On April 24, 2012 Google rolled out a major update to their search algorithm dubbed Penguin. The update was meant as a penalty targeted towards over-optimization of sites. In particular Google was looking to penalize sites which overused keywords on the site and also in anchor text leading to the site.
You can read more about Penguin from Google or Search Engine Land from the links below.
My goal today isn’t to discuss all the details of the Google Penguin update but instead to show real world data on how the update could negatively affect a site. Our team loves data and we firmly believe you can’t improve on what you can’t measure. We don’t often highlight our failures in SEO but in this case we are going to do just that. In our experience we have been able to learn from our successes and failures by collecting the necessary data and reviewing exactly what happened. In the case today, we will look at our own MDWebPro site and our new inability to rank for our own name.
The screenshot below is taken from our MDWebPro Insights tracking software. The blue line indicates our ranking in Google for the phrase “mdwebpro” from March 10, 2012 through June 12, 2012.
What is interesting here is that we own the exact match domain mdwebpro.com, we also have facebook.com/mdwebpro, twitter.com/mdwebpro. In general, if anyone is searching for mdwebpro, there is a very good chance they are looking for us. I don’t know of any other business by the same name. Traditionally Google has agreed with us by listing our site 1st or 2nd for the search “mdwebpro” — until Penguin that is.
You can see that in April our site started to lose ranking for the phrase “mdwebpro”. By April 16th we had slipped to ranking 3rd. By April 23rd we were 4th. And after Penguin on April 30th we were ranked 17th. That’s right! 17th means 2nd page of results!
The red line on the chart reflects our site’s targeting of the phrase “mdwebpro”. You can see from the red line that our content for this phrase did not change on the site over this period. The orange line reflects our SEOmoz Page Authority. The green line is the quantity of links leading to this page. And the yellow line is the traffic coming to the site after searching for this phrase.
On May 21st Google brought us back into the first page of results at number 9 only to drop us back to page 2 the following week. This week we are gracing the first page again at a sorry 10th place.
The screenshot below shows the current Google SERP with us at the bottom of the results.
The interesting thing is that every other listing in the current search results page is about us. Google obviously knows that any search for “mdwebpro” is looking for us. Yet they have decided to show nearly any listing besides ours in the top 9 positions. If I had to guess, we will likely be right back to number 1 or 2 within the coming weeks. I am just often amazed at the changes Google can make which seem to obviously create a poor user experience. If Google’s true desire is to display the most relevant result at the top of the search, they have completely missed the mark here.
Were we gaming the system for the phrase “mdwebpro” and deserving to be penalized? I don’t see how we could be but apparently Google thinks otherwise.