Google Penguin has claimed at least one victim…
It has finally happened, even though I think it’s not fair! haha!
I have fallen victim to the latest Google algorithm update that happened a couple of weeks ago, called “Penguin” (not “Panda” – that was last years big update!).
So what exactly do I mean by that? Well, I have had one site, my main money earner site, which has been on Page 1 of Google’s SERPs for most its main keyword for the past 2 years or so. So I had a pretty good stream of visitors coming to my site (for free), and as you will know, the more visitors your site has the more revenue you are going to earn. Even though mine was not that much, it was still ok and I was (am) proud of the site.
Pretty exactly on Wednesday, 25th of April, I noticed a big drop in earnings. This didn’t concern me much yet – I have had the odd “very slow” day. But when it happened again the next day, and the day after, I was getting really concerned.
Straight away I went and Googled my main keywords, because I knew it must have to do with the search engine placement of my site. And guess what? My site had disappeared from page 1 (or 2 or 3 in some cases…) What had I done wrong?
You might know that Google has a certain algorithm to work out which sites get displayed in which order on page 1 of search results for certain keywords, right? And as Google continuously strives to improve their user experience, they also continuously strive to improve (which in this case means update and change) their algorithm to make sure only the best, most informative and most interesting sites will be on page 1.
So first they did a major update around the middle of last year called “Panda”. I found some good explanations of it here and here. (Sorry, but I don’t want to rattle all the info off here if somebody else has written a good article about it ) My sites survived that update!
Then, and I only found out the hard way, on April 24th Google released another change to their algorithm named “Penguin” with the intention of penalizing sites for over-optimization or spamming. There is a really good article on it here and on Matt Carter’s Blog.
After I noticed that my earnings had dropped and found out about Google Penguin, I logged into my Google Analytics account and checked out the traffic. And yes, on April 24th, I still had about 250 – 300 visitors a day, and then there is this rapid drop down to 125 or so in average. Have a look:
That’s scary! So, panic settled in. What had I done wrong, and how could I rectify it?
After analyzing my site and what I had done with it in the last few months I found that
- I had not updated it regularly at all. The site has a blog attached but I updated maybe once every 3 or 4 months – if that! And Google loves new content.
- The site is mainly a site with static pages. Other sites on page 1 of Google in my niche were real blogs, with constant updates and changes happening. Fresh sites with a lot going on.
- I had not been doing any proper link building or SEO at all. I had been concentrating on trying to get more traffic and backlinks by buying all these fancy plugins that promised “automation and a ton of backlinks and therefore better SEO and rankings in the search engines, resulting in a ton of traffic” – hey, I had so many backlink and seo plugins installed I got completely confused about what was working for me and what not.
- I did not encourage my visitors to share my content through facebook, twitter, pinterest or any sites like that, which would result in more interest created about my site and therefore more visitors.
So, really, all I was when Google Penguin came along was a sitting duck with a “trying to be over-optimized” stale site that had been going ok so far but wasn’t really offering anything new or interesting to its visitors any more. So they just took me down!
But instead of throwing my hands up in the air and giving up, I am starting a counter attack to regain my previous status on the SERPs. Here is my new plan of action of things to do that I believe Google wants (and to get what WE want we should do what Google wants, right?):
- Write more content and update my blogs on a regular basis, even if its only every 3 weeks or so
- re-think my static websites; static pages seem to have worked so far, but Google seems to put more and more value on sites that do stay fresh with new articles and information. I will either have to do regular updates on the static pages or run a blog alongside and keep things fresh.
- No more backlink, traffic or seo plugins – just pick the best seo plugin and chuck the rest. Go back to good old school backlink building! (Asking other webmasters for link exchanges, forum signatures, internal linking, comments etc.). All this over-optimization has not worked for me! Let the site age and spread over the internet naturally.
- Getting into social sharing a lot more. Put share bars and social sharing buttons etc. on my site so visitors can tweet, facebook, pinterest or stumbleupon (etc.) what they find on my site and therefore also create more backlinks and visitors to my site. Of course, the sharing should start to happen naturally if I manage to keep my visitors interested and intrigued!
I believe that what Google wants are honest, interesting and informative sites that engage their visitors and offer them what they look for.
In my experience you cannot achieve that if you are trying to automate a lot of things, or try to over-optimize because you kind of lose control and that’s how the spamming starts. I have so many spammy comments on my sites these days its not funny any more. Trackbacks that get generated by some robot and are not actually coming from the site they refer back to, comments that on first look seem genuine until you start reading them and the words don’t make any sense. Thin websites with very little content are also on the blacklist. They simply don’t contain enough information.
So this latest Google Penguin update has certainly shocked me in my comfy chair I am convinced that I will be able to get my site back up and ranking for my main keywords, but it will take some work and time. On the other hand I will feel better for it, because I will know that my site actually will have something to offer to the people that are visiting.
I don’t know whether you have been hit or not, but I strongly advise you to consider becoming an “honest blogger” – we will probably all be surprised by the way Google is going to reward us for it in the future!
Now, if you liked my article, would you mind sharing it? Thanks!