Wow. A lot happens when you decide to get a life beyond the QWERTY board and actually, oh…I dunno – enjoy your family and XBox 360 (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has held a bit too much of my attention, and I still stink at it).
So here’s the down-low: I’ve been offline and not working for the better part of 2012. It’s May 3rd as I write this. I had no idea what an arctic bird had to do with my business, but apparently a beast from yore called the dread Google Penguin has caused such an uproar I decided to check my own analytics…
And confirmed without a doubt that Panda’s cousin, the Penguin, has paid my business a visit.
Of course if you’re Matt Cutts, you’re smiling since you think you’ve done your job or something.
Honestly I can’t fault Matt and his team (is he even running the webspam team these days?).
They actually get paid to do a job, but here’s what hurts in my case:
Where my biggest earning site used to dominate all its keywords for various product terms – and yes I delivered on content, or at least I used to think so – now I see:
1) The manufacturer at #1. Fair enough. I used to out-rank them, though. I don’t think they minded since I sold their products just fine, thank you.
2) A blank URL. WTF, Google?
I get replaced by a parked domain? Really, now. I take back what I said about Cutts and his team doing their jobs.
3-4) Not one, but two YouTube videos. I didn’t bother to actually watch them, maybe I ought to.
5) Some corporate e-zine of some sort that actually has a place in the top rankings: can’t complain on that one.
6) The nutsack (what? peanuts I mean) that scraped my entire site and copied my theme, then lamely rewrote my content but kept my layout and that I reported to Google last year around this time…yeah. That sack of peanuts…
I have other fun words to throw out but nutsack does the job. Anyway, ol’ peanut man is at 4.
Hear me, Matt? I complained at Google’s webspam team form thingy – lots of good that’s apparently done – a year ago. Guy disappeared for a minute and now? Why, boy howdie: he’s back in black.
7) Amazon. OK. Fine.
6-10) Various vagabonds and drivel. No, really: drivel.
Comparing those results with my content, I’m left wondering the following:
Conclusions and Questions Penguin Raised for my Affiliate Marketing Business
(OK…more questions than conclusions.)
1) Since when did I think taking 5 months off was a good idea? That was fun, really…but silly.
2) Google who?
No, really now – Google who?
I’ve written Duct Tape SEO. I banked on Google’s free traffic – but they didn’t owe it to me. They never owed it to me.
And honestly, since everything rides on an impersonal algorithm, why on earth have I depended on them so much?
So right now, in the middle of about to actually working again (getting ready for my daughter’s graduation from high school has kept me occupied…and so has my XBox)…here I discover that my #1 source of traffic has done it again, like they have every year since I’ve started in this business:
Google jacked the algorithm so much that I’m optimized for a dinosaur that doesn’t exist.
So you know what? I’m moving on.
How, you ask? Well, I would say how but I want to save that one for my results post (i.e.: I have ideas but haven’t implemented them yet, so why even talk about it all until I have something to show for it?).
Great Posts on Penguin
I have to admit this isn’t much of a “solution-oriented” post. I really wanted to come out swinging with “Life’s great and the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades” post, or at least a “this is how to deal with Google post-Penguin,” but I’m an honest feller and don’t want to claim I have answers when right now I have a lot of questions myself.
But there are some really great posts on Penguin you should read. These are a few I’ve enjoyed lately:
That post is from a blog article emailed to Matt Callen’s email list, which I thought I’d unsubbed from long ago but happy to find this article from it. Kudos to Matt, that was a good one.
Here’s a few from (surprise, surprise!) SEOMoz, where you really ought to be getting SEO advice from anyway (at least one main place to gorge thyself on SEO goodness)…
This first article is a great post, with the QOTD, nay, QOTMFY (Quote of the [keeping it G-rated here] Year) – said quote reads thus:
Given the overlapping timelines, this advice applies to any Google update, and not just Penguin. The algorithm is changing constantly (Google reported 516 changes in 2010, and that rate seems to be accelerating), and I want to give you the tools to survive not just Penguin, but Zebra, Skunk, Orca, and any other black-and-white animals Google can ruin…
Oh hellsyeah my inner nerd just exploded in a belly laugh at that one…”and any other black-and-white animals Google can ruin…”
Quote comes from this piece:
Since this update concerns webspam or link-spamming, here’s a piece on how to build links post-Penguin (which could’ve been written pre-Penguin since whitehat rules haven’t changed too much):
Finally, here’s a piece referenced by the first SEOMoz article by Danny Sullivan. It was written shortly after Penguin launched so it may be old news to you if you read Search Engine Land often:
With Panda and Penguin, On and Off-Page SEO are Changed
Hopefully you remember what Panda was about – primarily it was concerned with on-page or content-based metrics. In other words, your content that was the best for “blue widgets” needed to be the canonical page on your site for “blue widgets.”
Duplicate or thin content should be weeded out and either removed or de-indexed, considering the Panda update – and your site content should be authoritative on whatever the subject is you’re publishing on.
If you want a quick refresher on Panda, read this:
What’s my point?
Panda was focused on your content. It needs to be up to snuff, and if you want it to rank, it should be the cream of the crop for your topic.
Which is why, in CJ Tactics, I mention how you ought to publish for topics you actually know and care about.
Panda is concerned with on-page SEO…
Penguin, on the other hand, is concerned with off-page SEO…
Your link profile. Do you have:
Links from relevant sources to your topic?
Backlinks with a good amount of anchor text variety?
If you read the first article I linked to above, and I suggest you read them all, you’ll get a good feel for a live field-test that can backup what I’m saying (although I have to admit that I haven’t tested anything on Penguin yet, BUT I can tell you that what they’re saying in that article correlates really well to what I’m seeing in my small network of sites).
So with these two updates, Google’s war on SEO (or whatever else you want to call it) is focusing on both horns of SEO: your content and your backlinks.
Which brings me to my own conclusions – and consider this carefully since I am admitting that I’ve been living life apart from my business lately (read: I haven’t been working this year yet, this has been a rude awakening)…
My Own SEO Plan
Remember when I said, “Google who?” up there?
Part of my plan is not to worry so much about Google moving forward. Last I checked, McDonald’s was still in business. So was Disney. Same with Carnival Cruises and Marvel Comics.
If Google died today, all these businesses would still be in business.
Is that true for you? It’s not for me, yet.
I started this year talking about how I planned on getting traffic from various sources, apart from Google.
What I mean is I don’t plan on submitting links the way I was taught at Elance long ago (if 2009 was all that long ago)…
I don’t plan on automation by and large.
I don’t plan on submitting the types of links Google’s taking aim at, and I have to admit that it’s back to the drawing board…
What do I need to draw?
Well – a marketing plan that gets results, is streamlined and doesn’t depend on Matt Cutts not having bad gas.
I have no idea if Matt has bad gas, but I’m just saying that when the webspam team floats an air biscuit, I don’t want to be downwind anymore.
When I have something concrete to say, with results, I’ll come out and report what I’ve found. Until then, I’m separating from Google. The divorce isn’t final in my case yet.
My plan is simple:
- Wait. Google slaps pages and often they bounce back after a month or less. If nothing changes, then…
- Compare my lost pages to what’s taken their place in the SERPs…
- Try to emulate what I see. That may mean simply adding more quality links, getting more social links, etc.
- Find other viable traffic sources, apart from Google. Classified ads, PPC ads on Facebook (maybe I’ll buy some AdWords but not likely considering), YouTube even though Google owns them, Pinterest, guest posting…
- Streamline what works, jettison what doesn’t.
- Oh, thought I should mention this: take a critical hammer to my entire business. I am really going to be asking myself the hard questions like, “Do you really think this should be #1 for these keywords, or are you kidding yourself?” (I know: common sense.)
Just a quick follow-up on #6 there – scrutinizing my own content…
I plan on doing that with link-building as well. If it’s not a relevant and quality link, do I want to bother anymore?
And yes, I will experiment before saying “this or that doesn’t work anymore.” So until I verify these things myself, I can’t say for a fact what works and what doesn’t.
After testing these tools I’ve been using for 3 years now, I plan on publishing an honest expose on whatever I find, whether good or bad.
It may mean I make even less money in the IM niche than I do now (is that even possible? :) We’ll see)…but that’s OK.
The SEO and affiliate marketing industry’s changed. What used to work all of a sudden doesn’t, and I’m not sure what’s what personally. Time to experiment.
You’ll hear from me on what does and doesn’t work, bank on that.
I’ve Lost Traffic and Sales from Penguin – What About You?
So yes, I’ve lost a lot of traffic because I got 90% of my traffic from Google rankings and had links that Penguin didn’t like…I blame all that on my education at Elance when I first started out in this business.
Guest posting, by the way, seems more of a viable option than ever before, as does getting serious about networking.
(So much for my secret plans…)
What about you?
Have you been hit?
What are you going to do about it?
Have you done it all according to the rules and still got slapped? Would love to hear from you.
Until I have something actionable you can benefit from (i.e. I have tested and proven what works and what doesn’t for myself), I’m going to be in my content and marketing cave.
But weigh in – how are you doing with the dread Google Penguin from hither, thither and yon?
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