I intend to keep doing that, but on the odd occasion when something big happens, I’ll make the occasional mid-month update as well (just like today).
In the last 2 weeks, Google rolled out 3 changes to their algorithm. The Google EMD (exact match domain) Update, Google Panda 20, and Google Penguin 3.
Many people have lost rankings because of these updates and many people have contacted me personally asking for a clarification about exactly what happened.
Where do my opinions, recommendations and thoughts come from?
While I don’t claim to have all the answers, I do immerse myself in SEO every day and I spend a huge amount of time studying every major Google algorithm update.
I own a huge number of websites that I monitor closely. In addition to these, I also have access to data from a large number of websites owned by my private 1 on 1 students (I obviously never reveal my students specific data, but I do take it into account when analyzing changes and making recommendations etc).
I monitor the performance of all these websites.
I look for patterns and trends and am constantly analyzing what’s working, and what’s not.
Let’s now take a look at what’s happened in the past couple of weeks…
September 28th, 2012: Google EMD Update
On Friday the 28th of September, Google announced it had just completed an EMD update targeted at reducing low quality exact match domains appearing high in the search results.
What Google are essentially trying to do with this update is to minimize the impact an exact match domain name has on getting top rankings.
For example, lets say you want to rank for the keyword “how to make coffee”, then a domain name such as “HowToMakeCoffee.com” would, until now, give you a boost in the rankings (it’d help you get rankings faster).
To a lesser extent, .org and .net domain names such as “HowToMakeCoffee.org” and “HowToMakeCoffee.net” would also help speed up getting top Google rankings.
This latest “EMD Update” will supposedly minimize the power of exact match domain names, essentially leveling the playing field.
I really doubt that Google has completely minimized the added power an exact match domain name has, but they’re definitely moving in that direction.
Results from My Own EMD Websites:
Up until now, I personally haven’t noticed ANY loss of rankings for any of my exact match domain names.
The example website I built for Authority Hybrid members (if you’re a member, you’ll know the site I’m talking about) is a “partial match” domain name and it has STILL got it’s top 10 ranking and I’ve done nothing to that site in months.
I’ve taken a look at several of my promotional product launch websites, and none of them have been hit either…here’s an example:
As you can see in the image above, at 11:51am on Monday 8th October, my website is STILL ranking number 1 in Google (I used PageWash.com to verify that ranking).
The key thing to remember is this:
Google is NOT penalizing exact match domain names. It’s simply trying to minimize the extra power they have.
When I’m launching new websites in the future, I’ll continue to leverage exact match domain names when I find good ones (such as BlueprintProBonus.com) are available.
September 27th, 2012: Google Panda 20
The Google “Panda 20” update actually started BEFORE the exact match domain update. Google didn’t announce it right away though, so no one actually knew about it until AFTER the EMD update.
This update is being referred to as “Panda 20” because it’s the 20th update of the Google Panda algorithm that’s been made in the past 18 months.
Here’s a timeline showing when each Google Panda update has been made, and how many websites have been affected each time:
- Panda Update 1, Feb. 24, 2011 (11.8% of queries; announced; English in US only)
- Panda Update 2, April 11, 2011 (2% of queries; announced; rolled out in English internationally)
- Panda Update 3, May 10, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
- Panda Update 4, June 16, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
- Panda Update 5, July 23, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
- Panda Update 6, Aug. 12, 2011 (6-9% of queries in many non-English languages; announced)
- Panda Update 7, Sept. 28, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
- Panda Update 8, Oct. 19, 2011 (about 2% of queries; belatedly confirmed)
- Panda Update 9, Nov. 18, 2011: (less than 1% of queries; announced)
- Panda Update 10, Jan. 18, 2012 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
- Panda Update 11, Feb. 27, 2012 (no change given; announced)
- Panda Update 12, March 23, 2012 (about 1.6% of queries impacted; announced)
- Panda Update 13, April 19, 2012 (no change given; belatedly revealed)
- Panda Update 14, April 27, 2012: (no change given; confirmed; first update within days of another)
- Panda Update 15, June 9, 2012: (1% of queries; belatedly announced)
- Panda Update 16, June 25, 2012: (about 1% of queries; announced)
- Panda Update 17, July 24, 2012:(about 1% of queries; announced)
- Panda Update 18, Aug. 20, 2012: (about 1% of queries; belatedly announced)
- Panda Update 19, Sept. 18, 2012: (less than 0.7% of queries; announced)
- Panda Update 20, Sep. 27, 2012 (2.4% English queries; belatedly announced)
To emphasize that this really was a pretty big algorithm update, I’ve highlighted the 3 biggest Panda updates we’ve had so far (in terms of how many websites ended up being affected). As you can see, this is the 3rd biggest Panda update ever, and the biggest since the 12th of August, 2011.
Aside from having a big impact on many websites, this Panda update is actually an algorithm change, not just a “refresh” (in the past it’s often just been a “refresh”).
What this means is that Google have changed the way Panda works, they having just hit a “refresh button”.
5th October, 2012: Google Penguin 3
On the 5th of October Google made it’s 3rd refresh of Google Penguin.
Here’s a timeline showing the Google Penguin changes made since April:
- Penguin 1: April 24, 2012 (3.1%)
- Penguin 2: May 26, 2012 (less than 0.1%)
- Penguin 3: Oct. 5, 2012 (0.3%)
Google (Matt Cutts) confirmed that Penguin 3 affects 0.3% of all search queries.
Because of the fallout caused by Google Panda 20, this update has largely flown “under the radar” and far fewer websites seem to have been hit by Google Penguin 3 compared to Google Panda 20.
If you have been hit by Penguin, then getting back to the top of the rankings is just a case of fixing your link ratio. You’ve probably been using the same anchor text too frequently or perhaps you need more links from relevant websites.
I now want to focus in on Google Panda 20, as this is what’s caused most of the issues in the past couple of weeks…
What Does Panda Target?
Google Panda is aimed at penalizing what Google deems to be “low quality” websites.
Sites that suffer usually have at least one of the following problems:
- Not enough content (thin websites)
- Too much advertising (too many ads in prominent places)
- Too many affiliate links (multiple affiliate links on every single page)
- Not enough social signals (Facebook likes etc)
- Extremely high bounce rate (people leave your site as soon as they arrive)
Unlike websites affected by Google Penguin, websites that lose rankings as a result of Panda seem to receive a penalty…it’s not a case of just fixing a few things and expecting your website to bounce back, websites hit by Panda seem to face a time penalty a well…
Generally speaking, websites don’t just bounce back from a Panda penalty. They typically struggle to get rankings for a long time. Unfortunately, I can’t recall many instances where websites have returned to the top of Google after being hit by Panda.
Google Panda Isn’t About Backlinks Or Link Building Methods
Google Panda has never really been about the types of links you’ve got, how you built those links, or the anchor text you’ve used. That’s Google Penguin.
If you’ve taken a hit due to Panda 20, it’s not about the way you’ve done your link building, it’s about how Google rates your website. More than anything else, it’s “on page” stuff.
The Damage Done By Google Panda 20…
While Google says this update affects 2.4% of all English queries, it actually impacts a much higher percentage of people who are involved in SEO though.
There are millions of search terms that people don’t bother doing SEO with and millions of people who own websites but don’t do any SEO to them. Remove all these keywords and websites, and the percentage of queries impacted will rise substantially.
I’ve read about many many people who’ve been affected and even some of my own students have lost rankings as a result of Google Panda 20.
The typical story I’m hearing is:
“My website was ranked #6 in Google, now it’s ranking #423”
The sad thing about all this is that many innocent people with QUALITY websites have been caught in the crossfire.
Since Google uses a robot to rank websites, it’s INEVITABLE that this happens.
Results From My Own Websites
My own network of authority sites have come through Panda 20 completely unscathed (for now…touch wood)…
I’ve got a large number of Adsense sites, eCommerce sites and Affiliate sites, they’ve ALL maintained their rankings and their income (thankfully!!!!).
Here are a couple of examples of different types of websites that’ve maintained their rankings and traffic:
The above is a StatCounter screenshot show traffic stats for an Adsense website. As you can see, traffic is steady at about 400 unique visitors per day.
The above stats are from an eCommerce website. Again, the traffic has maintained steady at about 50 visitors per day.
But I’ve seen websites similar to mine that have lost rankings though…so what’s the difference?
Why have some people’s websites suffered, while mine have survived?
I’ll talk more about that in just a second…but first before you can even think about that, you need to know WHY you’ve lost rankings.
Why Did Your Website Lose Rankings?
The very first thing you need to do is try to identify WHY you lost rankings.
Was it a result of the Google EMD update, Google Panda 20 or Google Penguin 3?
If you lost rankings and traffic on the 5th of October, then you’ve been hit by Google Penguin 3. If this is the case, refer to my May update to learn how to fix the problem.
Determining whether you were hit by the Google EMD update or the Panda 20 update isn’t as simple. It’s more complicated as these two updates have overlapped with one another (a deliberate ploy by Google…).
The graph below shows (very obviously) that a website was hit by Google Penguin:
The date the traffic dropped off perfectly coincided with when Google Penguin was initially released. Normally Google releases updates one at a time, which makes identifying the cause of a drop in rankings very easy.
Since there’s an overlap in algorithm changes this time around, it’s not as clear cut.
If you lost rankings/traffic somewhere around the 28th of September, then it was either caused by Google Panda 20 or the EMD update. If that’s the case, I recommend you ask yourself the following:
- Does your domain name include a keyword that you actively target on your homepage?
For example, lets say you run an eCommerce website and that you’re targeting the keyword “outdoor furniture” on your homepage. If your website is “OutdoorFurnitureWarehouse.com”, then chances are, you’ve been leveraging at least a little power from a partial match domain name and you could have been affected by the Google EMD update (but you could have also been affected by Googel Panda 20 as well!).
If however you target the keyword “outdoor furniture” on your homepage and your domain name is “FurnitureWarehouse.com”, then you’re not leveraging an exact match (or partial match) domain name and the only thing that could have affected you in the past couple of weeks is Google Panda 20.
If you think that you could have been hit by Google Panda 20, ask yourself the following:
- Does your website have too many ads/affiliate links?
- Have you placed too many ads/affiliate links in prominent places on your website (at the top)?
- How do visitors behave when they come to your site? Do most visitors leave your website immediately?
- Are you lacking Social Signals (Facebook Likes, Google +1’s etc)?
- Does your website lack quality content? Is your website a “thin website”?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then chances are that your website was a prime candidate to have been hit by Google Panda 20.
Perhaps You Have A GREAT Website That Was Caught In The Crossfire
It’s possible that your website is an excellent website.
It’s possible that your website is made in exactly the same way, following exactly the same methods as websites that have come through the recent Google changes unaffected.
If this is the case…then you’ve most likely just been unlucky. You’ve probably just got caught up in the crossfire.
If this is you, then believe me…I know how you feel…
I’ve been in your situation many many times and on countless occasions I’ve asked myself if internet marketing “really works” and if it’s “worth the effort”.
Thankfully, I’ve always held such a strong belief in internet marketing.
A belief that I could reach my dreams and thanks to that belief, when the times have gotten tough, I’ve just kept pushing on.
I’ve launched new websites, I’ve diversified the types of websites I build and the methods I use to make money online.
My Business Is FORCED To Grow…
By consistently and persistently “plugging away”, my business has been forced to grow.
There’s no fluke in this.
I simply removed the chance of failure by playing the “numbers game”.
I’m fully aware that not every single website I launch will be a “winner”, but I know that some will be successful and I’ve gotten good at stacking the odds in my favor.
I know that Google will continue to throw obstacles at me and other internet marketers from time to time, but by continuing to improve what I do, by continuing to evolve my business, and by continuing to diversify, I’m lowering the “risks” of taking a significant “Google hit” every single day.
Next step if you’ve lost rankings from Panda 20…
If you were one of the unlucky people that have lost rankings, if you’ve taken a hit, you NEED to get back up and move on.
If you’ve been hit by Panda 20 and have lost rankings as a result, I recommend you build new websites. You probably can overcome a Google Panda penalty with time, but it’s probably easier to just build a new website.
And if you haven’t lost rankings from any of these updates…
If you’ve come through these recent Google updates unscathed, don’t rest on your laurels.
If you’re building authority sites, do you best to provide REAL value to your visitors…but don’t ever assume that you’re 100% safe from algorithm changes as sometimes GOOD websites do get caught in the crossfire.
You NEED to keep expanding your business – that’s the best protection there is.
The more money making websites you own, the better position you’ll be in. The more diversity you’ve got in your business, the stronger it’ll be.
My gut feeling is that the vast majority of people who’ve lost rankings on authority sites in the past 10 days have been hit by Google Panda 20, not the EMD update.
In fact, I’m not even concerned about the EMD update…as long as you’ve got plenty of anchor text variation then it shouldn’t be an issue.
Google is a robot and it’s fickle.
Sometimes Google gets things wrong and quality websites suffer.
Remember that internet marketing is a numbers game, stack the odds in your favor and don’t put all your hopes and dreams on just a few websites. Continue to build them over time and your business will be forced to grow.
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