How Google Penguin Has Affected My Affiliate Sites

Before I begin, I should warn you that this post does cover black / grey hat strategies and if you’re looking for a fix for your site and are 100% certain you haven’t engaged in any underhanded tactics then you probably won’t learn anything that can help you fix your site today. If you’re interesting in the effects of Penguin on various platforms then keep on reading!

I have recently been writing a large number of posts around the recent Google Penguin and Panda algorithm updates, you can catch two of my posts over at business2community or do a search for Google Penguin. To the best of my knowledge the post is currently residing somewhere in the top 10 organic results in the UK & US </bragging mode>.

How Google Penguin F**ked Me

The thought of entitling this post “How Google Penguin F**ked Me” had crossed my mind, but the unfortunate reality of the situation is, that by taking shortcuts with some of my sites I ended up losing sight of my long term goals, which ultimately resulted in me screwing myself over. Vulgarities aside, I’m going to show you the first-hand effects of Google Penguin on two of my sites. Each of these sites were hit by the same algorithm (to the best of my understanding) and in each scenario I’ve tried a few different things to recover the lost traction.

After the Google Penguin update I had also created two further sites, one of which has engaged in a very limited amount of guest blogging, and other activity from relevant sites, and the other has seen no backlinking. I wanted to test this particular strategy to see the effects of it on a new site in a post-penguin environment.

Site Breakdown

Site 1: EMD For A Popular Hotel (Slapped by Penguin)

The first site I’d like to show you is a hotel affiliate site. From a content perspective, it is quite thin, although I had undertaken the arduous task of rewriting most of the internal pages and had added a number of galleries and reviews to make the site stand out from the crowd and hopefully negate any Panda or duplication penalty.

Before Penguin

Prior to the Google Penguin update the site was receiving between 80 and 110 organic visits per day for a variety of keywords including the exact match, and a number of longer tail key terms that I’ve been targeting. The link building strategy for the site largely consisted of the exploitation of directory submissions, social bookmarks, blog networks and article spinning although the vast majority of backlinking was achieved through blog networks.

This site had achieved position 3 to 5 for the majority of key terms and resided directly underneath the official website for this hotel and a leading booking agent in the UK.

On the 25th of April I had awoken to find this site had fallen off the face of the planet, although it had withstood the constant onslaught of Panda, Penguin was just too much!

 

After looking across the portfolio of my affiliate sites had found that approximately those that had blog network backlinks had been hit (and unfortunately for me it was the more profitable of my sites had taken the brunt of the attack).

Anchor Text Diversity (Or Lack Of)

When building links to this site it was not done in well planned or careful way. I just wanted links I really didn’t care how I got them. This resulted in a backlink profile that looked a little something like this…

For those of you that can’t see the pie chart, the breakdown is as follows:

Hotel Name 333
Exact Match Domain 126
Partial Match 38
Random 1
Trackback 1
img 0

 

Any sane person could tell you that a natural anchor text profile should look nothing like that – however it worked at the time and in the short period that it was ranked the site had netted a substantial amount of money and even in its paralysed state continues to generate revenue

Any sane person could tell you that a natural anchor text profile should look nothing like that – however it worked at the time and in the short period that it was ranked the site had netted a substantial amount of money and even in its paralysed state continues to generate revenue.

An Attempted Recovery

Knowing that this site that made revenue made it a top priority and thusly I was willing to try a variety of strategies to try and recover any lost positions.

The Procedure

My first port of call was to remove all blog network, blog comments, and directory submissions that were done on sites that weren’t up to the standards that one would expect. Unfortunately the removal of articles is not something that can be done easily however on the plus side it seems that only a few of these wherever indexed and most of the sites have since been terminated.

This left me with a very low number of links (quite possibly as little as 20) and I knew that this wasn’t going to be enough to regain my original positions. So as an experiment I decided to purchase a domain similar to the previous one and put it through a 301 redirect.

Within three days the site had started to recover and a number of sales were actually made in this period. My link building strategy had completely changed and a small number of carefully placed blog comments and one guest post was the only link building done in this timeframe.

Unfortunately on a the 17/18th my site was once again hit, whether this was from Penguin update or whether the penalty had finally migrated across is yet to be seen however I’m keeping a close eye on the site and it seems to be recovering slowly. It is entirely possible that all the link juice that the site had once had was artificially transferred across but once Google had a real chance to analyse my back link profile the site landed in a more appropriate position for the key term (around 50ish).

I will be keeping a close eye on the site and updating on a regular basis. The takeaway from this site is that 301’s do work, although they may not last and for the most part wouldn’t be helpful for most people that have been hit as changing a domain for brands or businesses just isn’t feasible.

Site 2: Keyword Rich Niche Jewellery Site (Slapped By Penguin)

This website is an Amazon affiliate site and is running off WordPress. The linking strategies undertaken for this site consisted of article marketing, blog networks, and Web 2.0.

Once again the backlink profile was quite obviously manipulated with a total of 4 variations of anchor text all containing the major key terms.

By looking at Google analytics we can see a similar trend as my first site. Traffic is coming in nicely, and then suddenly on the 24th of April BANG huge drop in organic referral traffic..

 

Recovery Procedure

For this site I decided to remove all the blog network backlinks but then sit on it and see how things played out. You can see a similar trend to the first site, although where the first site was further penalised on the 17th/18th of May this site started to show a recovery.

I’d be very interested to see if anyone else has seen a similar pattern as a number of my other sites have shown similar trends.

Site 3: Partial Match – V. Similar To Site 1

This third site is very similar to the first site. It’s going after the same niche (albeit this hotel is located in a different country) but has the same goal and follows the same strategy. I’d made sure this site was populated with content that was unique and the linking strategy has been 100% above the board.

Unfortunately I cannot provide analytics statistics for this site as I made a point of not adding it to Webmaster Tools or Analytics to ensure there was no possible link to any of my existing properties.

Linking Strategy Breakdown

2 Yahoo Questions Answered – Naked URL’s
5 Topical Directory Submissions – Brand & URL
2 Guest Posts – Exact Match Anchor + URL

The Results?

After just 2 weeks this site currently bounces between page 1 positions 3/4 and page 5 returning results for an internal page. For a new site with a few authority links this activity is to be expected and I’m sure it’ll settle itself out shortly.

Site 4: Partial Match – As Above

Once again another hotel affiliate sites, however this particular site received no backlinks whatsoever, and to ensure a fair trial this site was not added to any of Google’s properties.

Linking Strategy Breakdown

NIL

The Results?

Here’s the kicker, this site currently ranks position 7 for it’s targeted key term. With no linking and has been perfectly stable for the past 2 weeks. I must say I’m slightly irate at the fact that no real off-page optimisation has been undertaken in this instance and the site is ranking in a predominant position but at the same time it is adhering to the trend that we’re seeing which involves a shift away from traditional linking methods.

Conclusion & Updates

I cannot provide any definitive Penguin slaying strategies just yet, but as soon as I find it I’ll let you all know. At the moment it seems that taking things slowly and building the highest quality links & generating the best content you can is of course (and always has been the best strategy).

I can however say that 301’s do work for a short period of time and I will be attempting this on Site 1 again shortly to see if it shows a similar recovery. Any updates I have I will be posting here. If you have any insights or have seen results mirroring or contradicting mine I’d love to hear from you so please leave a message!

In other news, please check out my post entitled – “SEO Challenge: Rank Top 10 For SEO Consultant in 60 Days or Less” it has been recently updated 😉

Update 30th May 2012 – Post Penguin 1.1

Those of you that have been on Penguin watch will know that there was an update last Friday and the first “recovery” posts started surfacing. I’m happy to announce that 1 of my sites have recovered and 1 more are showing signs of recovery. The other one is no-where to be found.

For the sites that have recovered, a backlink cleansing program was initiated and a few on-topic directories & guest posts were distributed. That alone seems to have instigated this recovery. What I did find weird however is that this recovery only showed up earlier today so I’m slightly weary of the results however I will keep you all posted of any further progress!

4 Replies to “How Google Penguin Has Affected My Affiliate Sites”

  1. Had exactly the same thing although not quite as sudden – was 200 organics per day(post 24th) down to 100, two days later back up to 150 and since then has slowly drifted down to 50 per day. Most of my other sites are screwed are drifting away to not much from Google, c’mon Bing!!

    I’ve started trying to change my link profile, esp anchor text, like yours, not natural, might try the 301 with a couple of site.

    keep us updated.

    cheers

  2. What anchor text were you using for your web directory submissions?

    I would think that it would help you if you were just using your domain name as the anchor text for those type of submissions.

    1. In retrospect I should have indeed been more careful with the anchor text diversification and have adapted my future campaigns to encorporate URL/Brand/Noise – ultimately when directories cost so little you tend to put little thought in to what you’re actually doing.

  3. I can honestly say this is the first post i’ve read anywhere which somewhat relates to my situation – maybe it’s because many people don’t talk about their links or what they’ve done?

    Who knows, either way it’s good to find someone that thinks like me…

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