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We're happy to launch our latest edition of Whiteboard+ What's Unique & Noteworthy About Google's Penguin Update with +Rand Fishkin
Brett Fullmer's profile photoBrad Dalton's profile photoAndri Yarusman's profile photoWilliam Rock's profile photo
This just can't be it. I've seen so many people post example URL's that got hit by Penguin...not a spammy, grey hat link in the bunch. Some hadn't even done SEO for years or ever. Yeah a lot of what got hit had a ton of link networks, articles, bookmarks, blog comments, directories, etc. But lots of people hit by Penguin did not have these links, and lots of sites with those links moved up in the search results.

Penguin was aimed at webspam, but if that's the case, they did a terrible job. Even if the number one results is the best, they moved it down just for its links. That's not very reassuring. Google must not give a rip about search quality because they were perfectly willing to penalize the best sites in various niches and replace them with sites that were engaging in both link AND content spam. It makes no sense. If what moved up had been link spam free then I would say you are on to something, but some things that left the top ten got replaced by worse perpetrators of the same link spamming techniques.

I just don't think Penguin was a link spam update. Or at least that wasn't all it was.
+Rand Fishkin so you believe that Google is fighting the perception of spamming .. interesting point
This sounds like a pretty good description of a pretty bad update.

Penguin was "Not designed to improve search quality" - and that is exactly the problem. Sacrificing search quality to enforce obedience is going to do significant damage to Google's own brand reputation, and it does accidentally reward some of the worst behaviors.

Best I can hope for is that some of the bad sites that rose up will be more visible to the search engineers for the next round of updates, but things are kind of ridiculous right now in a lot of the keywords I'm watching.
Great job SEOmoz and Rand! You nailed it!
take it this way .. sites that are employing shoddy tactics will be penalized and that means, no one will be paying to get links from bad sites that only add garbage to the web .. everyone will be concentrating on making their website great, writing great content and all that .. people will voluntarily link to good sites and that means, Google will not have to fight against spam... PEOPLE will themselves FIGHT against SPAM .. a peaceful and stable world in the making .. just keep patience until the dust settles
Great video - Google continues to move toward quality content
Google is willing to reduce their quality for enforcing their guidelines? wow! That is surely surely bad!
Not sure that the target/s have been really hit. Seems a lot of collateral "damage" has occurred.
Interesting observations on Penguin - thanks for sharing.
Great explanation and summary...Penguin is a "scary" topic for many SEOs and Website owners.
Collateral damage seems to be even higher than what they have actually got out of it.
Penguin put in the table the ethical of the SEO industry. Why? Because the spam techniques are well known here in China or Russia! So, what Google did was to clean-up the mess of some pseudo-SEO´s who makes big money ranking websites but doing some "black-hat" strategies.
Maybe the focus is "penalization" but it includes improve the search results at the end. Ins´t?
+SEOmoz This was nice and theoretical, which does not say very much.. :(
I really think you make an important point - enforcing the rules doesn't necessarily improve search quality. A site that "should" rank could also engage in spammy tactics, and a white-hat site could suck. Sometimes, I do think we have to step back and realize just how difficult the problem space is.
It appears that Google has opened the flood gates to Negative SEO (Link Building)
I'm intrigued by the idea that Google intentionally allowed this update to "miss" some of the more traditionally over-spammed market niches (pharma, gambling, adult, etc.). This could have been done in order to learn more about these link profiles - perhaps to see if there are more sophisticated blog/link networks that can be rooted out manually (similar to what they did earlier this year).

In other words, if you are dabbling in some gray hat link manipulation, this update mildly reminds you to stop it; if you are knee-deep in the black hat ring, there are other plans for you.

Either way, even if you are not actively trying to build your link profile, it should now be crystal clear that you must monitor it.
+Daniel Deceuster what makes you sure these sites were hit by penguin and when you say many people how many are you talking about?
Great. A lot of clean sites hit, a great new weapon for blackhatters, bad search results.. and you smile ? This is a site for seo right ?
I actually don't think we got hit, but this still sounds like algorithmic buckshot to me. Unfortunately, it also seems, I affirm Mr. Fishkin's supposition, like part of something ongoing. It makes it hard to want to proceed in any direction. In my experience, when someone fires a shotgun in semi-random fashion, most people just hit the deck and wait to see what happens next.
i think google is more interested in increasing their ppc revenue
A client of mine is in an industry that definitely got hit. My client's competitors got completely knocked off the boards, which is awesome, but we got hit as well and I'm still trying to figure out why. We have never employed black hat techniques and yet we seem to have gotten hit.
I think Kelly Marsh hit it on the head. If a searcher can't find their result in paid results, then they will click through the organic result and if they make any revenue from that query, it will have to be through Adsense where they will have to share revenue with the publisher. So the more they can push publishers to having to use adwords, the more revenue they can make since 100% of adwords revenue goes straight to Google.
We've only been analysing sites hit with what is most certainly a "devaluation", NOT a penalty. From what I've seen, this is PAGE based. Internal pages with semi-grey link profiles WITH some clean strong links don't seem to be affected.

Great overview Rand.
If a site's rankings drop for one keyword, but stay steady for others, would it be possible that the reason would be "light-spam" anchor text links using that keyword?

In other words, could the devalued links affect just one keyword as opposed to rankings for the entire site?
Kasey, that's EXACTLY what we are seeing.

I think a huge problem here is that webmasters/SEOs see that a particular keyword converts like crazy so they "over optimize" for that keyword. THESE keywords/anchors/pages are what we are seeing being hit.

Unfortunately, most of the effort goes into these keywords so its usually a massive hit.
+Dave Davis thankfully we only saw a drop of a couple spots. But it was strange and a little scary because it hadn't moved in years. Don't think we'll do anything since it wasn't dramatic, and since those supposedly "de-valued links" might actually still be doing some good.
Yes Kasey, my belief is that Penguin works on a query level. I haven't seen any half decent sites get sunk entirely by Penguin personally. I have seen Panda sink good sites, but not Penguin.

I expect Google to continue changing rapidly, to keep ahead of the game. I encourage people to learn what good content is, and produce it. Only way to rank up there with the informational pages in the long run is to be one. Perhaps Google have shallow selfish agenda, which I doubt, but either way, a cleaner web is a better one.
I have a question. My site is a Real Estate Website with a blog and IDX feed. It has a lot of depth to it with close to 100 pages and the IDX is from a great company. The link profile is really good. No paid links at all with the exception of some well known Directories that are legit and a bunch of local bloggers and industry type links from Guest Posting. Every now and then another site will jump ahead of me even though their site has no links from what I can tell when I use the Link: in google and when I do the Site: it doesn't have depth. Why would it rank higher? It is older than my site but doesn't seem to provide as much value.
I enjoy how Rand is dancing around and showing extreme respect to Google rather than saying what he really thinks. You know he wants to say something, but he doesn't. Well done Rand!
This is awesome, good job Rand. I wonder though as all the dust settles and you continue working your site. Will the better sites naturally rise to the top?
devaluate - rigenerate - procrastinate
I've been affected by it. In my case it's not been a penalty, just a drop from top positions by 5-10.

I've noticed a lot of other sites being completely deindexed, on top of the big link networks that got it.

In my view there is both a devaluation of "spammy" links and for sites that over optimised anchor text, on top of a panda style penalty for more heavy spam.

I think where I was at fault was over optimising some anchor links but it's hard to say, some links weren't the best quality.

I managed to remove some and actually saw a (small) benefit almost immediately. My advice if you have been hit is to try and change anchor text to branded terms and remove any site wide links you might have.
We were hit pretty hard as well, possibly because we sell health-related products such as dietary supplements. We've lost page 1 ranking for some of our key words, but not for others. We're still assessing the damage.
Sounds like Google just opened up the flood gates for websites to link bomb their competitors. Anytime they put out a website like this they give black hatters more or a reason to use push down their competitors with spammy links. It might punish some black/grey hat SEOs but give it won't be long until white hat SEOs start posting about how they were link bombed.

Not sure if I feel this update will benefit the Google's search quality...
It really hit the "web hostig" world. So the "light grey" methods - all those hosting companies and wordpress templates - it's been used for ages. And now it's time to declare war? So let there be war between us!
I suggest webmasters to keep building links but strictly niche related. Penguin already degraded the spam links or links not related to your website category. To compensate and keep your position up, keep building links based on your niche.
After ranking #1 for my main terms for over 3 years, our site got smashed by Penguin. Not only did our traffic and conversions drop by 75%, but our home page is not even in the top 200 for our main keyword, while most other terms dropped to page 5.

Our on page is of the highest quality content, 100% original and we provided a fantastic service for our advertisers (have hundreds of testimonials)

After years of always stricly following Googles guidelines, we found that our site had been bombed with spammy links in late december 2011 and again in early April 2012 (I'm almost certain which competitor did this, as they are known to practice questionable techniques).

Through no fault of our own we have suffered in this update.

I have been working day and night to try and get these links removed and sent an email to almost all spammy links. So far about 20% have been removed. Either way, unless Google does some serious tweeking to Penguin, I think I am screwed!

I have emailed Google of my progress removing the links, but no reply.

Our site has been around for 8-9 years, and now sites that are less than 12 months old have boomed up the serps....Where is the justice! How is this fair?
I haven't seen any changes at all in my search traffic. I am pretty much white hat SEO because I it's too risky to loose my client's.
Google just want increase their revenue, today if i search any query for small business like roofing contractor city name or similar small service provider company, Google shows me yellowpages, merchantcircle, yelp and similar classified portals. Those sites are already popular to give small business information. But what about those sites who really involved in such small business industry? So here google is forcing to get their adwords paid service. If such situation will continue then people avoid google and try other search engines for their needs. What do you think guys?
In all the cases I have seen, and it's not a large data set, it seems to be related to over optimization of anchor text. Anchor text links from blog networks, web 2.0 sites, comment links, etc. Anchor text worked TOO well before and was too easy to manipulate. I know there are a ton of good sites that got taken down in this update, but in general, I'm glad to see sites that were beating my clients on spammy anchor text links get removed. Google was giving too much weight to anchor text before.
The serps are worse than they were - think this is all about trying to drive people to PPC. They've gone overboard.
It's not so much about Google trying to enforce their own guidelines. It's about making SEO harder to do, in order to attract more budget to PPC (which Google seems to make quite some money on).
One of my blogs lost on and since April 25th about 80% of its organic traffic. Yes, the site home page was submitted years ago to lots of directories. None of the pages that got most organic traffic was promoted via any type of link building. Some other pages were, but nothing excessive. This sounds like a "penalty" to me. It's very frustrating and I see no way how to correct it.
+Van Beek If you don't have anything suspicious on your website itself, than please have a thorough look on your linkprofile. If too many of those links are of questionable quality, you might want to focus on getting some powerfull links (which you should anyway).
I lost my rankings after 24th Apr but I found where I was wrong. I searched & now I got again good results.
+Ruud Kok Do you refer to the "Links to Your Site" in Webmaster Tools or just any other other tool that shows the back links? Any guidelines on what is "too many" and "questionable quality"?
+Swapan Kumar How did you search and find where you were wrong? Can you explain what you did to correct?
One of my optimized website is affected by Penguin. And I am still trying to work out the serious logic of penalizing it. It has done no link exchange or so. Although it is having backlinks from some hacked website appearing as black hat work to Google and all. Which is nowhere my fault neither could I secure anyone's hacked website.
1. Very nice video. Thank you very much for it.
2. I didn't see the footer penalties for the exact given example. ;)
3. Is the negative SEO door now really open or not? I will test it. :)
Nice one, +Rand Fishkin
But not completely agree with the first point you said that "Peguin Updates is NOT for improving quality of search result"

I think whatever updates or changes coming us from Googlers, they all are meant to make improvement in search result.

User satisfaction is the only thing they all care about & working 24*7 to make it happen. And that's the thing which making them world biggest & successful search engine.
in other words, its the most dumbest update we had in years. hats off google.
+Peter Watson would recommend you get your reconsideration request in. If you can highlight what you think the issues are with negative SEO tactics then any penalties could be revoked. If a competitor is trying these things on you (and seeing them work) then there is a likelihood they are hitting other competitors, so you may be able to work together to highlight the issue.
So should we not be putting links to our sites in the footer of pages we design? Should they be no-follow?
Just lost respect for SEOmoz because they made me watch this on G+ - I won't lie, a little bit of me just died inside
+Rand Fishkin Great overview of the Penguin Update! Although the Peguin Update is NOT intended to improve quality of search result, it forces marketers and SEO's to resort to white hat tactics to avoid penalties.

On a side note, I hate to think that blackhat and negative SEO would be used on competitor's websites will take off because of this recent update! I know that +SEOmoz would not endorse nor encourage such behavior.
worth noting is that they also recently removed the colored background from their comparison ad spot, (mortgage rates, credit card deals, etc) making it appear to be more of an organic much for practicing no evil : (
Being part of a company that uses White Hat practices in a niched field filled with Black Hat practitioners, this is a welcome update. I just hope it gets finessed a little more to more accurately track actual spam links.
Fascinating information. Hearing what those using black hat tactic specifically have to say about the update would be interesting as well. I'd wager that black hats have been affected even more than grey hat, but they aren't coming out of the woodwork to complain about it and expose themselves.

The idea that this update isn't for improved search quality is being taken a little out of context. A good analogy is enforcing the speed limit. In a perfect world, drivers could travel at a safe and responsible speed, and not put others in danger. In reality, There are dangers to speeding that hurt others on the road. It's no fun getting a speed ticket, but if they didn't enforce the rules, things would eventually get out of control.

No matter how many defensive driving courses someone takes or how many laws are in place, the only way to ensure that the majority follow the rules is to ticket everyone who breaks the rules, even if they are the best drivers on the planet.

At first, it's a headache, but the more people follow the rules, the less strict the rules have to be (i.e. 75mph speed limit here in TX!)
Thanks Rand, this was helpful...
I agree with Daniel Deceuster's comments. If Google's goal was to penalize spam links, they failed. I'm seeing lots of pages whose link profiles are completely spammy, and yet they rank great.

Search for "cheap cell phones" -- #1 is Look at their link profile. Tons of spam. No penalties there.

Search for "old time radio" -- is #2. They rank based on a bunch of obvious link directories designed only to manipulate rankings.

Two examples of many. Spam still works.

Bing looks great right now. It's a shame.

Google is no longer a search company. They are an advertising company.
For my company, our mozRank fell but our Alexa ranking is up, our views are up and other indicators are up. Is this a Penguin fallout possibly? And how does one go about rectifying?
But its not just the rules that are being Penalized, since when was adding links to footers of clients mentioning "provided by Company1" a rule?
Daniel Freedman - I have a client whose principal competitor uses some (somewhat) grey hat tactics. I refer to article directories and once-legit blogs I suspect rival SEOS of having acquired and corrupted. But the competitor also uses many perfectly above board tactics that conform completely to the Google webmaster guidelines. So the competitor's overall link profile is not horrendous. For over a year, I have been frustrated to be edged out by the competitor. I kept waiting for the turnaround. It looks like it's finally happened. And I'm immensley gratified. So I disagree completely that Google's belated action in enforcing its own guidelines is somehow damaging its brand reputation Seems to me the opposite is true.
To Daniel Freedman: Do a search in Google for "flat tire" and tell me if those kinds of results don't damage brand reputation (notice the parked domain on page one?). Better still, search for "insurance providers" and notice "Colorado Photos, LLC" -- click through and see if it is at all relevant to the query. For one more example, search for "used rowing machine." The results contain the words of the query, but very few relate to the obvious intent of the query.

Those kinds of results are seriously damaging to Google's brand reputation. And that is only three of many, many more that are returning equally low quality results.
If you ask me what happened here in the last 2 weeks is unjustified and nobody knows why they were penalized ,not even people from google .This is a storm that is passing by and definitely going to end real soon. G knows they messed up and are trying to make there way out of it!
I am agreed with you Jonathan. Google is no longer a search company. Google wants to improve its revenue through adwords.
This time i really like what Google did. There are too many false domain, too many social news aggregator without a real scope and too many tricks that (BAD) SEO's use to bring their sites hig in serps. This update and it's relative google guidlines are just the rule's that good Seo's should follow.
What's kinda dumb is that you can't watch this video unless you're logged in to Google+
This is a photo, where's the video gone? I can't seem to find it? I swear I watched it before a few days ago, I came back to review a couple of things and now it's vanished?

Edit: I'm logged in O_o
Does anybody see wrong pages ranking for wrong keywords in the serps? or is just me?
+Jason Page For me this happens as I click on the video through my email/gmail account the video doesnt work, if you access it via it works fine
Tired of this argument, Quality content, valuable content, unique content... does Google have any content on its site?.Why is showing up on the keyword "search engine" even it do not have a single word about "search engine" !!!! ..........

Penguin has simply blown up Google relevancy and now you have to search deeply upto 10th to 20th pages to find a relevant site or perform a search on bing too, Bing should be very thankful to Google for this update ! their traffic has really jumped up..

"Oversmartness is the death of intelligence"
$$ Money makes the world go round have u thought about how much money they made these 2 weeks from ppc campaigns ? The world is coming to an end and google needs to stock up with as much supplies and weapons as the can to fight the war!. ITS All about the Money!!$ Nothing is justified and just cause Mat Cuts has glasses doesn`T make him a good person!
I guess this could really shift the entire SEO focus towards having a good content on the website. Although, this update may hamper some good sites, but it will really reduce the link significance from the SEO point. The overall presentation really looks great.And gives very much clear idea about the Penguin Update. The momentum is really gathering around having good and precise content on the website is of utmost importance.
Do we have any indication of when the next re-fresh/review is due? The fact there is a web form does add to the assumption there will be at least one more round of updates.

As a user, I'm not sure if this is an advance for Google - enforcing the guidelines purely for their own sake, rather than the sake of improved search results seems like a step backwards for search quality, although to be honest, few of the searches I've done have really bad results.
For me the problem with Penguin is, that a link profil can´t be controlled 100% from a webmaster.

So my site is hit. No prob building a few 100 links with the same anchor to the site of a competitioner and wait for Google to do the work.

So the new Black Hat isn´t about spamy linkbuilding anymore. It´s about really damaging the competitioners.
When did John Cryer grow a beard?
+Oscar Walt Until I see evidence of that working reliably I'm going to continue calling it a REALLY stupid strategy. I've yet to see any conclusive evidence of it working as a means of attacking competition, or any evidence at all really. Let alone working reliably.

If it's not reliable and you can't recreate the same outcome repeatedly then you are flipping a coin on whether you're hurting competition or making them stronger. What a waste of time when you could be focusing on yourself.
My older sites got hit real hard, no spam-my links even on review no spam-my links acknowledged by Google. This update seemed to be more about what Google thinks we should view in their perspective. Eliminating older sites that actually get searched is not the answer, Spam site great get rid of them. Bad practices should get penalized however this update it seems Google wish to filter what they consider is not suitable to their search engine for what ever reason. Search engines will become the domain of the corporate, and the web site owner operator unless a technical genius will disappear.After 8 years I am lost on this one.
thanks rand for this on latest penguin update by google which is focusing most on controlling SPAM!
Kind of explains why one of my junk sties is ranking number one for a few keywords? Thanks for the info Rand.
i think that the penguin affected a lot of non blackhat sites and the blackhat sites seem to be doing the same in the most cases... so the message even is not intented is clear
Has anyone stopped to think about link diversity? I would say the majority of the marketing & design industries that got hit by what he calls "very light" spam would be like a web design company that anchor links the text "Chicago web design" or similar across every single site. I have heard you want a 60/40 split of anchor text from your links on average, to appear 'natural.' Do you think this could be part of the issue for many of the marketing sites?
Yes it could and I had a debate with a design company that wanted to keep anchor text in the footer of all websites created. After two months of discussion and convincing I said change the footer link to your Company name and let us do the rest of the work. The had over 20K footers with anchor text which they were trying to rank for and they are now number one for the exact same keyword. For once, someone listened and they are reaping the benefits.
@Cody I think link diversity could be a part of it. Our site was hit at about a 50% drop in organic traffic since April 24th and many of our links are from guest articles, press releases, and directory submissions--the majority of which have keywords in the anchor text.
@Peter Martino, I think your best bet right now is to create compelling content. We are changing the content strategy for our site. We post a lot of articles, but I think the articles have to vary, 500 words, 1000, 1500, 2000 plus, have variety in your articles and it will pay off in the end. I tested many sites with great articles that I have written and I am amazed to see the articles rank 1, 2, or 3, with no backlinks.
Jenni R
I released a free Wordpress theme that require everyone linkback to me when they use it, so will it be considered as link spam or unnatural link scheme?

Also, my website accepts guest post which will has a link back to another website, that site might not in the same niche with mine. So, is it be called as link spam?
Great video Rand!!! Google is really hitting hard on the websites with poor link scams..but giving links in the footer of website that we have created is quite genuine.Will these be counted in link spam by Google?
My site has increased in traffic and SERP visibility since Apr 24. But the links are 99.9% organic (a few book mark sites) and most are category/topic relevant. They link to hundreds of interior pages. not just the home page. I know we have some low quality sites linking to us but I think Google understands the preponderance of our links are natural and legitimate. They were created by producing content people wanted to link to and by being active in our niche. So most of our links are based on content and some on connections. But almost all are relevant and none are paid.
I've got sites several sites that have improved and some that have declined. My concern is that we're not yet sure if the declines are due to a "penalty" or a "devalued links" (2:14)
I hope you guys read about the! It is interesting how they got back their rankings and traffic. I believe, that Google unnatural link messages are alarms to do right with the site or suffer Penguin.
I took some hits on this update.  It has been interesting to follow this.  In MOST cases I have seen increased ranking due to the fact that others have been downgraded for great terms were I was on page 2 and today have a solid position on page 1.

One of the worst hit methods that I had been testing is backlinks from the ABC3k plugin.  This plugin allowed you to purchase links from a network of blogs and point them anywhere you wished.  This is clearly outside the guidelines of what Google wants.  The sites we were using this were notified in Google Webmaster tools and we removed all the links and canceled this service and even requested a refund.

I noticed and found it interesting that the owner of the product has been triple time pushing affiliate offers to the list of users that purchased the software.  I think they see the writing on the wall for their software.  Google can detect these links very easily and they are poison to anyone's site they are pointing to.

On the flip side we have seen a LOT of success from links originating for high quality sites with high quality content and trust.

The scary thing that I have seen is that the Black Hat community is and will most definably be using tools like the ABC3k to build negative link building campaigns that will knock down the competition at the top of the rankings.  I am not sure how Google intends to deal with that and it should be addressed.

This site is performing negative SEO on my site and the host and domain registrar and owner haven't taken it down
Thanks for the fresh ideas about Google Penguin ... we better use Google Disavow Tool from now the remove all bad links ...
+Daniel Deceuster Point well taken however I have had the opportunity to hangout and run test on sites effected and posted in the Google Webmaster Forum and the majority is based around back link profiles that had not been cleaned up and have a high signal of manipulation.. +Matt Cutts has been telling webmaster what we should stay away from but many people did not head the warning..
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