Episode 31 – Why you lost SEO rankings

In this episode Alex explains why you lost SEO rankings with Google’s Penguin 2.0 update and what you can do to fix them.


Hi, my name’s Alex Cleanthous, chief strategist at Web Profits. For those of you who don’t know me, I have a stutter and it comes out when I get excited… and this stuff is exciting.

Today, I’ll be explaining why you lost SEO rankings with Google’s latest updates, if you were one of the sites that were affected. So let’s get into it.

If you’ve been investing in SEO for a couple of years or more, then you would have certainly felt the changes Google made earlier this year. Dubbed Penguin 2.0, Google’s latest algorithm update has really changed the game.

Here’s why…

In the past, SEO was all about getting as many links as possible pointing to your site with the keywords you wanted to rank for in those links. So for example, if you wanted to rank for ‘lawyer’ you would get as many links as possible that said ‘lawyer’ in them – the more you built, the better your rankings would be. That meant that any site that was implementing SEO for some time would have hundreds if not thousands of different websites linking to them with the same keywords in the links.

Then, in early 2012, Google launched it’s Penguin algorithm update, with the Penguin 2.0 update launched in early 2013. It’s the Penguin 2.0 update that’s caused heavy turbulence in the SEO world.

So what is Penguin and why did it have such a big impact?

Penguin basically targets anchor text. It uses anchor text to identify links that in Google’s words are ‘unnatural’. Google knows what keywords are commercial, what keywords are branded, and what keywords are informational. So Google can easily tell which links it should classify as ‘unnatural’ because it’s pretty much any link that uses an exact-match commercial keyword in it.

The first version of Penguin targeted websites that had more than 80% of their incoming links saying the same thing in them. So it quickly picked up any website that was overtly doing SEO, because if all of your links used the same commercial keyword in them, then you were overtly implementing SEO, which Google doesn’t like.

But with Penguin 2.0, Google became a lot more stringent on that percentage. In some instances, if more than 50% of the links pointing to your site said the same thing in them then you wouldn’t be able to rank for that keyword. In other instances, that ceiling was less than 20%.

And that’s where they hit a lot of the companies that were implementing SEO for some time. Because it was the sites that had hundreds or thousands of websites linking to them with the same keyword in the links that lost their rankings for those keywords (their most important keywords) while still maintaining their rankings for other less important keywords.

So essentially, Google flipped SEO on it’s head. What used to get you top rankings now actually stopped you from ranking. And that frustrated a lot of companies – especially those companies that have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years on SEO. And the more SEO you’ve done, the harder it is to fix. But the good news is that you can fix it.

So, if you were ranking at the top of Google and you’ve lost rankings for your most important keywords, then I’d suggest you look at the links pointing to the web pages that were ranking. It’s highly likely that too many of those links are saying the same thing in them. You then need to work at reducing the percentage of links that say the same thing in them by either building new links that say something else, or updating existing links.

Of course, fixing up link issues is just one part of regaining your rankings, the other part is to continue to evolve your SEO strategy to stay up to date with Google’s ranking requirements.

If you think about it. it’s really quite smart of Google to focus on anchor text – it can now quickly find the links that are only for SEO without having to look at the type of site it is, the quality of the site, or any other features which can make it hard for Google to identify. All it has to do now is target links that contain commercial keywords in them… and that’s exactly what it’s doing.

At Web Profits, we’ve developed a Penguin Recovery Strategy that helps websites regain the rankings they lost with Google’s Penguin algorithm updates. To find out more visit webprofits.com.au and get in touch.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Web Profits TV and I look forward to speaking with you in the next video.

Alex Cleanthous

Alex Cleanthous

Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits

Alex Cleanthous is Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits. With more than 10 years experience in online marketing, Alex is always on the lookout for smarter, faster and more scalable ways to achieve maximum growth with minimum spend.