pass on to this guy?
Thanks for reading.