Black Hat Still Winning after Penguin 2.0
When Matt Cutts announced the unveiling of the latest Penguin update, you probably thought as many other webmasters thought-- it’ll finally clean up the leftover garbage that slipped through the loopholes of the previous Panda and Penguin updates. As Google guru Matt Cutts stated in a Webcast shortly after the release of Penguin 2.0, the latest update is going to “have a pretty big impact on web spam. It’s a brand new generation of algorithms. The previous generation of Penguin would essentially only look at the home page of a site. The newer generation of Penguin goes much deeper and has a really big impact in certain small areas.”
It’s pretty clear the update had a big impact on web spam-- it ranked higher while quality sites plummeted. Not to mention, users are reporting their search experience has dramatically declined since the update. Wait a minute… aren’t the updates meant to promote the search experience? As SEOWizz puts it, “What the hell did Penguin do?”
Each Google update is put in place to promote premium content, legitimate link building and authority-building strategies, but why are black hat SEO and link buying tactics still winning? Pre-Penguin 2.0, our site ranked 3rd, but now we’ve dropped to 6th-9th despite playing by the rule book as proposed by Google.
Sure, we have less than savory SEO tactics in our past, but we’ve worked tirelessly to clean up our link profile. We utilized backlink audit tool Link Detox to locate and remove our toxic links to help clean out link profile. Even without receiving a penalty from Google, we used the recommended Disavow Tool to remove toxic links after Link Detox. Despite cleaning up our link profile, spammy sites are still ranking higher than us.
We’ve even implemented new content strategies to follow Google’s requirements. Now, we strive to deliver quality content while improving the user experience, plus lots of social media marketing. However, our competitors using black hat tactics to develop low quality links and content continue to rank higher despite our efforts.
Not to mention, we’re using press releases correctly by announcing newsy content with PRWeb.com, but still to no avail. We didn’t receive a higher ranking or get any backlinks; whereas. Meanwhile, our competitors’ press releases, which lack news worthy content on SBWire.com , received around 200 backlinks and ranked higher. Even with our efforts to play by Google’s rules, we’re still losing in terms of white hat. Black hat is still winning, and we aren’t alone.
According to reports, Google penalized the link network SAPE. As Matt Cutts tweeted, it’s “naughty Russian link selling software.” Webmasters report to have suffered hard penalties and a huge decrease in ranking-- but not all . Although Google claims to ruthlessly pursue link networks and paid link techniques, many sites actually saw an increase in ranking post Penguin 2.0
The table shows 18 websites known for black hat tactics, including spun content, blog networks, SAPE links, 301 redirects and directories. As you can see, the majority of the sites actually experienced a dramatic increase in ranking, while only a handful were actually hit by Penguin 2.0.
Clearly, black hat SEO is still alive and thriving, but why are white hat sites feeling the sting? It could be in part due to the negative SEO, which causes a site to be devalued if linked to a website identified as spam. Now that Google finally admits negative SEO exists, although Matt Cutts says it’s difficult to achieve, is it safe to say this is the reason white hat sites are the casualties to the algorithm updates?
According to Google, you need to clean up your negative backlinks and alert them to any negative SEO with the Disavow Tool in order to be protected against penalties. But wait, we did that. Without receiving a penalty, we took control of the situation and submitted negative links that weren’t removed by the webmasters to Google using the Disavow Tool, which clearly didn’t pay off for our site. Maybe because, although Google recommends it, “The Disavow Tool isn’t there to help webmasters clean up all their bad links.” This is very contradictory to say the least.
Google also claims Penguin 2.0 has a higher impact on cleaning up SERPs, but yet again this seems to be false. Whether you search for “payday loans,” “buy traffic,” or “buy viagra” you’re still flooded with spam sites ranking on top, proving Google still has a lot of work to do.
With the latest update, Google also claims to spot unnatural link trends and penalize sites quickly. Wrong again. Google can’t keep up as they have to update in batches, not instantly. Maybe Penguin 2.0 is just too new at the moment and we have to wait until the next “batch” before our site regains its ranking.
So, what are we left to do when Google continues to let black hat sites slip through loopholes? They are saying white hat is the only way to go, but if we want to beat the spammy competition, what options are we left with?
Obviously, some black hat tactics are still working. SAPE appears to not have been hit as heavily as Google claims. Maybe they are just chipping away at it slowly. Who knows. But, it’s safe to say, maybe we don’t want to rely on Google too heavily to maintain a high ranking. No, you probably shouldn’t go as far as turning to link farms and other black hat strategies, but you need to keep your options open as playing by Google’s rules isn’t working for everyone.
You don’t want to put your full trust in them, at least not at this point. With each algorithm update, it seems like more and more innocent sites are being wiped out. Google’s mentality is to get you to “behave” in order to rank well, yet those that are breaking the most rules are only getting a slap on the hand. Maybe if Google turned their focus on promoting the sites that are actually doing it right instead of focusing on the bad, they might actually achieve their goal of promoting the user experience. Until then, it looks like those with white hat tactics may want to start seeing a little bit of gray if they want to get ahead of the black hat sites.
I’m left with only one line, hoping someone at Google jumped in: Is it that hard to spot and remove those sites? And you, Matt, we filled the form reporting the spam as you requested, and instead, we get even lower, what was the point of it, then?
Oh! and don't try pinging Google, they'll just play it safe: SILENCE.
@mattcutts is it possible to get someone from google to look into our rankings issue? No penalty messages, nothing and going down strong!— Federico Einhorn (@apoguy) June 14, 2013
This post is the part of my “Penguin and our Rankings” post series: