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A Few Things I’ve Learned About SEO, Panda and Penguin

Over the past few months I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride when it comes to my Costa Rica SEO efforts. Everything from Panda and Penguin updates to manual reviews and the Google sandbox.

I realize there are many SEOs out there that will dispute the existence of the Google sandbox but I can tell that without a doubt it exists – I’ve been in it.

Back in March and then again in May, there were a wave of “inorganic linking” messages being reported from Google Webmaster accounts all around the world. Some advice was to simply ignore it because it was a fishing tactic by Google to find people who could help them expose linking networks and other private blog networks.

google penguin update2 285x300 A Few Things Ive Learned About SEO, Panda and Penguin

It worked!

Hundreds, if not thousands, of webmasters and SEOs around the world flooded reconsideration lines at Google hoping to recover from the sandbox that resulted in simply ignoring these emails. I know because I myself was one of them. And let me tell you that once you’re in the s**thouse with Google it’s going to be a rough and rocky road to recovery.

Actually, some other advice I received was to simply write-off the sandboxed domains because Google is notorious for making you jump through as many hoops as humanly possible (and some not so humanly possible) to only continue rejecting your reconsideration requests.

It’s funny because I can associate the whole Google sandbox/reconsideration process to the Costa Rican legal process – if you weren’t crazy going in, you’ll certainly be coming out.

The light in all of this however was worth what I went through to get to this point where I am now…

My biggest discovery was the strategy I implemented in order to recover from a Google manual review and subsequent punishment (IE: sandbox). This was a hair pulling event let me tell you. (read more about this here)

Penguin is a sort of side plate to an algorithmic change per se like Panda for example. It is not a full-on update but instead is turned on and off at Google’s discretion rather than a full algo update that remains live 24/7. This new menace is designed specifically to find inorganic linking through link farms, private networks and anything else designed to game their rankings. And what happens when this is run? Well web sites are evaluated on
So what does a punishment get you? Well this is a loaded question really because there are a variety of different forms, and durations, of punishments laid on by Google. However it is in my own personal experience that they are as follows…a particular graded scale and if your site exceeds the allowable limit of inorganic linking and obvious paid links…you’re going to get punished.
  • Manual review punishment – this form is the most severe. This is the one you want to avoid at all costs. Once Google has been given reason to have a real human being review YOUR site out of the billions on the Net…you’ve got to know you’re in deep trouble.

    The recovery from a manual review can last anywhere from a minimum of 3 months (given you weren’t unfairly punished) to the foreseeable future. Even if you manage to convince Google that you’ve done all in your power to remedy the situation, they will still drip feed you back in to the SERPs that could take up to 6 months.

  • Panda punch – this was an algorithmic update that targets low quality content with it’s patented verification method for discovering low quality and duplicate content. Many articles submission sites felt the wrath of the Panda. This update was received – for the most part – favorably by many SEOs because it was a step in the right direction to cleaning up the Net of rubbish spun duplicate content. A slap from the Kungfu Panda won’t last long should you show a concerted effort to improve the content you’re putting out there.

    There is also the belief that Panda (to a point) will be also influenced by bad link neighborhoods. However in my experience a recovery from Panda is for the most part, easy enough with a few QUALITY content releases and some relevant to your niche homepage backlinks (not blog comments or trackbacks).

  • Penguin purity punishment – the Penguin update was interesting in that Google showed it’s vulnerable to updates they perform and Penguin was a great example. When Penguin was first introduced in April of this year, it had the biggest impact of any update before it. This is because for years SEO agencies were utilizing what is now classified as SPAMMY blog comments and trackbacks to game the big G – and even if your SEO of five years ago did some shady linking to your site, you likely got punished during Penguin.

    But Google themselves weren’t entirely sold on the ability of their recently concoction – they provide a “feedback form” for those who felt the update wrongly targeted them. This flightless bird took no prisoners and the world of SEO was turned on it’s head overnight with sites dropping from existence - PAGE 1 to PAGE 10,11,12,13…well you get the point. They were buried.

    As far as recovery and the time it could take – it is in my experience that you can expect anywhere between 2-3 months. But if you receive the “inorganic links detected” message in GWT then you’d be wise to respond and do your best to show Google that you want to correct the matter before they move ahead and manually review your site and complicate matters even more.

    It is my suggestion to do what you can to clean up the inorganic/spammy links before responding to the message so you can show them you are indeed willing to comply and want to cooperate in correcting the situation.

Another side effect from the Penguin update in particular was that it opened the doors wide to negative SEO. Google has repeatedly stated that they will not permit themselves to become vulnerable to sabotage tactics from one competitor to another. In other words they say there is no way for one SEO/webmaster to harm another.

This is not “entirely” accurate. Now with Penguin punishing people for inorganic linking, this leaves us in a vulnerable position with respect to competitors. Imagine – you’ve done everything in your power – produced great content, forged lasting relationships from authority sites and done it all by the book – then along comes a newcomer who’s tired of seeing you dominate the top rankings and secretly hires a shady SEO group to perform negative SEO on your site. Before you know it you’ve got 1000s of bad/spammy links from less than desirable places.

How can Google tell the difference between negative SEO and just plain bad SEO? I assure you that it doesn’t take much these days to sabotage a site and bury it in Google red tape.

Of course the best route for anyone would be to fly under the radar of Google by following their webmaster guidelines to a “T” but then again…the reality is we need to run along that fine line in order to edge our competitors so I guess it’s more accurate to say…


BE CAREFUL!


Until next time folks…take care and I wish you all a prosperous 2012 as we head in to the busy season for most of us.

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