The Google Penguin Update 225 Comments
The Google Penguin Update

Recently Google released yet another change which is being referred to as the “Google Penguin” update. Sounds very cute, much like the friendly Google Panda…yeah right!!

In this post I want to discuss this latest update, and once again address some common concerns, as I seem to be getting a lot of worried people contacting me after their sites got hit hard by Google over the past few months.

So What is Google Penguin?

Penguin was an update to the Google algorithm that was released on the 24th of April, with intention of apparently penalizing sites for over-optimization, otherwise known as spamming. The first thing I want to say is that its early days, and no one knows exactly what this update was precisely targeting, but nonetheless I will do my best to share some insight, as I can happily say that I actually experienced a positive increase or no change across the board on all my websites after this update, and also after the latest Panda update which happened the week prior.

First off, we can start to get an understanding of this update by reading what Google officially states about it. If you read the Google Webmaster blog it says this:

“The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.”

OK so as you would expect Google doesn’t spell it out for everyone, but rather provides a very vague overview and focusses on their overall intention with the update. The key things that we can take from this statement I believe are “high quality sites” and “good user experience“, nothing we didn’t all know already, but who’s actually doing it is more to the point.

One can safely assume that this update, after reading the full Google blog post, was looking at keyword stuffing in content, as Google gives  a really over the top example of what this looks like. The example is a poor one, as that sort of keyword stuffing has been slapped by Google for years, so I guess it’s some level of more critical analysis of over use of keywords in your On Page SEO that this update was targeting. With that said, you might want to pay attention to how your content uses keywords and make it look natural. Golden rule for all SEO, make it look natural if it isn’t totally natural!!

The Good Old User Experience

I’ve been harping on about the user experience on this blog a fair bit over the past few months, and you guessed it, I’m going to continue to do so, as I keep seeing sites that get slapped by Google, where the webmasters are shocked and have no idea why. In most cases when I look at these sites, I can see glaringly obvious reasons, as the sites are clearly not designed for the user at all.

I want to also add this quote from Matt Cutts (head of Google Anti-Spam team):

“We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites. As always, we’ll keep our ears open for feedback on ways to iterate and improve our ranking algorithms toward that goal.”

…”even no optimization at all…” yeah right, and pigs may just fly one day too!

Also its important to note that Google Panda 3.5 was also rolled at a week prior to the Penguin update, around the 17th of April, so if you lost a significant amount of traffic around that date, then you were most likely ‘Pandalized’ rather than ‘Penguinalized!!!!’

Oh and let’s not forget the 750,000 unnatural backlink warning messages that Google sent out prior to these changes, warning webmasters to remove links that were acquired through unnatural means…what an interesting few months its been!

Google is on the Aggressive

Ok so it doesn’t take a genius to notice that Google is on the aggressive right now, trying their hardest to remove spam from the results and level the playing the field for SEO. I ‘ve never experienced this many changes so closely related than what we are seeing now.

One thing that I must say I find pretty frustrating is that Google tells us not to do much if any SEO, other than make your sites easier to crawl etc…and when it comes to offpage SEO they expect it to happen naturally. The problem for the small guys and gals doing web marketing is that it’s virtually impossible to get enough exposure in the first place so that other webmasters even know about our sites to even consider linking to you. Sure large brands don’t have to worry as they already have a following.

So I don’t think the playing field is that level when Google does the changes they make, but regardless we have to play by their rules as closely as we can, or pay the price of getting no traffic from Google.

So with that said, in light of all the carnage going on out there right now, here’s some suggestions that might help:

Build Sites that Don’t Look Optimized

If Google wants people to just blog away and build affiliate marketing sites or stores etc…without doing any significant SEO, then we really need to mimic this as closely as possible. If you take a look at a few dozen sites ranking in Google now for various keywords, ask yourself if you think they are doing careful On Page SEO or not.

It’s really not that hard to spot, just look at some of the titles of pages on sites and ask yourself if these look like they were written with the keyword in mind or the topic in mind. Of course you will see some junk that is ranking and ask yourself how this got there, but just overlook that as Google will remove the junk eventually, so don’t get caught up on that just focus on good quality yourself.

Also have a look at all the content on the sites and ask yourself if the topics were written with keywords in mind or with topics in mind. Of course if you want to get traffic to your sites, you really have to do keyword research, and then target these keywords, however do it as natural looking as you can, so you still target keywords but fly under the radar!

Create Sites that Will Naturally Get Good Signals

If you focus on building great quality sites, that your traffic will love, then they will naturally want to bookmark your site and share it on Facebook and Google Plus. Not only that though, they will most likely come back again and also search for your site in Google using the site name. Ideally you want your site to get a lot of searches for its name, as it’s a clear signal to Google that people like it. Other good signals are the time on your site, low bounce rate, high average page view etc…

The only way you stand any chance of getting these “good signals” happening on your site is if you actually have a good site, not rocket science really. The problem is that good sites take effort and time and a lot of people can’t be bothered, and instead continue to put up low quality thin sites, and try all sorts of things to dodge the Google bullets, but honestly it’s all a waste of time in the long run, trust me I’m speaking from experience.

Google are only going to roll out more and more updates like Penguin and Panda, who knows maybe the next one will be called “Google Poodle”, ha ha, then you can say your site was “Poodlized!!! In all seriousness though, the sooner you move towards managing less sites, and focussing on higher quality, and thinking about the user experience, that better you will do in Google.

Off Page SEO Can’t Hurt Your Sites…Or Can It?

Ok so here comes the bombshell, Google sent out all these unnatural link warning to webmasters over the past few months, and sites who got them experiences a drop in rankings. The result is that many webmasters frantically started to remove any links they thought Google might frown upon and then submit for a reconsideration. I assume many SEO companies got dropped by webmasters, only to be replaced by news ones who get on their high horse and claim they are pure whitehat SEO and all will go well if the webmaster is to choose them…I doubt it…no one is 100% whitehat.

So why is this a bombshell then? Well the obvious question is, “if low quality backlinks to your sites can harm them, can’t we all go out and build a bunch of low quality links to our competitors?”

My response to this used to be “No way, if Google allowed this it could well create total chaos online”

My response now is “I’m not sure anymore, and I am starting to think low quality links combined with a lack of good signals coming off your site may well cause problems for you!”

I don’t think these recent changes in regards to backlinks will cause widespread chaos by any means, the reason being that chaos, I assume, would mean the likes of Amazon could be taken down, or other well established authority brands. I don’t think will ever happen, as these kinds of sites have way too many good signals for Google to ditch them, and the same goes for much smaller, yet quality sites too.

So what about sites that are ranking well but don’t have many “good signals”, are these open for attack from this negative SEO? I can’t definitely say, but my assumption is that possibly yes, if the negative campaign against them is particularly nasty in nature and well planned out. I sincerely discourage anyone from getting involved in these tactics, as it’s not the way to win a battle, and we would all not like it if someone did it to us.

Avoid Obvious Forced Linking

I encourage people, if you are using forced link building, and I think most of us will have to, make sure you don’t use overly spammy links, such as mass auto-blog comments, profile links, very public blog networks etc…anything that is really obvious and easy for Google to spot as forced linking. Also do your best to create content and tools, anything that will increase the chances of people linking to you naturally.

Also if you create a decent following in your niche this will happen much more easily. I think the key is to use linking as much as you need to, to gain momentum, but don’t rely on forced linking only, otherwise your site will not look natural.


To close this post I want to leave this final thought, spend time analyzing high quality sites in various niches, and take notes on how they make the user experience a good one, and do your best to employ as many of these techniques on your own sites.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be super grateful if you would shar on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus below.


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64 Comments to The Google Penguin Update

  1. May 1, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    yea Google may be on the offensive, but they are simply doing massive carpet bombing – killing every man, woman, child, and animal in sight… including friendlies

    They dont know WTF to do so they just shake it up. Too bad with negative SEO now having more effect, that they are just going to multiply the amount of SPAM out there on the web

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Yes it is possible, but they are a billion dollar company, so I think its a tough stretch to say they don’t know what they are doing…

    Neo Reply:

    Just because they are a billion dollar company doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. It just means they know how to make a billion dollars. Do you think that automatically translates to they know how to run the perfect search engine? They don’t.

    There are sites right now ranking for competitive keywords that have been around for just a matter of weeks and clearly manipulate links and search results. If Google is so smart, why does this continue to happen? There are sites ranking with one sentence of content and one Google adsense block. So much for how smart they are.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Valid points Neo

    Tom Reply:

    I agree with Matt they do know what they are doing and I think it’s trying to make as many people as possible walk away in disgust.

    I have a large site that I’m building and part of it has recipes that I tweaked and gave a unique name. I wasn’t trying to rank for anything, I was just providing them for readers and for most I ranked #1 because the name was so unique. Now I don’t even rank for that.

    Carpet bombing is a good description of what is going on.

  2. May 1, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Thank You for this wonderful information about Google’s Penguin update. This helped me to make adjustments regarding my websites content. Keep those emails coming.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Good to hear Joseph

  3. May 1, 2012 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    I presume it has something to do with the updates, but one high quality review page at my site was ranking right under the vendor at #2 for 6 months.

    Now it’s gone.

    Other pages on my site referencing the vendor are on page 3 or 4, but the actual review page is nowhere to be found.

    The only possible reason I can think of is articles submitted to Article Samurai (blog network) which I have since unsubscribed from.


    Matt Carter Reply:

    Be careful not to make assumptions, you might have been slapped for your on page stuff…you need to look at the date your site dropped Reply:

    I don’t know what day it dropped – is there a way to find out?


    Matt Carter Reply:

    Analytics tracking

  4. May 1, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Excellent post Matt. I am new to this whole IM world and am trying to learn as much as possible in order to be successful. Do you have any advice for new sites to actually get people going to their site prior to ranking? I believe part of the ranking process is not just back links but also based on the people that come to your site, and the time they spend (as you said above). My problem is driving free traffic to my site, to assist in the ranking process as I get links, and do other off-page SEO.

  5. May 1, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the insight…
    According to Google I have a “clean” e-commerce website (one of six), PR4, 6 year old aged domain, did not get any nasty notes in webmaster tools stating I have bad links or any other violations of their guidelines.. etc etc etc .
    However since the 24th 2 of my major e-commerce sites have lost MAJOR traffic …
    I saw a newsletter stating that Matt Cutts publicly admitted that there was a “bug” in this update that could have an impact on sites that were not in violation.
    Not sure how this will shake out but if something does not change soon I will be out of business.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Thats no good Steven, hopefully they will fix it

  6. May 1, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I think a lot of people are worrying about this too much- there are updates far too often to get all upset. When the dust settles, we’ll see what happens- it’s all too up in the air at this point.

    In the meantime, optimize for Bing 🙂

  7. May 1, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Another well written article Matt, keep up the good work 🙂

  8. Alan's Gravatar Alan
    May 1, 2012 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt, what are your thoughts on some rumours going around that Google will make all page 1 sponsored links?

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Not sure Alan, I doubt they will do that, most people would stop using Google I think

    Greg Reply:

    Well it is almost that way now, with many searches being forced into displaying “local” results, so with Map, Places and Sponsored Ads, that more and more are only leaving 2 places for organic results above the fold.

    So much for a “pleasant user experience” that their last update penalised, for ads all above the fold.

    Google want you to be frustrated with the madness that their Maps/Places random selection lottery, so that you just go ahead and put your money on Sponsored ads and not seo.

    After all that is where they make their money. Time to pursue non-Google forms of traffic.

  9. May 1, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Nice information Matt. This proves that what we used to do in the past became history. People have to be updated regulatory.

  10. Tim's Gravatar Tim
    May 1, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the post Matt!!!

    I really do not think Google cares about quality articles or user experience. When you look at the top 10 on page one of Google, most times you do not see quality articles or user participation. Also, when you do research on topics, it is really hard to find current articles on the topic being researched. From my limited internet experience, writing quality articles that stimulates user experiences does not pay off in higher Google rankings.


    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Tim, I disagree, as I think quality articles allows you to get good signals, like the ones I mentioned in this post, but I do agree that Google are not there yet, as you’re right there is still a lot of junk ranking

  11. Brian De Den's Gravatar Brian De Den
    May 1, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Thanks Matt! I know you said you had another product coming out, I imagine something like SEOExpertsAcademy, any news on that?

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Might bring something out soon, just budy working on my own sites right now

  12. May 1, 2012 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Speaking of building sites that don’t look optimized, I just watched a Matt Cutts video about an hour ago on the relevancy of meta tags and keyword density. He basically said to forget about keyword density. Just be sure to include your keywords in your content, but don’t “optimize” for them. He also said Google (and no other search engine that he knows of) doesn’t even use the keyword meta tag so don’t even waste your time. I haven’t used it in years. So I have to ask, does the same go for WordPress tags?

    Cutts did say the description meta tag is important. He said if it’s crafted well, Google will use it. Else, they will include snippets of your content that includes the keywords that were searched on. I always try to remember to write a good description. My suggestion to people using plugins like the All In One SEO Pack is to turn off auto-generation of the description and write your own.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Great share Jenna

    I agree, I don’t worry about the meta stuff as much anymore, on descriptions and titles, not keywords

  13. May 1, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,

    I think you summary is one of the better ones out there. As you know there is a ton of speculation and conjecture about this last Penguin update, just as we were trying to make sense of the panda that came before it.

    What I don’t believe is the chatter in the forums about duplicate content getting slapped. This is simply not the case as I have a friend who has set up multiple autoblogs with scrapped content from rss feeds and she is ranking better than ever.

    Have you any thoughts on this?

  14. May 1, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I had 4 of my 22 websites fall off the first page of Google early last week. All of these websites I have built for local business owners, and while they are a bit thin, all of the links were built one at a time by me. All of these websites still rank on the first page of Yahoo/Bing… but nowhere on Google.

    I read on another website that we should contact Google and file a complaint if we have one. Do you think this would do any good?

  15. May 1, 2012 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt, I got “Penguined” on my main site, severely… however it seems to be crawling back up.

    Its a fine balance when using your targeted keywords. I know I’ve done posts that have included my keywords more than I would have liked, but in some cases it’s just ‘happened’.

    Funnily, after the Panda Update, my traffic increased… then I got hit hard with Penguin.

    Being that I haven’t been totally off the wall and the way things seem to be improving (traffic wise) I think things will ‘even’ out a bit as time goes on…. but it is hard not to panic at first… LOL… We just have to do our best and not throw in the towel at first hit.


  16. Mark S's Gravatar Mark S
    May 1, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    My main site hasn’t been affected by any of the past google changes and am on page 1 for many keyword strings and for the most part I use my keywords in my articles maybe 5 or 6 times in a thousand word article. My problem is I have a high bounce rate because I find that so many people are too lazy to read that much and think they should be able to get a books’ worth of information in 200 words. So I worry about the bounce rate. How would google judge this, if they could crawl every word on every page and see all the info I have they would do nothing but if all they did was look at bounce rate I will probably be in for some trouble. Thanks for all your info.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    I think you answered your own question, if people are too lazy to read that much, then its not a good user experience, so do the page differently

  17. Mike's Gravatar Mike
    May 1, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Hey Matt,

    Great Article, I had not heard of the factor about typing in a company name into the search being a ranking factor. I guess it makes it hard for those spammy sites with 5 dashes in them.

    Lucky enough my biggest clients name gets typed in a termendous amount, and one of my .org clients sites just went from number 5 on google to puuuuuufff. No one ever types his site name in.

    I know there is a ton of factors, that one just caught my eye.

    Keep up the great work.


  18. May 1, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Thanks Matt for always being on point and helping others. This business is harder because of the people trying to cut corners and spoiling it for the masses. Thanks to honest guys like yourself in leading down the right path!

  19. May 1, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for the rundown of what’s been going on. Indeed the SEO world has really been shaken up over the past year or so.

    It’s a good idea not to put all your eggs in one basket and to focus on other means of traffic generation.

  20. Tom's Gravatar Tom
    May 1, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink


    Great article as usual.

    Everyone of my sites were slapped, some so bad that I need a GPS to find them. All were unique content, none were thin sites and they are still moving around as I write this.

    I’ve got to admit none of it makes any sense, I even had two old auto blog sites that I had discarded long ago come back to life and are now second page. Needless to say though my traffic has been cut in half regardless.

    The magical question is just what is over optimazation? Keyword density of 1%, 2% or 3%, Keyword in description or interlinking your pages and posts. I really have no idea which way to procedd at this moment. Then again maybe that is just what Google wants.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    HI Tom

    I can’t give away what the exact secrets I have worked out, but if you read this post you should get the general idea of what you need to be doing. Rmember to put yourself in the shoes of your traffic!

    Tom Reply:

    I thought I was. One site that completely disappeared had a 53% bounce rate and a 2 minutes average time on site.

    Like I said stuff is still moving around and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of it come back.

  21. May 1, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    thanks for your time and effort on this and for not using this as an opportunity (like many other gurus will undoubtedly do) to immediately push their programs on a vulnerable and panicked IM community.
    I am still astounded though that my free wordpress blog that has a lot of forced linking is still doing well but the one thesis site I have (much more professional looking) got slapped with only having done one fivver gig (article marketing submission, no other linking).
    Do you think we should expect to see a lot more updates on Penguin in the days to come? I am still seeing weird results on the SERPs.
    Thanks Mark

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Mark

    I think we will see lots of changes to come in Google, I don’t think they will stop anytime soon until they accomplish their goal

  22. May 1, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    “if low quality backlinks to your sites can harm them, can’t we all go out and build a bunch of low quality links to our competitors?”

    My theory on this is that Google slapped sites silly that had a lot of blog network type links. We’re all in shock thinking, “But how can Google penalize you for links?? What if I just give them to my competitors now?!”

    Google was thinking ahead. They know people will think this. So they slapped people HARD that had blog network links from April 2012 and before. NOW if you get blog network links, my guess is that they will do little to NOTHING. They won’t harm you anymore. They will only do nothing. But previous to April 2012, they were considered harmful and hurt your rankings.

    Lets face it, anyone with a blog network link up until April 2012 was doing it for themselves. NOBODY was using them to hurt a competitor, because blog network links worked very well.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Possibly Phil, however I have read threads about people doing negative SEO on competitors sites and getting them destroyd in Google recently, Rand Fishkin even discussed this recently on SEO Moz

  23. May 1, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    We just had our biggest week for organic traffic. The answer for us seems to be “blog 4 times a week targeting 1 keyword each time, do this for 18 months, and instant success”.
    Thanks for all your valuable information!

  24. May 1, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Again Matt I will state the same opinion I stated with the last update…I believe this is just another attempt by Google to force Adwords and PPC down the little guy’s throat, if you want to get any significant traffic from Google going forward.

    Perhaps the mega sites like Amazon and others may escape the wrath, but for the rest of us I’m thinking natural SEO rankings are a thing of the past. The top spots and page 1 rankings will go to the highest bidders,

    Best regards,

    Steve H.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here Steve


  25. Daniel Calleja's Gravatar Daniel Calleja
    May 1, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Good article Matt and I you make some good points.

    With the recent de indexing of some very public blog networks do you suggest avoiding ALL blog networks all together or perhaps just stick with a couple who seem to have weathered the storm quite well and are still holding up well. Clearly a diversified strategy is key but would be interested to know if you still include blog networks at all in your back linking strategy as there may be some long term implications to doing so. Thanks DC

    Matt Carter Reply:

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I so still use some but only ones where the network owner is not the owner of all the domains also

  26. May 1, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Hi matt , thanks for the great reading ,
    i think google recent updates is more about over optimizatio n ,wether it is onpage or even offpage , google can know now if your site having an unnatural over optimization just from seeing your anchor texts , you see not everyone is smart enough to link to you using your main keyword in the anchor text .

    i think most of the drops in rankings these days is because of achor texts over optimization !

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Good point Aymen, I forgot to mention that in this post, but yeah over doing the anchor text is dangerous these days

  27. May 1, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,
    One of my sites was consistently ranking on the first page of google for about 18 months until the 25th. I cant find my site anywhere but my disclaimer is on page 8! I also found that there is very thin sites now on the first page with googles blogger ranking in position 5 and when you go to the site there is no content, just a blank page. I still think google has a long way to go in fixing this.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    WOw, yeah well that show that Google has some way to go, but I believe they will fix it, so still best to focus on good sites

  28. May 1, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    All my sites that were on page one of Google for their respective keyword phrases, have been demoted to the farthest reaches of cyberspace. What I have noticed after doing a lot of keyword searches is that most sites that have their keyword phrase as their domain name no longer show up in a search. I know that is true of mine. The only thing all my sites had in common were that their keyword phrase was the domain name. My main site had the No. 2 or 3 position in organic search for nearly 5 years now. It’s a content rich site that is updated once a week. I created it before I even knew what SEO was, so it wasn’t even optimized. I have one page of links that I have exchanged with other completely relevant sites. I have a lot of returning visitors. This site earned it place on page one. The last I checked it was at No. 232 which is better than where it was last week at 382. Somehow, however, I don’t think I’ll ever see it at No. 2 or 3 again and I really don’t know why except for the KW/domain connection. I’d be interested in knowing if anyone else can tie their demotion to the KW/domain link.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Thanks for your insights here Candee, very interesting

    Scott Reply:

    You may be on to something here Candee, my keyword was the domain name as well “howto…………”.info

  29. May 1, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Yup a couple of my sites got hit by the panda and penguin updates and lost a ton of traffic, but thankfully it also boosted my other sites so it kinda evened out. I didn’t see how I overoptimized my sites any differently from the others but google sure did. Thanks for the info.

  30. tom g's Gravatar tom g
    May 1, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I have been assaulted by site owners who could not beat my ranking so they killed me by putting links to my site on bad sites. They also submitted my site to bad link exchanges now my site is gets 0 traffic and they got my place in rank. It has become too hard to fix their sites so G made it easy for them to do this. It is easier to kill comp then fix a site!
    I also had issues w/ other sites stealing my original content photos and all. They got my rank with my own content!
    Now I just pretend there is no g and work on Bing and social media. I wont even look at my stats for G anymore.
    Last year I had to spend countless hours to fix my site to regain ranking after Panda. 4 times I did this so any profit was wasted for my time.
    I am thinking of just using robots.txt to block them altogether from even crawling my site. G sucks!

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Wow thats terrible Tom, sorry to hear that

  31. Steve Reh's Gravatar Steve Reh
    May 1, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Thankyou for a terrific post

    Yes it really makes sense to providevourvusers with good content and the best user experience we can give them

    Steve Reh

    Kenneth C Young Reply:

    Hi there Steve my question is just what is good content anyway?If Google wants us to build our websites based on good content well In my opinion over 90% of us will not be able to perform this task because of the fact of not knowing just exactly what to write about in the first place.


  32. May 1, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Matt, I really was waiting to hear from you in this regard. Normal searchers are not realizing what sort of silent revolution is taking place on internet in the recent times. I was researching with some affiliates sites i knew doing good business but they are no where near 10th pages after Penguin. Some even do not appear even if their domain name is typed. I am happy that your sites are penguin friendly because I direct my blog readers to your RapidProfitFormula. Keep Rocking…

  33. KBreeze's Gravatar KBreeze
    May 1, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    So what methods of link building would be best or safe would you think?

    Matt Carter Reply:

    GUest blogs, social links, some blog networks are ok just not ones where the blogs are all owned by the blog network owner, press releases, forum comment links…

  34. May 1, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    We have a lot of keywords on our website and a lot of in site backlinking. I hope this does not effect us because we currently rank number one in google for many of these keywords.

  35. May 1, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Matt Thanks.
    As a user of Google I have always hated the results that I get. I think it is getting better, but the junk that used to come up was plain discouraging when doing a search. So I do applaud this move.

    And it does seem to me that a good on-page site and a lot of good, appropriate back links should work to get it to the top. This is logical anyway, isn’t it.

    I don’t think the “pure” white hat techniques will hurt, but only help. When I say pure I mean links that actually pertain and are a natural part of searching the web.

    Am I wrong?

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Yes of course you’re right, its just not easy to compete at the moment with only whitehat tactics

  36. May 1, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I had the same reaction to the “even no search optimization at all” part, even before reading your reaction…seems highly unlikely that anyone would go that route and stop optimizing their sites. Anyway, great article.

  37. May 1, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt
    Interesting post. Sounds like google trying to squeeze the little business right out of the market. I haven’t notice a drop in google ranking but I’m not an affiliate marketer either. But my SEO has not always been white hat. If your a small business trying to rank it’s hard to beat out the big businesses that have a large budget to ear mark to ad words and marketing everyday.

  38. May 1, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,

    Great post as always.

    What I’d love to see is you go into a bit more detail with your comment, “make sure you don’t use overly spammy links, such as mass auto-blog comments, profile links, very public blog networks etc…anything that is really obvious and easy for Google to spot as forced linking. ”

    I’m not sure I or most people would be confident about what fell into this criteria. ie what about Jason Potash’s “Blog Content Buddy”, or Matt Callen’s “My Article Network”. Are these safe to use? How does a person decide?

    I believe these guys are ethical marketers but have their programs been Googleized?

    In closing I wonder what your thoughts are on using/buying keyword domain names anymore? Good, bad or dangerous?


    Matt Carter Reply:

    Every forced link has a risk, so nothing is safe, its up to you how much risk you think they carry, at the end of the day most of us do some level of forced linking and we take a risk doing so, its just how much risk and well you disguise it.

  39. Yalcin's Gravatar Yalcin
    May 1, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for your post.
    I was also hit very badly by this Penguin thing.
    I believe that the content on my site is of good quality. Almost all of my posts are 1000+ words ,written by good, native writers.
    I built the site(my first site) about 75 days ago and updated it at least 3 times a week.
    I was on the first page of Google for more than 1 month and rising up quickly for the other keywords.
    I never used spun content on my site or elsewhere to get backlinks.
    These are the possible reasons why my site was penalized:
    1. I used the same video in two different posts.
    2. I used the same image in two different posts.
    3. I used 2-3 different keywords in each post
    4. As my posts are usually 1000+ words long, I used too many H2 tags (6-8)
    Also I included my keywords in some of these H2 tags. For eaxample, if “Panasonic TC P55GT 30” is my keyword, my H2 tags follow like this:
    Panasonic TC P55GT 30 picture quality
    Panasonic TC P55GT 30 3D performance
    Panasonic TC P55GT 30 Design
    Internet/ Smart TV
    Pros and Cons
    5. I don’t use H3, H4,H5,H6 tags in my posts
    6. I don’t type my keywords in Italics or bold.

    7. At the bottom of each post I link to 6 Authority sites in my niche.The links are placed automaticaly directing to the same sites all the time, not to the different sites each time.I do this via a plugin called authority link mximizer
    8. Whenever I wrote a post I submitted it to about 15 popular Social bookmarking sites with the same title and description.
    9. I uploaded two of my articles to 8-10 doc sharing sites with my links inside
    10. I created a squidoo lens including 6 links targeting to the different pages in my site
    11. I submitted my site to 15-20 rss and directory sites.
    12. I used my main keyword in the tittle of 7-8 posts on my site.
    Which of these things do you think might have caused losing all my rankings?

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Yalcin

    I can’t do a site critique now, but at a glance, the way you used H2 tags isn’t great, looks over-optimized to me.


  40. May 1, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,
    As always Thanks for Your input. I just launched a new site in the last 6 weeks or so and have put my best effort into packing it with good content and trying to keep user experience as top priority. I am adding content to it every 3-4 days. In the past I have been using article marketing (UAW specifically) to begin my back-linking process.
    I just wanted to clarify for myself. Are you saying to begin to avoid this type of linking as it appears to Google to be forced or bought?
    Again Thanks for all the info. Been following you for some time now. Keep up the good work.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Kenneth

    Sounds like you are making a good start. As for UAW think its ok, just make sure you spin your content very well, no grammar errors and spin your anchor text a lot as well

  41. May 1, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Matt, that’s not an article it’s a full blown novel, you show your feelings in this one, we’ll just have to sit it out and see what Google does next. They may have their Panda tails between their legs.
    Who knows?

  42. Tom's Gravatar Tom
    May 1, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    it is not sites like Amazon which believe me Google will protect which will get destroyed. I had targeted a keyword in the education field where there was a site which was the practitioners website. They were number one in Google and I knocked them to number two. I remember thinking at the time this is not right. After the last update my site is gone. I can tell you that using negative SEO will take that practitioners site down as it wasn’t protected from me jumping over them for number one ranking. It is those sites which Google will not care about as Google’s whole concern is not “making sure quality sites are rewarded” it is making money. I actually think allowing negative SEO to happen will come back and bite them. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of sites may find themselves being bombarded with crappy links. I say good luck Google! I am now looking for alternative traffic sources.

  43. Marc's Gravatar Marc
    May 1, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Hi guys,

    I just wanted to let you know that after the Penguin update, most of my sites end up being on the top of page 1.. so i guess i can say that i’ve experienced great positive results…

    And i think i know why…. I have plenty of social signals that are backing my webpages that made it to the top… I have great reason to believe that social signals are now carrying more weight than backlinks… but off course, a healthy mix of both should save your sites 🙂

    Hope that helps!

  44. May 1, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    simple do your homework if you want to work online or have a solid business do the work eventually you will only have to beat a handful of people because the rest will be to lazy , to me this is what it all about

  45. May 1, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    This is interesting Matt, thanks for the heads up. Will now have to see how mt sites may have been affected.

  46. May 1, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,

    Your post is right on but I am worried that at the rate Google is updating they will soon run out of animals to name them after.

    I have noticed over the past year that heavy SEO optimization has not been working. In fact it is likely to get you tagged as a spam site. So I have been cutting back on it and it seems to be working.

    Most of my sites actually rose in the SERPS. Last week in the middle of it all I launched a new site focused more on the user than SEO and I am happy to say of the 25 keywords I am targeting 12 were on page1 and most of the rest on page 2 with a way to go on a few of the tougher ones but all in the top 100. So I believe Google is trying to reward sites that focus on quality.

    I try for quality and a good user experience. I have one large authority site I am working on and I don’t care if it takes a year for it to rank because I know when it does it will stay on top.

    As marketers we have to focus on the long term now, churning out crappy sites is not going to work. If people are too lazy to put the work into this then they should either outsource it or start looking for another line of work.

  47. May 1, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Cold comfort – or no comfort at all – to people who have built big, great-content sites and patiently built up their traffic and used no black hat or even gray hat but still are badly damaged as of a week ago. My authority site – lots of great content – lost half its traffic overnight – yet the gurus are all saying “Not much happened, folks” and “It didn’t hurt me – in fact, it helped.”

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Wow thats not cool at all….sorry to hear that…however from what you say its not only about having great content, its also about how that content is available to the traffic…without seeing your site I can’t tell how your setup is.

    JackieJ Reply:

    Though Matt Cutts trumpets on about “good content,” clearly good content is just part of the picture, and maybe just a small part.

    What’s the part of the iceberg Google isn’t revealing?

    All backlinking has become suspect. – is there such a thing as white hat now?

    It leaves you asking, how to move forward? Add more content – what’s the point?

  48. May 1, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt!

    Thanks for providing your take on the latest update. I agree that for someone trying to build their business honestly and ethically from the bottom up, it’s challenging. I guess once you get above the water it’s easy to navigate the ship. However, when you are underwater and trying to get to the top these updates can often times push you back down and some marketers get frustrated and give up. I think it’s an unintended consequence of the Google updates.

  49. May 1, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the information Matt. More on site articles with internal linking a good way to go?

  50. May 1, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I agree the latest move seems positive.

    I was done in the rankings with many of the keywords I had targeted being outside of the top 100 in the health sector which was starting to frustrate me.

    This week most of them are now in the top 10 – some on #2 but none yet on #1 ….

    Maybe I was doing something right afterall.

    This has got me more foicused again.

  51. May 1, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    As to this article I would like to know just what is a good website in the eyes of Google and if we have to build a good website page rank from blogging then here is one that will never get there as I cannot find anything worthwhile to write about on here.


  52. Paul Warner's Gravatar Paul Warner
    May 1, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I read this post, which was excellently written, and although I do not like the fact that Google rules the roost as to ranking sites, and I feel bad that maybe in some cases innocent people’s sites take a hit, I am of the firm belief, and I agree with what Google is doing.

    I am actually glad this is happening now as I am getting ready to do my own thing on the Internet, rather than have done it previously and tried out short cuts and other methods that I have now found out are wrong. In my opinion there is so much cheating and thievery that goes on, that I have little compassion for people who do this as a living and pass on to us the junk they try to lead us to believe is going to be the salvation of our lives. If nothing else it should cut down the emails that we get that promote programs and software that does not abide by Google’s criteria and hopefully we will see less junk on line.

    There is excellent advise on your blog and this along with others that I follow such Lisa Parmley, Hitesh, I think gives me the impetus to go about this confidently that I can build successful sites and make money.


  53. Ade's Gravatar Ade
    May 1, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Kind of makes a farce out of SEO as an activity if you now have to make your site look like it’s not SEO optimized….or rather the term SEO is defined and adapted by Google so can be changed with the press of their button.

    I wonder how professional SEO companies and people that provide this kind of service can actually run their business. It seems like their whole business model is built on sand.

  54. CS's Gravatar CS
    May 1, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Funny, how every Guru’s or even not the Guru types like you Matt, how their sites have NOT been affected by any of Google’s shifting in the past few months! The question is — Would you tell us if you WERE affected?!?!

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Of course I would and I have in the past in the Google Panda update over a year ago

  55. May 1, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,
    A few comments back Scot mentioned a blogger blog that was very highly ranked ~ he may have learned about this from the same blog I read. It was actually ranking on page 1 for the very compeitiove keyword “make money online” yet it had zero content, none, just a blank blog….. yet Google kept on page one for some time. I just checked today and it is now gone, perhaps Google caught wind of the fact that a lot of people were aware of its presence on page one.

  56. May 1, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink


    I am seventy years old and new to affiliate marketing. Since I started less than a year ago, there have been so many changes that I feel like I have had to go back to page one (a little joke there), and start all over many times. However, I am continuing to ride it out and not give up.

    Does anyone else remember the days of “Big Brother is Watching” with a sense of deja vu?

    Good luck to all.

  57. May 1, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    hey Matt!!!

    It look like my web gone, I was for year on first page of google on different keyword, always build manually links. People share my content, very high quality. So now gone. I follow your courses and other marketers so I belive I didnt do anything wrong. But what now? Give up on this page or build up links. What to do?

  58. May 1, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    That was a great piece. I appreciate you taking the time to address this issue. Could you tell me of any Affiliate site you know about that satisfy these Google updates? I see a lot of the same junk still up, I can’t. Tell who is right.

  59. May 1, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,

    Great Post! thanks for the continual updates and words of wisdom. I find it hard to believe in this day and age that people are still trying to rank PURE CRAP sites using all types of spammy techniques. I don’t see the value in getting a site ranked just to deliver a terrible user experience that must be a complete waste of the traffic to begin with.

    Thanks again for all you do!

  60. May 1, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks Matt for the update

  61. May 1, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt
    I have to say, this is one of the most informative posts that I have come across on all the recent changes, and I applaud you.
    Thank you for taking the time to share all your thoughts and ideas.
    Bottom-feeder websites that follow a pattern of low-quality content should be abolished, and i can understand Gs point of view in this regard.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Thanks Brian

  62. Bryan's Gravatar Bryan
    May 1, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    It’s not even funny anymore. My traffic has increased in the past 5 days by about 40%, but the increase came from the long-abandoned auto blogs! Many of my quality pages have lost rankings, and some sites are even nowhere to be found in serps.
    This makes me think that Google doesn’t really care about quality, nor do they have the ability to distinguish between really great and really bad pages. Those pages of mine that popped up back suddenly out of nowhere, only have a picture and a YouTube video, and no text! LOL! So much for the great quality.
    It does look like Google is making way for “big players’ to take top rankings. For instance, where I was able to rank on position 1 for a competitive travel term, beating Expedia, Travelocity and many others, I now can see only long established big players on page 1 with my site desperately hanging on there on page 5, going forward.
    Google’s algo has no human emotions, feelings, biases, perceptions, experience, and everything else that defines a human being, and, therefore, it simply can’t make a judgement on the quality of any given page. Google knows that, and that’s why it wants “authority” sites to dominate – and, it doesn’t matter that they don’t even cover the topic – they are a safe bet.
    One of my competitors is Their pages I am competing with have only a few lines of text, an image and 10 links to merchants’ sites. That’s it. As compared to my extensive coverage of the same topic, where I have a 2,000 word article with plenty of images, YouTube videos, and just a few affiliate links. I am hanging there on page 2 for the same term.
    So, no, quality doesn’t pay off, at least, not any more. The whole “penguin” update has been designed to shake things up and derail established affiliate sites just to show who is the boss.
    Finally, it’s been for quite some time that I have been able to find quality stuff on Google. Their results have been disappointing at best, and often frustrating. I have been researching a topic the other day, and all that I could get from Google was “authority pages” combined with crap pages that were nowhere close to what I was looking for. I had to switch over to Bing, where I found what I was looking for right away. This is not the first time I noticed that Bing is better at giving you what you are looking for, and I hope that people will finally turn to alternative search engines after they have had enough of Google’s updates and crappy results.


  63. May 1, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I understand where google thinks it’s coming from and I really enjoyed your article, however I have no idea where it’s going to.
    I am a google addict. I search for everything on the internet (I used to read encyclopaedia’s before google).

    Now when I google anything, I have to scroll through pages to find relevant content. I searched on something after advice from another blog – it returns the no1 website on google as a page where the only content on the blog is the word “something”.

    I googled how to update your computer to show a friend how easy it is. the top 3 searches included a post by Microsoft dated 2009. I think updating your computer has changed a bit since then. the top search didn’t even have vista in the instructions, let alone Windows 7.

    I want relevant, current up to date search returns when I search google, not what is currently happening after the panda update.

    Oh and yes, my website about my countertop convection oven got panned. Original content, original recipes, original photos and it’s not ranking at all after sitting in the top 10 for over a year. No messages from webmaster tools etc. I have a squidoo page pointing to it.

    However some website has 247 links to it and I’ve never even heard of the site.

  64. May 1, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink


    Not been here before and got sent an email with the link

    I’ve a couple of observations: One site that I’ve been asked to hit hard with backlinks for the last two months has been hit by a big reduction in traffic for long tail keywords and still retains rankings for competitive keywords like “oak bedroom furniture”

    The majority of other sites that I work on have had no significant reduction in rankings and in some cases gained rankings and traffic- the SEO on these is 90% white hat- I guess that nobody is really 100% white hat and what is the definition anyway?

    The sites that have retained rankings have all been worked on to add value through providing, hopefully, good content that users should find engaging with a small amount of backlinks generated to the content, mainly from Social Media type sites

    I do try, however to make on page SEO correct but I’m even now starting to doubt that I should do that. Many thanks- this really helped and I hope that I’ve added something to the melting pot

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About Matt

Hey, Matt here, I'm a full time Super Affiliate, 33 years old, and live in New Zealand with my wife and son.

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