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Benched By Penguin?

google penguin

by PotPieGirl on May 9, 2012 · 57 comments

I read an interesting sports news story the other day.  There’s this hockey team, the Nashville Predators, who had two very important players break a team rule…so the coaches BENCHED those 2 players (meaning those 2 players have been put in “time out” and aren’t allowed to play).

That, in itself, doesn’t sound that interesting – sports players break rules and get benched often, right?

Now I’m not a sports reporter or analyst.  In fact, other than College Football (Roll Tide!) and  golf, I’m pretty useless when it comes to sports, but let’s see if I can explain why this sports news got my attention.

An important point about that news is that this hockey team was in the midst of PLAYOFF games – in other words, very, very important games that could make or break the end result of their season.  In fact, at the time of the benching, the team was down 2-0 in their recent series against the Coyotes.

Putting those 2 top players on the bench and not letting them play the next game was a BIG decision which came with the risk of the team sacrificing major quality in their next match up.

Why in the WORLD would the coaches choose to put those two top players on the bench over some little internal team rule violation?  Why in the world would those coaches risk everything just to prove a point about how seriously they take their internal rules?

Ladies and Gentlemen – welcome to the latest wrath of Google – Penguin.

In the same way that those hockey coaches chose to bench their best in order to prove it’s not ok to break the rules, Google is benching tons of websites for breaking their rules…

even if that site/url is the BEST result for Google to show.

If you broke Google’s rules (or at least appeared to be breaking their rules) – you got benched.

That’s right – you’ve been put in “Time-Out”.

I’m totally with Rand on this – I also do not believe that the Penguin Update had a darn thing to do with making Google’s search results better (Google has a Panda for that).  The more I poke around and see how some query spaces have changed, or see the current results when *I* do searches on Google, the more it’s clear that the Google search results are NOT better after Penguin – they’re worse.

As I listen to the noise and rumblings on the web, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling as if the results are way worse.  It’s gotten to the point where bloggers are asking if others think Matt Cutts should be fired over this Penguin business!

Here’s the kicker – I don’t believe Google CARES if the search results are worse – they want to prove a point about how seriously they take their own rules.

If:   Google Rules = Commandments…   then Penguin = Judgement Day

All your sins against Google (or perceived sins) were held against you…and you got sent to Google Purgatory.

I don’t think it’s eternal damnation, but until the dust settles, we really don’t know anything right now (and I think it will be awhile before the proverbial dust settles).

What Does a Penguin Penalty Look Like?

Penguin set out on its attack on April 24th – and it looks as if it’s still rolling around out there.

Here is an example site from one of my “stalker” query spaces that I watch.

Here is the site before Penguin (on April 23rd):

It’s a bit tough to see, but this particular url was going on nicely for quite some time and ranking between #6 and #15 off an on.  On April 23rd, it was ranking #14.

Then, overnight, on April 24th, this happened:

While the graph looks like it was only a little drop in rankings, that url went from #14 to #48 all with a waddle of an innocent penguin.

That’s what a Penguin Penalty looks like.

Oh, and for those that have asked, I am using this program to track my rankings.  It is fantabulous and allows me to track many urls for one keyword in one project (like for the query spaces I stalk or for Squidoo lens ranking all in one place), or one domain for lots of keywords…. I can also create reports  or give clients access to only their project rankings.  The rankings update every hour or so automatically and the projects also show backlinks for tracked urls as well as monthly search volume for tracked keywords.  AND it’s all web-based so I can access my projects and rankings anywhere I have internet connection.

I’m really, REALLY loving it.  Try it out here if you need a good rank tracker.


When Will the Dust Settle?

I have no clue when the dust will settle.  Google really pushed the limits with this Penguin thing…the SERPs are a mess, people are scrambling like crazy to make sense of things (and to find “what works now”), and worse yet, I see people turning other sites in (which really annoys me).

Just like with my kids, that tattle-tale thing really gets to me.

It’s a very important time in our industry to stick together and learn from each other…NOT turn each other in (or even worse, play the Negative SEO game).  Yes, it sucks when your site gets nailed yet some other site that is clearly breaking the rules is now ranking well….but is turning that other site in the solution?

Sorry, I don’t think so.  If those things continue, we are doing Google’s work FOR them…and that’s not our job.  We have enough to worry about regarding Google, why are we setting our entire industry up to destroy itself by tattle-taling?  Just my 2 cents on that.

What Should We DO Now?

Part of what I told my fellow members over in my private blog post on Wealthy Affiliate, I think it’s best to just chill right now.  Yes, relax.  Don’t go doing crazy things to your site (on-page or off) – and don’t look at the sites that are ranking NOW for clues as to “what works now”.

The sites that are ranking now most likely didn’t do anything to get there… they just escaped their sins (or didn’t sin at all) and Google boosted them to the top because the sites/urls that WERE good answers to the query got judged and sent to Purgatory.

Just because a site is ranking NOW does not mean it is doing “what’s working now”, ok?

This IS a good time to take a real hard look at your site and what you’ve done off-page in relation to Google’s rules….and try and fix what you can.

Are you stuffing keywords?  Buying links?  Things like that are what you need to look at….and attempt to correct.

I think anchor text manipulation is a BIG thing right now – are you top-heavy on using your targeted keywords as anchor text links to your site/url?  If so, might wanna work on that.  Also, doorway pages can cause big issues for you – Chris Crum just published an article about that here that is very helpful.

If you know Google’s rules, you probably have an idea of what went wrong.  If you do NOT know Google’s rules – learn them.  You can’t attempt to fix anything blindly here…even though many of us are guessing, we can still attempt to have educated guesses, right?

In short, you’re in ‘time out’ – use this time to learn a thing or two…and change what you can.

Now, I’m not saying “Just do what Google says” because well, they’re a big company…they say a lot of things to promote some warm ‘n fuzzy fantasy of “just play by our rules and you’ll do AWESOME” (which is not realistic – especially these days).  Google is a business who says what they need to to protect their business and bottom line.  In fact, they are BIG business and I don’t believe they are too big to fail.

In fact, I think the bigger they get and the more they try to get into everything OTHER than the one thing they are really great at (search), the closer they are to failing.

Trying to be great at everything is a recipe for failure, don’t you think?

To me, Google has gone from a quiet, trusted, and VERY useful resource to a noisy doorway to the internet that is trying to control all.  Yep, I just said that out loud….but here’s the thing:

You have to watch your own a$$ around here…

and kissing Google’s is not going to solve your problems or make your business successful. 

Consider the things I said in my post about “breaking up” with Google and why I did it.

If Google can destroy your business with the flip of a Penguin, it’s time to really re-think things.

My Experience With Penguin

My husbands local business site got hit (yep, this crap happens to me too, but that’s to be expected since I do tend to instigate Google from time to time :::cough cough:::).

These are the things I am taking a good look at:

- on-page keyword density:  Funny, I never noticed how heavy I was with some keyword usage.  Part of the issue is that his target keyword is part of his business name so when the business name is mentioned on-page it really ups my keyword density.  I reduced that a good bit.

- off-page anchor text usage: This is another issue, I am quite top-heavy with my targeted anchor text pointing back to his site.  Again, being that his business name includes a target keyword, it was easy for that to happen naturally.  Anything “over-cooked” on my part that I could correct, I did.  And as with all sites, there are sites that pick you up and link to you (or scrape you) that we can’t control so instead, I’m trying to dilute my anchor text.  At this moment, I’m think the idea of a 60/30/10 ratio is a pretty good idea.

I also want to point out that people think EMD’s are at risk (EMD = Exact Match Domain… where your target keyword IS your domain name).  I don’t think having an EMD by itself is an issue, I think it’s the things that happen naturally (or not-so-naturally) when you have an EMD – such as the two things above I mentioned I am working on.

-lovin’ on my free sites: There are still some powerful free sites out there that rank well and rank easily AND they are really hard to “blow up”.  If you’re site is hurting from organic exposure in Google, don’t be afraid to get some good free web pages out there to get first page exposure fairly easily.  When done properly, it can really help you out in times like these.  Thankfully, I have always followed my own advice about free sites so this down time for my hubby’s site isn’t hurting as badly as it could be.

-increasing the love to my “good” links: This might sound a little odd, but I am trying to up the power of the sites/urls that link to his site that are really good links…but have kinda faded over time.

-paying more attention to social mentions:  Hey, whether bookmarks, tweets, +1′s, etc actually help your ranking in Google or not, it doesn’t hurt a thing to have that potential extra traffic those sites can bring. I’ve had good results getting social mentions with this both with rankings AND with additional non-Google traffic.  Don’t do everything for Google’s sake – do what helps your business.

Anyway, those are the main things I am doing right now.  I’m also making a list of other things I want to try out, test, and instigate Google with.  Hey, I’m only as good as what I can break  ;)

Is His Site Healed?

As of those moment, no, his site has not fully recovered from Penguin however, I have seen some positive upward motion in the past few days so I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel (hopefully it’s not a train headed at me).

I’m also not going all ‘gung-ho’ with these changes.  Instead I do a little bit…wait and see.  Do a little more…wait and see.  If you go changing tons of stuff in one go, you have no clue what helped…or what hurt you worse.  So easy does it.

This Is History, Boys and Girls!

We are now smack-dab in the midst of internet history.  I’ve only been in this business since 2007 – over 5 years now – but this Penguin thing is BIG (yes, bigger than Panda to me).

Google is risking everything in order to prove that they won’t tolerate those that break their rules.

That’s pretty gutsy, don’t ya think?

Just like the hockey coach that was willing to sacrifice his teams season (AND the feelings of his team, sponsors, and fans), Google is ‘benching’ those that don’t follow the rules.

This one moment in history will be interesting to watch as it plays out.

Think about all the people that will become frustrated when they can’t find what they want via Google….so they decide to take a chance on Bing and FIND what they’re looking for.  So, they start using Bing more and more often until using Bing is habit for them.

I actually watched someone DO that very scenario.  I just sat quietly and watched….just as I will do as all this plays out (ok, not TOTALLY quiet….lol).

Personally, I think Google should have called this the Santa Update – because they really went thru and put you either on the “Naughty” list or on the “Nice” list.

And we all know what happens when you get on the Naughty List, right?   No Toys For You!

(and yes, I typed that hearing the Soup Nazi character from an old Seinfield episode in my head where the soup guy determines you’re not ‘worthy’ of his soup and yells, “No soup for YOU!”  I embedded a YouTube video clip of some of the Seinfield scenes with the Soup Nazi – pretty funny stuff.  Sadly, if he was wearing a Google shirt…… well, just sayin’)

Sorry, I have a weird sense of humor… it’s can be downright scary in my brain at times  =)

Regardless of soup or illusive rules, this is a major moment for internet marketing.  Like it or hate it, this moment IS happening regardless of how we feel about it.  It’s like a hurricane, a tornado, AND an earthquake all hit at the same time and have left major destruction behind.

Those that can survive this moment will go on to do well…and those that know how to THRIVE in moments like these, well, pay close attention to them.  Doing well when things are “easy” is not really an accomplishment…it’s how one does when the going gets tough that really says something.

Chin up and move forward!




Rob Cubbon May 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I love to read your posts.

“Bench” implies a temporary thing. I do hope you’re right about that. :)

I’m glad you’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel by making on-site and off-site changes. I’ve been doing similar things to what you’ve been doing but not seen a “dead cat bounce”. Nada!

PotPieGirl May 9, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Thanks! I’m glad you come by to read and comment, thank you!

Yep, “bench” implies temporary…and I’m hoping it is. I imagine there will be lots of tweaks with Penguin in the coming weeks.

Bo May 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm

As always very good stuff you produce. Thanks for your analysis.
love Bo Burstam

PotPieGirl May 9, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Thanks, Bo!

Jayne Kopp May 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Hi Jennifer, You know, I got hit brutally and lost 75% of my traffic. I know it’s not backlinks mainly because I hate building them and only have a few hundred that happened fairly naturally. (what I mean is I haven’t bought any). Even so, my site ranked pretty OK’ish for my purpose… even though backlinking was often put on the back burner (right or wrong).

I know there are articles where my keywords were a little heavy too, but certainly nothing like Googles example (for crying out loud), as that would be ridiculous.

Sometimes, you just find when writing that no other words fit… other than the main keyword (if you get what I mean)… and then of course there are a few articles where I might have done a better job.

My point is however, my site is not spammy, it sure served a great handful of people who often emailed or left comments on my posts and I was clipping along quite nicely… neither being greedy or too laid back. ((sigh))

I do have a few niche sites that were doing OK ish… again… but their traffic has also dropped.

Now if I’m not mistaken, these last few days my readership seems to be increasing ever so slightly… as you say, I”m just going to sit back and keep my panties unknotted.

I think at the end of the day, all we can do is what we can do and we will never have the Google God all figured out.

as peeved as I am, I’m just going to put my head down and ear plugs in. Im sick and tired of listening to a million and one opinions. Maybe that’s what the Almighty Google wants??

Well, I guess I left you a ‘blog post’ … sorry about that… just spitting a few nails.

Onwards and upwards… after all, there isn’t too many downwards directions to go as of this moment.

Thanks for the great read!


james chamberlain May 9, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I went from first page to to 42 from making 200 a week to 0 that’s the bad thing about Google .Bing first page is 5 hits a day, Google for the same key word is 385 i liked your post though and your right it is just another obstacle we have to deal with until the fall of Google which is coming sooner than everyone thinks because they are the best just ask them.

Franklin May 9, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Thanks Jennifer..good info and I’ve been following this Penguin thing as close as possible…You echo my thoughts exactly about Google getting to big and perhaps loosing a little to Bing and a few other engines…

Where in the heck did they come up with Penguin…ha…Panda was at least named after the feller that developed the algorithm…Penguin..too funny..

Perhaps Turkey update would be a good choice next..

Deane May 9, 2012 at 11:24 pm

I have less faith that my sites will bounce back than you do. Since you mentioned the soup Nazi, you might get a laugh out of this video: Hitler’s Reaction to Google Penguin Update.
I hope this isn’t too politically incorrect for anyone!

john May 9, 2012 at 11:30 pm

about an year ago I left a hatred comment towards Google and their ever changing rules and stupid games, on one of Mark Thompson’s posts. I don’t know if he ever published that comment or not but reading it now after Penguin would make even more sense then at that time.

In that comment I was saying that Google has no clue themselves what they want, and now we have the proof. The latest craze they bring about is their TOS but everyone knows their TOS/rules are unclear most of the time.

I have a feeling that they will either get things back to normal ASAP, or go out of business in a short period of time. Out of the search business I mean, cause I don’t think they will vanish for good as a company.

In what concerns me, I have cancelled all my subscriptions for SEO/backlinking, buying/building niche sites, article creation/distribution services, etc. etc and I totally gave up SEO. Google makes it too risky to waste time with it anymore. I began looking into MLM, and other money making options. There have to be other ways of making money online, other than listening to and playing by Google’s ever changing and ambiguous rules.

Now, I don’t know why exactly I said all these things but I hope I didn’t hurt anyone through them either. But I wanted to say them anyway because I’m a frequent reader of Jennifer’s posts (I even purchased her OWM ebook some time ago) and I never contributed with anything to her blog. At least this I can do.

I wish you all good luck with implementing big G’s bitchy demands and hope that your sites get back at top in SERPS soon. I wouldn’t want (seriously) to search for something and have to hit the “back” button all the time, like I started to do over the last weeks :(


Helen May 10, 2012 at 12:05 am

Hey Jennifer thanks for this. I am one of those hit that has no idea why- never bought backlinks and my pages seem ok to me- obviously not!! Can you give me some idea what you think is a good keyword density to have? Does it matter if your site concept is mentioned all the pages-if of ocurse it makes sense to do so? Also my site concept is also in my domain name-can you explain how I should evenly distribute (in your opinion) -I looked for the first time on Majestic SEO after this and to me they look evenly distributed but maybe it is not http://www.keyword-word.com http://www.keyword.word.com. keyword.word.com, keyword, a few others like click here, check out this. Is this wrong? Thanks for any help you can shed! Thanks for always helping me understand more!

Steve Wyman May 10, 2012 at 12:49 am

Hi PotPieGirl

As always I love to read your work with each tweak our friends at google make..

From your “test” systems and observations does it look like Penguin is a filter at the URL level? where that URL has been hit by a lot (or mostly) exact match anchor text?
and that URL’s that have not had exact match anchor text attached to them survive? or does it appear to effectthe whole domain?

It seems to me that in many of the microniches i work in that the top ten is now flooded with sites with few or no links and when they do exist they are www. etc type links. do you see that effect much?


Ade May 10, 2012 at 1:34 am

Don’t worry…Google are going into driverless cars now so they’ll be putting their search engine business on the back burner for a while. Or maybe that explains why their results are rubbish – there’s nobody behind the wheel.

Your sports analogy kind of works but we are not on Google’s team and they have different objectives to us unlike the hockey team that are working towards a common goal.

Ranking in the Google search engines does seem like a riddle within a conundrum within an enigma now that you have to make your on page SEO look like it’s not too SEOed. I don’t know how they can give that sort of advice out – the rules haven’t changed, it’s a completely new game.

I think many people don’t want to play it and are going into different things list list building and even paid advertising. Well, I am anyway until, as you say, the dust settles.

Marquis Gittens May 10, 2012 at 1:43 am

The question is, can publishers do without google?

Alex Havian May 10, 2012 at 1:44 am

What is the point of all those advices ? you build your site you do all right to get site to the top position if somebody doesn’t like you because you outrank them all they can do simply send over 30K spammy backlinks to your site using single kw as anchor and Google will penalized you just like that, regardless if you follow they rules and do all good, it can take just one huge backlink blast to get you site penalized and lose all your hard work overnight…

Brigitte Smith May 10, 2012 at 2:38 am

Hi Jennifer,

Such a great way of looking at this!

But I have to agree with Ade’s sentiments that we are not on Google’s “team” so are not working towards a common goal – to some extent.

On the other hand, we do (or should) have the same objectives – to some extent – to provide great sites that will give searchers what they want, so therefore if Google would only put our high ranking (and high quality) sites back where they were, everyone will win – the searcher, Google, and we as webmasters!

Let’s hope that does happen pretty soon, because at the moment, I heartily agree – the search results are a dog’s breakfast, and I for one can’t find useful content when I search for stuff that I’m looking for (particularly, but not only, when I’m looking for information)!

Paula@Cool Shoelaces May 10, 2012 at 4:12 am

Hi Jennifer, that is very interesting what you say about EMD (Exact Domain Match) I have a blogger blog that is about 3 months old and I purposely included my keywords in the domain. I have hardly any inbound links to this site and was very proud that it was ranking #4 or #5 on page one of Google after about the first month that I had it up. My main site where I sell cool shoelaces is still ranking fine, it is just this blog that I set up to promote it that totally disappeared from search results a couple of weeks ago. I am very tempted to change the name of the URL and see if it returns to the search results. What do you think?

Jeff the Business Owner May 10, 2012 at 4:56 am

Google traffic is huge. But I need to remind myself that it is not yet the end of the world. I still have referral traffic and social media traffic. :)

Chris May 10, 2012 at 5:18 am

Great analogy, great intro, good point.

Sunita Biddu May 10, 2012 at 7:24 am

Good post Jennifer. It’s weird Google ranks the websites (methods) down it rewarded earlier. I agree that many over exploited those methods. You’re doing every bit what others are doing PLUS the post is encouraging screwed up webmasters to relax and don’t do crazy stuff and take clues from current (read worse) search results. I’m happy to share this great post on facebook :)

Stephen Byrne May 10, 2012 at 10:18 am

Great post again Jennifer, I’ll take some of your advice here and wait it out, sites mildly hit, but as with all tsunamis, there is a wave to follow.

Ari May 10, 2012 at 11:31 am

In ancient Rome, Cato the Elder would always end his speeches with “Carthago delenda est”, meaning “Carthage must be destroyed”. I think it’s time we apply it to Google: Google must be destroyed before it destroys the Internet and us…

Pat Rodgers May 10, 2012 at 11:55 am

Jennifer I agree with your point of view, one of my sites dropped from number one to somewhere so far down even I can’t find it.
At first I spent some time reading posts about what I might do, but to be honest after working for years on a site I don’t want to alter it too much just on Google’s whim today, and most of it is based on guesswork.
So I guess I’ll sit tight and see what happens.Maybe use Bing more myself in future.

Steve DeVane May 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Hi Jennifer,

I think you’re right that Google’s antics might eventually drive more folks to Bing. I, for one, hope so, because my sites tend to rank higher in Bing. :-)

Steve DeVane

Ari May 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Guys & Girls, if we all – and millions like us – stop using Google as their primary search engine, what will happen? Google will lose a percentage of their market share. That’s the only way to educate them, hitting them right on their pocket…Just remember, the way all of us have worshipped Google all these years made them believe they are the Internet gods.

BTW, Jennifer, I totally agree with you: after Panda and other stupid updates, Google’s search results are absolutely dismaying.

Nell @ Housewife Empire May 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I’m a freelance writer, and I just wrote an article on one of the blogs I write for about Penguin. I researched it like mad in the days following the initial blast, and it was really scary, crazy, etc… I did find that people who used EMDs were affected the most, as you noted, but the craziest thing was the complaint form they made right after for sites that got unnecessarily hit. This was a big flag that Google went overboard on this one… and it’s going to be really interesting to see how the next few weeks play out.

Scott Worthington May 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Hey Jennifer, great article. You are the most Google savvy individual that I follow and I appreciate your analysis.

I’m just getting my feet wet in online marketing. What recommendations do you have for someone just starting out: building sites, picking keywords, backlinks, SEO. Seems like maybe this penguin thing may favor someone who is new (clean slate) if new content is put up in a Google friendly way.

I know – you broke up with big G and decided to focus on quality content. I’d like to focus on quality as well – without making mistakes that might hurt (ouch).

Any insights from the master would be appreciated.

Nancy Aymond May 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I am new to internet marketing so I am trying to soak up all the “good” information I can. This is a great post and I learned a whole lot from it.

I plan on purchasing your 1 week marketing course but I was wondering if it was updated for the new google stuff? If you are planning on updating it in the future, I will wait for that, if it is updated now, I want to go ahead and get it. Or maybe it doesn’t need to follow Googles new mandates?

william May 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm

3 of the 9 directors at Google are former Amazon

Amazon ranks #1 for “sex toys”
there other site imdb.com ranks #1 for xxx

yes its that bad —– they control all traffic, porn and product

L. John Doerr has served as a member of our board of directors since May 1999. John has been a General Partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm, since August 1980. John was previously a director of Amazon.com, Inc.,

Ann Mather has served as a member of our board of directors since November 2005. Ann has also been a member of the board of directors of: Glu Mobile Inc., a publisher of mobile games, since September 2005, and serves as chair of its Audit Committee; MGM Holdings Inc., a motion picture and television production and distribution company, since December 2010, and serves on its Compensation Committee; MoneyGram International, a global payment services company, since May 2010; and Netflix, Inc., an internet subscription service for movies and television shows, since July 2010, and serves on its Audit Committee. Ann was previously a director of Central European Media Enterprises Group, a developer and operator of national commercial television channels and stations in Central and Eastern Europe; Zappos.com, Inc., a privately held, online retailer, until it was acquired by Amazon.com, Inc.

K. Ram Shriram has served as a member of our board of directors since September 1998. Ram has been a managing partner of Sherpalo Ventures, LLC, an angel venture investment company, since January 2000. From August 1998 to September 1999, Ram served as Vice President of Business Development at Amazon.com, Inc.

Andy Har May 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Hey Jennifer,

Really great article, very well written.

Here’s hoping things start to ease off once google realise they have more than made thier point


rick May 10, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Great info. How does the update effect your one week marketing system. I have two campaigns setup now and made $20 on one sale so far. Its not fantastic but its a good start. Plus this update really hurt my niche websites I have setup. I love one week marketing and really feel it is one of the best market systems out there. I am just nervous to continue with it if all my lenses will be affected. Thanks for your help.

Petra Weiss May 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Hi Jennifer,
What a great post! So much insight into Google Penguin and what to do about it – you really know your stuff well!
My main money earner site has been hit – I had a drop of traffic exactly on the 25th of April and it has stayed low ever since, just like in your graph. So I am trying to get the site back up and will take what you said into consideration and work with it. I have also done a post on my experience on my blog, for anybody who might care to read it ;-) Thanks, Jennifer!

rick May 11, 2012 at 1:33 am

petra, my larger money earning sites have been hit hard too. Most of my top earning blog posts have been dropped by Google entirely, and my affiliate earning from my blogs have come to a screeching halt. Literally I went from getting around 200 visitors a day to three or four. Google sucks. However you need them to succeed.

I know people have Facebook and Twitter but those markets are so over saturated and people just ignore any marketing on those sites. As a matter of fact I don’t even have Facebook or Twitter accounts anymore. I do not use any social networks besides stumbleupon and Digg. Even those are over saturated now.

Google will be around for a while so its best if we just learn to play by there rules, even when they completely change them in the ninth inning.

David May 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Jennifer for the most part I am in complete agreement with your insights into Google but on this post I have to disagree. I do not believe Google did this on purpose just to prove a point. You simply do not become as large a company as they have without understanding some basic principals of business and screwing up your business is something you just don’t do.

We tend to forget that Google is for the most part a computer program. It can be overidden manually and adjusted by them but the bulk of the search results are done by a piece of software. I think that they have tinkered with it way to much and basically screwed up their own program.

The most disturbing trend is the fact that the more they try to fix it the more they screw it up.

June May 11, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Well said, Jennifer! I do agree, ratting each other out is not the answer. Two years ago I saw the writing on the wall and removed Google analytic from everything. Quit using most of Google’s services. I do searches using other search engines than Google when I am doing research as I get better responses. I have found myself using a small search engine company called Yoog more and more. I haven’t had any of my Squidoo lens or my websites affected by panda, penguin or whatever other animal Google likes to play with in their sandbox. Perhaps I am too paranoid, but the privacy issues with them are the same reason I quit FB when many were just getting started with it almost 5 years ago. It is my belief that Google is way too powerful. I believe they know too much about out private lives. I believe they know more about us than the government does and often too much information in the wrong hands is a very dangerous thing.

For a while, like everyone else, I was concerned about what Google wanted. I don’t care too much anymore. I care about what the people want and seem to be just fine. I am not a millionaire, but don’t want to be either. Too much responsibility comes with lots of money. I am able to get by on what I make nicely.

I have my own life, I work when I want, I travel went I want and I do what I want. Sometimes my sites are on the 1st page of Google for my keyword terms and sometimes they are not. I have over 200 lens and sites, many under pen names and am not able to update them as often as I should as I don’t outsources either. When they are updated they are on the top when they are not they start dropping to newer infopreneurs.

I guess what I am trying to say is, stop worrying about what Google is going to do next. Just build the best sites you can, with the best information you can provide. At the end of the day if you can honestly say you have done your best and worked your hardest & smartest, then what more is there to do? Put your feet up, have a cocktail and watch the sunset on the horizon.

Tom May 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm

at the end of the day negative SEO will actually bring Google to its senses! I can spend $50 and take out the whole first page of Google for a keyword unless Amazon has any sites there as Google will not touch Amazon, it is their number one cash cow! By imploring your subscribers to not use negative SEO you are prolonging your agony.

We all knew Google wouldn’t dare allow negative SEO because it’s just too easy! Get a copy of scrape box and your competition is doomed! To me the more negative SEO messes up search the quicker Google will “come to its senses”.

Believe me no matter what “ethical” SEO marketers tell their subscription base negative SEO will become the norm for anyone still attempting SEO. All of the calm ethical marketers are telling their subscribers to chill out and take a breather. Those that are left will be doing negative SEO! After a few million searches become totally skewed Google may wake up. If not another search engine will have to step in and take over!

tom May 12, 2012 at 12:39 am

Hi, Why post this article and reply to the first few replies. who posed no questions and ignore al the othe rpeople asking for help?


rick May 12, 2012 at 10:17 am

does this effect one week marketing. I have some lenses that still do well but for the most part they are all slowing down.

Mani@tipsonhairremoval.com May 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Dear Jennifer,

I am so encouraged to read your post. When my site tanked overnight I was shocked! I didn’t know what have I done. I am a simple writer and don’t know SEO etc. I was targeting relevant keywords and writing articles. I don’t know what you mean by saying “over stuffing with keywords”. Do you mean that the keyword density should be less or there shouldn’t be more than one keyword in an article?

According to you, I have to go back and take a look at all the articles in my website and remove keywords? Currently I am totally confused and waiting for a miracle! Penguin has taken me down badly overnight. And this is depressing…

tom May 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm

What I want to know and which I can’t find anywhere, is how to find out WHAT on or off my site caused me to go from page 1 to page 4. I can’t fix it if I don’t know what is broken.

Judith May 15, 2012 at 2:45 am

Someone in the SBI forum linked to your article and I’m glad they did. You provide some common sense insights and a bit of sanity amidst the panic about these black and white animals that Google sent to bite us.

Long term this may be good for our sites though right now it really hurts. I have 5 sites and have been taking a really honest look at them. They aren’t as good as I have allowed myself to believe they were. And the funny thing is, I’ve known for a while that there were things I should change. Now I will.

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Arul shaji May 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Great article about Google penguin updates, i love the way of your writings.

Rosie Rosie May 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Hi Jennifer, I have been hearing about PotPieGirl on Hubpages and I got to your link from a forum post. I thoroughly enjoyed your witty take on the Penguin update. My Hubpages subdomain got hit pretty badly by the Penguin and since I’m too stupid to know what to do, I’m not really doing anything except stop my wallowing in self-pity. I’m going to follow your advice and sit this one out. It’s not really that bad here in purgatory… the other place is too hot.

Your new fan,

David L. May 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I agree that it seems like Google is just trying to show everyone how seriously they take their guidelines. Basically, they’re trying to show every marketer “who’s boss.” But what’s their ultimate goal? Do they really want to promote quality content like they say, or is that just something they keep saying to placate the little guys who aren’t doing so well? I’ve come across plenty of little-known sites with better content than big names, and they never get ranked well.

Mike May 15, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Thanks for the post potpiegirl. I hope you’re right about this being a temporary thing as well!

Your Write to Earn May 16, 2012 at 8:35 am

Dear Potpiegirl,

Your posts are always a good read. No, wait! They’re always educational. I hope you don’t mind me “stalking” you by going through your Squidoo lenses, this blog, and your other blogs. I found someone I’d like to learn from.


Don Humphrey May 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm


I have a different take on the Google changes. I’m not a conspiracy-oriented person, but am wondering if Google made a mistake – an unintentional mistake while making changes to their system and maybe some of Google’s comments are an attempt to distract everyone from the fact that they goofed. Assuming that a search result engineering staff introduced errors and hosed their indexes, how long would it take to rebuild multi-layered indexes.

Supposedly, based on news released on 5/16, Google will be providing categories to help people select a categories for their searches. The example given was someone who searched using the word ‘King.’ Search category boxes will display, allowing the searcher to select Hocky, Monarchs, etc.

This was the first real clue about forthcoming changes and might explain why search results have been so bad after Penguin and before the introduction of categories.

At any rate, in my niche, sites that are very minimalist with poor content that were primarily used as either doorway pages in the past or just languishing in terms of positioning seem to be at the top. It might make sense to take a look at these sites but I am going to resist making too many changes to my primary older site that has ranked well since the days of ‘Excite’ and I think the advice to keep your powder dry and wait for a bit may be good advice.



Rick Setricks May 17, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I enjoy reading anything about Penguin that has even the slightest possibility of light at the end of the tunnel. My main main money site got Penguin slapped really really bad and my income is ‘the mortgage+a little bit for food’ whereas pre penguin it was playboy all the way.
What has really surprised me is how little traffic I get from Bing and how insignificant Yahoo is! I’m still ranking great there, but really no one is searching there, it’s all Google. I’m personally carrying on as if nothing happened, I figure that is the way to go, I hope.

Don Humphrey May 17, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Follow-up post regarding recent Google stuff:

Excerpt From PC World Article shown on CIO.com:

PC World — On the surface, Google’s Knowledge Graph seems like just another search feature, but connect the dots and it could become the brains behind a Siri-like virtual assistant.
In a blog post, Google’s Amit Singhal dropped a strong hint that there’s more to Knowledge Graph than meets the eye:

“We’re proud of our first baby step–the Knowledge Graph–which will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the ‘Star Trek computer’ that I’ve always dreamt of building,” Singhal wrote.

Google has used the Star Trek reference before, when discussing its approach to speech recognition in Android. Here’s Matias Duarte, in an interview with Slashgear:

“If [Siri]‘s Star Wars, you have these robot personalities like C-3PO who runs around and he tries to do stuff for you, messes up and makes jokes, he’s kind of a comic relief guy. Our approach is more like Star Trek, right, starship Enterprise; every piece of computing surface, everything is voice-aware. It’s not that there’s a personality, it doesn’t have a name, it’s just ‘Computer.’
“Add these comments to the rumors that Google is building a virtual assistant codenamed Majel–named after the wife of late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry–and it’s easy to speculate where Google is going.


Anna Baxter May 18, 2012 at 3:11 am

I appreciate some informative review. Glad to have come across reading this reliable information.

saad naeem May 19, 2012 at 8:35 pm

i guess i am gonna chill for a while and see what happens lol . great read but too lenghty

Don Humphrey May 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Don’t know if this thread is still active but I did find a solution to my web site’s drop in rankings.

I used a tool that allowed me to view all links to my site from other sites: This tool listed the keywords used in anchor text. This tool was found using Bing using the words ‘ view links to a website.’

The backlinks that are still around that point to my website showed that most of the backlinks pointing to my site featured my primary key words or search phrase too much in anchor text.

In fact over 33% of the all of the anchor text in other sites pointing to my site used this one keyword phrase. As a result, I am thinking that Google penalized my site as the high percentage of backlinks using the primary search term seemed unnatural.

What caused this?

The cause of this is two-fold.

First, I probably over emphasized my primary keywords when setting up links to my site.

Secondly, reading about what Google has done over a period of time suggests that many website owners were literally tricked into divulging the use of public link networks they used and their website url. The site owners shared this info with Google in an attempt to be helpful and avoid penalties but what happened – based on my understanding – is that Google then assigned a zero ranking to links coming from these networks that were unintentionally ‘outed’ and it’s likely that Google also found public network sites on their own as well.

The result is that may websites, who used these ‘discovered’ public link sites or networks, plummeted following Google’s actions; many sites disappeared altogether, and some sites like mine went from top five on Google to page two or three.

My hypothesis:

When many sites were de-valued and lost their page rank or disappeared from the Google index, the result is that many sites that had linked to my site ceased to be a factor. Since I was promoting my site using my primary keywords, the linking appeared to be unnatural to Google and the links were viewed as spam or devalued – along with other related links.

What to do?

Given that no changes were made to my onsite factors or contents, and that there is now a unnatural number (33%) of links to my site using just primary keywords or phrases in link anchor text, the solution comes into view.

A likely Solution

My solution, that I’m currently testing, is to cease creating links to my site that use my primary keywords and use alternate and long-tail keywords until a balance is restored in the links pointing to my site. And secondly, to go slow – at least at first – in creating alternate links.


If your site’s primary keywords or phrase is ‘tree doctor’ and you’ve found that your site rankings for that term have plummeted, probably along with other related keyword phrases, you might consider finding synonyms to use when linking to your site and use other related search terms like ‘tree health tips’ or ‘how to keep your trees healthy’ or ‘arbor tips for healthy tree roots,’ etc.

You can determine likely keywords phrases to use with the help of Google by searching using your keyword phrase and then looking at the bottom of the search result page to see other suggested search terms. Then you can cherry pick from searches shown by Google and build your links using those terms – preferably terms that don’t rely on your keywords. If all alternate search terms using two of more of your search words, consider finding synonyms and using those.

I don’t think it matters as to how you create links to your site using. You could be using a service that you know to be effective or take a manual approach. The key issue to not overdo link ranking using terms that may be dominant on your site: used in your title, etc.

What to expect (my opinion):

Once you have built varied links to your site – using varied non-keywords in anchor text, then you might be able to return to promoting your primary search terms. My guess is that your primary search terms will again be found in Google’s index when Google thinks that your linking is not being rigged. Again, the idea of natural linking is what Google is looking for.

Of course, this all assumes that your on-page website factors are OK and that you are not overusing terms that were penalized on Google.

I have followed my own advice and will be waiting to see what happens over the next few weeks
as Google seems to be visiting and re-caching my site about every two weeks on the average.

We’ll see what happens and best of luck to those who are in the same boat so to speak!


Tyler June 1, 2012 at 9:03 am

You are naive, very naive. Google is doing this to cut off traffic to smaller sites that are not likely to advertise. Google is going openly pay-to-play and Panda was the first shot. Google is not as worried about SERPS since brand name matters for them, the results are “good enough” but Panda and Penguin drastically increased clicks on ads. Wake up.

Penguin Survivor June 4, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Well, I got hit HARD by the Penguin. Dropped from dozens of Top 10 listings to almost none within the Top 50.

The only thing I changed is drop my bought links, blog comments and blog articles (all from one of the best blog networks) and within 2 weeks, BAM, I’m back on top and higher than ever :)

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