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.
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’)
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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!