Google: You Weren't Hit By Penguin, Those Are Normal Fluctuations

Jul 10, 2013 • 8:28 am | comments (49) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

penguin origamiA webmaster noticed his rankings and traffic from Google sharpely declined after the Penguin 2.0 release and decided to ask about it in the Google Webmaster Help forums.

The webmaster said they noticed a "sudden drop in rankings for branded" right after the Penguin 2.0 release. So they investigated their links and saw "huge influx of spammy links coming into our site from Chinese Wholesalers."

That can appear to be Penguin related but is it? Is it way too spammy to be even Penguin? Meaning, the really spammy ones that are so obvious might just be ignored by Google anyway. That is what Google Top Contributor Ashley said and she was right.

Gary Illyes from Google responded, saying:

These look like normal fluctuations for a site like yours. I don't see anything that's due to technical issues on our or on your side, so I would recommend continuing to work on your site, adding new content and improving existing content.

This type of response is not too uncommon from Google.

A sharp decline in Google traffic goes unexplained. It is not a manual action, it is not an algorithmic response to the site. It is simple "normal fluctuations" causing this.

What should this webmaster do?

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Image credit for BigStockPhoto for origami penguin

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Faizaan Khan

07/10/2013 12:41 pm

Do not do anything except posting quality content.. Wait for the dust (multiweek roll out) to settle down.. you are not alone facing this issue!!!

Praveen Sharma

07/10/2013 12:44 pm

It's really funny, sometimes you lose your rankings due to algorithmic updates and sometimes due to fluctuations. That means, actually you are out of business.

Marie Haynes

07/10/2013 12:53 pm

I think it's important to note that this site owner said there had been a decline since Penguin but didn't say if the the drop happened exactly coincidental with the May 22 date of Penguin. A look at the SEMRush chart for this site shows that there has been a gradual decline over the last few months and perhaps it is a little more pronounced in May, but not obvious. Prior to Panda and Penguin there were LOTS of reasons for a site's traffic to decline. Now though as soon as traffic declines everyone is quick to blame Panda or Penguin.

Barry Schwartz

07/10/2013 12:54 pm

Indeed. My overall point, although I didn't spell it out. Webmasters confuse what they are really hit by. Heck, I did a poll if you recovered from Penguin 2.0. Tons of people said yes. But that is not possible without a Penguin refresh. :)


07/10/2013 01:04 pm

So you were trying to trick people?


07/10/2013 01:45 pm

Barry, you know exactly that voters thought that you were asking about recovery from Penguin 1.0-1.2.


07/10/2013 02:17 pm

Of course he is trying to trick you... ...trick you into buying ads!!!!!!!1!!one!!1! Don't you people understand that Barry is a shill? He is paid hundreds of thousands a year by Google to lead the innocent webmasters who have never spammed, ever, in their entire lives, pinky swear, over a cliff and into financial ruin! Haven't you seen the videos of Danny Sullivan, Matt Cutts, and Barry worshipping that giant owl statue in California while wearing robes and beating the abducted children of webmasters into pitiful submission? "Yes, we will make our parents by adwords", they cry, "just stop hitting us with that iron rod!" But they won't stop hitting those children, they never will.

Kevin Caldwell

07/10/2013 02:27 pm

Sometimes I believe Google will roll out multiple updates and refreshes at the same time (or within a couple days) in order to make it difficult to determine exactly why a site declined. I think they have to do this in order to prevent further gaming.

Kevin Tudor

07/10/2013 03:10 pm

The obvious thing for Naturalizer: Google is adding even more ads, that's where their previous traffic is going. Combine interface changes with search manipulation to increase ad clicks and traffic is going down for everyone, but Adwords. Google is a scam engine, they are killing organic traffic little by little and hiding that fact with bogus updates and scare tactics. Your traffic is being taken by Google ads.


07/10/2013 03:20 pm

^ Really?


07/10/2013 03:45 pm

Google needs to feed Wall Street. The results at the moment and the way they are used to inflate adwords prices is criminal. Barry, you and the other bloggers who have been covering Google for years must see this. Why not actually comment on this. Sitting on the sideline is easy.


07/10/2013 03:48 pm

Quality content.... Seriously ! Still singing that tune. Its got absolutely nothing to do with quality content. A big brand could post the biggest load of shit and they will still rank.

Uri Lederman

07/10/2013 03:59 pm

actually, you are ONLY out of business if you ONLY rely on Google for traffic..


07/10/2013 04:05 pm

Lol, funny. No, seriously, I think the reason why we all like Barry's blog is that he's very neutral and doesn't mind criticizing Google when appropriate. No bias alert whatsoever.


07/10/2013 04:08 pm

Google needs to be overthrown by a real competitor. Unfortunately the only prospect out there is Bing. Google is nothing but an AdWord$ ad casino. Organics are pushed so far from all of the crap above them that they're practically irrelevant. They are murdering small businesses with these ridiculous algorithms and penalties, especially in cases like these where 'negative SEO' can be used to sabotage anyone. It's preposterous.


07/10/2013 04:10 pm

Unfortunately if you are not a hyperlocal business and you don't have a monumental ad budget to compete with Walmart & Target, relying on Google is basically all you have.


07/10/2013 04:13 pm

Not true. Get out of that mindset, it is hindering your marketing strategy.


07/10/2013 04:38 pm

Can anyone say "outrage?" Virtually every market in every state and every city and every community in real estate is now dominated by so-called brands which are really just aggregator sites for real estate listings. Look up real estate for sale anywhere and you'll most likely see the usual suspects at the top of the heap- Zillow, Realtor, Homes, Trulia, Movoto and a sometimes a few lucky national brands like C21 and Coldwell. If you don't get into the 7-pack local, you're likely going to have to do something considered at least bordering on "manipulative" to get on page one for real estate. What happened to the value of the local agent? I saw an ad recently by Zillow that depicted a couple buying a home. There was absolutely no real estate agent portrayed in any way, yet they are the ones who create the content for real estate, produce the content for the web and do the legwork of marketing homes and performing the arduous requirements of getting a home transaction completed from start to finish. This preference of Google for the so-called brands in real estate intensified exponentially in tandem with Penguin 2.0. I call BS.

Uri Lederman

07/10/2013 04:48 pm

could not have said it better myself.. :-)

Uri Lederman

07/10/2013 04:50 pm

actually it has NEVER been a better time to be a small business.. :-) and compete on Google for Organic traffic...


07/10/2013 05:02 pm

Edited: Apologies I thought you were talking about Ashley, but it's about Gary.

Brian Mease

07/10/2013 05:53 pm

Bing is not a worthy competitor and sadly will never be, they even get worst every day serving bad SERPs in different locations that makes no sense at all. took me hours to figure out some of my rankings reported by the tool i'm using and I realized they are serving different and unrelated SERPs for diff IPs in the same neighborhood, go figure! not even local terms

Denver Web Success

07/10/2013 06:53 pm

You are missing the point. Using your example, if I'm looking for "location real estate" or "location homes for sale", etc. I want to see the big sites such as Zillow, Realtor, and Trulia. On the other hand, if I'm searching for "location realtor", then I'm looking for the local agent that you mentioned.


07/10/2013 07:13 pm

...yea, totally.


07/10/2013 07:48 pm

Maybe a small part of this change has to do with the fact that more and more people are skipping the real estate agent part of the puzzle. They are, for some, an unneeded and costly burden in the home buying process. As the capability of the average person increases (thanks to, in no small part, the internet) the need for a middle man decreases. Look at things like legal zoom for everyday legal matters, or Zillow for finding property/homes for sale that the user is interested in. Are these things that you ever considered when accessing the current state of real estate search?


07/10/2013 11:08 pm

F**k Googlevil.


07/10/2013 11:18 pm

No, I'm not missing the point. I'm disagreeing with the point. Obviously, you disagree with me and I'm okay with that but big sites are just stealing content and leads from local businesses in the case of real estate and Google helps them along. Any agent can tell you that both the content and the quality of leads (that Zillow charges for) is dubious to downright worthless and out of date.


07/10/2013 11:21 pm

Most people don't have a prayer of successfully completing all the needed maze of complexities to sell or even buy real estate. They need real estate agents to get the job done in nearly every case. Unneeded? Finding a home that you can actually buy? Zillow may or may not give you anything worth pursuing. A large part of aggregate home search data is already long gone from the viable market where you can actually acquire the property. No, I'm not an agent.

Philip Van der Vossen

07/11/2013 03:47 am

If the Real Estate industry in general had been more open with their data, and had made better tools for sharing and searching the information, they wouldn't have opened the door for a company like Zillow to dominate. The world changed, and the old guard was trying to protect the status quo. It never works.


07/11/2013 04:40 am

First page 8 youtube videos. We need to have 10 youtube videos the serp is still spammy.


07/11/2013 05:28 am

I know mutt is an active visitor of this website. so I have a question to ask mutt,,, "huge influx of spammy links coming into our site from Chinese Wholesalers.". Now how can you say that these all links placed by ours? even we don't know about that Chinese Wholesalers. Do you have the answer of my question?


07/11/2013 07:37 am

Normal is for Google to destroy businesses ranging small to mid as they can't afford PPC to run for a longer period of time to remain in business. Big companies can still survive as they have the budget to do so. I have seen a site that was put down in May Penguin update and looking in WMT links found tons of unrelated links that were not built by that company. Links were generated on scrapping unrelated sites, blogs that scraps the well crafted content written by that company. Even links on adult content site, unrelated sites that are hidden to normal eyes but visible to search engine. In that case, the company is not responsible for those links. How the algorithm could decide about those links? This indicates at Negative SEO for small websites who don't have grip and authority to prevent themselves from Google Penguin update. How they can build powerful links to prevent those spammy links from hurting their ranking? I have been observing some sites coming up in top search results after every penguin updates and those sites have tons of paid links. One even had a paid link to Seroundtable and is removed just before the nofollow was implemented. Still these sites are ranking high. Why? Is buying links on big brands and authority sites is the only solution to prevent Penguin update?


07/11/2013 10:17 am

Hi, Similar thing is happening here. Instead of understanding my question people are directly suggesting for canonical tag. Well query is not about duplicate content, it's about getting rid of backlinks. Here's my thread:


07/11/2013 10:53 am

Uri... You're a MORON. Thanks for that knowledge bomb.


07/11/2013 11:28 am

You mean destroying companies that ignored the basic advice from Google and anyone with a brain that said 'Don't rely on a single source of traffic/sales' ? The only real penalty from spam links is not getting credit from those links, the few times Google have penalised sites for incoming links, it has been because it was blatant that they had created the links themselves.


07/11/2013 11:30 am

Well given our small business sites are sitting happily on the first page for local queries and some national ones, I think its probably you who are the moron not Uri.


07/11/2013 11:32 am

You might want to learn about how Adwords work because you clearly have no idea. Google don't set adwords prices, they are only set by other people bidding. If you bid on a keyword that has no competition, you can get position #1 for 1p a click.


07/11/2013 02:35 pm

Well yes, you have a good point about the old guard, if this was still 1992, but this is about aggregators buying data from the MLS which is still supplied, freely, by agents and Google then handing visibility over to aggregators. Under other circumstances such as the case of Squidoo or Hubpages and other aggregator websites, Google would have penalized or adjusted downward, the aggregator website but these aggregators have apparently managed to fool people into thinking they are a brand. They're still just big aggregator sites, scraping other people's content.


07/11/2013 03:02 pm

Just out of curiosity, I tried "Anaheim real estate agents." Other than the 7 pack, the results are dominated by the same aggregators. Is that really the best way to find a local agent that is the right one to work with?

Atul Bansal

07/11/2013 06:38 pm

its strange.. someone is hit by Penguins... traffic lost.. revenue lost.. everything lost and Google saying that its normal fluctuations..


07/12/2013 07:20 am

"that they had created the links themselves" If that is the case how Google Algo figure out that a link on site A or B is placed by a penalized site? If you think doing a regular old time junk can penalized a site why this can't be done for competitors that don't have big online presence. Hire a cheap company for 6-8 months, do regular work as that the company itself is creating links and wait for that company to get doom in rankings. "The only real penalty from spam links is not getting credit from those links" This is a joke. What you think of Spam Links? You get credit for spam links and that's a bad credit. Every link is a Spam in the eyes of Google Algo. But it just have to get counted. I don't wish to target you personally but Mr LocKey, did you forget that getting links on unrelated sites you design and develop, getting links on directories like: websitedesign101 wiredwessex firmlist approvedindex and leaving blog comment with links on cartoonbarry and searchengineguide is also against the Google Guidelines. Also, the keywords rich 10 words h1 tag you used in your site is not visible to users but only to search engines. This is also against Google Guidelines.


07/12/2013 09:05 am

My reply isn't showing here! Is there any reason or I have been blocked or my comment are bitter truth to hide? I replied to the poster who commented on my comment but it is not showing here?? But this is, I am bit surprised.

Barry Schwartz

07/12/2013 09:43 am

I'll check.


07/12/2013 12:01 pm

It was showing a few minutes ago but again got vanished..

Barry Schwartz

07/12/2013 12:02 pm

I manually approved it an hour ago.


07/12/2013 12:03 pm

Able to see it again


07/17/2013 12:55 pm

I couldn't agree more...


07/24/2013 04:37 pm

True! Zillow is a fine example of non-quality "borrowed" content. One of the biggest complaints I hear from agents is that most leads they get from Zillow are looking for showings or info on listings that are long gone.


08/05/2013 12:09 pm

We have noticed a drop in folks who have weak local SEO and further localisation of the results on the Penguin 2.0 date. These are clients who have sailed through all other penguin updates and have not really done anything link wise (maybe directories and a few articles back in the day) but hardly aggressive. We also see some less quality sites with solid, external local signals doing a little better in the localised results again so I think Penguin 2.0 was a tricky one to decipher and there are a lot of moving parts. * Is client a local business? * Are they well optimised for local (citations, local links, local on page work, google+ local profile claimed and fully fleshed out) * Do the search terms have local intent * what do the links look like? As ever, we have to look at the bigger picture and see what has lost and who has gained and resist the urge to jump to conclusions. Certainly, we have a client that blogs and does everything clean and right but has some local issues (long story) and he has lost out and is now heeding our advice to sort out the local issues and hopefully will bounce back when that is all resolved. Dr. Marie makes a good point as well - is it a sudden drop? In the case of this one client is was a stark 20% on the Penguin 2.0 date. This was across the whole site pretty much. Still, interesting to see honest feedback like this from Google as it helps us all spend less time wearing tin hats and hoping the sky does not fall in on us.

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