We recently did an audit of a prospects SEO issues and how Penguin 2.0 affected their business. We put together a Penguin 2.0 Recovery Action Plan for them.
Again, we’ll hide any specific client-related information, but the following is our actual thoughts on how Penguin 2.0 impacted their business and how a Penguin 2.0 Recovery Action Plan would look like to them.
Initial Impressions: We’re not 100% sure how much the site was influenced by Penguin 2.0.
Penguin 2.0 rolled out on May 22nd. If you look at non-paid search traffic as an advanced segment in Google Analytics you’ll see that they didn’t see a drop in traffic (outside of the usual weekend dip) until the 28th:
From what we’ve seen from 1.0 and 2.0, Penguin hits right away. The fact that there was a massive drop a week later suggests that it might have been a Google Dance, another penalty that they did not announce or an unnatural links warning-related penalty.
Also, organic traffic has somewhat recovered and has been bouncing around:
Again, this is not 100% consistent with Penguin 2.0.
That being said, Penguin 2.0 was VERY different than 1.0. From our research and talks with other companies, Penguin 2.0 was a devaluation of certain links. Unless you were going crazy with over-optimized anchor text and spammy links (basically ignoring Penguin 1.0) you weren’t hit with a penalty.
So it’s possible that the slight dip the site saw immediately after May 22nd was a link devaluation. And that may be why the organic traffic is still lower than it was before.
And the huge valley from May 29th to June 10th may have been an indexing issue. It’s rare for a site to go from 50 visitors to almost zero and then suddenly come back. The only times I’ve seen that is if Googlebot can’t access the site…and then suddenly can when the problem is fixed. This can also happen with a Google Dance, although that’s usually reserved for new sites.
Bottom Line: When you compare organic traffic from the last 2-weeks to the 2-weeks before Penguin 2.0, it’s down about 30%. That suggests that some of their links were devalued from Penguin rather than an outright penalty.
The first thing we usually look at is the number of referring domains. The natural pattern that Google likes to see is a slow upward trend. A sudden spike one way or the other usually suggests something fishy. And in the case of this site, their links took a nosedive since the beginning of March:
That usually happens because shady links simply don’t tend to last long (domains get deindexed/deleted, web directories break and go down etc.).
This could also explain the traffic drop. Even if Google didn’t devalue their links, this negative link velocity sends Google the message that the site is losing popularity.
The next thing I look at (for Penguin in particular) is anchor text. While the anchor text profile isn’t super-spammy, it’s definitely not natural.
And when you look at the links themselves, there is some pretty black hat stuff going on.
Bottom Line: The site has actually done pretty well considering the link profile. But it’s definitely ripe for a penalty in terms of an unnatural links penalty, a manual penalty (rare, but it happens), or the next iteration of Penguin. It looks like the 30% traffic drop is due to Penguin 2.0 devaluation and some of their spammy-yet-effective links getting deleted.
You could use the disavow tool to disavow the links. I know a lot of firms that use the tool – get their client’s spammy links disavowed – and then the client’s site plummets because they have zero links propping the site up. Although spammy, those links still pass some juice. And suddenly disavowing them can cause a massive traffic drop.
So we’d recommend a focus on building solid, white hat links with diversified anchor text to dilute the spammy links. Over time, those spammy links will go away on their own. And if you build good links to counteract them, their traffic will go UP instead of down.
Here’s what we’d do:
1. Create and Promote an Infographic: An infographic is a fairly quick way to build quality links. Especially if you actively promote it. Here is a guide on infographic development I recommend checking out:
A mistake a lot of people make with infographics is tying it around their product (something like: “Why Small Businesses Should Use a CRM Software”). While that’s a bit more relevant, it’s not going to get the buzz you need or want. So I’d follow the steps in the article above to find a freshy relevant topic and then look to get the most traction (backlinks, shares) from the infographic.
When you create the embed code (which you can make using this tool: http://siegemedia.com/embed-code-generator), make sure to make the anchor text is the URL or the name of the company. That will help dilute the over-optimized anchor text that’s still there.
2. Guest Posting: There are A LOT of small business blogs that openly accept guest posts. We recommend creating about 20 guest posts and publishing them at small business sites.
With these two tasks in hand, you’re well on your way to Penguin 2.0 Recovery.