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.facebook.com/people/Lionel-Rizky/100003781846299 Lionel Rizky

     make it easier to promote your website http://easyhighincomejobs.com/ please visit my website and select the one product that I offer my diwebsite. thank you

  • http://www.ProjectLifeMastery.com/ Stefan Pylarinos

    A bunch of my websites got hit hard by the Google update. This is frustrating, I look forward to hearing some solutions to turn this around. My sites have unique, quality content on them. The backlinks are all diversified and from various sources… don’t believe I have much spammy backlinks at all, but not quite sure exactly.

  • newbizstart

    As a four year old social media technology company we track SEO results to better understand how social signals and social proof factors impact SEO generally. I have to say that with each algorithm change (and most people are unaware of just how many of these take place, on a smaller scale, in a given year) we have found Google’s stated goal and recommended practices increasingly undermined and contradicted by the actual search results it delivers. This last April 24, 2012 update appears to be a more substantial attempt to advance their stated goals than anything we have seen to date. Here is what we see and believe to be true at this point:

    1. First, we do not believe Google is purposely creating higher levels of SEO frustration in order to drive business owners to PPC (as 90% of their PPC income is derived from ad buys that begin at the $10,000 level, and there is no evidence that this level of client is targeted in any way…not to mention the legal, SEC, FTC and monopoly issues they would invite if evidence of this were to surface).

    2. Second, we believe that Google is very concerned over Facebook’s potential as a next generation social search engine (regardless of Zuckerberg’s denial/but open stance) and that they have plans to leverage their Google Plus strategy to migrate toward social search for a variety of reasons. Therefore they need to get on top of the SPAM and other black hat problems that have increasingly dogged their search engine for years.

    3. We believe that Google is more stumped than ever over how to accomplish this. Their search technology is so mammoth and so complex that executing a single large update is not only difficult, but as the feedback and frustration from many business quarters over the last few days suggests, it is proving to be even potentially destructive to their brand and reputation.

    4. Which brings me to my final point. The evidence you gathered and discussed in the above post comes largely from the most talked about examples on the web, so we understand why you marshaled these as your focal point. Our own research, however, suggest that these anomalies are more widespread and not the exception. We see many more search outcomes that bring into question Google’s capacity to accomplish it’s own stated goals. This is a serious problem for them…much more than Matt Cutts and the crew over at the Plex seem ready to acknowledge.

    As a science based company focused on the role of social dynamics within the larger Content Marketing Industry we have always believed that modern search engines must prepare for the inevitable and fast approaching day when social proof factors that are tied to HUMAN recommendations and VERIFIED RESULTS become the axioms that must drive all search engine results. In fact, we have developed and prepared all of our technology to anticipate this day, when transparency, science based testing, community interaction, user experience, first hand ratings and digital word of mouth marketing replaces both old school search algorithms as well as obsolete direct marketing tactics. The people at Google are some of the smartest on the planet, and they most certainly know this fact…what they don’t seem to know is how to bring their search technology in mass into this new era without severely damaging their out dated search architecture or destroying their reputation in the process. Don’t expect anyone from their camp to acknowledge this…as the public is not far enough along the path of the yellow brick road to believe it’s even possible…

    A big thanks to the Land for your ongoing attempts to deal in reality and to give your readers objective and well thought out solutions to their SEO and digital marketing needs. I can always count on you guys to attempt to keep to your stated standards…and if missed to acknowledge your errors.

    Thomas Rozof, Social Media Science, LLC

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

     I think they, ‘google’ went back and deleted that search result as other searches are still showing odd results.

    For instance, search ‘get my iq’ and Turbotax still ranks number 5. To my understanding TurboTax has nothing to do with IQ

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Javier-B-Arranz/100002544274090 Javier B. Arranz

    In case you find this helpful, I run one of the 2 most popular article directories in spanish and yesterday’s update wiped out 2/3 of its traffic. The original panda release erased a little less than half of our traffic (it had since just recovered its previous level).

  • http://www.phonetipsandtricks.com Bryan @ Phone Tips and Tricks

    I’m in the phone and tablet niche, so I just Googled “buy cheap tablets
    online”. No 3 was a viagra site! I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have been
    there before this awful update. I stupidly clicked on it (to see how
    spammy it was, rather than shopping for ‘uppers’) so I guess the
    almighty Google will serve me Viagra ads for the next month now!

    My site has seen a 30% drop. Never used any dodgy SEO tactics. Blog
    commenting was as dirty as it got and that was in very small doses.

    Matt Cutts – I know you are reading this page. Sort it out please.

  • Michael Thamm

    So Google is chasing Bing? Sounds like the years of development Google has put in have only been for Bing to utilize. Thanks Google for working at search for all these years just to be slightly better than Bing – a rookie.

  • http://twitter.com/nivethan Nivethan


  • http://twitter.com/mosesbet adam

    Figured it was time for me to post (Adam from Affiliate FYI).

    First of all I want to congratulate Google on their anti-spam approach.  I really didn’t think they’d be able to target spam in the manner that they’ve done.  

    That being said, the quality of results has definitely worsened and it just looks weird.  For so many common searches I’m seeing random forum threads, blog spots, 1-page exact-match domains, 1-page sites on non-exact match domains, irrelevant pages, outdated news articles.  I could go on.

    The point I’m making is that this new update seems to have really tempered with the SERPs and the characteristics for why pages rank.  It almost looks to me like links have been thrown out the window, and Google is just showing any inner pages or old news posts with the keywords on the page that you were browsing for.

    Furthermore, they seem to have increased their trust for random sites, where I’m seeing possibly 2-3 results in the SERPs from the same domain (i’m talking small affiliate sites, not huge brands).  

    If I was to make a quick summary of the SERPS now, they’re showing too many outdated, old articles, irrelevant pages from big brands, or weird blog posts.  

    Their serp results just don’t add up.  They haven’t just got rid of spam, they seem to have changed how they rank sites.  The sad thing for me is that my own personal blog, which I’ve blogged at for 1+ year and has excellent backlinks and content (not to mention natural followers) was wiped off.  It’s just sad to see Google wipe a website off the face of the Earth because their crawlers/robots aren’t good enough to see what a good site is.  Instead, they’re purely looking at the backend of a site in terms of links.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Fred, your site stood out to me because the content seemed to be good, plus there was a face behind it. Unfortunately, buying links way back when was a terrible idea. Normally, I’d say file a reinclusion request. Google says that won’t help with the latest penalty, but you might try it anyway, mention the paid links and do whatever is advised to clean those up.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    same thing happens for sometimes. this definitely seems related to Penguin doing something very strange.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I would suspect manual actions in both cases.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I agree. In fact, I think I said that at the end of the post — that it’s not is Google as bad/good as Bing but as good as it claims it wants to be.

  • Royal_Martin

    I started a new site for a real estate company last year to replace one they had that had A LOT of bad links pointing to it. Both sites have been running side by side… the eventual plan was, when the traffic of the new site was able to “replace” the original site, the original site would be retired.

    The new site got absolutely clobbered to the point that only tier 3 pages are showing up in the results the Tier 1 and 2 pages were developed for (but very low in the SERPS I might add).

    The only traffic the site is getting now is from the tier 4 pages which are the individual listing pages for properties, or when someone does a search for a property by address. Those pages are still ranking high and they do not have ANY links pointing to them. Seems the more links the pages on the new site had, the lower in results they are.

    … But the crap site that is much older survived.

    So considering the “white hat” site was destroyed and the old site with all the spam links just noticed a small downgrade in results and these two sites are more or less the same only with different wording for the same communities, it does indeed appear this new change is not what Google really wanted. If it is, then Houston, we have a problem.

    To sum my observations up, the site all the effort was put into to make it a good quality site with a lot of user value was absolutely clobbered.

    The site that has been ignored, has had xrummer blasts done, blog comments done, submitted to every directory on the planet has barley budged in results.

    Domain age matters and that age factor carries A LOT of value. It will keep a site with a poor link profile in the top of SERPS.

    New sites with very few links are doing very well but they are very shallow sites of poor quality but… they are not sites that were “over SEO’d” So Google got what it wanted.

    The thing is… if you are serious about building a quality site, you are going to put the effort into getting or creating by blog good quality links to it… However doing so after this update raises the red flag… and now Poof your gone.

    Now… If you are a spammer, you are gong to create an “OK” site. There will not be alot of real focus on the quality of content on something that will get tossed by google eventually once you Xrummer the hell out of it… Provided you have not put much work into that site… You are going to do very well now.

    It almost seems to me you want the over SEO’d sites in results because those are the sites the owners have put their heart into to make them good so they can earn a decent living. I don’t think most spammers are willing to put the effort required into a site that will seriously compete  with someone who is really serious about doing a good job…

    I think the concept of what Google is trying to do is a good one, problem is, they caught more bee’s in the fly trap than flies.

    The secret to the problem lies in the links… Pretty much anything in a forum or blog comment or directory should be ignored. Links not wrapped in text should also be ignored. Only links wrapped in text should be counted. If the link is in text and the keyword percentageis less than 3%… Then I think you know what quality is.

    Certainly that will not be a perfect guideline but I think it would be a lot better than what Google is serving now.

    We need to call this the “Quality Killer” update.

  • susannamiles

    This is a fabulous article. Thank you!
    People have been asking “is seo dead” for awhile and I’m kind of confused about that. Hasn’t traditional SEO been dead for awhile now…years even? BUT, I think maybe I get it now. If you search for a phrase like “fall wedding colors” you get a ton of the big sites like Better Homes and Gardens, The Knot, and Martha Stewart ranking. It’s not that their sites/pages aren’t good. It’s just that their pages aren’t specifically about “fall wedding colors”. They’re about fall wedding flowers, bouquets, or fall weddings in general. BUT, there is no mention of colors specifically on the page.

    I’m not saying that a bride-to-be wouldn’t necessarily value those kinds of results if they were looking for fall wedding colors, but at the same time not sure if it’d be annoying. Either way,  this is what made me “get” the question “is seo dead?”. 
    Does Google not care about the specific topic of the page… a specific phrase that you’re trying to rank for anymore? Do they put site quality/popularity above exact search term relevance?I would be all for it if I looked at my stats and saw that my google traffic bounce rate and time on site was vastly improved. But, it’s not. It looks like I might be getting more relevant traffic to some pages (I never could get why I was getting garden wedding searches to my outdoor wedding page when I had a gardens wedding page) but an equal number of pages have seen a major increase in bounce rate since this latest Penguin rollout. So… it’s like a 50/50 thing. Like they got it 1/2 right?! 

    On a separate note.
    Wasn’t the first panda update about spam too by the way? What’s with the new name???

  • susannamiles

    Great news!

  • GavsterW

    Just my personal story regarding this update:


    Interestingly enough, a site that I thought would drop in rank did not.  I wouldn’t call it a spam site exactly (but some other people might ;-)).  The articles read fine and are original.  However, I outsourced writing them and the one for the home page mentions the main keyword a lot.  In fact, I just counted and it’s present 18 times in the main article body.  Anyway, I decided to leave this site as it was.  I didn’t build any links or tweak the articles.  It ranked at #7 immediately.  (Maybe helped as it’s an EMD?)  No Adsense on it or anything else for revenue stream.  I didn’t even track traffic (until 26 April).  I was surprised that it’s still #7, even after adding Adsense (on 26 April).  I around the same time, I also added it to Google Webmaster Tools and found it has decent traffic.  I guess the rank remained as the text is relevant and readable.
    Another site that I set up at the same time (also has an EMD) started off ranking well.  I did outsource the article writing every time, but also edited where necessary so that they read well and had a low keyword density (just 2-3 times per article).  Gradually, the rank declined (initially it was in the top 10) and then disappeared to nowhere (not even in the top 200, I didn’t check beyond that).  I was even adding more articles regularly and ensuring they were well-written, fit for visitor consumption.  I built some links, but not too many and only “white hat”.  Still, there was no change in rank.  However, after this update it has gradually started to make its way back into the top 100.


    Aside from my personal story, despite seeing some oddities in search results, I’ve also noticed Bing doesn’t do much better.  However, for most of my searches I’m quite happy with the results and happy to continue with Google rather than.. Bing (ugh, keeps thinking I’m located in France)!

  • http://improvememory-reviewpros.com Ileana

    I’ve seen many sites no longer ranking for their own name. Clickbank’s most popular exercise program is Truth About Abs. Do a search for that term and you’ll see that product’s site has been outranked by Clarkhill dot org. Huh? My main money site, which has never been affected by any of the updates of the past year is gone, baby, gone. Now the top ranking sites are 2 spammy press releases, a Squidoo lens, and an Amazon page for an unrelated product. I’m beyond discouraged.

  • Vijendran J Doraisamy


    My traffic drop from 3000 daily visitors to 1000 daily visit yesterday. I am still waiting for today’s result. I think Google changes have effected many good websites . The worst thing is the search result are not accurate and not related! If this keeps on going I think soon Yahoo and Bing will be taking over Google. Every Great Empire will have its Fall and I think Google is heading for a fall!

    Usually when one types a keyword like “nose piercing” (a general word) he/she will be looking for lots of information about nose piercing history, care, healing, piercing methods, infection and other information. Example is my website: http://www.nose-piercings.com
    My site used to rank in 1st page before the Penguin changes announce by Google on 24th Apr 2012. From 26th Apr my website is not even seen in the 1st 3 pages of Google Search result.  Just have a look at the Google result listed below! Except for Wikipedia and Hupages I didn’t find any good site with lots of quality information. 

    The funny thing is only 1 site out of 10 has adsense! Why would Google risk losing their main bread winner Adsense? I think there will be a major drop in their Adsense income and Google will be forced to revised their strategy!!! Just have to wait and see.

    Search result, keyword; nose piercing

    1st) http://nose-rings-guide.com/nose-pierci … -side.html
    many Affialite links Have good content
    no adsense

    2nd) Youtube
    A video on nose piercing? maybe OK
    no content
    no adsense

    3rd) http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Body-pierc … ction.aspx
    not related to nose piercing!
    no content
    No adsense

    4th) Wikipedia
    Good contentno adsense

    5th) http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/in … 655AA0Q4w5
    How painful is a nose piercing? – Yahoo! UK & Ireland Answers
    no content
    No adsense

    6th ) http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1115/p2029.html
    Again the page is about body piercing! 
    Just 2 paragraph on nose piercing.
     No adsense

    7th ) http://www.bodyjewelleryshop.com/body_j … ellery.cfm
    A Body piercing jewelry site with lots of jewelries on display!
    no content
    No adsense

    8th ) http://relache.hubpages.com/hub/nose-piercing-info
    Hubpages maybe OK. 
    With adsense ebay affiliates etc

    9th) http://www.painfulpleasures.com/piercing_history.htm
    Again this page is about body piercing with links their store. The worst thing is this website copied paragraphs from my website!!!!
    No adsense

    10th) http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/nose-piercing
    This is the most interesting result!

    I question by Holy, holy, holie at Go Ask Alice. 
    The answer sounds like being copied from my website again. Crazy!!!
    Just read it for youself!
    Dear Alice,I am a first-year student and I want to get my nose pierced. This isn’t just a whim; I’ve wanted one for a long time. However, I know that there will come a time when the ring will look juvenile on me. My question: will such a hole close up fairly quickly, without leaving an ugly scar?—Holy, holy, holie Dear Holy, holy, holie,When you choose to get your nose pierced, have the piercing done with a needle, instead of a piercing gun; the piercing gun causes more trauma to the nose tissue and will result in a more difficult healing process. Use a nose ring versus a nose stud, as the rings are generally made with hypoallergenic material (i.e., surgical steel), which is not always the case with the stud. The stud also has the potential to sink into the tissue and cause infection. Once you get your nose pierced, do not remove the ring for six to eight weeks, giving your nose time to heal. Also, to prevent infection while it is healing, regularly clean the area, as directed, using a topical antibacterial cleanser, and apply an antibiotic cream or ointment. Make sure to dry the site, too. When you’re ready to remove it for good, the amount of time it will take to close up completely depends on your body and your individual healing processes. If there is any scar, it should be very minimal and barely noticeable to others. **

    Is that a quality information? This page not even worth to be in Top 10 pages of Google!

    If this is the result in coming days I will be changing to Bing soon!!!

    take care guys and have a great day

  • http://www.facebook.com/optimizeguyz Brent Rangen

    I see sites like this all over Google’s SERPs. A couple of 301′s, a couple of exact-match anchor text links and keyword in the top level.. Very frustrating. They are nothing but SEO-quality articles that bring no value to the web. 

  • Sunny Ujjawal

    But in Google India Viagra official sites is on rank 5 . Check this 

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Traditional SEO hasn’t been dead. By that, you’re probably talking about technical SEO, on-page and site structure changes. Those still have an impact.

    Popularity, reputation of a site does tend to be a signal factored into rankings. But small sites can be popular and do well, too.

    Panda wasn’t about spam. It was about low-quality content that didn’t violate spam guidelines but wasn’t that great.

  • susannamiles

    What an honor to have a response by you (the great) Danny Sullivan ;) Thank you!!!

    Yes, when I was talking about traditional SEO I was talking about on-page and site structure stuff. Thank you for clarifying.

    SEO however I assume has grown to include “Site Popularity and Reputation” as well. These things include link quality, social media presence (or is that part of links?), and user experience on a site (like bounce rate, time on site, etc).

    I think I finally get the difference between Panda and Penguin. It seems wishy washy to me though. Maybe that’s why they picked an animal of the same colors for the second algo name?! :)

    I’m still a little confused about why a fall wedding flowers page ranks before pages on fall wedding colors. Even if the fall wedding flowers page has a good reputation the fall wedding colors page SHOULD rank first (or at least on the radar) if they have a decent reputation. No?!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=689180779 Paul Nate

    After penguin update Google results does not have relevant or fresh content. Looks like google has more spam results and networks sites results like servicemagic.com & superpages.com Take a look http://bit.ly/JKxs8n

  • MarkMark5

    I’ve been in SEO for 10 years and this is the worst update in Google’s history. I’ve been tracking results in the “vision improvement” niche for many years.

    The current search result for “repair vision” or “repair vision naturally” is totally broken. There are totally irrelevant sites on page 1.

    Take a look at it to judge for yourself.

    Do a Google search for repair vision

    I shall highlight the glaring incompetence of this SERP result:

    NO 1: Yahoo Answers
    Really? Not the most authoriative source. Mostly poor advice

    No 2: An outdated article from 2007!

    (Now here is where the fun starts)


    A ONE-PAGE no content, site with a single large image of a poorly put together AD for…wait for it… automobile repair. REALLY?
    There’s no content and worst of all, NOTHING related to “vision”.

    No 4:

    Totally unrelated site. It shows a technical document for some sort of software – vision configuration verifier

    No 5:

    Poorly put together article. Site looks like its from the 90s

    No 6:

    Another totally unrelated site. Another 90′s looking site promoting window tinting and windshield crack repair.
    (again, just because it has “vission” in its URL, doesn’t make it relevant)

    Pre-panda, our blog on “vision improvement” has original content that writes up on vision improvement techniques. It got tanked from page 1 to page 50.

    Whats more, before the “penguin update” the serps were very relevant for “repair vision”. There were blogs and well-written articles on repairing vision.

    Now, it got replaced by cheesy looking sites promoting automobile repair, windshield repair and outdated information from old sites.

    This is one of the MANY examples where the SERPS are broken. It simply reminds me of the days of using AltaVista.

    Google, your relevancy totally tanked for many niches. If this is not proof, I don’t know what is.

  • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

    From what I see in the SERPs across a bunch of niches I watch (medicine/software/education/etc – a varied set), there seemingly is no method to this madness. Even in the same niche some sites doing the same thing drop badly, others only lose positions for a keyword or two, while yet others grow. Maybe the update is not yet fully rolled out and we’re not seeing the complete picture. Anyways, I wouldn’t say it’s just outright spam getting punished as I see pretty bad sites still ranking and pretty neutral sites getting torched. Overall, e tendency seems to be high presence of brands and exact match domains in many short tail results.

  • http://twitter.com/SEO_Richard Richard Cummings

    Danny, great article with lots of substantive evidence.  Clearly, in many cases, the big “G” got this one wrong.  And that make money online blog that ranks #1?  That was owned by a guy named “Griz” who was a master at “pre-Panda” SEO.  They continually hassled him because he ranked so high and wrote about it that he finally had to release the blogger blog.   

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IFMWVYOEDXUMBWWP7QTL2EFF2E Aubrey Hillary

    I feel frustrated about this recent updates, it did destroy my income. But when I read the search results for new shoes, “buy that song from above”, I was really laughing that took away some of my sadness and it led me to comment here. Google should see this, man oh man, no wonder why the recent update been called PENGUIN….. 

  • http://bio-medspartakakanjac.blogspot.com/ Petar RADETA

    very significant

  • Peter Watson

    I would like to hear from the ‘bunches’ of people who are gaining! Please, let us know and lets us see those sites. As far as I can tell, this is a disaster!

    Why hasn’t anyone commented on the fact that Google has released a form for webmatsers to complete if they think their site was hit unfairly?


    Obviously these sites exist, or am I missing something?

    We don’t want Google to come out and admit they screwed up, because we already know that. We simply want to know what they are doing to rectify the problem.

  • http://twitter.com/GovtJobsForum GovtJobsForum


  • http://twitter.com/BlogDemy BlogDemy

    Check 10th result for SEO.
    9th result for SERP.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QZ6IJSNYPQS23NJPOJQPWZIKLY davem

    they REALLY F’ed up with this update… this is literally THE worst update I’ve seen.

    one example, i did a search last night for ‘dating advice for guys’ and i’m getting results that are dating advice for WOMEN sites.  WTF?Did a search for ‘internet dating’ and match.com shows up on #3 but that page has zero content… so if they’re slamming sites/pages with no content, how does match.com’s homepage rank so high?also have an article in #4 position thats from 2005. LOL

  • Peter Watson

    When I search for ‘business opportunities’ in Australia (my site used to rank #3 but now doesn’t exist in the serps!) the following site is in the #3 position:


    * this is an American based websites ranking #3 in Australia!
    * it has 3 blocks of Google adsense above the fold
    * totally unrelated content


    My site used to be in be #3 position (before ‘Penguin’) for this term. People would advertise their business opportunities on our site. We also provided 100% unique/quality content on the ‘how to’s', ‘do’s’ and don’ts when buying or selling business opportunities. 

    Come on Google. Help!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003023648049 Justin Credible

    I am SO frustrated now when searching.  HONESTLY TERRIBLE JOB GOOGLE!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BQSWW3B4TAHMEVAG2VN5HZPFRA ABOMB

    Has nobody brought up the idea of a conspiracy by google to simply make more money for a few weeks just to support some of their other programs that aren’t making any money?  There is no way this was instituted at this kind of magnitude and seeing all of these errors by accident.  I don’t believe it for a second.

  • http://twitter.com/IrvanZhang Irvan Sanjaya ♛

    Hey all…you should search with word “help”. I have search with that word and I didn’t find any help definition. :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003526005746 Pramisha Patra

    Visit http://compzets.com for FULL version software download @FREE of cost

  • http://twitter.com/WebCEO Web CEO Limited

    Rand was smart for issuing that challenge because he would have known that nobody was going to create more than 60% of links back to his site with the same anchor text. Thus he knew he was going to get a ton of new back-links. Right now, for the keyword “SEO Software” SEOMoz is at #7 on Google which is right behind us at #6. Rand is breathing down our neck.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2YRFSJGLJFKZRJNS6MTDAMAWKY David

    I think not only on Viagra site or other sites also for the Nasal Irrigator Term google is cleaning up things for the nasal irrigator keyword. from 150K Competition now it drop to 20K competition
    google is changing up things. Sites that even affiliate to amazon are being penalized by google. 

  • Don Marks

     funny how no one from google has commented on their new algo improvements, found this online today, Matt does not appear to be answering any “penguin” related tweets…

    Justin Freid‏@Justin_Freid
    RT @bk_cox: @mattcutts this is #1 for ‘payday loans online’ – http://bit.ly/FeHha read their content then tell me if ur algo is working

  • paulobuchsbaum

    This situation is very common in Google and Bing, where there is a great mix of subjects in search results. Part of the problem is a a great mix of subject in any result of a search using just words.

    I’ve had a idea for search engine that I’ve launched in http://www.ideaforgoogle/enIn short, my idea is to add browsing by topic in Google search. The classification of the Internet would be made by each of the owners of content. This task takes a few minutes. Choose words and browse by subject at the same time would result in a search much more powerful and effective.

    Though my idea, Viagra from Pfizer is a site that would be classified in drug information site.  Any site that sells Viagra could be classified as a e-commerce site. Any attempt to classify a Viagra selling site as a drug information site will be denounced by the users.

  • paulobuchsbaum

    This situation is very common in Google and Bing. Part of the problem is a a great mix of subject in any result of a search using just words.

    I’ve had a idea for search engine that I’ve launched in http://www.ideaforgoogle/enIn short, my idea is to add browsing by topic in Google search. The classification of the Internet would be made by each of the owners of content. This task would take a few minutes. Choose words and browse by subject at the same time would result in a search much more powerful and effective.

    Though my idea, Viagra from Pfizer is a site that would be classified in drug information site.  Any site that sells Viagra could be classified as a e-commerce site. Any attempt to classify a Viagra selling site as a drug information site will be denounced by the users.

  • http://twitter.com/vikastwittes Vikas Arora

    This is good update but not working rightly there is lots of mistakes in this algorithm. First need to modify then he should come again with this update :)

  • http://www.wordpressians.com/ WordPress Tricks

     Google is doing wrong in these days… Bing search market share shows it.

  • http://www.bloggertipsseotricks.com/ Mohammad Shadab

     We have seen many search queries in which Google shows unrelated sites in their search. I don’t think it’s panda is even 75% right.

  • http://twitter.com/lordofseo Lord of SEO

    That idiot cubed headed person has blown a massive reverse directed shit at both SEO’s who work on the eco-system of Google search and also people looking for relevant results. I monitor a ton of queries and see outdated articles popping up in front of sites with authority and great content and design even though they have been ‘over optimized’ the guy is a pillock!

  • abidsultan

    I don’t see penguin has done too good…there are so many websites affected by this update quite unfairly. One of my site is watchdailymovies.com which used to rank on 1st page for a popular term “Watch Online Movies” but after the update it has gone hell down in the rank to cross almost 200 results. There have been no such bad linking or related stuff on the site at all.

  • http://watchdailymovies.com/ Abid Sultan

    I don’t see penguin has done too good…there are so many websites affected
    by this update quite unfairly. One of my site is watchdailymovies.com
    which used to rank on 1st page for a popular term “Watch Online Movies”
    but after the update it has gone hell down in the rank to cross almost
    200 results. There have been no such bad linking or related stuff on the
    site at all.

  • William Margita

    By far this is one of the most complete post yet

    Ive been posting this info and it really is worth its own article

    do your own research


    There are 12 GOOGLE “board of directors”
    3 are formerly affiliated with AMAZON.

    L. John Doerr: previously a director of Amazon.com

    Ann Mather: previously Zappos.com which was aquired by Amazon.com in 2009

    K. Ram Shriram: served as Vice President of Business Development at Amazon.com

    On April 24th 2012  GOOGLE, which accounts for almost 70% of all online search, released the PENGUIN update.

    While they say it was a “webspam” update it was really the change that exposes their relationship with AMAZON and now sends all PORN and PRODUCT searches to AMAZON and it’s subsudiaries to include the IMDB.com and Zappos.

    Not only does AMAZON control the #1 ranking on GOOGLE for “books”, it is #1 for almost every english word from “jewelry boxes” to “XXX” and “sex toys”.

    COMPARE BING “xxx”
    to GOOGLE “xxx”

    Google goes to imdb.com owned by Amazon
    yet not found on Bing

    do same for “sex toys”

    or any product – I just use these to get peoples attention

    What Does This Mean?

    GOOGLE and AMAZON have cleverly manipulated you, the average person, into a direct buying path for basically every product in the world killing off their competition. Google controls 70% of all search online which now means AMAZON controls 70% of all online purchases. THAT’ IS ALOT OF MONEY!

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