Penguin 2.1 Panic Attacks

 In General

Google just announced that it’s released Penguin 2.1 via a tweet from Matt Cutts and already the teeth gnashing and consternation is pouring out from some quarters online.  That panic inevitably starts to spread to people that probably don’t know any better and the whole, “SEO is dead” craziness kicks off again.

First of all, if you’re seeing some movement in your rankings and you haven’t done any real link building, then what you’re seeing isn’t a reflection on your activities, but on those around you in the search results.  This is something that constantly is overlooked and misunderstood – the search engine results pages (SERPs) are an interconnected ecosystem.  When Google makes changes those things may have an impact on your site, but it also may have an impact on the pages belonging to other people as well and the net result you see in the SERPs is the outcome of that entire interplay.

Let me show you a couple of examples of this at work:

Penguin 2.1 Update Penguin 2.1 Update

Quickly, what you’re looking at are some search rankings for two different sites we work with.  The blue column represents a keyword’s position in the rankings for a particular page and the right column indicates the movement in that keyword in the last 24 hours.

The image on the left shows some rankings from one of our niche sites where the rankings since Penguin 2.1 have dropped a bit. Of the 59 keywords we’re currently tracking overnight we’ve have 17 go down and 9 go up. That’s a bit higher than normal activity, but here’s the thing. That is a relatively new site – less than three months old, 100% original, quality content in a niche we know a fair bit about and is largely recounting personal experiences. More importantly we’ve done abosolutely ZERO link building to this site – nothing.  It has some naturally occurring links, but we’re talking about a dozen or so.

The image on the right shows some rankings from one of our private clients.  We do their content marketing for them, but I know for a fact that they also go out and buy links and I’m sure that sometimes they’re not the best links.  Again, we’re seeing higher than normal variation in their rankings overnight with 12 keywords jumping up and 6 going down (very small drops), so 18 of 39 keywords tracked moved.  This client is a very competitive niche and it is very lucrative for them – six figure type numbers.

So what we’re seeing here is the playing out of a wider scale set of changes – in our site’s case, we’ve had some minor movement down probably as a result of natural variation, but also because some of our competitors for those keywords got some positive love from Google after this Penguin 2.1 update because there was nothing with that site to negatively impact our rankings.  Conversely, our client’s site may be seeing some of their links get a positive bump but more likely, we’re seeing some of their competitors who are doing some aggressive link building taking a hit.  It’s the interplay of everyone’s results!

The second thing I want to talk a bit about is the inevitable deluge of “SEO is Dead” tripe that will no doubt start flooding the various online forums and chat groups in the next day or two.  Simply put, ignore it. I’ve said it before many times, the people who around screaming this kind of stuff always have an agenda and for the most part have no idea what they’re talking about anyway.  Google’s organic search traffic is the single largest referrer of traffic on the internet, that hasn’t changed so how can SEO be dead?

Finally, I’m going to touch on the agenda I mentioned above.  It was almost comical last week when Google announced their “Hummingbird” update how within hours there were people selling info products on how to do SEO in the new world post-Hummingbird.  I saw one person actually talking about it like an expert and they were spelling Hummingbird incorrectly.  What’s dead is crappy automated backlinking and spammy tactics those people were trying to sell you, so yeah, their SEO is dead, but I bet you a dollar that they’ll now be selling you something else that promises instant traffic and money for free.  Steer clear of these people.

Like everything in life, take what you read or are told with a grain of salt.

I’d really like to hear about what you’re seeing on your sites – did you get a rankings bump or take a hit?  Did these latest changes help or hurt your site?  Go below and leave a comment!


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