Did Penguin Make Google’s Search Results Better Or Worse?

Google’s latest search algorithm change designed to fight spam and improve its search results went live yesterday. Plenty of people are seeing its impact already. Better or worse? It’s easy to find some examples of things being bad; it’s hard to say overall if there’s been a net improvement or not.

Judging Relevancy Is Tricky

I’ll go through some examples, but let me start with some caveats. If you dive into some forums, you’ll find plenty of people screaming. People tend to scream after any update that things have gotten worse because they’ve lost rankings. Few scream about how things have improved, much less provide examples. In short, relying just on forums can give you a skewed view.

That doesn’t mean you ignore what you might discover through forums, however. Few know the quality of any search engine’s search results as well as SEOs. They might not be happy if something outranks them, but good ones know if something better or worse has moved up. The same is true even for some of the “good” black hat people out there. They might deliberately violate Google’s guidelines, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know search quality.

Time for examples. To get these results, I was used “Incognito Mode” in Google Chrome to help eliminate personalization other than geographic targeting. That can’t be prevented.

Viagra: Missing Official Site & Many Other Problems

One of the first queries I did to check on the new algorithm’s impact was for “viagra,” because that search is a natural magnet for the type of spam that Google seeks to wipeout with this update. If that was the goal, Google had a big miss here:

Most glaringly, Google fails to list the official Viagra site in the top results, something that Bing gets right.

Postscript: John Andrews pointed out after this was posted that the official site has apparently been gone for 10 days or more, so this particular change seems unrelated to the new spam-fighting algorithm. I had asked Google about oddities with this particular search before posting my article but never heard back.

It’s also a good reminder to add that there’s no guarantee that any of the problems I’ll cover with these examples are due to the algorithm change. There’s no easy way to do a “before-and-after” for these searches to know what’s changed. However, you can look at the current state to assess whether they seem to be of good quality overall, which is part of what Google aims for with this current and all algorithm updates.

Almost as alarming, the four sites I’ve pointed at with red arrows have been hacked so that those visiting them get redirected to some place selling Viagra online. Three of these, Google even knows they’ve been hacked, because it shows a warning to searchers. Why it allows things to rank with those type of warnings makes no sense.

The two blue arrows point to two university web sites that have nothing to do with Viagra but which rank. Chances are, they were also hacked recently and fixed their problems. But if so, they’re still not relevant for Viagra and shouldn’t rank.

Bing: Better For Viagra

Here’s Bing for viagra, for comparison’s sake:

As mentioned, Bing gets the official Viagra site listed tops as you’d expect good search results to do. Bing also lists several informational sites, such as Drugs.com, How Stuff Works and Wikipedia. But all of these are also listed by Google, so there’s no big difference there.

Where Bing really pulls ahead is that instead of all those hacked sites, it lists a lot of online stores and affiliate sites. That’s certainly better than rewarding companies that have hacked other web sites, so it had the edge over Google. But whether these are legit online stores that require prescriptions is another matter.

Postscript: As noted in the comments below, one of these sites Bing lists seems likely to have been hacked.

Make Money Online: Google Has Very Slight Edge

One query I’ve seen go around in discussions, and which was tipped to us through email and in a comment, is for “make money online.” Is Google falling down here?

Honestly, it’s pretty tough to know what should rank well for that type of query, given that it’s so broad and so heavily filled with various schemes that purport on how you can earn money online (the answer, of course, is to create an online sharing service that makes pictures look old and has no income, then sell for 1 billion).

Still, let’s make the attempt. In this case, I’m going to put Google and Bing side-by-side, Google on the left, Bing on the right. I’ve removed the related searches from Bing’s listings and slightly spaced out the listings to even them up with Google, but the order is exactly as originally appeared:

The damning thing some point to with Google is a site on Blogger that has no content at all ranking tops. Yes, that’s terrible. It’s also exactly the same thing that happens on Bing, though Bing ranks it lower on the page (sometimes, Google also ranks it lower). Certainly it would be better for Google if its ranking algorithm wasn’t returning a useless site. But pick any search, on either search engine with any update you care to name. There’s always some weird outlier.

I’ve also seen some call out Google for having two older articles ranking. The same thing happens with Bing, for one of these. It’s easier to notice on Google because it lists dates for these articles. Bing has some outdated information but doesn’t show dates.

Google is heavier on listing blogs about making money, though many of these really just seem to be blogs about blogging. Bing is heavier on places that overtly pitch some “make money” type of courses. If I had to choose what’s better, I’d go with listing the blog sites over the course sites.

In the end, I’d give Google the slight edge here over Bing. None of the results are really that great, of course. But I guess that’s what I expect for that type of search, knowing the flood of “get rich online” content that’s out there.

Overdose Advice? Bing Beats Google

Another example from a comment on our original story was about “how many pills does it take to overdose,” where Google is taken to task for featuring Q&A sites, places like Yahoo Answers, where anyone rather than an actual expert can give advice.

Here’s the side-by-side, Google on the left, Bing on the right. Again, I spaced things out a bit, but the ranking order is the same:

As you can see, both Google and Bing favor Q&A sites. I’d agree, that’s not optimal for this type of search. You’d rather get information from respected medical web sites, and not information on how to commit an overdose but what to do if you suspect you’ve accidentally done that. Neither deliver.

One of the biggest reasons for this failure is probably that the medical web sites simple don’t have content written in this type of plain language. If there’s nothing but garbage out there, garbage is what you’re going to get back.

Still, Bing gets the edge because Google has three completely irrelevant answers coming up, pages with nothing to do with the search topic. It was also disappointing not to see Google kick in the special suicide prevention information that it does offer for some searches.

Payday Loans: A Toss-Up

Another example of Google failure that was suggested is for payday loans, with Check N Go — which I gather is a major known provider — not ranking in the top two pages of results. Let’s do the side-by-side. As I said before, I did some spacing to help make it easier to compare, but no order was changed:

Bing detected my location as being in El Segundo, California — actually about 40 miles from where I live, plus it tossed in a bunch of San Diego listings. That’s a strike against it right off the mark, but I decided to manually set my location to Costa Mesa, California for both search engines, to better even the comparison.

Both lead off with the same major provider of PayDay One. Bing does have Check N Go, while Google lacks that. But Google has many local providers, places I could walk in to, displayed. Bing buries these plus gives me lots of irrelevant local providers, including one in the UK.

It’s so bad with Bing that I kind of want to call this test in Google’s favor. But not knowing this space well, I get the impression that Check N Go probably is a provider it should be listing. Plus, listing what appears to be an affiliate site that probably has fake user reviews also was a knock against Google. So, I left the two tied.

Treadmill Reviews: Bing Gets The Edge

Earlier, I said that SEOs are often subject experts in their own areas. Daniel Deceuster, who commented on the changes, seems to be an example of this. He runs a site about treadmill reviews. The comment he left was full of the type of detail that a non-expert might not pick-up:

I monitor these rankings everyday, have for over a year. They have never been as bad as they are. #4 is an article reviewing just 8 machines from 2008, none of which are available for purchase any longer. Good luck finding anything through #3. Then #5 and #6 both link to each other and are obvious members of a huge internal link scheme. #7 doesn’t even have any reviews, just “discount codes” that aren’t codes but affiliate links that don’t get any discounts. #9 is a massive chart of numbers and ratings of random machines, some of which are no longer available. No reviews and their link to more reviews returns a 404 error.

I decided to take a closer look myself. The side-by-side:

I’m not an expert on treadmill reviews, so there are things Deceuster will see that I’m probably missing. But some of the sites he dislikes that Google is listing? Bing’s listing them, too. He focuses on an outdated article. That is annoying, and it doesn’t happen in this case with Bing. But it might happen in other searches with Bing.

Overall, I’d say that Bing does seem to do a better job of getting more sites that seem to offer fairly nice reviews of treadmills to the top. The one I liked the most, with my non-expert eye, was the one that Bing listed tops and that Google didn’t have at all.

Google Sucks For New Shoes? Not So Fast….

Another popular query I’ve been seeing going around for Google’s results apparently having gotten worse is a search for new shoes. The side-by-side is below, Google on the left, Bing on the right. Related searches and the news box from Bing have been removed, but the ranking order is the same:

The criticism is really about the second listing, which looks like some odd simulation thing that is totally irrelevant. It is relevant. It’s a marketing course called “NewShoes.”

Is it the most relevant thing for Google to list? I’d say not. I’d say most people who are searching for “new shoes” probably aren’t thinking about that course but rather actual shoes. Then again, a lot of people might be searching for a song called “New Shoes,” especially given that the official video has over 5 million views on YouTube. Google lists this, as well as how to buy it on Amazon. Bing doesn’t.

Both list a variety of major name-brand online retailers. Google doesn’t have Shoe Buy; Bing doesn’t have Foot Locker. Both have Zappos (which I’d have expected tops at both). Bing’s got some really specialized retailer that feels odd to reward. Then again, it also found what seems to be a gem of a site, one that lists new shoe release dates. Who knew!

I’d just barely hand this one to Bing, mainly because that marketing course, while relevant, does feel out of place to rank so highly. But on the whole, I don’t think you can look at this set of results and condemn Google’s entire algorithm change as flawed. As I said before, it’s easy to find outliers on any set of results with either Google or Bing.

Who Serves Results for “Autism Resources” Better?

Aunesty Reikofski commented about concerns she had with as search for “autism resources.” That resonated with me. Who wouldn’t want the best results coming up for a search on that?

Reikofski wrote:

Coming at this as a ‘mom’ and not an SEO professional….

Try searching for  “autism resources” #1 position is a hyphenated site that hasn’t been changed since 2006.  A total link directory, and all the national organizations rank below

Let’s do the side-by-side, Google on the left, Bing on the right. Bing has been spaced out to make comparing easier, but there’s no change in the order:

As it turns out, what Reikofski is most upset about, that top ranked site that’s apparently years out of date, it ranks exactly the same as Bing — the search engine she also commented that she would switch to. In fact, Bing lists two pages from the site, whereas Google only lists one. More correctly, Google give it one listing and some smaller “sitelinks,” but that doesn’t deprive some other page for the chance to be in the top results, as happens with Bing. Google also ranks the main national society, as best I can tell, higher than Bing does.

Postscript: Reikofski explains more about her reasoning for switching to Bing below in the comments; it’s less about Bing being more relevant than Google and more about Google being less relevant than she expects.

Google has one page that seems last updated in 2010, but Bing also has a page that seems outdated and kind of AdSense-heavy. Google lists two local organizations that might not be useful to many general searches; Bing lists one like this. Google has two decent-looking info sites that Bing lacks; Bing has a non-profit support group and a Wikipedia page that Google doesn’t have.

I don’t know that Google is really that much better or worse than Bing in this case.

For SEO, Google Edges Out Bing

How about an area that I’m a subject expert in, such as SEO? I’ve written before about how disappointing the results for that search can be, when it seems like getting a bunch of client links or inserting some links into a blog template could rank you well. Nor am I the only one. If that’s all it takes to rank for such a competitive area, those talking about doing white hat SEO best practices can be made to seem stupid by Google allowing this.

Let’s do the side-by-side, Google on the left, Bing on the right. Same as before, I’ve spaced things out on the Bing side, removed related links and a newsbox, so you can compare more easily. The order is untouched:

Several sites I’d consider offering good SEO information are listed in both places. For the first time, Search Engine Land finally even ranks for the term. I think we’re a good site, so that’s an improvement in my books.

I don’t know what moved out. I do know there’s still a lot of irrelevant garbage. An SEO firm near my home is listed. So what? Who buys SEO locally? I get some national SEO firm I’ve never heard of. Some Australian SEO firm that few, if anyone doing this search, is going to use. Another national firm that ranks primarily on the strength of its domain name — but hey, that happens for the same company at Bing, too.

I actually give Google the edge here, and not because we did better. It’s mainly because Bing lists some local SEO company from out of my area, as well as a “secrets” site with no information nor any active form to learn more. The latter is the type of thing some are mocking Google’s latest change as rewarding, as in the case of the “make money online” search. Bing deserves the same criticism, but being Bing, no one notices.

Being As “Bad” As Bing Isn’t Good

Of course, this isn’t really about whether Google is as good as Bing, or if Bing also has the same problems. I’m using Bing as a comparison because you need something to compare the Google results to, otherwise you lose all perspective. But ideally, you’d want the perfect set of results to compare with. Someone let me know where those are!

Really, this is about Google being as best as it says it wants to be. Some of the problems such as lacking the official site for Viagra? That’s pretty embarrassing. A site with no content ranking tops for “make money online?” Even if it happens to Bing, it still hits hard against Google that’s supposed by many to be the search leader.

Also remember that our results are increasingly personalized at both Google and Bing these days. The results above don’t show this, but when I’m logged in, some of the results can be radically different. Of course, some of the glaring problems pointed out above may still be reflected.

Some Perspective

I’ll conclude by trying to clear up some misconceptions and give a little more perspective.

As I said at the beginning, we really have no idea if the change has made Google’s results better or worse. There is no lack of people commenting on how terrible things are now, but like I said, that’s what always tends to dominate forums after any change.

Anyone who is an educated, veteran SEO in the space knows this. Susanna Miles, who commented on my original post, seems to be one of these people:

You know what I wish… I wish that people who weren’t hit or who saw positive change would post in these forums. It ends up looking really hopeless and horrible because it’s only the people who’ve been hurt that bother to do this.

Some people are happy, seeing a positive benefit. For anyone complaining, there’s someone who did better with no incentive to speak up.

I also saw this comment from Sean Paul that I thought was noteworthy:

As usual big corps wins, SMB’s lose out

Looking through the examples above, I don’t see that playing out. I see plenty of small sites doing perfectly fine, and I see some big sites who clearly aren’t. This update seems to have hit businesses of all types.

Over this past week, there’s also been a giant rise in the belief that “negative SEO” is somehow the lurking threat that people must run in panic over, and that this latest update makes it even worse. I’ll be coming back to a future article about that, but if you can’t wait, I’d suggest diving in first with this SEO Book post.

The short answer is this. Yes, there are things that people can do to hurt other people’s rankings, something Google has acknowledged for years, such as in this video last year. No, most people don’t have to worry about it, even with the unatural link warnings that went out recently. Again, I promise to come back to this more.

Recently, Rand Fiskin dared people to prove negative SEO doesn’t work by trying it against his personal website. Separately, someone did get his company web site at SEOmoz to rank for “snuggie dog bed.” I’ve seen this confused as proof negative SEO works.

No, the latter test proves you can still Googlebomb pages for a short period of time. We knew that. Or it proves you can redirect one site to another site to help it inherit rankings. We knew that, too. It doesn’t prove negative SEO can work, but we don’t need that proven. As I said, we already knew that could happen in some specific cases.

I think the most important thing for those who are worried about the latest changes to remember is this. Forget the rankings. Look at your traffic. Give it a day or two or three. Is your overall traffic from Google Search much better than it was before yesterday? You’ve probably gained. No change? The update had no net impact on you. A severe drop? Then yes, you got dinged.

What to do if you were dinged? I’ll be coming back with more about that, on whether a reconsideration request will really help or if there are other things you should try. Obviously, if you’ve been knowingly spamming Google, stop and try to correct that. If you haven’t, and you’re seeing really bad stuff showing up in the search results, it never hurts to do a good blog post illustrating why Google’s results aren’t helping users as well as they could.

That’s always the key. Google’s job is providing great results for searchers. Publishers complaining they’ve been hurt, that doesn’t carry much weight. Someone always does get hurt, as I said. Publishers showing that searchers aren’t getting the best stuff, that’s effective pushback.

I do suspect that Google’s twin goals of greatly increasing relevancy and not rewarding spam haven’t been met with this update. There’s just too much weirdness that I’ve been seeing, which does make me suspect that we’ll see the algorithm changed quickly again in the near future. But that’s really just speculation. I’ll try to get an official reaction from Google on this and other matters soon.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Algorithm Updates | Google: Penguin Update | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Stats: Relevancy | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.thepointsguide.com/ ThePointsGuide

    Very interesting stuff going on! As you have shown, looks like Google is still cleaning up the mess? The make money online blogspot is now gone and seems like the search results have changed.. at least from what I am showing. Will be interesting to see how things play out over the next few days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Tobias/100003688525111 Jeff Tobias

    You got the Rand Fishkin Story completely wrong. That experiment was done weeks ago and was not related to  his little “dare” whatsoever. Did you even read the site you linked?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Yes, but I’m seeing it being confused with the whole negative SEO thing that he did indeed get involved in. So I’m trying to clarify that. As I said, I’ll be returning to all this more in the near future.

  • http://twitter.com/AunestyJ Aunesty Reikofski

     I want to clarify that I didn’t say Bing was serving up better results – I said I will be switching to Bing – -

    My Reason:

    Google having the market share in search should mean that they are serving up the most relevant results to a query.  When I am searching for information regarding Autism and PDD-NOS on Google, I expect to see the latest scientific information and nationally recognized sites that are the Authority on the subject come up. Instead I am getting OLD information that is no longer relevant and having to dig several pages in the SERPs in order to find information and resources that are in fact relevant to Autism today. 

    Google is held at a higher standard because of their place in the market, they are abusing that today by pilfering out sites because of linking practices.  For this reason I choose to use Bing who doesn’t proclaim to be the best, but rather a decent search engine that serves up an honest result based upon SEO practices regardless of what “neighborhood” their backlinks come from.

  • http://twitter.com/AunestyJ Aunesty Reikofski

     I have been following this thread – - their case study was flawed because of the lack of scientific controls, BUT – definitely exposed some intresting findings.  I would have to agree at this point with their findings though, that negative SEO can occur and while I don’t know about it affecting large branded sites, I can see it taking down small to medium size businesses. 

    I don’t think the current take down a certain Wikipedia page test will be effective, but I think if a controlled test that was done behind the scenes (domain not publicly mentioned until after the case study was done) of a medium size site would be very telling….

    I am looking forward to reading what Danny writes up on this

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DH2KQZ5UI3IVMOOO35DLKLYZHM Jim

    Danny you used my Viagra example! I am flattered.

  • http://twitter.com/igl00FTW igl00

    Great article and indeed google overdid it this time.. Great proof of how Rand and SEOmoz dont understand SEO also.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DH2KQZ5UI3IVMOOO35DLKLYZHM Jim

    On a serious note Google’s results have never been worse. You almost have to go back to altavista dominating the search world to get results as bad as these. My guess is that there will be a quick reversal of this algo change. One of the major issues being that there are very few adsense sites now ranking where they used to dominate. When the spam team affects other more profitable areas of Google we know they get a slap on the wrist and a reversal comes soon after. Remember the Google places debacle? Matt might even be walking on egg shells as we speak at the moment down their in the basement of the Gplex.

  • http://twitter.com/MathiasAhlgren Mathias Ahlgren

    With the “make money online” SERP, that awful blogspot one that was in the #1 yesterday (and in your screengrab above) is now gone. Did Google manually get rid of it, or is this update continually “improving”?

  • Jordan Quade

    I agree, basically all this article showed was that google and bing serps are almost the same now? So if thats the truth what makes google any better then bing? seprs are full of more junk now then ever.

  • netmeg

    You want people who weren’t affected to post? None of my sites were affected negatively, none of my (SMB mostly B2B ecommerce) client’s sites were affected negatively. Some sites went up, some stayed the same (as regards traffic and first page rankings. None were affected by any Panda updates either. But when you post stuff like that, people either don’t believe you or think you’re bragging, a Google fanboy or holier than thou.  I went through all that at WMW, over and over, so I don’t post successes anymore. I’m not the only one who feels this way. And we’re told to be sensitive to those who are hurting (even the ones who should have seen it coming)  So, nope, all you’re gonna get in forums and comments are the sad stories, not the successes.

  • Vera Appleyard

    I’m seeing very weird results for the field I’ve been working as a Internet marketer for the last 10 years – sites that I saw slipping the last year or two because they stopped updating and had content issues (blank pages) suddenly popped back to the top – it’s annoying to click all the main navigation and get either blank pages or redirected to another site so quality doesn’t seem to be a goal in this update.

    Other thing I’ve noticed – some of the biggest link spammers have held strong through every update – especially a particularl organization that is well known for paying big bucks for links, and the links are pretty much on unrelated sites.  They not only continue to hold strong, but they have so many websites they get at least two or three in the top 10 for the most competitive searches – searches that cost about $30-$60 a click in PPC.

    It find it baffling how this can be called “quality”

  • http://twitter.com/armondhammer Steve Hammer

    I do know the payday space fairly well.  The results for both are a mess, but it is nasty.  Check disappeared a few weeks before the latest algo shift, likely from the unnatural links warning.  PD1 disappeared later in the day for me, banished to -50 land as well.  Ace is a leading provider, especially from the brick and mortar side.  The fake rating one is complete junk, as are the ones you suspected were affiliates.  I’d call them lead gen.  Almost no legit lender in the space has a partial exact match name, save pd1.  There’s only two (Ace and ChecknCash) that “deserve” to be there.  There are lots that are missing. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DH2KQZ5UI3IVMOOO35DLKLYZHM Jim

    My personal favourite payday loan site is number 10 at the moment http://noemploymentverificationpaydayloans.info . A one page wordpress iste built on twentyten theme. Most of its backlinks seem to be from hacked high pr sites. Most of which seem to be fixed now.

  • http://www.myfootdr.com.au/ Dan

    Personally, for our rankings it has been good, one of our competitors who ranked above us on a couple of keywords by article spinning and dodgy links has gone from position 1 to position 36.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688510025 Jesse Skeens

    Did you not realize this 
    http://www.maddonnasnashville.com/viagra.php listing was hacked?  Take a look at the domain name for a start.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jandunlop Jan Dunlop

    So the fact that viagra.com is missing from the search results makes sense seeing as they are the primary target of viagra web spam – looks like 2012 could be the year negative seo goes mainstream.

  • http://www.webbroi.com/ Hope Ocampo

    True. Yesterday (PHL time) when I read the algorithm change announcement, the make money online website ranked #1 and now its gone. Maybe the roll out has not been completed. 

  • http://www.isbigfootreal.net Bigfoot Steve

     Maybe it’s the way you post it. My main site is an e-commerce site that has been ranking 1-2 for its main keyword for 6 years. Never been affected by any update over those 6 years because it’s doing things the right way. As of yesterday? Gone gone. I didn’t see it coming, because there was nothing to see, but I was worried as heck when I heard google was going to “level the playing field”. Anytime you hear that, be prepared, because somebody is about to get screwed.

    As for this being a “spam” update, that would be fine…if they were only getting rid of spam. It’s pretty clear they aren’t….not even close.

  • Mariel Uy

    looks like everyone is switching to Bing right now..

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DH2KQZ5UI3IVMOOO35DLKLYZHM Jim

    Negative SEO has always been with us. It was just quite expensive to achieve and really only worked on medium to smaller sites. Negative SEO is getting cheaper. You can buy 70000 blog comments for $5 on fiverr. There has a been a trend lately of driving down the price of automation. I have talked to “a group”who run up to 7 vps’ with scrapebox running 24/7 if they decided to turn that onto their competition I bet it would make a mess.

  • http://www.isbigfootreal.net Bigfoot Steve

     It’s like someone else said in that thread….if negative seo isn’t real, then you don’t have to worry about the kind of links you build, so spam away. If you DO have to worry about the kind of links you build, then negative seo is indeed real. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say competitors can’t hurt you with links, but you can hurt yourself with those same links.

  • http://twitter.com/fionnd Fionn Downhill

     Oh Shoor

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Fanboy :)

  • http://twitter.com/Autopten Cheap Cars For Sale

    I love you Google, but seriously, this is the WORST update you have done so far. 

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Thanks, Jesse. I missed that one because there was no redirection happening, as was the case with some of the others. And yes, the domain name should have given it away to me.

  • http://twitter.com/fionnd Fionn Downhill

    I checked out of 10 sites we track one got hit and I knew it was coming.  The site had some bad links which I should have removed but I didn’t and voila I got smacked.  Its fixed now just waiting for the rankings to correct.  Most of the sites traffic have gone up slightly.  The sites are all over the place from large reference sites, brand eCommerce sites, Mom and Pop sites all are fine.  So all in all 9 out of 10 is not a bad ratio. Some of the results are diabolical though and being as bad as Bing takes away the incentive to use Google all the time since they were much better than Bing.

  • contactgcs

    I am not at all affected by this update. Just want to share some strange results. Just type “something” and see the #1 result something.com with a blank page. Weird…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Chrest/622972092 Mike Chrest

    Sure you need to have Bing as a reference but with 80% of the market share its like comparing Apple to Dell. this just shows that google is giving its edge away

  • http://www.facebook.com/fionn.downhill Fionn Downhill

    Well they might have decided they are no longer a ‘search engine’ since they no longer rank for it.  Apparently wikipedia is and who the heck is duckduckgo.  If you were not a search engine then why would you care about your results makes sense right! Theres a clue here the results are very skewed to definitions and reference sites as opposed to actual relevancy for the searchers intent. I am sure if I typed ‘search engine” and had been living under a rock for 15 years and thus not knew much about Google I would expect them to be there. They are the #1 search engine in the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jandunlop Jan Dunlop

    Yep, the point is with this latest algo change Google appears to be taking more action against spam links that are totally outside of the control of the webmaster. Looks like a perfect storm brewing if you ask me, why focus on white hat seo when it’s more cost effecting to spam your competitors out of existence. 

  • aedixon

    My company’s site along with one of our client’s really showed crazy-unbelieveable improvements today. But, as an seo, I’m well aware that could change tomorrow. So… Kinda why I wouldn’t bother to brag in a forum about this sort of thing, though I hope the algo changes will stick for us… If that’s what caused it…

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Jeff, I’ve also gone back and clarified this in the story, that the dare was for her personal site (I did have it as being for SEOmoz, sorry, kind of finished up that last bit in a hurry) and that the other experiment was against SEOmoz and that I’ve seen people confusing the two.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    We don’t know. I’ll check on this. It could be that the algo rolled out more and nabbed it. It might be that Google applied a manual penalty against it, after it was highlighted.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sevan.Toros Sevan Torosian

     I used to have lots of respect for Google, but I don’t any more. Most of
    their recent updates are just a joke. Here is an example: I own lots of
    websites which 3 of them have alexa ranking of under 10000. 1 of the
    website which is the oldest has lots of backlinks which comes from
    different SEO softwares (blackhot). I didnt update that website anymore
    since we started a new one with completely relevant backlinks , content,
    design……..: (relevant backlinks from relevant blogs,
    directories……….unique content with useful information….) .

    Here is the funny thing: in last two days, that old blog started to rank
    on Google top 10 for lots of my old posts( posts which I posted 3 years
    ago), but the new one started to lose traffic!!!!!!!!!! WTH???? there
    is no spammy backlinks or content in new blog at all, but there are lots
    of em in the old one. They didn’t target the webspam, they targeted non spam sites!!!!!

  • infographic reviews

    Danny, you really think Bing got it right for Viagra? You listed 5 websites that promote illegal viagra (since there is a patent on viagra that does not expire until April, 2020). Also, these websites are infringing on the trademark name Viagra which is in their domain. 

    Both Google and Bing miss the mark, but to say that “Bing” did it much better than Google would not be accurate. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DH2KQZ5UI3IVMOOO35DLKLYZHM Jim

    Hmm the forums are starting to report that sites are coming back.. My guess is with all the adsense sites that were bowled over Google’s spam team got a “get that revenue back and get it now” from above! You heard it here first folks.

  • TheTruth66

    Lets change the pace and find out what we can do to get our sites back.  Crying isn’t going to solve the problem.  Lets figure out why our sites got hit and what we can do to get the them back.

    My site got hit.  Here are some details on my site. If we start sharing details on sites that got hit and didn’t we can put the pieces together and find out what we can do to solve the problem.  Crying to Google isn’t going to work, anyone who has been in the SEO game over a few years knows this.

    My Findings – Site Details

    1. I have a very well established aged site with an authority branded domain. Site is close to 6 years old.
    2. I have about 100 pages of very well written unique content that is valuable and relevant. Most pages are over 1000 words of content with images and relevant links out to relevant websites.
    3. Over the years we have built lots of quality backlinks and as everyone else acquired some not so quality links, but we have a lot of backlinks with anchor matching our keywords exactly.
    4. Our site is a wordpress site, with average to low navigation abilities.
    5. Prior to the update we were ranking in the top 3 results for close to 100 extremely competitive keywords.
    6. On 4.24.12 at 4:00 we lost over 50% of our organic traffic and rankings. We have not disappeared from the search engines but lost our rankings for the majority of our targeted keywords.

    Findings -

    1. We don’t believe this has to do with quality content. Our site had extremely well written content that was not designed for keyword stuffing or SEO, it was written as useful content for the end user.
    2. We don’t believe this has to do with established or branded sites. We have an established domain and branded website and doming.
    3. This could be related to link building, we have never used blog networks or spammy link building tactics, but have aggressively acquired backlinks (like any SEO) for all our pages.
    4. This could be related to your sites layout and template. I would like to hear feedback from other people regarding their site layout and navigation.  Our navigation could have used improvement.

    If others would share information on their sites that were hit or sites that remain with high rankings it would help us all try and regain our rankings.

  • Jordan Quade

    My site falls into the same categories with you. I think it has to be #3 that you listed. I don’t know what they consider a good link anymore? seems sites with no links or vary few or sites with what ever they consider white hat now or big brands all went up.

  • http://receptizakolace.net/ Kolači

    my local (Croatian) search results have become completely corrupted. 1-page sites have taken over the 1st places in results! :O

  • Dhanasekar Mani

    I have been monitoring the SEO for about 25 websites. My observation is, 
    Point 1) The sites which got too many backlinks quickly, got affected. 
    Point 2) The sites which got too many back links exactly as the Keywords using Blog comments got affected. 

    As a result, not only for some keywords, Google is displaying useless websites in the top for many keywords. I have studied all the websites which are coming now in the top are, the sites which HAS NOT INVOLVED in back link building. It means, If your site was not doing a SEO, then those sites are ranking better now. 

  • Sonia Desuza

    Oh God!  what’s going on

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I said: “That’s certainly better than rewarding companies that have hacked other web sites, so it had the edge over Google. But whether these are legit online stores that require prescriptions is another matter.” That’s not at all saying Bing did Viagra “right.” I did have “much better” as the subheadline. Fair enough, I’ve dropped the “much” part.

  • http://twitter.com/WesleyLeFebvre Wesley LeFebvre

    The worst I’ve seen since I’ve been on the Internet.

    - Exact match and keyword heavy domain names are back with a vengeance.

    There are so many examples I don’t even know where to start, but this is just the last query I ran.

    “prepaid credit cards 2012″

    Just look at all of the keywords in those domain names, plus this page deserves top 10?

    creditcard2012 .org/credit-card/how-to-use-a-prepaid-credit-card/

    First of all it’s not even relevant, then what ever happened to Panda, and too many ads above the fold. Not to mention the irrelevant SEO link-exchange going on in the sidebar nav.

    This update is ridiculous.

  • Manas SD

    Google making changes a lot as over optimization is penalty for a web site but if we talk about the strategies and some big web site was on ranked after effort a long and suddenly the ranking down then this is not the right procedure suddenly rank them off and visible those web site which are associate by individual . 


  • http://twitter.com/meganshare Megan

    Hi Danny,

    This is getting bad.  I have also seen there is a huge difference in SEO. A  gap, its not about white seo vs black hat. Its about a total change in SEO. Google’s algo is not working actually instead its out of control. Google says it ranks the best sites and supports quality sites, but when it comes to ranking it also ranks mixed sites.  Google has destroyed the business of many people complaining drops. Google algo has affected many service sector sites than ecommerce sites. Pages that were ranking on the 1st page for 7 months or 1 year is just thrown off to page 50 or page 60.   Do you feel its the end of SEO  honestly if this goes on for a month?

  • http://twitter.com/Swish_Plastic Swish Plastic

    Has this hit international Google sites? Google Australia for instance? I haven’t noticed a change across any of the sites we manage.

  • http://twitter.com/seopeace SEO Peace

    Google is becoming tough and rude as the time passes. It seems marketers are now looking for some alternative for Google. Initially, it was Over-optimization and now we have Spamming algorithm. Every now and then Google is rolling out a new algorithm.

    I have a general question to everyone can someone let me know what is the basic difference between “over-optimization algorithm” and “Spamming Algorithm”. I think Google have not defined and underlined the distinguishing line.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Rempel/725440457 Chris Rempel

    If you want to see perhaps the worst set of SERP results after this update, check out what Google returns for “payday loans online”. Scroll through page 1-3. Literally HALF of the results are member profile pages.

    Obviously, this is from multi-tiered BH link structures.

    This is so embarassing, it’s crazy.

    Can someone please explain to me how a guy in his basement (DuckDuckGo) has built a better search engine (in every way) than all of the PHD’s at Google?

    What the hell is Google doing? It’s like they’re purposely sabotaging user experience. What’s ironic is that the results over a year ago were FAR better and FAR more relevant to the user than they are now. When WhiteHat SEO actually meant something.

    Honestly, right now it makes more fiscal sense to just run a production line of BH campaigns with 3-page sites and exact-match domains (knowing they willl eventually get axed) then it does to do everything “right” and bust your ass to get natural links (press, linkbait, etc.), just to get axed with some stupid algo “update” or from negative SEO.

    It’s a joke.


  • http://twitter.com/WesleyLeFebvre Wesley LeFebvre

     Yeah, that is pretty bad.

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