Pandas, Penguins and Why I Don’t Do SEO

Google warned us in advance about its planned webspam algorithmn update (now known as “Penguin”) and site owners who ignored those warnings are now paying the price.

Many of the comments posted to Danny Sullivan’s post about the Penguin update verify search engine ranking downgrades and loss.

Here are just a few examples:

  • “I just had a website that ranked on the first page for numerous rankings…. completely tank. One of the only websites that didn’t do comment spam in my SERPS. Didn’t do link exchanges. Now it’s gone.”
  • “5 out of 11 of my sites have dropped into oblivion today.”
  • “In one of my niches, of course, my site has disappeared.”
  • “I have 2 sites that went missing ..they are MIA .. No where to be found in any key word !!”

While I feel for the truly innocent who get caught in the crossfire of Google’s algorithm changes, they will mostly likely regain their rankings — as has happened in the past. By the way, if your site was affected by the “Penguin” webspam algorithm update on April 24th, 2012, and you don’t think it should have been affected, you may submit a report to Google here.

But some not-so-innocent webmasters are stating that Google doesn’t “play fair” and blame Google for the possibility that they may have to seek offline employment or go on government assistance.

Oh, too bad, so sad.

Forgive my lack of empathy, but give me a break.

I’m sick of the whining and moaning that ensues when Google dumps Viagra, make money online, and diabetes web spam over-optimized sites. Google stated that only 3.1% of English language sites would be affected by this update, yet there’s way too much emphasis placed on spammers’ reactions to such changes.

Instead of living in fear of Google algorithm changes, online business owners should seek out positive reports — and there are plenty of positive reports related to the Penguin update, including:

  • “I went to my analytics and did a quick search of traffic over the period from April 23-27 and saw my stats go up after Penguin. More traffic, coming from more places. My ranking in Google is stagnant at #4, but has gone up in Yahoo, Aol etc. Has anyone else seen positive signs from this Penguin update?”
  • “one of my sites is up 20-30%…”
  • “I’ll wait and behold, and start to arrive at any conclusion in a month or two. First of all, none of my sites dropped outta’ index. Second, being patient is natural for buddhists. Third, being an IT worker, I’ve never seen anything of that scale working well at the moment of release and later on. And I don’t really think I’m ever going to, to be frank)”
  • “my total search traffic hasn’t changed”

I too have seen a traffic increase in the past week on most of my primary sites, as is usually the case when an Google puts out an algorithm update.

Here’s a Google Analytics screenshot from one site to which no posts have been made for well over a week and no traffic sent from email blasts. Daily traffic variations remain completely normal and new visitor ratio is virtually the same.

After almost 15 years online, I must conclude that’s because I’ve consistently played by the rules. I do NOT do SEO other than naturally including important keywords in my post titles and text, i.e. I do NOT use silly formulas that may work today, won’t work tomorrow and will get me bounced from the index.

It’s Google’s game, therefore Google makes the rules.

Webmasters who want to rely primarily on free traffic from Google should know and follow Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Here are a few more recommendations:

  1. Don’t buy links
  2. Don’t allow links from low-quality sites and networks
  3. Don’t get sucked into buying SEO services that promise a #1 listing
  4. Don’t waste your money on crap tutorials that promise to teach you how to get #1 listings in Google

In other words, don’t waste your time on SEO – become a real business that provides real value to real people.

Has Penguin affected your site? Please leave a comment below!

Cheers,

sig-ros

P.S. Thanks to Stan Shebs and Wikipedia for the beautiful penguin pic. :-)

Comments

    • says

      I’m meeting with a friend tomorrow, and in an email conversation we had organising the meeting he mentioned outsourcing he’s SEO work to someone in the east who works for peanuts, said I wasn’t ranking highly enough for a particular keyword, and then promptly told me he had lost most of his traffic since April, and showed me the stats.

      Luckily, I’m in the SEO industry (though my skills are thankfully limited to the advice you’ve given above, keywords in the proper positions, and write great content) and balked at his idea.

      In tomorrow’s meeting, I’ll be sharing this post with him. Ramon, if you’re reading this, please say Hi!

  1. says

    While I appreciate your candid post, I think you need to keep in mind that many high quality websites that never did an ounce worth of spammy backlinks have been hit as well by the Penguin. There is no point to having a website if you don’t have visitors, and so webmasters had to find ways to market their websites, some using black hat tactics and some using white hat ones like writing articles and doing guest posts. But because of an overuse of the same anchor text both the high quality sites and spammy sites have been linked together. After all, it’s a computer’s algorithm that is determining quality here.

    Some of the “whiners” out there have been legitimate businesses that have been trying to play by the rules, and have not even tried to manipulate their rankings. But it’s a shame when we punish those who are actively trying to market their websites and reward those who just let their websites site and collect dust. Many marketers have seen a surge in rankings for spammy sites that never got any links at all, while the high quality sites they did build quality links to got slammed into oblivion.

    But when you want traffic from big G you have to play by their rules. We all need to realize that the internet is much bigger than Google, and with sites like Facebook and Pinterest thriving with traffic, we need to tap into those sources of traffic, even if Google ever decides that too many links from those sites constitutes spam.

    Whew, sorry Rosalind.. Didn’t mean to write a book. I think I need to write my own blog post about this and vent a little. Thanks for the refreshing perspective though. Just one quesiton, how can we “not allow links from low quality sites”? Negative SEO is booming now that Google is lowering the rankings of sites that have too many spammy links. And with these tactics being more effective than ever, Google has created quite the perfect storm it seems.

    By the way, I hate SEO myself. I just create ways for people to find my sites and leave the rest up to Google.

    • says

      Jon,

      Your “and so webmasters had to find ways to market their websites, some using black hat tactics” is telling.

      High quality websites do NOT need to use black hat tactics which are NEVER acceptable, so must be shunned…. always.

      If the sites you are thinking of are SO high-quality, then their rankings will be restored. If they weren’t, then you’ll find that out too.

      As for using Facebook, Pinterest and other social media marketing sites to enhance your visibility — YA, you need to employ those resources WITHOUT spamming them too. :-)

      Take a look at my FB site – http://www.facebook.com/rosalind.gardner.biz Completely above board and NOT all about marketing.

      Cheers,
      Ros

    • says

      I do the same…neglecting to 90% SEO and just good stories and content satisfaction..Interesting subject. Going to Pinterest……..lots of work to be done…be well

  2. says

    I totally disagree. Bad SEO people were hurt sure – but the good guys were hurt also (and now OLD BAD SEO’d trash sites are now back in top rankings). I spent a year on one of my sites doing only white-hat marketing. Ever so slowly creeping up in the organic rankings. A year of writing my own good articles, a year of $300/month income. And finally I was starting to make money.

    My site is now no-where to be found. I don’t spam keywords either – I had a good site comparing two services and yes, now I’m crying along with a lot of other people who should not have been thrown to the sharks.

    Not all of us have big lists that we can count on for income, I guess that’s our problem. Good to hear you were unaffected. . .

    • says

      Evelyn,

      Sorry that you didn’t have a list… something upon which I INSIST.

      I suspect (KNOW) that your approach is tainted by teaching from you-know-who in the past — someone who had NO respect for the way things really are but was all about the money.

      PLEASE let this be a lesson… not another reason to try and buck the system based on a really bad instructor from the past.

      Cheers,
      Your FRIEND,
      Ros

  3. Wendy Owen says

    I’m very surprised at your lack of empathy for genuine people who were wrongly impacted by this update. I have been a follower of yours for eight years, but this ends today. I can still remember you bitching and moaning when you were “wrongly” kicked off YouYube.

    Your arrogance knows no bounds. Goodbye.

    Wendy

    • says

      Wendy,

      You do as you like… but I suspect you did NOT read the part that said “While I feel for the truly innocent who get caught in the crossfire of Google’s algorithm changes, they will mostly likely regain their rankings — as has happened in the past. By the way, if your site was affected by the “Penguin” webspam algorithm update on April 24th, 2012, and you don’t think it should have been affected, you may submit a report to Google here. ”

      Or perhaps you feel you were genuinely wronged despite having flouted Google’s rules?

      I see that you did NOT post a URL, so I therefore must suspect that is the case.

      Good luck to you.

      Rosalind

  4. says

    Hi Ros, great points. I think that people are going to eventually figure out that a lot of people have been making money off selling SEO gimmicks – rather than actually doing the gimmicks they have been selling.

    Good post.

    • Donna says

      So true David. I had seen my sites traffic drop after using a certain popular SEO ‘tool’ . After removing it, all has returned to normal. Upon research, I also have seen alot of high ranking sites using virtually no or very little SEO ‘ tactics’. My own traffic has gone back to normal & even doubled on a few of my sites after the latest algorythm changes… :)

  5. says

    I have 15 sites and 14 of them have completely tanked. I admit I have gotten some links from joining blog networks, but I definitely don’t consider myself a spammer.

    The real frustrating thing since Penguin is to see the total crap that is now ranking. In randomly picking search terms to see what is now ranking, I’ve seen products that are no longer ranking for their product name, spammy press releases that are ranking above everything else, and even pages that are BLANK or totally off-topic ranking highly! I’m upset as a Google user, as well as an internet marketer. I depend on decent search results for doing research and I’m sickened by the state of the results I now find.

    I’m curious, Roz. You say you have played by the rules yet Majestic SEO says you have 97,000 external backlinks pointing to your site. How did you get all of these without breaking any Google rules?

    • says

      Hi Deane,

      I understand your frustration with the current search results, but that tends to be par for the course. Be patient and dig a little deeper in the meantime.

      Quick question for you… is Slimfit101 one of the sites that tanked?

      BTW, Majestic SEO says that NPT has 8,122 external backlinks.

      Cheers,
      Ros

    • says

      Hi Roz, No, SlimFit101 was the one site that didn’t tank. (I have a tool bar that probably isn’t very accurate that showed your 97K backlinks. Sorry for the inaccuracy!) But I’d still like to know how you got those 8000 backlinks naturally.

    • John the Deer says

      No answer on how you got those 8k backlinks without using some not so white tactics?

    • says

      Hello John,

      As mentioned in the article, the site is OLD. Too, I have tens of thousands of subscribers and readers of my book. Other than that, I’ve never bought a link nor do I have a backlinking strategy to get links from comments. I guess it’s the value of staying power.

      Cheers,
      Ros

  6. says

    Good post Rosalind,
    I agree for the most part.
    I have used some SEO and purchased links here and there.
    Some of the sites I’ve done this with have dropped a bit.
    But I’ve also put natural content into the sites and that’s probably
    what’s helping them stay up, although not as high as they were.
    Jeff

  7. says

    Great advice as always Ros! I never do SEO either and its probably why my site wasn’t affected too. Believe me, over the years I’ve had a lot of great offers. (This is still preliminary yet, but it looks like my site’s overall traffic went up about 3% on the 28th or 29th of April and is still going up.) That’s cool with me!

    I do feel bad for anyone whose site got caught in the sand box. I thought I had that happen with Panda 2.5.2 and it hurt. But then I started taking a more critical view of my site and have been auditing it since last year. I still have a ways to go but I’ve only made the quality of my pages better, which may account for the increase in traffic now. I kinda think google had a point punishing my site. I got the message loud and clear too!

    With Penguin, Google is looking for links that lead back to your site that seem natural and that’s worth its weight in gold when you’re doing search.

    Best wishes always Ros!
    Carolyn

  8. says

    Sounds like online and offline business have a lot in common.
    Common sense, hard work and finding your value point that you can offer someone who will pay you for it. No need to worry about the next DOO DOO BIRD update. Thoughtful post.
    Thanks for a nice kick in the pants!
    Time to get back to work.

  9. says

    Absolutely on the mark.

    My site, Success with Money, gets first page for all my keywords without any real SEO except for the same essentials you mention, the use of my keywords in titles, main headers and a bit in the text. I depend solely on solid content on the site.

    I try to make sure my site offers the very best information anywhere on how to become financially successful, no hype or get rich stuff, just solid information. Hundreds of people read it daily. My traffic slowly continues to grow and has never seen a setback due to Google changes.

    While I have not monetized the site (I may some day but primarily want to share what I taught for years in my seminars, etc.), I have followed you for years and greatly appreciate your outstanding work. Thanks for sharing honest, helpful advice like this. And, as your post indicates, this is what makes for success.

    • says

      Hi James,

      Thanks for the feedback and I’m happy to hear that your sites were not affected… as they should NOT be because you follow the rules.

      Keep up the good work.

      Cheers,
      Ros

    • says

      Ashot

      My focus has been totally on my content and frankly I have never even looked at the Alexa ranking. Even my Google analytics are not installed correctly. I get my stats from Dreamhost (my host) which shows me what searches people are using, etc.

      Actually I am now getting about 275 visits a day now. It comes from a variety of search terms in addition to my main words. I think the main reason I get high listings without many links, etc., is because I have well over 100 pages of content, reaching toward 200, with no ads. I do have links out to some good external sites like government and educational sites.

      So honestly, I can’t tell you much.

      In my newsletter I do encourage people to read various articles on my site each month. Also, there are some financial educators (not many but a few I know) who refer people to the content on my site for simple but clear definitions of terms, etc. I am sure that helps.

      James

  10. shalisha says

    Hi. Not at all. I have 2 content filled sites and they consistently rank well no matter what’s going on with google. I’m playing by the rules.

    • says

      Shalisha,

      You did NOT post a link to either of your 2 sites… are you scared to have anyone look at them and discover that perhaps you are NOT playing by the rules?

      Cheers,
      Ros

    • Larry says

      Hi Ros,

      it might be that she didn’t post a link, because she doesn’t want any additional competitors.

  11. says

    Hi Rosalind:
    This is an excellent article that anyone who was hit or NOT HIT by Panda and/or Penguin should read and follow to a “T”.

  12. says

    I know “quality backlinks” are important. It does take time to find quality blogs to leave a relevant comment with anchor text link. Why do so many blogs have a comment area and never post comments?

  13. says

    You are right Rosalind, this is Google’s game and we have to play by its rules. Like you, I am not an SEO believer. I know people who have collected 1000s of useless links, have published a bunch of cheap articles and now have traffic about 10 visitors a day. I agree with you 100% that one have to concentrate his/her efforts to create some kind of value for visitors, for customers.
    Unfortunately Google itself sometime loses its focus and making abrupt and wrong decisions. In my observation Google’s Search becoming worse and worse. Of course my conclusions are based only on the narrow area of my expertise, where I know all the keywords and all the players. I see over and over again how Google get manipulated by useless and shallow websites because they know Google’s rules very well. And when Google try to fight back with its algorithms it usually punishes innocents and messes up the search results further.
    I also don’t like Google’s hypocrisy. From the one hand they say that they want to fight with the spammers and from the other hand they provide perfect tools for spamming. Take for example horizontal Link Units in AdSense. It looks like menu and trick people to click on it to navigate in website. And who are eventually paying for those fake clicks, the AdWords users. So why they are doing that? Perhaps they don’t know? No, they are far from being stupid, they just like money as everybody else.

    • says

      Hi Ashot,

      To your comment about the horizontal Adsense link units. There are lots of other options, so webmasters don’t need to use the horizontal versions, and those that do are probably looking to fool their readers just in the way you suggested.

      My take on that is to feel sorry for them — making pennies to have people leave their sites… duh. :-)

      Cheers,
      Ros

  14. Philip says

    Wow, talk about hitting the nail on the head. You are oh so right. Cream will always rise to the top, there’s no hocus pocus needed.

    Yet there will always be tons of so-called “gurus” who make a living selling the latest and greatest SEO b.s. to the gullible.

    • says

      Hi Philip,

      And the so-called SEO “gurus” are the first to celebrate algorithm changes and offer their services on forums where folks are complaining about how their traffic tanked. Makes me shudder.

      Cheers,
      Ros

  15. says

    Well, with two sites on the go, I’m still in the learning stages of so much even after 5 years. With Panda, I saw a mix of good and bad results, and eventually good “come-backs” after a few months. With Penguin, not totally sure yet. I did see one “good” page I know of take a bit of a drop, but it’s coming back again slowly.

    When I say I’m still learning, what I mean is, I’ve never been totally “technically-savvy” enough to take a close look at all of the things you “could do, but warned against doing”…I’ve just not had the time either. Maybe that’s been a good thing.

    To be honest, I just write what I like to when I have time and whatever happens happens. Certainly I keep in mind “keywords” and things like that; certainly I take what I’m doing “seriously” but I’m just becoming numb to pandas and penguins. It’s too hard on my nerves! And, I don’t want to feel like I have to sweat every little thing I do, so I choose to keep things fairly basic and simple, at least for me. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that it pleases the powers that be.

  16. says

    Both of my sites have gone up a bit since Penguin. They are both relatively new sites. I am just getting started in this biz. Thanks for the great handbook, Ros. I have to agree with you about SEO. Some people try to play with it too much. It seems better to use “practical SEO” like putting keywords and phrases in the title, content, headers, etc. in ways that make sense.

  17. says

    This new update generally sounds like a good idea as it not only gets rid of, or at least reduces those spammy sites found at the top for a keyword search, but it also makes it fairer for those who want their sites to rank naturally, by providing quality content for their visitors.

  18. says

    Rosalind, either you totally misunderstood my point or I was not clear enough. If you have done any research on this update at all you will see that many high quality sites were hit by this, not jut a few. My point was that both the black hats and white hats were hit, and I was not condoning underhanded tactics whatsoever.

    And many search results are now skewed in weird ways. Just do a search for “window blinds” and you will see a totally irrelevant software page at #1. I’m sure Google is planning on fixing these oversights, but it goes to show that we are dealing with an algorithm here. A

    And while we are supposed to only focus on what our visitors want we are forced to think about what Google wants as well if we are wanting to get any free traffic from the beast. But the two don’t always match up, as you well know.

    Will those quality sites have their ranks restored? Some of them, but not all, and only if they choose to give in to what a search engine wants rather than what is best for their visitors. But that’s beside the point. If search engines are doing their jobs they are displaying the best possible results, not the results with the best looking backlinks. After all, even Wikipedia itself has a host of spammy backlinks along with the legit ones.

    • says

      Sorry Jon,

      Let’s keep an eye on the current search results for window blinds and see how long it takes to drop.

      A thought however – are most folks who search for Windows looking for information about the software or the glass variety?

      If the former, then Google is right and Stardock was uber-smart in naming its product.

      Cheers,
      Ros

  19. says

    I haven’t checked my website rankings for a long time but after reading this post, I thought that I would give them a check. The sites I no longer put much time into seemed to have dropped quite a bit in rankings. The ones where I have a blog attached and blog at least a few times per week have not had their Google rankings affected. Many key phrases are still ranked on page 1. I suppose this is fair and square since Google awards websites that have regular updates. The sites I don’t spend much time with anymore, get lower rankings while the ones I’m still very active on, still rank well. This shows in the amount of traffic too except for one of my websites that do not rank well anymore but still gets lots of traffic. I think the only reason why this one still gets many visitors is because it was built up over the years and it’s huge.

    • says

      Hi Clint,

      Your experience kind of mirrors mine. Fresh content seems to be the biggest factor to retaining rankings unless a site is old… like my dating site. Proof positive that you just have to keep plugging at it and you’ll be rewarded. :-)

      Cheers,
      Ros

  20. says

    This is a fantastic article and one that is well balanced and offers food for thought. In fact i would go as far as to say, this is one of the few that i have found with a positive slant to penguin.

    • says

      Hi Jock,

      Thanks for your comment. And you’re right, I wrote the article because I felt like there was way too much ‘downside’ being reported.

      Cheers,
      Ros

  21. says

    Hi Ros,

    The only SEO I do on both wordpress and XsitePro sites is use the all-in one seo plugin for wordpress and the equivalent in XP. The only impact I can see is …umm nada same visitor flow.

    In the UK a penguin is the same as a hersey bar and thats the impact its had on me.

    To quote a book I read right at the beginning of my IM career – Its about the content -stupid – The book- Super Affiate Handbook. The quotes not exact but that was the meaning :-)

    Regards

    Nick

    • says

      Hey Nick,

      Thanks for your comment and glad to hear you weren’t hit.

      BTW, are you certain that I didn’t say it that way? Sure sounds like me! LOL

      Cheers,
      Ros

  22. says

    So Pandas take another step towards extinction!

    I’m glad Google has, and is, taking this action. As a newbie entering blogging with serious intention to make it my primary business & income source, the hyped-up junk peddled about
    SEO and keywords has disappointed me. Now, Google is restoring the balance. But I can understand how for newbies discovering advice on how to get their blog out into the arena might have been skewed will be grieved and bewildered (to put it mildly).

    As a copywriter, intent on supporting people harness the power of words to create their success, I promote the old-fashioned mantra that People buy not keywords.

    I began my blog as a beginner to blogging but as a copywriter who knew that what was being peddled so much by some people about SEO and keywords being the way to get on the first page of Google, rather than getting there by offering quality and a genuine intent to support, mentor and help people achieve their dreams, could not be proper and, hopefully, be stopped. Stopped either by the search engines themselves eventually, or by people realising what was happening & changing it.

    SE were always intended to work as indices; keywords being words indexed. Google is a librarian of sorts. Have you ever tried to get one over a librarian?

    I do feel for genuine people who have fallen for some of the hype (and scam). Better always to focus on people.

    It’s good to see Google cleaning house and levelling the play field. Whether Google are doing this for their own benefit or not, encouraging people to remember integrity is paramount to doing business is always a positive thing.

    Thank-you Rosalind for keeping this important discussion going.

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