Part I – Google Penguin: The Effects, The Uproar and How to Adjust

Google’s recent search algorithm update, codenamed Penguin, was stated to affect only 3.1% of search queries. However, the queries that were affected by the Penguin update were very important for many small businesses across the country. Many companies rely upon Google’s organic search traffic to gain customers and to sustain their businesses. When the Penguin update rolled out on April 24th, these companies were negatively impacted and experienced dropped rankings and a large drop in traffic. In response to this rapid change, over 1000 small business owners and site webmasters have rallied together to form a petition for Google to reverse the Penguin update. I am writing a 3-part series starting with this post on how to tell if your site was hit by Penguin and will continue in future posts on how our clients were affected at Leverage Marketing and how to recover from and protect against algorithm changes in the future.

2 ways to check if your site was affected by Google Penguin

Google Penguin was rolled out very quickly across the majority of Google’s worldwide iterations on or around April 24. A question that many site owners and webmasters are asking is “Was my site affected?”

There are a few ways to tell, to a high degree of certainty, if your site was affected. The best way to determine if your site was affected is to go straight to your impression data. This data reveals how many times your site appeared in Google’s search results. Organic search impression data is available in Google Webmaster Tools. If you see that on or around April 24th your traffic declined by a significant degree, (similar to the change pictured below) your site was most likely affected by the Penguin update. This rapid decline in impressions indicates that Google is serving your website in less optimal positions for numerous search term results. This gives your site a smaller chance to attract traffic from searches.

Checking Google Webmaster Tools for effects of Google Penguin

If you do not have access to Google Webmaster Tools, the second way you can check if you were affected by the Penguin update is in your Google Analytics data (or whichever traffic tracking tool you use) to see if your Google non-paid search traffic follows a similar sharp downward trend. In some cases, the decline in impressions and visits is alarming. Some site owners have claimed to have experienced up to 90% drops in traffic and widespread drop in rankings.

In upcoming posts, I will be discussing how our clients (at Leverage Marketing) were affected and how to recoup if you were affected by the Penguin update.

Remember, Matt Cutts and the team at Google designed the Penguin update to give sites that practice honest, white hat SEO techniques a fair shot for competitive rankings. More importantly, the Penguin update aims at reducing the amount of spam to improve the user experience.

On June 12, the SEO experts at Leverage Marketing Agency (including yours truly) will be hosting a Google+ hang-out on air to discuss the Penguin update and give business owners and webmasters (and whoever else is interested) a chance to ask questions that we will immediately address. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the link to our hang-out.

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