What About The Over-Optimization Penalty?
Google had initially warned that an “over-optimization” penalty was coming. This is the penalty it was talking about, but it has clarified that it’s not meant to target some hard-to-pin down “over-optimization” but rather outright spam.
What About Panda 3.5?
Yesterday, Google confirmed that it also released an update to its Panda algorithm, Panda 3.5, on April 19. Unlike Penguin, which is meant to target spam, Panda is designed to target pages that aren’t spam but aren’t great quality.
The date is important. If your traffic dropped on April 19 and never recovered, then you were probably hit by Panda rather than Penguin, and you need to follow advice for recovering from Panda, such as these:
Your Site’s Traffic Has Plummeted Since Google’s Panda Update. Now What?
Hit By Panda Update? Google Has 23 Questions To Ask Yourself To Improve
5 New Tactics For SEO Post-Panda
Can You Dig Out Of Your Google Panda Hole By Offloading To Subdomains?
Yet More Tips For Diagnosing & Fixing Panda Problems
Google: Low PageRank & Bad Spelling May Go Hand-In-Hand; Panda, Too?
What About That Parked Domains Mistake?
Around April 17, a number of sites reported lost traffic. That turned out to be a problem with how Google was incorrectly classifying them as being parked domains.
If your traffic dropped around April 17, it’s probably related to that, especially if you recovered by April 18. It shouldn’t be responsible for any drop you might see after April 18. Rather, Panda and Penguin are more likely culprits.
What About All Those Link Warnings?
Around mid-March, Google began taking action against some blog networks that seemed chiefly designed just to generate links to those participating, in hopes of boosting rankings. Then around the end of March, Google also sent warnings about “artificial or unnatural links” to a variety of sites. The stories below explain more:
Google Eliminates Another Link Network, BuildMyRank.com – Just One Of Several?
Google Sending Warnings About “Artificial” Or “Unnatural” Links
If you saw your traffic drop in mid-March, it could be for one of two reasons. First, Google might no longer be letting the traffic from the link networks you were in carry weight. You’re not penalized. You’re just not benefiting any longer. Second, Google might have actively attached a penalty to your site.
It’s really not clear which has happened to people. Getting a warning doesn’t necessarily mean you got a penalty, it seems. But we’ll try to confirm this more from Google in the coming days.
What About Negative SEO?
Especially in the past week, there’s been a huge rise in forum discussions that “negative SEO” is now a serious problem. The idea is that if being in a blog network or having paid links could hurt you, then anyone could point bad links to harm another site.
This fear has existed for years. It’s not new. It’s even something Google acknowledges can happen in some limited cases. The fact that we’ve not had many sites over the years complaining that negative SEO has hit them should be reassuring.
For most sites, it’s not a problem because good sites have enough good signals in their favor that bad ones stand out as an oddity. It’s more a liability for smaller sites that haven’t built my authority, in my view.
I’ll be following up in more depth on the current round of worries, and I’ll try to get Google to weigh in more on the fresh concerns.
Is Penguin Bad For Searchers, Small Businesses….
If you read forum discussions, the Penguin Update has ruined Google’s search results. The reality is difficult to tell.
Make no mistake, it’s easy to find plenty of weirdness in Google’s results, as I covered in yesterday’s post, Did Penguin Make Google’s Search Results Better Or Worse?
However, these still remain anecdotal reports. It’s always been possible to find oddities like this.
There’s been no mass outcry from ordinary Google searchers that it’s suddenly gotten worse. There’s also typically outcry mostly from publishers who have been harmed by updates and not from publishers who have gained. Those who’ve gained have no reason to speak up.
As a result, after any update, it’s always possible to come away with a skewed view that the sky is falling in terms of relevancy. The reactions I’ve seen to the Penguin Update? They could have all been drawn directly out of reactions from the Florida Update of 2003. This presentation I did for concerned publishers at the time are equally applicable today.
After that update, Google was accused of trying to do everything from put small businesses out-of-business to trying to get more AdWords cash out of big brands. And SEO was dead yet again.
If SEO is dead, it sure has been taking its time dying, as I’ve written in the past. If Google really does have a grand master plan to wipe out small businesses, then it’s going on 10 years now that it hasn’t managed to do it.
The reality is that I’d say the vast majority of small businesses are getting plenty of traffic from Google, real small businesses that make real things or provide real services.
Of course, if the definition of small business is someone who writes hundreds of articles for a blog, to carry Google’s or someone else’s ads alongside, then “spins” those articles using software into slightly different versions for three other blogs to carry more ads, then yes, those types of businesses are in danger. They were from the beginning, actually, and it’s surprising they’ve lasted so long.
None of that is meant to take away from anyone with a quality site who has been harmed by latest update. If Google’s screwing up on listing relevant sites, we want to know, and we sure want that corrected. But as someone who has witnessed Google updates for as far back as we’ve had Google — who can remember panic over updates with Excite that existed before Google — this seems fairly normal.
Search didn’t suddenly stop sending everyone traffic. Google didn’t just stop sending sites tons of traffic. A bunch of people were definitely hit, some of whom probably should have been hit. A bunch of people were rewarded, some of whom should have been rewarded. Most people probably noticed no change at all. Here’s hoping the people who were hit mistakenly, or who weren’t rewarded as they should have been, get corrected in future updates.