• http://communityseo.com/ CommunitySEO

    If we’ve had link penalties for some time, then doesn’t that mean negative SEO is possible?

    Seems to be a lot of cognitive dissonance on this topic where we all accept that Google can penalize a site for bad practices, and yet no one is willing to accept that anyone can create those bad practices offpage.

  • http://twitter.com/DanielDeceuster Daniel Deceuster

    “The goal of any algorithm update is to improve search results. So how’s Penguin been for Google?
    “It’s been a success from our standpoint,” Cutts said.”

    Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on a second. Matt Cutts has one job and one job only, to nail webspam, NOT to make the search results better. One might think like a PhD engineer does, logically, and say that if we identify more spam and penalize it, results will be better. WRONG!

    Based on Google’s new definition of spam, this update was a success, at least according to Matt Cutts. Think on a smaller scale. Suppose there are 100 spam sites out there. You try to classify them by what they have in common as best as humanly possible in an algorithm. Your algorithm identifies 80 spam sites. You compare what it identified to your list and 75 of those 80 are on the list. If I’m Matt Cutts, I would say that’s a pretty good success rate.

    And clearly this was the case since they have changed a lot since the update and allowed collateral damage to ask to be put back in Google’s good graces. They know that a small percentage of what Penguin identified as spam as in fact, not spam. So from Matt Cutt’s perspective, if you write a new algorithm and confirm that 98% of what it identifies as spam is in fact spam, you would say that’s a success.

    But making the search results better? C’mon Danny, that wasn’t the point of this update at all. Rand did a great explanation on Whiteboard+ on this. This was aimed at penalizing those who overly participated in spammy link practices. Their content may have been fantastic, but if their links were spammy, or too many of them were, they were gone. Again, as a PhD engineer might think, logically, this means the search results got better.

    But they didn’t! I know you compared Google’s results to Bing’s and said things were just fine. But what needed to happen is Google’s pre-Penguin results needed to be tested against post-Penguin results. Those of us who follow certain keywords closely supplied examples galore. The search results got worse, much worse in some instances. This update was not meant to improve search results, It was meant to penalize spam.

    Those of us who are not Phd’s and think with a little more common sense realize that nearly EVERYTHING online is spam, either in content or links. When you penalize some of it, something else takes its place. In this case, something with worse content. Why penalize the better content? It makes no sense, unless your sole job is to penalize those engaging in spammy practices. So what Google admitted with Penguin is they prefer content spam to link spam. If I have a great website with link spam and someone has a crappy website with no link spam, Google is saying the non-link spammer is more worthy of ranking. But that simply is not true.

    Matt is calling this a success because a high percentage of what was hit was what Google knew to be spam. They just needed an algorithm that caught it all. Unfortunately they missed a lot and caught some that wasn’t spam at all. But let’s not kid ourselves and say this was meant to improve search results. Surely they thought it would, but that’s not how things work.

  • http://www.documentarystorm.com/ Benjy

     Hi Danny, thank you for the excellent investigative journalism and interview! I’m at such a loss over my own website that maybe you could offer a word or two of insight? I bought documentarystorm.com 3 months ago and worked HARD on it with original content and features. Google started moving me up and up in the SERPs until I was first page for keywords like ‘documentaries.’  On April 27th the site suddently got a penalty and dropped. I’ve filed a Reconsideration Request, posted on Webmaster Central Forum, and consulted with SEO specialists. Nobody has any idea why my site would be hit. I think it’s worth pointing out that none of the other 1st page sites were hurt – even though my site is updated daily, has only legal content posted, and writes original text (things the other sites don’t do). I’m really at a loss here. Two theories: 1) I received some really highly quality links (without paying) like this one: http://brooklynhistory.org/blog/2012/05/08/brooklyn-documentaries/ but I don’t see how that would hurt the site. I thought it would be a POSITIVE that government and education websites are supporting the site with coverage and links. 2) I had an in-person meeting with a Google Adsense team who encouraged me to put another large banner above the fold. I voiced my concern about ‘top heavy ads’  but they said not to worry about it – and I was penalized a few days after putting it up.

    I’d really appreciate your opinion about documentarystorm.com
    Thank you in advance!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-McKirahan/1625907031 Scott McKirahan

    Well, it would really be conjecture on my part. I have had the same thought, though. I figured if the page doesn’t exist, how can the bad link hurt you anymore?

  • Will Spencer

    Penguin makes it amazingly easy to conduct negative SEO attacks.  All you have to do is aim a large number of links at your target — all using the same anchor text.

    This isn’t easy for brand names and highly competitive niches, but it is very easy when used against small businesses.

  • http://williamalvarez.com William Alvarez

    Just to make things clear at the very top of the article, Viagra dot com was indeed down on those weeks due to unrelated and regulatory matters. So, please do not attribute the Penguin update this issue. 

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Actually no, we don’t know that. And we don’t know that, because we haven’t have another Penguin Update yet.

    The assumption you’re making is that lots of people hit by Penguin 1.0 were involved in particular link networks, so that if you just fire links from those networks off at others, then Penguin 1.1 or 2.0 or whatever will take them out.

    However, what could happen is that once Google has taken out a link network and penalized those who were in it, then after that, the network it neutralized.

    Or perhaps you’re right. But we don’t know, as I said, until the next update.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Those with common sense don’t assume everything is spam, because it’s not. Google defines what spam is and isn’t, for its own search engine. 
    Those who follow particular keywords might indeed know that for those searches, things have gotten worse. I’ve said as much. No one, however, can definitively say that Google is better or worse. 

    The point of this update was to nail sites that had been getting away with web spam that hadn’t previously been caught, both link spam and content spam. Unless, of course, you don’t want to believe what Google says and prefer to believe what third-parties want to speculate on. That’s up to you.

    Matt’s job is to nail web spam in order to make search results better, to improve those results. That’s also common sense. Again, whether someone wants to believe if that worked is another thing.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Google didn’t say that incoming links can’t harm a site. They said they work hard to prevent this.

    What’s the site? It would sure be a lot easier to discuss it if we could see it. If it’s a legitimate grade A+ SEOmoz site (I had no idea they graded sites that way), then there shouldn’t be any issue showing it, right?

  • http://twitter.com/jennyhalasz Jenny Halasz

    Danny, thanks for taking the time to chat with Matt and try to extract some credible info. I am continually impressed by how well you handle the negative comments.

  • Psychobilly99

    Why is no one talking about the 301 redirect loophole? After Penguin, several sites entered the top ten on the strength of several aged domian redirects. How is that not spam?

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

    Google needs to stick this clown on the back burner and go hire a proper PR. If he’s a coder, then let the man code, he should not be the voice of the company. Thank god shareholders probably don’t spend a lot of time listening to him

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

    You won’t get an answer from Google for that lol they DO NOT CARE. This is the same with their cookie cutter automated emails, it simply redetects your link graph, if the links are still there you get the same message again. The only time they look at a site manually is when x number of spam reports are filed.

  • http://ericevansplumbing.com/ Click Here

    Danny, I would send you the URL privately, but I’m not going to post it on this forum.  If there is a way to send you a private message, let me know (twitter, FB, email or whatever).

    I did fill out Google’s form for reconsideration, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • http://ericevansplumbing.com/ Click Here

    Exaclty.  It ain’t hard to get some Xrummer or other spam links.  Some unsuspecting website owner gets blasted, Google re-runs Penquin and lo and behold, he’s off page 1 and on page 10.

  • http://ericevansplumbing.com/ Click Here

    They will deny that until the end of the earth!

  • http://ericevansplumbing.com/ Click Here

    Well said.

  • http://psdtomagento.com/ psd to magento

    I really have doubt I can recover my site now :(

    There are several microsites with almost duplicate contents and some of those copied from my site, I checked via dmca.com, google is ranking those sites well by getting rid off mine.

    My site was affected by panda, I did nothing, again it took its position, very well position, now penguin destroyed.

    checking this :http://searchengineland.com/impacted-by-googles-panda-update-google-asks-you-to-consider-this-76050

    I am bit worried about point #3

    I don’t have any microsites, but dmcs.com shows me, around 20 sites copied my content, I am not sure whether this is the reason. So I personally mailed them to remove my contents. 2 sites  having more than 80% same content already removed.

    I don’t know how come I get rewarded by google.

    I  won’t do anything, as I really don’t know what should I do after all, not sure which portion google does not like me as well.


  • hipec

    Yep Mike, I agree. I own over 50 sites myself, and damn near every one of my authority sites has tanked. This update was a disaster, and Matt Cutts is officially a piece of ____ for his lack of legitimate response to it.

    We estimate over 1 million websites were affected… thousands of business owners, thousands of employees fired… and now I see even MORE spam ranking in the results.

    Very, very poor decision by Google as a company. And Danny, I’m sorry, but anyone who agrees this update is a success is crazy :-x

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Comer/1019455009 Jon Comer

    Please reconcile Cutt’s logic for me, Danny.

    First he says that their spam algo was a success – so it successfully targeted sites with spam links.

    Then he said its hard to hurt someone else’s site with those same links.

    Then he said if you can’t remove these links and you continue to get hit with penguin updates you may have to get a new site.

    Matts is a smart guy. So are you. This is simple flawed logic in these statements.

    I’ll give you a personal example. I bought a premium domain (over 15k) 2 weeks before penguin. I put up webmaster tools on the site March 18th. An unnatural link notice appeared immediately.  Links tool had over 20k spam links (im assuming, as they are mostly to foreign language sites) that did not appear in any 3rd party link tracker software.  Now, what do I do? Do I invest a lot of money in building a site that might never rank or do I ditch it and get another domain?

    I can’t remove these links, heck I can’t even find them on the said sites.

  • Don Marks

    @ danny

    Would be nice to see some real tangible stuff instead of the usual semetrics, how can you honestly say that the results are “cleaner” when you do searches for payday loans, payday loan online, etc and see the Huge amount of spam “voted” to the first page…

    Really why is google not going after the low hanging fruit and the blog comment spam manipulation, this seems like the easiest target, but instead they are crushing those who play more in the middle

  • TheTruthHurtsDoesntIt

    Wait a second Matt. It’s extremely hard to negative SEO a site because it has antibodies yada yada… but then if only part of the site is ‘penguin-like’ then it can affect my whole site and I may have to start again? Suppose ‘some’ of my site has been negative SEO’d.. what you’re saying is that this could bring down my site?! I thought you said I had antibodies.. come on bro.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthewmarkey Matthew Markey

    Danny — what would you suggest to do to clean up a site? From what I understand, you’d say to get rid of bad backlinks. But what if that is too difficult to do? What are your thoughts on diluting backlinks?

  • hipec

    Wow you nailed it man… It’s quite clear Google prefers content spam over link spam now. My scraper sites are gaining in traffic, my authority sites still aren’t even in the top 100!

    Im about to just say F’ck Google and go full blackhat. I tried to play nice for 3 years, then my revenue ($300/day+) is wiped out overnight, along with several SEM clients ranking.

    Guess it’s time to brush the dust off the old auto-scrape spin WP poster I was coding 6 months ago when I decided to use quality content only.

    Full steam ahead, welcome back to 2003!

  • hipec

    Jon, we’re all in the same situation here. I honestly don’t see how Matt Cutts can look at anyone with a straight face and say these things… After literally millions of websites, some that have been there for 8+ years, vanished overnight.

    My whole business was wiped out. I’m not a black hatter, Ya I do grey hat… but I have always “played it safe”, not been an “ultimate spammer”.. but used blog networks etc.

    Looking back on it, I should’ve told Google to F’ck off a long time ago, and went full blackhat. Penguin is a great example of why you can NEVER trust Google to play fair with webmasters.

    Frankly, now is the best time for blackhat tactics that I’ve ever seen. I see sites ranking with nothing but Blog Network links and mass Blog comment spam! I guess the new way of making money is… spam 1,000,000 websites, instead of having a few quality sites. 

    No website is safe. Trust no one. The fact that Danny is still denying negative SEO should tell you something. This is a tag team boys, and we’re the losers. 

    Propagate us to think Negative SEO isn’t real, while at the same time penalizing sites that have the SAME links. It makes absolutely no logical sense. No PhD could have seriously made this update… sorry, but it’s impossible to overlook the most basic logical flaw in stating “Negative SEO doesn’t work” … and then saying “But we’ll penalize you if you build the links”.

    No one can prove who builds links to your site.

    Case closed.

    Negative SEO works.


  • hipec

    Yep EXACTLY. They took out the middle players… the elite guys on Payday loans… they cycle in a new domain every day. I keep CLOSE eyes on that SERP.

    I analyze those guys, I know their full backlink profile. I found their whole network and know exactly what they are doing.

    It’s ultimate manipulation…. and it’s exactly what I’m starting to do now :).

    Seems that Google is killed the Grey hat guys… Time to go full black.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I’d start by trying to remove any backlinks you think are a problem, at least try that first.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I think you need to back up. Was your site hit? If so, do you think it was because of negative SEO? Or is it more likely something else? You can do all this worrying about negative SEO, but that’s probably not your problem.

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

    It (Neg SEO) is a real issue in competitive verticals, big time. You can go to Fiverr.com right now and buy literally thousands of crap links for $5 and point them anywhere you choose.

    I’m not saying this works across the board, but it would definitely draw some heat and generate unnatural link notices in WMT (which have been proven to precede negative SERP movement in almost every case – including sites of mine that got the notice.)

    So, when you’re on the top of page 2 in a vertical where being top-fold on page 1 means an extra $5,000 per day – why on earth would you NOT spend $5 x 10 to blast the page-onners into oblivion? (Even if the effects are only temporary?)

    I’d agree that this is not a concern for *most* webmasters. But when you’re playing in the really lucrative markets… you can bet your ass it is.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Sure, it’s pretty easy Jon.

    You find a new network that you’ve never taken action against. You wipe all the people out in it. Kill the links from passing credit. Penalize the sites that were selling them and receiving them.

    Freak out time. OMG, I got penalized for links! Well then, what prevents me from buying links and hurting someone else. 

    What prevents it is that potentially going forward, Google doesn’t penalize future domains. That network is burned, and it no longer passes either credit or penalties to newcomers.

    That’s one exceptionally easy way you can do that.

    Now in your example, are you saying that you had all those links from negative SEO immediately after you bought the domain? 

    I think what you’re saying is, you bought a domain that appeared to be clean when you looked outside of Google’s own tools. When you registered, you discovered Google had spam links pointing at it. Important lesson right there for anyone: don’t buy domains until you’ve verified them against Google’s own tools.

    Next, I can’t tell if you plunged in Panda or not. It sounds like not, but that you’re worried about the warning. If you got a warning, do the reconsideration request — note that there are these links, that you can’t find them and see what you hear back.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Hipec, you’re wondering why you got hit with Penguin? I think the answer is “I do grey hat.” That’s not playing it safe. If it was playing it safe, it wouldn’t be grey.

    I also didn’t say negative SEO doesn’t work. I said — I keep repeatedly saying — that it probably isn’t an issue for most sites. More important, it almost certainly isn’t the reason why so many sites got hurt by Penguin.

    Rather, those sites mainly got hurt because of spam they were knowingly involved with. You got hit, correct? Do you think that’s because of negative SEO?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Thanks, much appreciated.

  • hipec

    Businesses do what gets results, Dan. The hippies don’t seem to understand.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PGVVINJUYNIJA6T3BRYNJLX7UM Neo

    Hi Danny, excellent article. I do have a relevant question regarding Penguin Penalty that I don’t think anyone has asked yet. I understand to get out of the Penguin Penalty, we should clean up the spam, fix keyword stuffing… etc etc. For now, let’s assume a role of average innocent webmasters out there where we had no idea what we did that triggered the penalty. If we know for sure that the spam we may have caused shouldn’t be huge amount. Will we be able to get out of the penguin penalty, not by cleaning up the spam but instead of getting more good contents, good back links, good social signals… etc etc. Can we neutralize the penalty by adding more positive signals instead of removing the bad ones that we may not have control over? Will google software be smart enough to let you off the hook one day if every single live person thinks your content is good? My gut instinct is telling me that it should but it would be nice to have confirmation from google.

    Will you ask Matt Cutts that question in the future when you get  a chance? Thank you sir. 

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I’ll try. But you should look to see if there’s any spam you can clean up.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Yes, they do. One of those businesses is Google. It makes changes like hitting people who do whatever they think they need to do to get results, in order to improve its own results.

    Bottom line. You seem to understand why you were hit by Google. You seem smart enough to know that negative SEO has nothing to do with it. And you seem happy enough to do whatever you think should be done regardless of Google’s guidelines.

    Looks like, in the end, Penguin did precisely what it was supposed to do, in your case.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    There’s a contact form on the site. You can use that. Click on my name. 

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    To clarify from your other comments here, you admit that you spam, because you figure that’s what needs to be done. Now you find that Penguin, which is targeting spam, hit damn near every one of your sites. Pretty much sounds like Matt’s team’s change did exactly as it was designed to do.

  • fitzgeraldalberto

    just as David implied I’m amazed that you able to make $5939 in a few weeks on the internet. did you see this web link===>>⇛►http://freelancer111.blogspot.com  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TIDMZQB3ZQ444V7PQOUCFFO2AM Rekha

    It was a nice post! But I find people those don’t have unethical things on their sites are also affected by this update. If they reconsider their website and clean up all things but still don’t get traffic or website rank back, so will it not be good for them to send the reconsideration request to Google instead of waiting the next Panda update?

  • http://twitter.com/antwakefield Ant Wakefield

    Most of my sites were hit by penguin on April 24th, 2012.

    Ranking drops were from 6 places to 200 + places. Lost about 50% of total traffic. Initially lost about 80% of traffic but it came back up after a few days after the 24th.

    These sites all have original content, written by native english speakers. Some of the sites are informational based, with adsense monetization. Some of these dropped out, others did not.

    The core money earners advertise eBay products via ebay’s partner network. They’re designed as niche stores, displaying the eBay products in different categories, and are updated with articles that cover different aspects of the niche that people may or may not be interested in!

    Here’s where it get’s interesting. Most of the sites were interlinked. I had footer links linking two or three sites together. Also affected was my personal site! I think i threw a few footer links to this site a few years back via a link exchange type program run by a popular internet marketer that i thought was a good idea. Perhaps it wasn’t. But now, my personal site doesn’t even rank for it’s name, and it’s an exact match, and as noted, i barely ever did any link building for it.

    I think the real reason my personal site was affected was that it linked to a few of my other interlinked properties. To me this points to Penguin looking at interlinked properties, and penalising or disabling backlinks within those networks. It wouldn’t take much to look at a net of sites and say ‘hey, these sites all connect to each other in some way’.

    I also ‘tried’ Build My Rank for a bit, but it didn’t product fantastic results and it felt spammy, So i stopped it. When BMR was taken out, i think i lost about 50 backlinks to a range of different sites.

    So, to sum it up…. Hit by penguin, had interlinked sites, some grey hat blog network links and some old footer links from some irrelevant sites. I’ve cleaned it up as much as possible, removed the interlinking, and performed some other misc. housecleaning duties.

    It’ll be interesting to see if the site’s improve.

    Thought you all might like a honest report! :)


  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FTS6PYNKQ6KKQAVCBZCLK36WAA Mukesh Gurrala

    This is my personal experience… My site was hit by penguin update which is a diaster to me, cuz I did participate in Link schemes and I built 1000 of low quality spamy back links(manually without using any software).

    The only way to recover from Google Penguin Update is

    1. First do a Health check for your site/blog like find out how many times targeted keyword phrases are repeated. (Leave about quality content cuz Search Bot does not what is quality content but it has the ability to find out bull shit spam content (no. of times keyword phrases are repeated), reduce the usage of keywords in keyword.

    2. Don’t over load the site with SEO optimization (like remove title tags for anchor texts, if u see from source code end, keyword is repeated twice.

    3. Now this is main part, if you built low quality backlinks, now try to build high quality links. Change the Anchor text while doing link building.

    Nearly it took 3 weeks for me to do all the above(I mentioned only a few), now my site is back in Google rankings, I’m very much HAPPY ..

  • newyorker_1

    I think that the point with Viagra case was not that Penguin caused it but rather that it did not fix it. If this was anti-spam update than having such terrible, spammy results indicates that update didn’t work. And I doubt it was fixed. There is still shady unranked pharmacy with Alexa rank of 3 million+ outranking official Viagra site.

  • http://www.gg2.net/ Garavi Gujarat

    Thank you sir, for sharing good information to us. i read your all post in searchengineland, i also read other blog in their comment i saw the peoples who said that they seemed to lose rankings only on certain pages, not for entire site. i also noticed that this update is not for whole site affected. this is my own experience, i also affected by penguin update and i lose some ranking on particular pages.

  • XiiTec IT Solutions

    Wow, so too much optimization is bad, I think this would put a lot of average SEOer out of business because unless you can get around google with your SEO or else its better off without. Interesting. BTW, http://www.xiitec.com is fully optimized, I guess I will have to un optimize it now. 

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

    Glad to know that sites can recover themselves
    after removing those bad links from their website. However, webmasters
    have now aware of the fact that SEO has become more demanding and
    challenging after all these updates. Now we need to ficus more on the
    quality of the content as well as the quality of the link. 

  • Denis Ayeng

    If you can hurt your own website.. You can do with anybody..

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

    Obviously, SEO is becoming more and more
    quality oriented. The best way to get rid of Penguin and Panda update is
    to create contents and websites for human visitors and not for
    mechanical search engines. User-satisfaction is something that Google is looking for.

  • http://www.seomasterexpert.com/ SEO India

    I read here articles about Penguin update. Read here comments. I want to know if someone penalized by Penguin traffic & ranks almost lost. 

    Now my question is If someone got unnatural link message in WMT how can they judge this link will be unnatural. Its may be 80K links in WMT. They are working from last 8 years created a link.

    If they have no access to delete unnatural link how can than delete now. Can he send a request to Google reconsideration or lost the website/rank.

    If Yes how much take time to Google clean all unnatural link. After that they will get again rank in Google or not or send a request again to reconsideration.


  • http://www.facebook.com/sam2san Sameer Ahamed Mulla

    Hi Mukesh,

    Would you offer Penguin Recovery as a service :) I’d be interested :D