Post Penguin - Live Case Study

| 17th May 2012

Last week I blogged about the effects of the new Google algorithm change known as the Penguin update.

The purpose of this update was too weed out overly spammy websites, the kind of site that had stuffed keywords everywhere, had lots of duplicate or scraped content that didn’t add any value and built let’s say an over enthusiastic amount of keyword rich Anchor Text backlinks.

Most of our websites and clients had fared really well after the change, some of these sites actually improved their visibility, however one of our own is proving to be a great test bed for how to recover.

The website concerned is

For the past 3 months or so the site had regularly been in the top 1 or 2 for the term ‘ornamental grasses’ and you can see the obvious reason why we would want to rank for that – because that’s what we sell!

Here’s a screenshot when the only site above us was the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)

ornamental grasses website ranking pre-penguin

and then……..we had the Penguin attack!

Now, remember that this update was to weed out (no pun intended!) spammy websites and this website was hit quite drastically.

First of all it fell to the bottom of the second page – from 2nd position, here a screenshot of some tracking software we used

the attack of the google penguin update

Disaster!! Well, yes and no.

Yes it looks bad, but it also gives us a great testing environment to see how we can can recover. After all, as an SEO agency our clients know that we can’t predict what Google is going to do from one minute to the next but they do expect us to learn about updates that happen and then be able to react in a positive way.

The other thing this allowed us to do was to look at some of the fundamental behind our site.

When we analysed our backlink profile using Majestic SEO we found that around 80% of the inbound links were using the Anchor Text “ornamental grasses” bearing in mind what this update was there to do I could understand how playing by the new rules this was seen as out of order.

We also looked at the site itself and because its a keyword rich domain name I guess this could’ve compounded matters but there’s not a lot I can do about that! The only thing I could do was make sure that the on page optimisation wasn’t over the top.

We also changed our link building strategy to more generic Anchor Text around general plant and garden terms and made sure that we built them to different pages in the site.

We also examined any site wide links that we had and changed these too.

I suspect it’s way to early to notice these changes actually having an effect but our positioning has changed but I think this is more to do with the general shake out of the Penguin update than the changes we’ve made so far to backlink and optimisation strategy.

This is where we stand at the moment and this raises another interesting issue.

How websites can be shown in different browsers on different machines regardless of whether you’re logged in or not! A few days ago we started to move up the second page to about position 14, then we had  a breather. A few days later we’d moved up to the bottom of page 1 as you can see by the screenshot below (using Firefox)

bottom of page 1 following penguin

I then checked using Internet Explorere and saw to my amazement the following

top of the pile post penguin

Are my eyes deceiving me?

We appear to be number 1 for the term! Persoanlly I don’t believe that, whether it’s Google bringing back some really personalised result or not I suspect this is not a natural ranking position but one thing’s for sure, things are changing.

I’ll come back to this in a couple of weeks and give you all an update on how things are going.

If you think you’ve been hit by Penguin then the first thing is don’t panic, but do look at your site honestly and ask yourself is it too spammy and what are my backlinks like.

Catch you all soon!