As Google rolled out the Penguin update many sites globally were affected by a so-called “penalty” effect wherein Top Rankings disappeared, and sites that did not disappear from the organic search results lost their positioning.
Was Everyone Affected?
Not really. Every site that lost its rankings was replaced by other sites which according to Google were not ‘Gaming’ the system. ‘Gaming,’ because the sites affected, suffered primarily because of the way they were optimized and how their links were built.
Does this mean that the way an affected site was promoted was bad?’ Let’s try to answer that with another question – Would this question been asked if that site had continued to enjoy top rankings?’
Here is what the Penguin Brought Along:
With the Penguin update, links that were given value and counted as a valid vote towards a website were treated to a much higher degree of evaluation. Backlinks pointing towards a site were also subjected to this. Being an algorithmic update, Penguin put every site through the test, and many sites lost their link sharing power as a result.
Wondering why your site lost its rankings? From all that is known about the Penguin update to date, lost rankings were mainly due to:
1. The value of backlinks pointing towards your site was deprecated.
2. Your site enjoyed ‘site-wide’ links from other sites.
3. The backlinks to your site were mainly for your main keywords (considered quite normal till the Penguin update came about, although your SEO Consultant should have warned you of the importance of having a wider keyword base to target and gain traffic from. In most cases, if you had a smaller list of keywords/anchor text, then you were party to the decision as larger lists are usually accompanied with larger costs.)
As of now, it appears that the main reasons for lost rankings are all ‘off-page.’ So that is where you must begin to investigate.
‘On-Page’ factors too have been mentioned as a probable cause, but in most cases, if your site was ‘okay’ for the on-page before the Penguin update, it is safe for that factor now as well.
What You Will Need When Investigating Reasons:
1. An extensive list of links pointing towards your site. Do-Follow links are what you need to worry about because no-follow links (even if they are site-wide backlinks) will not be the cause of any kind of a penalty.
2. A list of anchor text and their respective number.
What to Look for and Possible Corrective Measures:
1. Links from ‘banned’ sites: I don’t believe that the penalty for a link from a banned site is very high, unless you have links from a large number of banned sites like link / blog networks (you can however be affected by other kinds of penalties like those which are applied when a site is found to be participating in link-purchasing, etc.). In most cases, the worst effect of a minimal number of such banned links would be a drop in the link value that was shared with your site. Directories and content syndication site links too would not typically be very damaging, even if they are banned sites because the percentage of these would usually be very small.
2. Site Wide links: This is an important factor to investigate. If found, you need to either remove these links or, if they are important to you as a traffic source, covert them to ‘no-follow’ links.
3. Too many backlinks with the same anchor text: This should not have occurred in the first place, but if it has, then it is time to go about slowly creating a larger spread of keywords (you will only gain from it in the long run.)
Didn’t Find Anything From the Above?
This is bound to be the case for many websites and usually this would mean that many of the links which were until now sharing higher value/link-juice with your website have lost some or all of their value.
This is common, though it’s a case of misdirected anger. Such an update has been long coming and most SEO Consultants were expecting some kind of a change/modification. In my personal opinion it is best to investigate and correct factors which are ‘today’ considered as web-spam instead of blaming Google and praying for a change/roll-back soon.
Best of Luck!
Jasper King is an expert in the field of delivering Affordable SEO Services and a senior delivery manager at http://www.cheap-seo-packages.org