Pandas, Penguins and Why I Don’t Do SEO

Google warned us in advance about its planned webspam algorithmn update (now known as “Penguin”) and site owners who ignored those warnings are now paying the price.

Many of the comments posted to Danny Sullivan’s post about the Penguin update verify search engine ranking downgrades and loss.

Here are just a few examples:

  • “I just had a website that ranked on the first page for numerous rankings…. completely tank. One of the only websites that didn’t do comment spam in my SERPS. Didn’t do link exchanges. Now it’s gone.”
  • “5 out of 11 of my sites have dropped into oblivion today.”
  • “In one of my niches, of course, my site has disappeared.”
  • “I have 2 sites that went missing ..they are MIA .. No where to be found in any key word !!”

While I feel for the truly innocent who get caught in the crossfire of Google’s algorithm changes, they will mostly likely regain their rankings — as has happened in the past. By the way, if your site was affected by the “Penguin” webspam algorithm update on April 24th, 2012, and you don’t think it should have been affected, you may submit a report to Google here.

But some not-so-innocent webmasters are stating that Google doesn’t “play fair” and blame Google for the possibility that they may have to seek offline employment or go on government assistance.

Oh, too bad, so sad.

Forgive my lack of empathy, but give me a break.

I’m sick of the whining and moaning that ensues when Google dumps Viagra, make money online, and diabetes web spam over-optimized sites. Google stated that only 3.1% of English language sites would be affected by this update, yet there’s way too much emphasis placed on spammers’ reactions to such changes.

Instead of living in fear of Google algorithm changes, online business owners should seek out positive reports — and there are plenty of positive reports related to the Penguin update, including:

  • “I went to my analytics and did a quick search of traffic over the period from April 23-27 and saw my stats go up after Penguin. More traffic, coming from more places. My ranking in Google is stagnant at #4, but has gone up in Yahoo, Aol etc. Has anyone else seen positive signs from this Penguin update?”
  • “one of my sites is up 20-30%…”
  • “I’ll wait and behold, and start to arrive at any conclusion in a month or two. First of all, none of my sites dropped outta’ index. Second, being patient is natural for buddhists. Third, being an IT worker, I’ve never seen anything of that scale working well at the moment of release and later on. And I don’t really think I’m ever going to, to be frank)”
  • “my total search traffic hasn’t changed”

I too have seen a traffic increase in the past week on most of my primary sites, as is usually the case when an Google puts out an algorithm update.

Here’s a Google Analytics screenshot from one site to which no posts have been made for well over a week and no traffic sent from email blasts. Daily traffic variations remain completely normal and new visitor ratio is virtually the same.

After almost 15 years online, I must conclude that’s because I’ve consistently played by the rules. I do NOT do SEO other than naturally including important keywords in my post titles and text, i.e. I do NOT use silly formulas that may work today, won’t work tomorrow and will get me bounced from the index.

It’s Google’s game, therefore Google makes the rules.

Webmasters who want to rely primarily on free traffic from Google should know and follow Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Here are a few more recommendations:

  1. Don’t buy links
  2. Don’t allow links from low-quality sites and networks
  3. Don’t get sucked into buying SEO services that promise a #1 listing
  4. Don’t waste your money on crap tutorials that promise to teach you how to get #1 listings in Google

In other words, don’t waste your time on SEO – become a real business that provides real value to real people.

Has Penguin affected your site? Please leave a comment below!



P.S. Thanks to Stan Shebs and Wikipedia for the beautiful penguin pic. :-)


  1. says

    You probably already thought of this, but there’s no need to post my comments today. I don’t want to damage David’s reputation. I just didn’t know another way of contacting you. I tried the email form, and your Facebook link, but neither worked for me.

  2. says

    Please how can a newbie get visitors without SEO? I mean, if no one knows you (no reputation in your niche), you do not already have a list of subscribers, and are quite broke enough to not support an adwords campaign.

  3. says

    I did not post anything for a few month now (due to birth of my second baby boy), but my website traffic increased after this update. I actually noticed much more related keywords used to access my travel website. It did boost my motivation to start writing new content. :)

  4. says

    Rosiland — I used to be obsessed with SEO, but not any more. I just focus on adding value to the market and “serving” my core customer . . . . and then let the chips fall where they may. When I was obsessed with SEO, I was focused on backlinks, SEO tools and various SEO services. The more time I spent on SEO the less time I spent focusing on my customer. Bad move.

    And then there is article spinning! Man, am I so glad I never got caught up in that racket.

  5. Art Wesley says

    Hi Ros,

    This is my first comment in a very long time…
    (I did not include my primary website address in this comment for fear of tainting your popularity, etc.- and on and on…)

    Competitors and followers, one well-known BRAND and several “thin” affiliates, in league with a popular SEO business trashed my websites, one after another… They copied my content, complained on forums and blogs that I had stolen their content—my content… Some—not named here, encouraged their followers to report my websites as spam to Google! Links to my sites spiked +100 to +1000 times in less than a month, continuing for several months: all (links) spam, phony and outrageous TLDs pointing to FAT “doorway” sites pushing poor product! I had no choice but to take my sites offline for a time while I waited for a Google ruling. I have since put my sites back online, without content, to see if I am still under attack. This mess happened because I criticized a substandard product (a total rip-off) in two blog Reviews—I was not competing… I believed in honesty and content when I started to do business online… and I was hammered!

    Google’s notorious SE updates have enabled poor or black hat SEOs… I was surprised to see legitimate Brands encouraging and participating in this (my) destruction, for “A Fistful of Dollars”!

    So, how do I protect myself?

  6. James says

    You don’t feel any sympathy for those that were affected by the update, but
    you started by selling an affiliate guide on ClickBank with an affiliate base
    that is well known for spamming. So.. go figure!

  7. says

    Thanks for this great “Google algorithm” update, Rosalind. Being a kinda’ seasoned beginner, I’ve always been a bit stuck on the use of Google. But this newsletter has done a great job of sorting the whole Google issue. Thanks a bundle! John

  8. Sue says

    Hey Ros,

    You said that Item #2 was “Don’t allow links from low-quality sites and networks.”

    We can prevent this from happening by not posting an article to that type of site in order to get a backlink. How do we stop people with low-quality sites from linking to us? Is that possible?


    • says

      You absolutely can’t, and this is a big problem. Of course, most snooty self-proclaimed WhiteHat heroes will claim that “it hardly ever happens”, or that “Google will eventually sort it out”.

      Personally, I wouldn’t take much stock in that. Google itself directly confirms that reverse SEO is possible, and anyone willing to confront the truth can plainly see that it is. (BTW, it’s not *just* bad inlinks that these guys use… it’s a number of things – linking to nonexistent pages to generate tons of 404 errors, requesting DMCA takedowns of all your major SERP placments, sending cease & desist / link takedown orders in pretense to authority sites that currently link to your site, and of course, building/buying spammy links to your site and then submitting a spam report to good old Google themselves…)

      The major issue here is that you can seriously damage someone’s link profile if you have $5 to spend on Fiverr. Or whatever low-quality workpool you prefer. These neg-seo gigs are popping up everywhere, and it’s disgusting to see.

      I’m seeing this mostly happen in high-competition markets, but if Google leaves this exploit open for any length of time – you can expect to see it in a market near you…

      Just remember – everyone is “high and mighty” until it happens to them. It’s not until you’ve built hundreds of sites using every legal approach in the book (from spotless WH to outright buying your rankings) before you begin to see that it’s truly just a crapshoot.

      And that the good guys don’t always win.

      Who DOES win? Brands, and people who hedge their bets by diversifying both traffic sources AND seo approaches.

      “Building great content” is a load of crap unless you happen to be in a very vocal market, for example, the one Ros is in.

      But again – build many sites, and use many different approaches/link sources. “Doing everything right” will not save you. Nor will “only providing great content”. Unfortunately, it’s still a numbers game.

      I seriously can’t wait until Google actually rewards good content and links, and doesn’t leave gaping holes in their algorithm for Romanian crime rings, for example, to bulldoze legitimate sites as a business model.

      But for now, they do not – and so I do that which is necessary. So should you.


  9. says

    Here’s one for you: Amazon receives thousands of links for affiliates promoting their products. I’m sure many of us do. Do you think they were penalized?

  10. says

    Would you care to expand on one of your recommendations at the end of the post, namely:

    “Don’t allow links from low-quality sites and networks”.

    Or perhaps think about how ridiculous that is, when you’re dealing with very competitive markets (which I do), and where negative SEO is a very real threat, and one that we have seen in action, and working, time and time again, obviously being done by some of the zero-ethics competitors or otherwise ruthless affiliates.

    Someone can go and blast your site with 10 million crap links on for the price of a cup of coffee.

    And you know what?

    It works.

    Just ask Dan Thies,, and anyone else willing to tell the truth on this. Luckily, we haven’t been victims yet (aside from being victims of content scrapers, whose splogs many times out rank the true content, on our sites), but it’s just a matter of time if you’re in markets where ranking on page 1 equals 4 – 5 figures a day in profit.

    Our network consists of hundreds of sites. Our authority sites are always 100% above-board.

    Our mini-sites are 100% WH content-wise, but we do buy links. Why? Because it works, because it’s legal, and because the ROI is 1000 times better than relying on the myth of “building great content” or “creating a community of raving fans”.

    Yeah, like that’s gonna happen for a 5-page site about toenail fungus, or dental insurance, etc.

    What Google needs to do, if they actually care about User Experience, is discount links from low quality networks, rather than penalize them. That is the dumbest move in history, for them.

    As is evidenced by their current SERPs, which are far worse than Bing’s, and comprise far more than 3% of the results as they are stating.

    All it takes to verify what I’m saying is to go to a little site called and start running searches in ANY competitive market.


  11. Barb says

    Here’s what I’m sick of…people thinking that they are following google’s webmaster guidelines when in reality they are not.

    I would have to say to them, “Please explain to me why you think that you have obtained all of your backlinks by following google’s webmaster guidelines.”

    Here’s an example Rosalind, when I did a google search the search results clearly show backlinks throughout the internet to your sites with you as the author on sites such as article directories, social bookmarking sites and other sites that have direct links back to your sites. There are Youtube backlinks, blog spot backlinks, forum profile backlinks, hub backlinks, and other profile backlinks to your sites on linkedin, pinterest, google plus and the like. Does google really approve of all of these methods of getting backlinks that point to sites that sell products or have google and other ads on them?

    In reality I think not and the last time I checked getting those type of backlinks was considered to be an off page SEO strategy used to promote a site, as well as benefit site rankings.

    How can anyone call these people affected “not-so innocent webmasters” when I don’t think any one person marketing online can honestly say that they have never received a backlink in a way that google would not approve of.

    Can those who have affiliates promoting their products be sure that all the affiliates working on their behalf are not getting links pointing to their sites in a way that google does not approve of…these are still links that benefit their sites!

    Just because the product owner did not buy the links that their affiliates may be buying that are benefiting the sales on their sites, does not mean that it is right in the eyes of google and that the product owners sites are clear of what google is calling webspam. It may be 2 tier but it is still happening.

    In my opinion there is no need for anyone to call other webmaster’s out and say that they have always played by the rules. I don’t think any of us can say that we even know what google’s rules are from one day to the next.

    Does anyone know what percentage of webmaster’s may have been doing exactly what we have all been doing for our sites and they still got caught in this last google update unfairly? Read the post by Graham.

    No I don’t need a backlink…I simply want to let other people know that playing the “I have never done anything wrong” card is also getting old on this topic!

    • says

      Hi Barb,

      Yes, after almost 10 years online, NPT has just over 8000 links from external sites.

      To your statement – Does google really approve of all of these methods of getting backlinks that point to sites that sell products or have google and other ads on them?

      I guess Google considers NPT a content site with links in that are relevant, which were built up slowly and naturally. I’ve read the guidelines many, many times and always done my best to follow them to a T…


  12. says

    Ros, I’m confused by your comment to not do SEO. I’m in the process of making my website more targeted to my particular target market and brand based on a few long tail keywords. My blog post and writing have not been for a particular niche because I just write what I feel without a thought to a particular target mkt or niche. Now that I”m learning more abt SEO and long tail keywords its time for me to go back and revamp my site. I’m just wondering if its worth it. I’ve learned alot from you from your blogger pro trainings including SEO. Although Im working on a different site at the moment that’s not associated w/the bloggerpro training I still follow your SEO strategies you’ve outlined in the training. What other alternatives are there to attract our target market to our websites if SEO is not an option?

    • says

      Hi Angela,

      My ‘I do not do SEO’ headline was more for effect than anything else… sorry to concern you.

      As stated in the article, I put keywords in the title and throughout an article to the extent that sounds as natural as if you were speaking to someone about a topic.

      Your approach to brand yourself for your target market is a smart move!


    • says

      Great I was worried there for a second. I’ve been spending a lot of time on my brand and working on a long tail kw strategy and ready to move forward on implementation. Sometimes I find its difficult to be natural when trying to incorporate my keywords but I’m working at it! Thanks for keeping me abreast of the industry news. Thanks for your response!

  13. David Mitchell says

    Hi Ros,

    I probably won’t fit in here as I offer Seo services, and I must say only a small percentage of my clients sites were hit. lol I might not fit in but I love you Ros lol

    So what’s my take on Google Penguin, it should have happened years ago. A lot of people moan about things regarding Google, but it’s because it’s all they know. When I do any work on a site I am more working on Social media than Seo because this builds backlinks naturally. Having said that I do guest post, blog comment, and post articles but this is where LSI keywords come into play. If you shoot for an exact match your gubbed to put it politely Google hate it, they don’t need you to point out the keyword.

    My clients sites that were hit are now all back in place because I removed some of the exact match anchor text, ill need to be careful in future. :)

    Hope I can still come back to your posts Ros 😉


    • says

      Hi David,

      You are always welcome here! :-) I’m totally with you on working more on the social media side of things these days. I’ve gone that route too.

      Thanks for sharing the folly of exact match anchor text.. I hope everyone reads that part of your comment.


  14. says

    Ros, Great Post thanks. I am 100% with you. I’ve played the “fast gain” game and before I knew it I was hit by Google, so learned my lesson and now I concentrate on providing valuable content and I sleep sound at night knowing I am building an asset that will last as it is a
    cumulative collection of great content.

    • says

      Thanks Ernesto,

      I’m always happy to hear about folks who get a little poke from Google that helps them learn. :-)

      Thanks for sharing and sleep well!


  15. says

    All these Animal themed Google updates are quite amusing. I’d bet on the next one being a Parrot! This particular update was quite interesting because it hasn’t affected my YouTube channel or any other site which I control. It has however affected sites I don’t control but use to direct traffic to relevant online content. Sites like Hubpages, Squidoo and Wizzley have their own communities and ways of creating online content that either works or it doesn’t.

    One of my Blogger blogs has doubled in traffic however and for now this remains a constant thing and I’ve never spammed anything….well except when I first started I did as I didn’t know any better and quite frankly the internet marketing gurus instructed me to do it!

    Everything seems to fall into place when you set up a website or websites that you enjoy because you should look after it more by doing the right thing by your online property.

    • Lynn says

      They should be called the Piranha Updates.

      Rosalind, just a quick question…….is the All in One SEO Plugin a good or bad thing to use on a website? I’m wondering now if it’s a bad thing to use considering all these algorithm changes and penalties, etc.

      I don’t play the SEO game. I write how I speak. I do try and include in the title of my posts the relevant long tail keyword that the post is referencing. When I’m writing the post, long tail keywords just come out naturally. I don’t even think about Google when I write. I do use the All in One SEO Plugin and I’m wondering if I should dump it.

  16. says

    A question for both Roz and Carolyn (of Look Great, Lose Weight site) –
    Both of you say you don’t build unnatural backlinks. Yet you both have sites that, according to MajesticSEO, have tens of thousands of backlinks! How did you get all those backlinks naturally and how can we learn to do that, too?

    • says

      Hi Deane,

      NPT is almost 10 years old has just over 8,000 backlinks according to MajesticSEO – nowhere near what some newer popular sites on the same topic have… i.e. over half a million.

      The age of the site has a lot to do with it… as it has been referenced in other peoples’ work many times. Too, I’ve linked back to it from relevant comments on other blogs, my You Tube videos, Facebook and Twitter. All has grown slowly and naturally.

      You can definitely do that too. :-)


  17. says


    I understand where you are coming from with your post today but I think there is more going on with this than meets the eye. I have been reading a number of posts made by various people that I respect online and I would like to quote something I pulled from (Matt is a fellow New Zealander doing some great work on the internet and helping make it a better place).

    This quote also has a link to something written directly to Google management which I think is a must read for all of us interested in this latest Google update as well as the many others that have been implemented and that are bound to keep on coming.

    Google will not admit to this and neither will Matt Cutts, a billion dollar company they might be, but they have underestimated the consequences of the current updates and have got this one horribly wrong. And the assumption that having a great looking site with lots of unique content and a very low bounce rate appears on the surface to be the obvious answer to better rankings and more traffic.

    But then how do you answer this… Who can be more authoratitve in the DIY industry with more unique content other than Tim Carter the founder, he’s been operating his site for 17 years, and was even featured on googles own site as the perfect example of a quality site displaying adsense ads, and yet his traffic has tanked massively – by 80% (eighty percent) you can read what he has to say right here were he is pleading directly to Matt Cutts

    And now that negative SEO has reared its ugly head the situation is lot more serious than some would make out… your ‘SEO Masters Academy’ partner Terry Kyle was quick to spot this and informed his subscibers of a negative SEO case study on his trafficplanet forum. This has now gone viral and now we have the industries other top SEO experts, Rand Fishkin and Arron Wall giving their analysis, and to be frank it is not pretty, especially when you consider that a google ‘heavily’ penalized site can seriously harm another sites ranking with something as simple as a 301 redirect. This isn’t fiction this is happening right now.

    Matt Cutts certainly isn’t blind to all of this, I honestly think that he and his spam team have been taken by complete surprise not forseeing the consequences of their latest update… the question is how do they plan to address this giant sized ‘cockup’ of a mess that they have created.

    So from what I understand from all that I have read, and I’ve been doing a heap this last week, Google has caused heart ache for a lot of people who have been playing by their rules. Their systems are not perfect, this has been plainly proven time and time again, and what we all have to learn is to not rely on just one source of traffic. Sometimes we can start thinking that Google is the internet but it’s not. It’s just another business, a provider of services, that has just gotten so BIG that it’s every move has massive consequences for good or for bad. I have followed your work for some time now Rosalind and I think you have a well balanced approach to your marketing and that is to provide value to your visitors and the rest takes care of its self. I just hope that for all those who have suffered unjustly with this latest update will soon see things come right.

    • says

      Hi Graham,

      Sorry to hear about Tim’s site being lambasted. It does look like the percentage of traffic from search has been dropping almost steadily since the beginning of 2011 with a significant drop in the last 7 days. Having said that, both rank and reach on that site have increased markedly in the same time. Go figure.

      And yes, negative SEO is a frightening prospect, but I’m going to keep the faith and trust that Google will figure out how to spot intentional bombardments and stop penalizing the good guys.


  18. Larry says

    Although it’s wasted fodder, Ashot’s right. Google made it’s money from all the websites and practices of affiliate websites they now deem shady and in a few ways they continue to; hiprocracy at it’s finest. But as you state, we have to play by their rules – like it or not.

    But my real reason for commenting is to ask are you still earning income from the methods outlined in your course – Are you? Does the dating site comparison site still work?

    Thanks in advance,


    • says

      Hi Larry,

      You bet I’m still earning from the dating site… not as much as before, because I don’t work the site as much anymore. But still enough that it would be a nice yearly income for most folks. :-)


  19. says

    Hi Ros,
    I absolutely agree with you. It’s their company and if they decide to do an update – well, that’s how it is… The best is not to worry about ranking but about writing own stuff – not over-optimized with a silly keyword named in every heading. I really can see Google sooner or later treating that pages even more – or hopefully they do. In the end the best way to get pages ranked is writing. Optimizing and Backlinking is fine but should be more natural and done over days instead of minutes.

    • says

      Monja… you’re so right, especially about optimization should be done over “days instead of minutes”. Months and years, too. :-)


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