Google Penguin: One Month Later
It's been approximately one month since the Google Penguin release shook up the internet with its controversial updates to several key ranking algorithms, which were intended to reduce the visibility of webspam but apparently dragged a lot of worthwhile websites and blogs down along with it.
Now that Penguin has had some time to settle, the Wall Street Journal is reporting on some of the businesses hit hardest by the update. Is Penguin as bad as it's being touted, or did you actually experience an increase in your rankings following the 24th of April?
After all, for every website that had individual pages that dropped in ranking, another set of pages across similar websites had to rise - In summary, such is the nature of search engine optimization (SEO)?
96% Traffic Drop?!
Plenty of people complaining about Penguin may not have known where their rankings truly were prior to the update, but not Andrew Strauss, owner of Oh My Dog Supplies LLC. According to the WSJ, Strauss optimized for keywords like "dog clothes" and "dog beds," and received roughly 70% of his web traffic directly from Google prior to Penguin.
Now, Strauss says that his Google-originating traffic has dropped by a staggering 96%. He described his business as "completely crippled," comparing $68,000 in sales in March to just $25,000 in April.
Where did Strauss go wrong? Apparently, he tried to boost traffic for his six-year-old company by investing in a link scheme (in which he paid for as many as thousands of inbound links) after losing half of his traffic to Panda in 2011. His site also contributed articles to so-called "content farms" such as Squidoo and EzineArticles.com, carefully placing backlinks to his site in each article. The strategy didn't pay off to begin with, and Penguin obviously only made matters a lot worse.
Too Many Inbound Links?
Associating with link schemes and content farms is one thing, but what about too many inbound links in general? That's what Ralph Slate, owner of HockeyDB.com, says is to blame for his massive loss in ranking after Penguin. Slate's site was bringing in 50,000 daily visitors a couple months ago, but that figure dropped by 30% when the update hit.
HockeyDB.com is a massive archive of hockey players, statistics, records and more, complete with forums, simple navigation and barely any advertising above the fold. Sounds pretty clean, right?
Penguin deemed otherwise, dropping HockeyDB.com from the top page of results for many hockey-related search terms down to where practically nobody on Google will find it. Slate says that he's never done any keyword stuffing or link farming, so what's the problem?
Apparently, thousands of other sites - some of which are reputable, some of which are probably not - link to HockeyDB.com, something which Slate has no control over. In fact, the most common complaint lodged with regards to Penguin appears to be this - that sites are dropping in ranking, often drastically, only because other non-reputable sites link to them.
Google's next mission is to create an algorithm update that will differentiate between shady inbound links that were obtained intentionally and ones that occur naturally - or at least, let's hope that's their mission.