Hit By Penguin? Google Query Hack To Confirm?

May 17, 2012 • 1:45 pm | comments (96) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Penguin Search HackHere is one more crazy thing for the Penguin Igloo - a search hack that may show you if you were hit by the Penguin update!

The news came from a WebmasterWorld thread this morning by a Junior Member who was hit by Penguin codenamed Martin Ice Web. He said that when he was searching for his keywords and added a negative parameter for amazon, his rankings went back to normal.

For example, he search for [blue widget -amazon] and his rankings pre-Penguin showed up on Google for the query [blue widget].

I tried this myself on a ton of examples of sites that were hit in the forums and I was unable to replicate it to the extreme but it does kind of work.

For example, a Google Webmaster Help thread has the owner of discounted-hotels-london.co.uk saying that [strand palace hotel -amazon.com] brings up his site on page one. I see it on page two with that query but on page 27 for [strand palace hotel] without the -amazon.

This is pretty wild!

I tried it on some others but failed. Give it a try on your end and let me know if it works.

This seems so weird. Although there was a time years ago where we had a weird hack like this before.

Remember the Google Sandbox, there was a query hack for that to where you would put -dfsdgsdsd -sdfgsdgsdfg -sdfgsdgsdg -sdfgsdfgsdfg -dsfgsdgsdg -sdfgsdfgsdfg -sdgsdfgdsfg at the end of the query and it would show pre-sandbox results.

So who knows?

Update: This stopped working around May 24, 2012. This was 100% a hack to see pre-Penguin results. 100%.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld & Google Webmaster Help.

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Ben Cook

05/17/2012 05:54 pm

This is working for every site I've seen that has been hit by Penguin. That's pretty amazing.

Barry Schwartz

05/17/2012 05:55 pm

Really? That is interesting. Wow.


05/17/2012 05:57 pm

It is working...i found 2 queries for my website.

Dan Patterson

05/17/2012 05:59 pm

I just tried it on one of my sites that dropped around the time of the Penguin roll out and it worked. Very cool find!


05/17/2012 06:01 pm

yup it works... =/


05/17/2012 06:08 pm

Okay, but the question is, WHY does this work?

Barry Schwartz

05/17/2012 06:09 pm

Who knows. This is so weird.


05/17/2012 06:10 pm

I see [strand palace hotel] in the first position without the -amazon

Barry Schwartz

05/17/2012 06:12 pm

I dont.

Cory Howell

05/17/2012 06:13 pm

Such as?


05/17/2012 06:23 pm

What a waste of time ...

Jon Adkins

05/17/2012 06:24 pm

I've confirmed that it works as well. Apparently a few of my sites gained over a page in results due to the penguin. - Good way to tell if you benefited from penguin also!

Ben Cook

05/17/2012 06:25 pm

I just tried it on another site that was hit and it didn't seem to work. Also, I've tried it on sites that didn't get hit at all and the results change slightly (a few sites shuffle around slightly). I'm wondering if this is just tapping us into an older DC or something?


05/17/2012 06:25 pm

Works for me on a number of sites which were completely penalised by penguin.

Ben Cook

05/17/2012 06:26 pm

Can't share them publicly. I believe there was a publicly mentioned payday loan site that I can't remember the URL of. We could try that one as well.

Rick Galan

05/17/2012 06:26 pm

I think that by restricting the query you are switching to a different version of the algorithm - an alternate reality where penguin was never released!

Barry Schwartz

05/17/2012 06:27 pm

Maybe or maybe not.

Takeshi Takahashi

05/17/2012 06:40 pm

I commented on another post of yours, Barry, saying that my rankings (page 1 on most competitive keyword!) actually increased recently due to some wacky Google hijinks. So I wanted to try this to see if my ranking would decrease with this little query hack. Sure enough, just from that little parameter ("-amazon", and Amazon was coming up on page 1 for the query), my site is now back below page 5. It definitely seems like there's something to be said for the parameter forcing a separate algorithm. Very interesting find, thank you!


05/17/2012 06:40 pm

This might just be a bug with how google handles the - operator. example: if you search for "cars" you get 505,000,000 results. But cars "cars -afasdfasdfdsa" yields over 3 billion. I don't think there were that many sites hit by panda.


05/17/2012 06:41 pm

IT worked for me. I wasn't on page one for the keyword and with the -amazon.com I was back to position 2. WILD. Thanks


05/17/2012 06:42 pm

sorry there's an extra cars in my 2nd example.

Yehoshua Coren

05/17/2012 06:48 pm

Yep. I can confirm that it works too. Pretty wild, eh?


05/17/2012 06:56 pm

are they all amazon affiliates? or in a space where amazon sells? that would make sense as penguin is prioritizing brand and amazon is one major brand in major areas. Otherwise it makes no sense.


05/17/2012 06:59 pm

It worked for me for all my websites. Things were so much better before Penguin!


05/17/2012 07:03 pm

it seems to work for every site and not just amazon, like -cnn.com for example.

Harry Mehserdjian

05/17/2012 07:09 pm

It works with -amazon.com or -anyword with .com

tim williams

05/17/2012 07:12 pm

also, if you use the adwords preview the organic results seem to be pre penguin.


05/17/2012 07:13 pm

anyword except your domain name :)


05/17/2012 07:17 pm

it works with absolute gibberish try doctors notes then try doctors notes -sdfsdjkfhsdkfhsdjkf.com - any .TLD will work, any gibberish sans .TLD WILL NOT.... is this because google wanted to leave a backdoor for users annoyed at the new results so they added a backdoor to get back to pre-penguin serps?

Gordon Campbell

05/17/2012 07:27 pm

At first I thought this was a joke and that it was implying that amazon has taken over the serps but it actually does work!


05/17/2012 08:12 pm

Actually looks a lot like pre panda results to me..


05/17/2012 08:21 pm

This works in my case as well ... with the -amazon.com I'm on the first page, 2-3rd spot with the exact keyword match in domain, as it was for a year, and without it, I gave up searching after the 15th page, I can't find it ... Important to mention, all original content, hand written by me, tens of blog comments, almost no backlinks, didn't do any backlinking action ... thanks Google :)

Jesse Friedman

05/17/2012 08:31 pm

Try using the site: operator with the -amazon.com or other keyword. I show different results with and without for some domains. I think it only works with -populardomain.com in general. Also use the site: operator in conjunction with -google.com and you get different results from any of them. I did at least. And one that is really weird is adding one of my sites, site:example.com -haifalimestone.com produces different results than all of them as well but only that domain? Weeeeird.


05/17/2012 08:53 pm

it works for me... My website is all about HP troubleshooting... if i add -hp.com and the end of the search string. My pages are all at the #1 spot. It seems that penguin has put on some weight on hp.com results. Removin hp.com puts my pages back to the top.

Jesse Friedman

05/17/2012 09:00 pm

I wonder if maybe this has to do with their new "tiers". Lets say that different tiers get applied different things. Panda only goes on tier 1, penguin only on 1 and 2 or something like that. Maybe, site from one tier - site from another produces this sort of anomaly. Or, maybe pages of a site can be on multiple tiers (maybe page rank corresponds to tier level? lol) When you start mixing the tiers up you are then getting results from a different tier that is using a different data set. Or...

Steve Hammer

05/17/2012 09:16 pm

Generally I'm seeing it not work nearly as well in noted spammy areas. And for reference the noted PDL site was banished well before penguin occurred.


05/17/2012 09:34 pm

Wow it actually works, awesome! even if it doesn't make sense.

Jared McKiernan

05/17/2012 10:13 pm

these numbers are not necessarily accurate though, google just makes them up

Andy Langton

05/17/2012 10:15 pm

Supplemental syndrome ;) It's another syntax that alters which databases Google retrieves results from. The suggestion as it applies to Panda/Penguin/etc. is that your site is not getting re-ranked, but getting recategorised - a problem that requires a very different approach.


05/17/2012 10:21 pm

keyword -amazon.com works for me but interestingly so does keyword -ebay.com


05/17/2012 10:22 pm

Actually pretty much "anything".com works for me


05/17/2012 10:24 pm

or .org Google you are so funny! hehe


05/17/2012 10:24 pm

Yeah this totally works, tried it on a few sites that went down during penguin and they are back up with -amazon.com but equally a site that was in the middle of a 301 redirect and was moving back up slowly (and is furher up now) and it showed where it was a few weeks ago, so it could also be true its just a snap shot of the results a few weeks ago

Ben Cook

05/17/2012 10:26 pm

I'm not seeing sites that got hit by Panda show up. I think we might be looking at a result set that's pre-penguin but post-panda.

Steve Masters

05/17/2012 10:27 pm

That's an interesting discovery but it works with a number of domains. I've just tried it on a site that's been attacked by Penguin and when you use -amazon.com or -ebay.com or -wikipedia.org the results are pretty much the same. Rankings showing as they did pre-Penguin.

Alan Rabinowitz

05/17/2012 10:40 pm

It does not appear to work on sites that were negative SEO'd where they show 1.3 Million backlinks in WMT and no rankings. This did not work, seems like something else may be at work beyond just the Penguin update.


05/18/2012 01:11 am

THE HACK TOTALLY WORKS!! OMG! I'm #1 again.. But not really. Stupid Penguin!!


05/18/2012 03:00 am

Does it make you feel yourself smarter than Google ? hehe


05/18/2012 03:05 am

Consider this as a Google gift. All SEO guys, SEO "testers" and others algo crackers can still masturbate on SERP ... ))


05/18/2012 03:08 am

Does it make you feel yourself smarter than Google ? hehe

Sam Patrik

05/18/2012 03:25 am

Hi it works for my website


05/18/2012 05:04 am

Worked for me too... with -amazon.com i'm back on old serp position. worked with home- and subpages.... *glnpf*

Jeremy Morgan

05/18/2012 05:22 am

This hack works as described, because I remember what the rankings were before, and they match up with pre-penguin rankings. Luckily many of my serps went UP after penguin, so I'm very fortunate.

Dewaldt Huysamen

05/18/2012 06:14 am

Not really worth it here in SA on google.co.za but interesting

Ben Rush

05/18/2012 06:32 am

I don't think this is a method that shows pre penguin results at all. I had a site which got hit hard by penguin, but the results shown when I use this method actually show the site even further back than where it ranks today. Lot of people make pretty crazy suggestions without any real data to back things up.

Highway Five

05/18/2012 07:29 am

This is such a cool hack. It worked with a site that got Penguin slapped that came to us from another SEO agency. Thanks for posting this.


05/18/2012 07:48 am

I think we on to something these are not results pre panda the are results that show if you move the filter away.The amazon.com removes the filter and shows us results without penguin currently! So what I think is once we get out the penalty we back to where we were more or less some better some worse but not as drastic as now!


05/18/2012 08:13 am

try google penguin -amazon.com you see the same results as today -amazon.com removes the filter

Darren Jamieson

05/18/2012 08:17 am

Awesome - just confirmed that a rival SEO company was indeed hit. Nice BA!


05/18/2012 08:23 am

I was checking the results for two of my clients site on the same keyword, one I was sure was hit by penguin the other by panda and this seems to back this up as the site I knew had to much exact match anchor text recovers with this parameter. This has made quickly identifying the issue easier (for as long as it works)

Hybrid Domainer

05/18/2012 08:41 am

A friend of mine had exact match domain dot com #1 for months, Penguin took him to 7 I just did this for keyword - amazon and he is back at #1

Neil M Hancock

05/18/2012 09:19 am

Interesting, I have had mixed results checking some URLs over in the UK, seeing some people who claim to have been hit back on page 1, and others seem to have no change. Possible more interestingly I can see sites that are clear winners after Penguin as they fall off page 1 when adding -amazon.com


05/18/2012 09:33 am

oh my god, this is working


05/18/2012 09:42 am

Hi, You can check if you are it by the penguin with this simple tool http://www.netstorming.fr/#CheckPenguin (it's free but you need to register)


05/18/2012 09:45 am

works for me

Davor Bomestar

05/18/2012 10:47 am

For me it works with any domain. Even with: keyword -sglkgahkflkgaflkgihsflkdslliodslifsnk.com

Rahul Pandey

05/18/2012 11:24 am

Yes..its working for me too.

Nathaniel Bailey

05/18/2012 11:26 am

Yer you can put -asdasdasdas.org or anything you want but I'm not sure if its quite the old results before the penguin update, plus what general web searcher would add -something.tld? Or maybe we should start asking google searchers by email if they can add -competitor.com at the end of the keywords we are working on so we can get more traffic lol What happens if I put -nathanielbailey.co.uk before searching for my name? Nothing I'm still ranking top lol IMHO this has got to be one of if not the most pointless posts I have read on any SEO site :( TBH I'm quite disappointed that it was even found out let a long posted about lol


05/18/2012 11:31 am

it is just more "confirmation" that Google is favoring mega marketplace sites and maybe especially Amazon. I believe they are an affiliate of Amazon and likely eBay etc. and they want to "force" many tiny/small businesses to pay for AdWords in addition.

Aleksey Remizov

05/18/2012 12:05 pm

I try use -cnet.com and get same results. Google Custom search also without Penguin.


05/18/2012 02:00 pm

Terms you want to exclude (-) Attaching a minus sign immediately before a word indicates that you do not want pages that contain this word to appear in your results. The minus sign should appear immediately before the word and should be preceded with a space. For example, in the query [ anti-virus software ], the minus sign is used as a hyphen and will not be interpreted as an exclusion symbol; whereas the query [ anti-virus -software ] will search for the words 'anti-virus' but exclude references to software. You can exclude as many words as you want by using the - sign in front of all of them, for example [ jaguar -cars -football -os ]. The - sign can be used to exclude more than just words. For example, place a hyphen before the 'site:' operator (without a space) to exclude a specific site from your search results.


05/18/2012 03:16 pm

wow, absolutely worked!

Krinal Mehta

05/18/2012 03:22 pm

Not working for me :(

William Margita

05/18/2012 03:38 pm

YES>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I LOVE THIS GUY !!!!!!! Matin Ice is a genius i just typed in "keyword -amazon.com" and yes I was back on page 1 position 1 PENGUIN is AMAZON is is the AMAZON.com take over update THIS confirms my earlier post about how GOOGLE currently has 3 former Amazonians on their board of directors of just 12 L. John Doerr: previously a director of Amazon.com Ann Mather: previously Zappos.com which was aquired by Amazon.com in 2009 K. Ram Shriram: served as Vice President of Business Development at Amazon.com Google just got caught.......... Now we have to get this out until the major news stations pick it up Everyone try to contact any PR people you know and get this out. This is HUGE NEWS!!!!! THIS Guy is a genius and I hope

William Margita

05/18/2012 04:00 pm

I think search engine roundtable just deleted my post omg......first Google - now here censorship

Barry Schwartz

05/18/2012 04:01 pm

Disqus marked your comment as spam. I reviewed it, it looks spammy but I approved it. :)


05/18/2012 04:27 pm

I am not sure if any one tried this but the hack works even if amazon.com is replaced by any domain name. I tried with ebay.com and google.com and the hack worked for me. I was able to see pre-penguin rankings (in Google.com and Google.com.au) of the sites hit by Penguin.

John Deck

05/18/2012 06:10 pm

I have seen a lot of weird things over the years with Google. I had one site that was impacted by Penguin and I tried the above, and it worked. The site showed up on page one. BTW it also worked is if I replaced amazon with just a garbage string of characters. John


05/18/2012 06:18 pm

Krinal this is not working in India.


05/19/2012 03:02 am

worked for me, one of the sites that got hit showed 3rd with -ebay.com and -amazon.com but when I do without it shows 7th page lol.


05/19/2012 06:19 pm

Seems to be working for some terms in the UK but not all. Entirely bizarre.

Saad Naeem

05/19/2012 08:30 pm

its kinda works , not really sure though


05/20/2012 12:11 am

amazing, it works 100%. "you keyword" -anything.com I just found all of my sites .


05/20/2012 03:35 am

Or this site as well, which is free & no need to register: http://penguinpenaltychecker.com


05/21/2012 06:47 am

It works for everything, for me is a better [key word -fuckpenguin.com]

school management software

05/21/2012 07:39 am

Things were actually better before penguin!!

Roman Iakoubtchik

05/21/2012 04:49 pm

Initial tests coming back as per article. Wow!


05/21/2012 10:03 pm

Worked for my web site as well. Will Google fix?

Berti Gnac

05/23/2012 11:34 pm

Hello, Just to inform everyone that the hack doesn't work anymore. ++ Bert

Mike Jones

05/24/2012 08:07 pm

Not sure I fully understand. If I enter a keyword in which we previously ranked highly, and this result does NOT appear in the result list using the above hack, does that mean we were not affected by Penguin?


05/24/2012 08:42 pm

Unfortunately no Mike that is not what it means. All it means is that there is a way to see pre-penguin results. I checked one of my sites and the hack doesn't seem to be working anymore anyway. I guess Google read this post or the thread at webmasterworld


05/30/2012 05:47 am

My client website hit by Google Penguin. But i am not sure about it, I am working on around 50 keywords and all rank down on 25 or 26 May. Please suggest me Thanks


05/30/2012 06:03 am

I have checked my keyword and my keyword are in page 2. But lost my rankings in Google.com Its fake?


06/21/2012 09:07 pm

Hate to make it public but just got this private method and got my penguin hit site back :) https://googlepenguinfix.wordpress.com/


06/21/2012 09:11 pm

Hate to make it publik but just got this private method and got my penguin hit site back :) https://googlepenguinfix.wordpress.com/

Lucy Kirkness

09/13/2012 02:51 pm

this definitely does not work for me :(

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