Google Penguin

Google Penguin Algorithm Impact

It’s been half a year since I last updated this blog, and a lot has happened since then.  The most dramatic change was my top site’s traffic.  My 2 Backpackers travel blog lost 50% of it’s traffic from the Google Penguin updates.

Google Penguin and Panda Traffic ImpactGoogle Penguin Release

On April 24th, Google released the Penguin algorithm update targeted at webspam.  Penguin adjusted a number of spam factors, including keyword stuffing, and impacted an estimated 3.1% of English queries.  I am not going to describe exactly what Penguin is and did, you can read about it on Search Engine Land.

Looking at the image included above from 2Backpackers.com you can see the 40% drop in total traffic that week.  Prior to the update I was averaging 5,850 visits per week.  After the update we dropped almost 50%, but quickly jumped back up to 3,800 visits within 2 weeks.  Then the next bomb hit.

Google Penguin Update 1.1

On May 25th, Google updated their Penguin search algorithm “improvement”.  I got hit again.  Notice the second arrow in the chart above.  After these two updates I lost a total of 50% of my traffic.  Original speculation centered around the term, “over optimization”.  I thought it was possible that I could be accused of this.  Now, I realize I couldn’t have.  After significantly researching what over optimization was, I have come to the conclusion I am practicing good SEO.  Then Google elaborated, explaining that Penguin had nothing to do with over optimization anyway.

So what was I doing wrong?

It’s still difficult to determine.  I have drilled down into my Google Analytics to determine which keywords have been impacted the most.  I do this by filtering my traffic on organic Google search and analyzing the traffic by keyword before and after the individual updates.  Once I identified the impacted keywords, I determined which articles those keywords were sending traffic to.  One of the articles was my top article for two years.  So what was in this article that was violating Google’s policies?  I had a lot of links in this article.  Since it was one of my best articles in terms of attracting organic traffic, I added some affiliate links and internal links to other articles.  It absolutely had more links than any of my other articles, but nothing violating.  There were no paid contextual links.

Am I pissed at Google?

No, I am not mad at Google.  I know they are improving their search, and I also know I am not a saint.  I do sell links and sponsored posts, therefore I must accept any penalties that come to me.  But, I don’t understand why this update impacted me after analyzing it.

The unfortunate truth is that we often never know the exact reasons we were impacted by Google search algorithm updates.  It’s frustrating and honestly, I felt this was the end of my blogging efforts.  When your top blog for almost 4 years takes a 50% hit in traffic, you get deflated.

The amount of time and effort that goes into blogging is tremendous and one can easily lose motivation when the little money that you can potentially earn escapes you.  I decided against that, and have doubled my investments in 2Backpackers.com to make a last ditch effort at turning this personal blog into travel resource that gains 100,000 visits a month.  How do I do that?  I am not sure, but I have some ideas.  And according to the chart above, initial efforts are having positive results.

About Jason Castellani

Senior Consultant for ATCS Inc. and Principal of Castellani Media LLC., a collection of blogs focused on providing unique content and entertainment. Began blogging after quitting my job and backpacking for 1 year with my wife. I became fascinated with the impact of social media and how social media marketing can help businesses grow. My goal is to continue building consulting services in an effort to remain digital nomads. @JasonCastellani

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