How is the Google "Over-Optimization" Penalty Affecting Your Sites?

Google officially announced yesterday “Another Step to Reward High-Quality Sites” on the Official Google Webmaster blog. This announcement is also being referred to as the “over optimization penalty”.  Matt Cutts discussed about a month ago at a conference that this penalty would be coming out.  So, its not totally unexpected.  However, I have been hearing from LOTS of people that they have seen major movements in their search engine rankings over the past day or so.

First, I want to briefly discuss what this penalty is and then how my own sites are doing.  First, Matt Cutts says in the announcement that they are essentially targeting sites that they feel are gaming the system through link schemes and keyword stuffing. Overall, this is effecting about 3.1% of queries in English.  So, it effecting quite a few sites.  In addition, this recent announcement essentially follows up with the previous Panda updates that are trying to help higher quality sites rank better, and lower quality sites to rank worse.

However, from the discussion I am seeing all over the place, it appears that more than 3% of sites were affected.  Did Google go overboard?

How My Sites Are Performing

Unfortunately, Google of course won’t reveal exactly what might be triggering penalties, but here is what I am seeing across my sites. Overall, I have definitely seen some movement down with the rankings of some of my sites.  Not all of my sites, but definitely a significant movement with some of them.  At this point its still too early to tell with some of my larger sites how the actual traffic to my sites will be effected.  My analytics appear to be pretty consistent with the number of visitors to my larger sites over the past few days.  So, I may need some more time to assess the full effect.

However, I am actually noticing a couple of my sites are getting more traffic.  So, some of my sites have moved down and some have moved up.

This gives me a good comparison of what might be causing some of the movement.  From a quick look at my stats, it appears that sites that I did NOT really build very many links to are performing best.  Those sites that perhaps I built more links to, and used similar anchor text to, appear to be the sites that are most effected.

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Overall, without using Adsense anymore, its hard for me to see right away how all my sites are earning.  If I could just log in and see my Adsense stats I would have a MUCH better feel overall how my sites are performing!  As it is, I am trying look at the analytics for some of my bigger sites and this is what I’m seeing.

Some of the Techniques Google is Targeting

I think a very relevant and educational video recently done my Rand Fishkin over at is right here:

Rand essentially discusses some reasons that Google could be penalizing sites for being over-optimized.  Items such as spammy titles, keyword stuffing, unnatural link building, overuse of keyword anchor text, and more.  I think Rand nailed it with this video.

Overall, this penalty and the fact that I no longer have an Adsense account continue to encourage me to shift my niche site business away from lots of small niche sites to the prospect of building just one or two larger sites.  I have lots of sites and will continue to make the winners better sites, but may also eventually move more towards only holding a smaller portfolio of sites down the road.

How are Your Sites Doing?

Now that you have heard about my sites, I want to hear about yours?  Have you seen movement up or down your rankings in the past day or so?  This appears to be a pretty big deal for many peole…lets discuss it!

Search Engine Optimization

By Spencer Haws
April 25, 2012 | 148 Comments

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Thanks for sharing this timely update. It’s definitely interesting to see how folks’ sites are doing. Pat Flynn says all but one of his niche sites are up, the AdSense Flippers aren’t seeing too much change, my own sites seem to be fifty-fifty.

Although I guess it’s all still playing out, so it’s probably too quick to determine how exactly the change is affecting us all.


I agree. Its still early on – but definitely something to be aware of.


Thanks Spencer, I have saw WAY to many of my sites move down too .. some were legit as can be .. I guess we are all always at the mercy of google..


My sites have been jumping around a lot. Down over the weekend but back up yesterday. I did notice that a lot of Ezinearticles and are showing up again after a 12 month absence. I also had two youtube videos that disappeared about a year ago now show up in #3 and #4 for their keywords. They outrank the website they are linked to.

Amir Najmi

I was actually going to e-mail you this morning to see how your sites were doing. My sites have all dropped. Most went from page 1 to not in the top 50. My best site went from #6 to #13 and another site I had went from #1 (for the past 3+ months) to #8. Very bad for me….I noticed most of the sites in the top 10 are now articles from major sites like news sites (CNN, Fox, Forbes, etc) with no on page optimization at all for the keyword being targeted.

I don’t really understand what Google is doing anymore. I going to be slowly moving away from depending 100% on SEO and to something more stable in a business model.



Yes. All of the sites now in the top 10 for my keyword are all huge sites with one article on the topic. And that article is on page 1.


Very interesting…thanks for sharing Amir.


I can’t help but feel that all these changes are just a way of G forcing people who want prime SERP rankings to pay for advertising through them and nothing more….

Tho Huynh

Yeah, top sites now come from HUGE authority sites


My 2 major money sites are totally disappear from SERP .It is really hard to figure out what is going and what google wants?

I see that many crap sites are ranking on the top of the google .Just type the ” make money online for beginners” and see the first result.It is blank blog from blogsot.

I think google is still working on it .It is hard to tell anything at this movement,We can might be see the clear picture with in 2 – 4 weeks .


There are some more example to make you smile on your face.

(1) Dog training – Ranking senukex for 4 or 5 the place on the first page of google.

(2)Viagra – Two edu sites are ranking first page of google.


My main site got killed. Nowhere to be found. If it is an “over optimization” penalty, I am going to see if I can change some things on the site to get it back up.

That is $2K per month gone with the flick of a switch.

That’s life. I’ll make up that income, though. No doubt.


Sorry to hear that Drew. I know what it feels like to have income taken away. Great attitude though!


Hi Drew,

Exactly the same thing has happened to me. My huge authority site (have a podcast and You Tube channel) has been killed overnight. I have several hundred pages on the site. Not a single one has less than 700 words on the page.

It was number one for many keywords.

Poof. Gone.

What’s lieft? The number one Google website for this key word is a huge, spammy website with spun and thin content. And around 22000 shady back links. How is this possible?!?!

The number two website is a site that hasn’t been updated since 2009.

This makes NO sense.

What REALLY sucks is that I am an expert in my niche. In my real life, I live, breathe and work in area I’ve built this site around.

Why have I been penalized for something that is totally legitimate and that I have devoted years to developing.


AJ – This sort of this is really making me sick to my stomach. Sounds like you really had a high quality site there that deserves to be listed at the top of Google. I really hope they get their act together. I feel for you…


Thanks, Spencer. All I feel that I can do is wait and see…


The title is wrong. This is not the over-optimization penalty. It is called the “webspam algorithm update”


Okay, yes “Webspam algorithm Update” may be the official name. But people are calling it the over optimization penalty. Title is correct. (Even the article you link to talks about it being called teh Over-optimization penalty).


“I think ‘over-optimization’ wasn’t the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO, and we tried to make that fact more clear in the blog post,” Cutts told me.

Read that line. Change is targeted at webspam not SEO.


My sites have been all over the map. I think my main site got slapped for my main keyword, pushed back about 25 slots. Other sites are unaffected, seeing some good movement on others.

As G has rolled out their updates over the last few days/weeks, I have responded by going for social media gigs on, delicious, reddit, stumbleupon, etc. and maybe that has helped.

I am fighting Panda w/on page social, off page social, manual, low quantity, high PR, very relevant blog commenting and some link pyramid/link wheel building on mostly web 2.0 properties.

Overall I have not been hit that bad.

I did also get a warning in Google Webmaster Tools for a handful of my sites.


Thanks for sharing!

Andre Garde

Too early to tell guys. Google isn’t done rolling out the updates. From the linked article:

“In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam.”

Just wait a week before doing anything drastic, however excruciating that time period is for some.

Plan accordingly though. 🙂


Yep, its still early on, so we will see how it all shakes out…


Hi Spenser! I have been reading your blog for the past few months.I have been searching information about microniche sites , after reading xfactor course and i found your blog !

Your experience encouraged me..and i wanted to do the same! But unfortunately.. just after i set up a few sites , just when i had a few dollars on my account .. my adsense account was disabled for ” posing risk of invalid activity”..
I was depressed and my appeal failed too..
Then i lost inspiration about micro niche sites.. as i had a feeling that adsense can ban me again in the future for unknown reason .. and it will be quite pain in ass to monetize these sites with adsense alternatives..
So now i have decided to go just with 1 new site and new adsense account and if i will be banned again , then at least if my site is huge i can monetize it with alternatives and it will be ok..


If you have one large site that you can build into a viable business, I think that’s a great way to go.


The short answer is pretty much gorn.

Thats it, had it with google. No longer will be a slave to there fanciful whims.

Sure will build more sites but am going to drive traffic to them using methods I have been picking up in case of this eventuality.

No more reliance on google. A couple of years ago it was a relatively stable method to use, get high in the serps, earn money. This has now gone. (unless they do a big turnaround and say well, that did not work out very well and roll it back)

No more!!!



Thanks for sharing Mark…interesting to hear how these changes effect everyone.


My main site has disappeared from the search engines, this was a quality site, great original content and a lot of hard work. I’m no innocent though and have used a varied backlinking strategy on this site including some ALN links so I’m guessing that’s what got me.

All the thin affiliate sniper sites that I gave up making last year are ranking on the 1st page for their respective keywords.

This update is a mess

competitors have also disappeared and most of the pages have Amazon ranking in up to the 1st four positions as well as lots of spammy videos and some forum inner pages.


Steve – sorry to hear about your main site. Interesting that you are seeing your “thin sniper sites” rank better.

Quinton Hamp

#4 to #40

ain’t as bad as it could be!


Thanks for posting this. Right now our sites are doing really well actually. However, we’ve been looking into other ways of monetizing niche sites ever since we read about what happened to your adsense. Even though I believe we’re following all the rules, it’s just a scary thought if google can just ban you one day without giving detailed reason. We’ve been motioning towards building more authority sites as well. , but I still believe in building niche sites. As long as there is still money to be made, we’ll jump right on it 🙂


Thanks for sharing Josh. I definitely think there is money to be made with niche sites. However, its always scary to be reliant on Google. I think a move to higher quality is good advice for anyone.


Big changes for me with this update…

90% of my EMDs got hit, and even some sites that I would have considered authority with tons of content and long standing rankings.

Out of all the updates google has talked about in the past year (including panda) this update affected the highest number of my sites.


We are all depending on Google for our income simply because we are based online. In the real bricks and mortar world of business no one in their right mind would base their whole future financial security on one bunch of faceless, whimsical over-grown children who need adult toys and treats at their place of work to help them get through the day.

It’s time we all fought back and came up with proper solutions that would give us sound alternatives to being terrorised by what is literally just a search engine that isn’t even human and is not accountable to anyone except their shareholders. If Google lost its power the world would become a better and much more balanced place. It’s a great pity that governments don’t set about breaking its hold.


Well-said, Ruby. I wrote on this very topic last summer after the Panda debacle:

I don’t know if government is the answer…but I can say that Google seems to be working overtime to make enemies these days.

Carlos R.

I think that the USA government and Google are quite cozy together. Google is a wonderful tool for big brother, and this continues to be more and more the case as time passes.

Bill Glosse

I believe what you all are experiencing is a glitch on Google’s part. Give it a few weeks and it will work out. If not, we should consider a Google blackout day!

Chris Wiilliams

Just like those nonsensical “Don’t buy gas on this day,” A single “Blackout day” won’t work. If you want to force change, you, and everyone else you know, and everyone they know, and everyone they know, have to be committed. A long term boycott is about the only thing that will work. Unfortunately, way too many people rely on Google for their business and personal needs to ever boycott them.

I’m just now getting into the whole web marketing business, so I am really interested in seeing how this whole thing develops. To be honest though, I think a lawsuit is in order, especially over the loss of commissions from last month. Google essentially stole the money Spencer earned last month, and they did so without any warning or proof. I know I would be absolutely furious to suddenly have my income taken away without so much as a warning.


Of my whopping 5 ranking niche sites. The main one that was doing $50 per month has dropped out of the top 100 . (not deindexed though) Interestingly a tumblr blog I set up to link to the money site (the pat flynn method) is showing up on page 1 of the rankings now. My other sites seem to be mixed but no major moves.

I’m hoping things will settle out soon.


Very interesting indeed…


this is exactly what happened to me.. my money site is nowhere to be found while my tier 2 web 2.0 (blogspot) site has shot up in the results page..


hi there
unfortunately my web 2.0 money site got hit! it was thiny site with few articles of 700 words. i didnt build any web 2.0 backlinks…but i did linked to my site from a forum. my money site never ranked for the main keyword. but it ranked for long tails… few searches per month….but my site used to rank for these long tail keywords. unfortunately a blog post which was posted after a day that i set up the site….ranked no 3 for the main keyword. followed by the forum. my site recently died. no long tail ranking…..
we should realy do some kind of petition or someting!!!


This constant fear of losing rankings is not a way to run a business. Google is making sure that for profitable queries that only their partners, adwords customers, etc show up on the first page. A lot if searches i checked show affiliate & adsense sites starting on page two and page one is dominated by google and friends. Its their search engine and really they are just an advertising agency. The trick is to decide if viral sharing is possible to get away from dependency on google. Many niche sites dont work with this approach. Build actual sticky useful sites? Seems like the only answer.


David, excellent comment. Your points are actually very thought provoking for sure.

Zac Johnson

I’ve seen some ups and downs across sites. I agree with you about the Google Adsense quick stats factor, it was nice to login to the Adsense account and see how all sites were doing for the day with the traffic across the board.

On another note, I do think it’s a temporary update and that more changes are to come. Like most people are saying, some of the sites that are currently ranking well are just stupid and trash sites.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. But once again, just another less to not rely on Google for all of your traffic or revenue generation.


Hey Zac! Yep, definitely not fun without the adsense account…
But I also agree that this is a temporary update at this point and they are sure to have updates that fix/change what has already been done.

Would love to hear what’s working for you in regards to traffic generation…

Zac Johnson

I will be focusing pretty much all of my efforts on a handful of sites I currently am working on and have been growing over time. Focusing on maximizing the potential and monetization for growth.

Letting most of my other sites just faze out or expire. Too many times I’ve found myself spreading myself too thin and not focusing on the projects that matter.

Either way, it will be interesting to see how the whole Google rankings play out in the coming weeks, along with the future of niche sites and how people will grow them out and rank them.

Tony Miller

I read somewhere else that currently some completely BLANK sites are ranking top spots for very valuable keywords. If you search “make money online” there is a site in spot 1 that is completely blank! So it is obvious that google still is in the early stages of this new change.

Google has really started to crack down on spam sites and people finding easy ways around getting ranked well in search engines. Times are changing and I think those that actually put quality work into their sites are going to be best off in the end.

If your site has gone down in rankings, then it is probably a good idea to restructure your web building blueprint.

One of my major sites went down a few ranks in its keyword, but it is still making money. I have been struggling to find a new method of SEO that works well, but haven’t come across anything I like so far.


I’ve gotten hit badly. And I only have 3-4 niche sites (which I am completely ignoring in my comments…I’m only including legit, high-value authority sites in this. They hurt me with the Panda update last year, and have hurt me more again this year with this latest update. I can only hope they realize the error and moderate the changes…they had undone some of the Panda damage before this happened.

But, some hard examples:

site 1: yesterday – #29, today – not in the top 150
site 2: yesterday – #2, today – #8 (before Panda, this site was #1 for FIVE YEARS)
site 3: yesterday – #2, today – #7 (and this one as well…before Panda, #1 for 5 years)
site 4: yesterday – #4, today – #24

Other sites are unaffected. Some have seen very slight improvements. But at some point, I have to ask: what the hell is Google doing? When you kill the best quality sites (or at least some which are among the best) in a particular area, whose interest are you really serving???

I’m sick of these games.


Sorry to hear, but thanks for sharing…

Just saying

This is AWESOME for me!! It appears to me that it cuts my work in half to what other people are doing to their sites. I don’t have to worry about backlinking or anything. Just write the content for my readers and then submit the site info to google and have them crawl it. Also I will do FB ads and maybe google ads just a few times. It will take some time and I know this, but I’ve been working and learning about website for two years and nothing on the web yet, so what is a couple of more months. I won’t lie most of the SEO stuff scare me anyways and since I want it to be perfect I back out right before I get stuff up and running. I can just write the content and design the site and am done. How GREAT is that. I know some will say you can’t do it that way. I’m going to and see if it works. If I remember I will come back here or comment on another post and let you know if it worked.

Carlos R.

You had the courage to say, in present company, what I was thinking, but decided to keep to myself. I share your sentiment, and I hope that clean websites with true high quality content will reign.


I have seen very little movement (up or down) on my sites but even though I try to always provide good content and use only white hat methods of ranking I am not sure what the future will hold with all these new Google algorithms.

I will continue to work on my existing sites and check them over for “over optimization “. But I don’t plan on creating anymore sites until I get a better handle on what Google real intends are with all these changes and a better understanding from Google what changes have to have sites be unaffected by these “Google mood swings”

I am not even sure that Google knows that their newest algorithms are not being kind to even those sites that Google says they “like”.

The overall concern we all have is having some of sites that do not deserve to be de-indexed will be because of Google’s policy of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.

Anyone want to buy a gross of cheap Chinese Replica Watches? (just kidding.. I will sell them on ebay “As is”) LOL


What type of sites are not constantly affected by algo changes?

What type of site can a single entity build that Google will like?

I have not been in the biz very long, but my few sites have been affected by this latest change. Instead of trying to figure out what I am doing wrong I would love to learn from the more experienced what type of sites can we build that will insulate us from these changes?


I agree. I have a couple of really great podcast interviews that I just recorded that will discuss this very topic of what sort of sites you should be building. Those will be coming in the next little while.


So far it looks like my websites have increased in rank. I definitely haven’t over optimized my websites. For the most part I focused on creating quality content for them and a very little SEO. From what I’ve read that is the best way to make a quality content in Google’s eyes and they are happy with those type of sites. Ones that don’t have duplicate content, have useful information that visitors would return for, not too many ads or false promises of content with ads instead, and just one large authority type site. They like those kind of sites.

So I’ll keep building those type of sites and see how it goes!


Great…glad your sites are doing well!


Yeah so far so good until Google changes their search algorithms again and then my sites ranks will drop. Haha. Oh well I’ll keep creating natural content for my site with no hooky backlinking or SEO’ing the pages and I think it should be fine.

I think that is what we should all be doing. Just creating quality content websites and we should be fine. Big authority sites with just good old plain useful information on it. Can’t go wrong that way.


None of my SEO clients got hit, most of them html websites.

My best earner site went down a bit, from 5th position to 14th. (for the main kw).


My niche sites got hit pretty bad. Really weird and hard to figure out what exactly they were targeting, definitely not over-optimized as G suggested.

About 50% of my 50 sites took a big hit and dropped out of the top 100. My authority site which had about 80 pages and was my biggest earner took a nose dive today. This had UAW and BMR backlinks but when BMR got deindexed, I had not seen a drop in rankings at all. Unfortunately not the case this time around.

Like someone else here, I noticed that my anchor layer sites actually replaced my money sites in the top ten and those only had UAW links to them.

Oh well, shit happens!


Hey Spencer,

Yeah lost rankings too, today’s going to be my first day in many months without earnings, yikes… Like somebody else mentioned, I see more and more huge sites, “brands”, dominating the first page. Eric Schmidt did say recently that “brands are not the problem, they’re the solution.” Well, here’s why I don’t agree: if all you’re doing is providing brand names on page 1, you’re not a search engine, you’re a flyer. The problem as I see it is that Google can’t really do what it’s meant to do, which is to “understand” content, it can’t do that… and seeing as marketers keep figuring out how to use its bandaid solutions to understanding content (such as ranking according to backlinks) for their own ends, it (Google) seems to have no choice left but to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and just give us Big Names on page 1. But again, that a search engine does not make.


Yes, Google is a fan of brands for sure.

Chris W


I have a PR3 homepage, niche blog with a single post sitting at 5 in Google aiming for a low compeition (top ten shows pr0 and 1s with between 0-200 links.

It got there in 2 weeks with no backlinking, just working with some standard social signals from our personal G+ Accounts. G+ profiles seem to have their own kind of page rank depending on #Followers, +1s, reshares, etc. Knowing that this would become important I grew my G+ account before I learnt much detail in SEO even.

I’m at 850 followers now, it’s pretty steady and whilst by no means the biggest following there is a lot of people in there that I keep up with personally. I was thinking about writing the strategy I use because it’s done ok for me I seem to keep climbing even though I’m only putting in a few hours a week without any kind of gimicky follow/unfollow BS. Plus they’re hours that feel more like hanging out with cool people rather than working.

And whilst we’re on that subject, Spencer it would be good to see put all your posts through G+ and come on and host a conversation whilst you’e there, you’d get rapid growth with your reputation.

Anyway, topped that up with a bit of Social ADR and it’s stayed steady at 5 so far.

I’m swapping to SYND though, it seems that Social ADR is too much of a network of puppets rather then a real community so I’m always dubious about that. Whereas it seems that SYND has more of a PR service approach to it which I feel more comfortable with and is far more future proof.


Hey Chris, great points about Google+ . I am on there, but am not very active- I have to admit. I LOVE their hangout capabilities – been using it alot with my family…definitely very cool. Google+ is on the to-do list to get more involved.

Daniel D'Laine

Hi spencer

I love the Over-Optimisation-Penalty algorithms… :0)

I’ve always used GBP and quality (on every level) on all my sites for the last 5 or 6 years and because of this, I’ve always earned up to 40% ‘less’ than other ‘comparison’ competition sites… that is, until the last year or so, upon where every time Google add a new algorithm or an update, my sites go up and I see the ones I’ve been using as comparisons go down! :0)

These major updates and algorithm changes have been on the cards for a few years now and I’ve always kept this in mind in the design and implementation of my sites, even at the expense of some income, but now it’s all levelling out. :0)

In contrast, I still have some ‘very old’ grey-hat style sites — and you need a magnifying glass to find them since last year, proving that using good practice does work!



Glad to hear your sites are doing better now. Very interesting indeed!


G butchered it this time
Cutts is working LONG days this week
They will have no option than to turn it back since too big portion of the results are ludicrous


Thanks for sharing this update. It will be very interesting in the coming months to see what differences will be occurring. I can say that one of my sites has seen a slight increase in traffic which is great because it is filled with a lot of useful content. Great website and keep up the great work! You’ve been providing some excellent content. I do have a question though. If google suspended your account are theY still showing ads on your websites and if so do you think it’s fair that your sites are driving traffic to advertisers without you making a profit?


Hey Patrick – you must not be looking at any of my sites because none of them have adsense on them anymore. So, I am not sending any traffic to google advertisers, because I don’t have any ads on my sites.


my niche sites have not built any backlinks for 1 year(each site backlinks no more than 20 and made by hand), so i think they are not over optimization, but they disappear from serp, thanks god my ecommerce site has not…

Authority Sites Arent Safe

I have an authority site which gets(correction – got) 800-1000 daily visitors and is by far the best for its given topic. I make niche sites and apply many backlinking strategiesbut all my smaller niche sites were fine.

#1 – #20
100% white hat on the site and it clearly gave the searcher the best experience

The funny part is now there are 2-3 clearly “SEO’d” sites in the top 5 that were never there before. My 40 page authority site is getting beat by PR0, 3 month old, 20,000(forum signature) backlink sites.

Why Did Google Penalize My Site?

– Same Anchor Text – No naturally varied – majesticseo confirmed all top backlinks have different anchor text and often my “name” , URL , click here or phrase

– Spammy Links – Maybe(yahoo answers, blog comments, ezine articles) but not as much as some competitors who are beating me and much less than many of my niche sites which didnt get hurt

– On Page Over Optimization? I think this has to be it, looking at my site there are 3 categories and 2 pages on the homepage all of which start with the same exact match keyphrase. They are all unique and add value but maybe use the same keyword too often.

I will implement changes by renaming my key pages and see what kind of change it makes over time.

Good luck to everyone else who has been penalized.

Spencer – I don’t believe 1-2 authority sites is an effective means at mitigating the risk of Google Penalizing you. I think the only way to mitigate the risk is to provide the best searchers experience for your given keyword and hope the engineers at Google make an algorithm that recognizes that. But that’s not working for me now is it.

Thanks for sharing


Interesting observations, yes if you are using the same keyphrase all over your site, they could definitely be over-optimization. Hope you can get your site back up!


When Panda first appeared on the scene I felt that most small sites would be the collateral damage in google. I think that this is finally materializing.

The net effect of what we are seeing now is that the top 10 results will almost always be dominated by major corporations. Google’s monopoly on search and crusade against “spam” is returning to us a web filtered to fortune 500. They are tilting the scales of the once a level playing that is the internet.


I think you should start to seriously go after the software development area for IM. I bought LTP and I also have been using SECockpit as well and WAS using MS until it imploded.

I liked MS but too slow, I love SECockpit but limited at times and support is lacking. Its fast but you dont need that all the time. The worst part is the monthly $67 mo.

LTP – Very nice middle of the road option that is way better than MS and not as good but better at times than SECockpit. I am no wizard in this area but I have enough experience to know that you can target this market easily.
You already have LTP that is a really good software and its only a one-time fee. I would like to see it get around that google ban that happens quite a few times for me and also have a column for juice links like SECockpit. SEC is cloud based, makes it nice to use anywhere. I dont know the cost in doing this but I personally would drop SEC and use LTP even with a subscription that is attainable by all. Maybe less than $30 a mo? LTP is clean, easy to use and has the potential to be the top kw & research tool. I figure since Google is making it harder to rank, theres a market for an advanced LTP.


Hey Rob – Always great to hear some excellent feedback on Long Tail Pro. Glad you enjoy the software! You make great points, and I’m happy to say that we are in the deep planning stages of some upgraded features for the software and have been for a couple of months. Your comments speak directly to what we are planning to do essentially – market wise. I have very big plans for the software…some big things are definitely coming in that regard…


Hey Spencer, I have to agree with the above comment. You’ve had your taste of product ownership, and you’ve got your lists. Further your software development side of things.

Fortunately all of my sites have avoided getting hit at this current time, but who knows if that will continue.

I wish you the best of luck

– Austin


Thanks Austin!


Get it together google. 🙂

Alex (Legit SEO)

I think it’s time to start focusing on offline and social media. Google just keeps making it obvious that they don’t care about Internet Marketers or webmasters in general.


I had a site about ginseng that was on page one a few weeks ago. It went to the top of page two about a week ago.
Now, it is nowhere to be found. It has directories, yahoo directory,, lots of content.

If you do a search for ginseng now, you will find: That is a yoga studio! It is on page one.

I am so disenchanted with this whole internet marketing thing. I have worked so many hours on this and with the flip of a switch, Google can take it all away.
I make very helpful, informative sites about health issues. No spam.


Interesting – I thought your ginsengsandiego example would be a local result to you and not me – but its there for me as well! That does seem like a poor result.


Also, it is more than a little sick to me that the very thing that has been used for 10 years and that they have TOLD you to do, which is get lots of anchor text links, is now penalizing you.

Suddenly, everything you have been told is now wrong and everything you have is being trashed.

They truly are evil.


Well guys, here’s my take.

If google messed up, only show tier 2 web 2.0 properties & only show the big brand sites in top 10, over time, people may start using other search engines to find things they want.

At the moment, a big amount of traffic is coming from G search & will still be significant for some time. Who know.

Anyway, I agree that it is better to move away from giving so much power to G. A sticky site with an email list would provide that stability


C’mon Bing/Yahoo…step it up! Anyone else… 🙂


what i want to ask you spencer… do you think if google deindex(deletes) all of your niche sites … u think that you will be able to stay profitable…with yahoo and bing traffic.?
i doubt. i think even if you rank no 1 for bing and yahoo for all your niche sites…the traffic you will get will be so low that makes your earnings so low ….which cant pay for renewing domains. let alone purchasing content…etc..
but i read somewhere that all your sites got penalized once on google but you were still making 5000$ per month from adsense. all of your traffic came from bing and yahoo i think. at that time you had about 200 sites. which means 5000200=25$ per site. per month. and this was your authority site. huh?
would u please explain on that?
thanks bye


I think you are mistaken. I had rebuilt sites and had them ranking in Google, Yahoo, and Bing to get my income up to $5k/mth at the time – of course my sites grew quite a bit more since then.


hey spencer
i realy dont know where you said that …thanks to your bulky amazing and magnetic content…haha! but i think once you had all your site deindexed from google…then all the traffic you get was from bing and yahoo…leading to a 5000$ per month. i guessed that was the scenario back in 2010 or so. i was wrong.
AND i think you have a lot of confidence in yahoo and bing!! i am quoting this from your blog.
“However, I have built a few sites since the challenge and they are doing quite well. In addition, my older sites continue to increase in traffic and in earnings. I attribute most of this growth to Yahoo and Bing! I am loving the traffic that I get from these search engines! Some of my sites have struggled to rank well in Google and therefore they get next to nothing from that search engine.

However, Yahoo and Bing still place a lot of weight on exact match domains and so my sites are ranking very well in these search engines. I can safely say that if Google stopped sending me traffic altogether, I would still be earning a nice income from the traffic from Yahoo and Bing. ”
THE link is

Paul Herbert

I DARE each of you to cancel your adsense accounts. I canceled mine today. Over with and done. Google is out.


Wow, bold move Paul! Kudos for your bravery!


This looks like affected me too..
from page #1 to page 4!!
Hope the sites come back in few weeks.

Big G is really trying to shake things up!
No, more reliance on all Google traffic!

Grace Sevilly

My website’s ranking keyword jumped from #3-5 to not in top 1000, and that is ALL WHITE HAT! I only created Hubs/ squidoo guest posts on that site! This new update is stupid! Can;t rely on Google anymore


My total junk tier 2 web 2.0 sites are now page 1. Stupid..


I’m wondering if it is UAW that is penalizing the sites. I read that spun content would be penalized. The SERPS are so screwed up right now that it would be hard to guess.

I will not cancel my adsense account, however, I am now focusing more on affiliate links.

I put an Amazon widget in my sidebar of recommended products and for some reason it increased my adsense clicks!

Is anyone familiar with You have the option of not spinning your article. That is what Adsense flippers use.


Could be UAW or other unnatural link building methods for sure. I don’t know. I know Justin and Joe from use submityourarticle, but I’m not familiar with it.


Yes, I noticed that Ryan. Squidoo pages outranking everyone.. Very odd.

Wade McMaster -

I’ve noticed a drop in traffic in my main site (, however, the positive action taken on my site seems to have increased… I think this update helped drop off some of the traffic that wasn’t very targeted ( I had hits from a lot of dodgy keywords, that have decreased).

So all in all, I’m pretty happy that the ‘junk’ traffic has (for me personally) dropped!


Interesting observation!


Howdy Spencer,

I got a couple of sites & they both got tanked. My primary site started going down about a month ago (Panda update), it still ranks for some keywords but the traffic is now half. The other site was doing well until it was hit by (webspam algo change) yesterday, it actually gained rankings the day before! Yesterday all those high rankings were simply gone!

The overall feeling is that Google hasn’t solved anything with the webspam & panda update (serp results are still laced with bad sites).. A lot of good sites (with natural backlinks) have also dropped in rankings. I think the serps will continue to dance around until all the updates are completely rolled out.

I suggest people to not get discouraged & let the dust settle down. Don’t make any changes to your site for atleast a couple of weeks. There is still a possibility that your rankings might come back.

By the way, this is the best niche site blog. Spencer- Please don’t give up on your niche sites. I am confident you will get them rolling again.


I agree, we need to let the dust settle before you do anything drastic. I haven’t given up on niche sites…dont worry!


Hey great post, just wanted to share my experience. I have been working on getting my site on to the first page of Google for a year now, now overnight the site has fallen from page 1 to page 5. Why? because I did everything Google wanted me to do last year, but now it does not meet there conditions now.

My SEO work has been nothing but clean, and not even aggressive. I have never paid for links and until yesterday my website was moving up in Google, was so happy to see my site I had been working on for a year finally move up to position 4 for my keyword. Now all is undone!

Just wanted to ask if the update is still rolling out, is it possible my site will return or get better?


Yes. This update is still coming out and they are CONSTANTLY changes, fixing, updating the algorithm…so its possible that your site could come back, but there’s no guarantee.


i will repeat myself again. this is not an over optimization penalty! speak to Danny Sullivan and find out yourself.

this is what was one of the comments on his blog and Dannys reply below.

SEO Peace
Today 02:19 AM
Google is becoming tough and rude as the time passes. It seems marketers are now looking for some alternative for Google. Initially, it was Over-optimization and now we have Spamming algorithm. Every now and then Google is rolling out a new algorithm.

I have a general question to everyone can someone let me know what is the basic difference between “over-optimization algorithm” and “Spamming Algorithm”. I think Google have not defined and underlined the distinguishing line.

hide 1 reply reply

Danny Sullivan
Today 02:43 AM
There is no over-optimization algorithm. Originally, Google said that this was coming. But it later clarified that what it meant was to go after spam, not some type of “over-optimization.” My original story explains this more:…


I got it Kus…Matt called it an “over-optimization” initially, but now he’s back-tracked and its called the webspam algo update. But we are all calling it the over-optimization penalty – just because that’s what Matt originally said it would be. Lots of people searching for it on Google…whether you like it or not Kus, this is what people are calling it.


Interesting read! I have several sites across different niches some of which are nearly 3 years old, some for clients and some for myself. Like everyone else I’m trying to work out the ‘pattern’ and see whats what of those effected…. I always have good content for each and every page (300 words min) and believe due to this I was was not effected by Panda – however this time so far I have been and serps have dropped.

Most sites have good domains (so i thought! keyword specific) and the index pages seem to have dropped when they were ranking for the exact match. One has been no1 for 6 months, now 14th, another 2nd for 8 months now 12th. BUT whats interesting so far is the internal pages haven’t been effected as much, just the index home page.

My problem is the location of the text – the users do not want to read content every time – for example tarmac (asphalt) driveways paving – someone searching for this wants to get a quote and ring up the company – not read info on how good tarmac is! – hence you move this down the page (out of the way of contact form, nice photos and tel number) – which now looks to have had an effect – google thinks this is spam, ideally I would not have spent hours writing the content but then they would not have ranked in the first place.

I’m still going through so no doubt will find more – but the question is do you do anything now, or leave a couple of weeks? Also I’m building a new site this week for a client – how are you supped to optimise it!?! which bits do you do and not do!

Look forward to your next blog and update. Thanks Scott


This link may help explain my fall. My sites are ad heavy above the fold.


Thanks for the link.

That’s an update that doesn’t make much sense…the Google SERPS themselves would be banned since they’re almost always top-heavy ad-wise

There’s also big corporate sites engaging in this and they don’t get hit


I agree. Google ads dominate above the fold. Their ball 🙂

Sites like Target make enough on G ads to pay their overhead.

This has been said ad nauseum, but the bottom line is internet marketers don’t mean squat to Google. Google probably makes most of it’s money from clicks within their searches (not on micro sites). The websites that do make a bunch of money for them are sites like Target that get hundreds of thousands of searches a month.

Letting a bunch of crap micro sites sit on page one ain’t a part of their business plan.


Google adsense sent me an email last week with a nice diagram suggesting I make changes to my best earner that would have pushed all the content below the fold. I ignored it of course. It makes it really hard to identify best practice. But in the end, what is best practice today is over optimization tomorrow.



Just wanted to chime in and say that most of my sites tanked yesterday, including my main money site, which is an authority site with plenty of genuine FB likes, shares, etc. I did get an unnatural link warning a month ago (with the blog network issue) so that could affect it too

The only sites that didn’t really move are those that I haven’t added content to in ages, are poorly designed, and have very few links.

In my mind this algo change is a combination of things all in one:

– on-page over-optimization
– unnatural linking (whatever that is??)
– another way to muddy the waters

The last point is key in my opinion.


Well by muddying the waters and carrying out a few major changes at once Google can create enough fog to scare some people into thinking that they can no longer game the system, and thus move them over into Adwords and other Google monetization strategies.

It’s also a convenient way to push the big brands even higher without being seen to be favouritist (since they’re tackling the evil spammers of course?!)

A look at many of the keyword spaces that I’m involved in shows clearly that the SERPS are not more free from spam…on the contrary I see more spam than even last week.

The examples mentioned by other contributors highlight this…plus I’m seeing pages that make no sense when read out aloud…are on obvious EMD spam domains and have 1-3 pages of content.

I’m also seeing scrapers that have taken my content verbatim (articles that I wrote 2 years ago) and are now outranking me – when I click through to their site I see that the hosting company has banned the site. How can this crap even be in the index?

I’m also seeing YouTube take up the top 2 positions of EVERY page. Not just page 1, but page 2, 3, 4, 5, and onwards for the same keyword. This is clear evidence that Google is not ranking based on numerical sequence (i.e. 1-100 in order of relevancy and quality)…it is ranking based on page position, ensuring that it keeps 50% of all CTR to YouTube where it can further try to monetize the traffic.

Some will argue and say that Google is just trying to monetize its business, but i believe that this is incorrect.

Google is a search engine first and foremost and what separated it from others was its ability to return the most useful and relevant results to users. If it now seeks to put its own properties and interests first, then that is clearly not in the interests of users, since it is only giving users what it wants them to see. It is simply a monopolist.

Not to mention the fact that it is making fortunes out of the hard work of others…effectively being the biggest content scraper there is.

So what’s my point?

I do believe that Google search traffic is still a fantastic source of revenue, but the problem is that even with an authority site you are not immune. In fact it may even be harder to take the loss of one or 2 authority sites that you have piled years of work into, than it is to lose 100 low quality sites that you were never really invested in in the first place.

From my view, the way forward is to focus more on authority sites with great content, but never let Google be even 50% of your traffic. My best site had about 50-60% of its traffic from Google, which was too high, but thankfully, I’m still getting traffic from other sources so it’s not a total write-off. I will continue to build out this site and get other traffic sources as well as add to my subscriber list.

If Google was genuinely making the SERPS better without favouritism I would take their algo changes with better grace. As it stands I see that with each update they seem to get further and further away from where they should be.

My heart goes out to all those that have lost income, hard work, (and much sleep) over this

All the best


Hi Darren, interesting to see your views. The idea of putting brands up there is something I have found – for example ‘block paving’ is giving Marshalls (a reasonable sized manufacturer company in UK) 1, 2 and 3 ranking for same site! – how is google to know they are a brand? (their no amazon) – my thought is that all those linking to them would most likely do so with their brand name – i.e. visit ‘marshalls’ … so google sees this anchor as a brand as it has no other real meaning?

What are your thoughts?


Darren – Great comment and analysis. I think you points echo my own sentiments pretty well.


Hi Darren,

I think you’re right on the mark there. As I wrote in an earlier comment, my totally legitimate authority site has been wiped from google’s rankings (not de-indexed). We’ve appealed and flagged with them any spammy backlinks (like 1600 from Updownee WFT?!?), so will wait and see.

However, the bigger lesson is that I will now be searching out traffic from elsewhere now.


AJ, sorry to hear about your site…that really sucks.

I checked my Webmaster Tools and noticed thousands of links from (no idea where they came from either)

…and some folks still think the whole negative SEO thing doesn’t exist?!

Let’s hope u get your rankings back soon

All the best

Sean chang

Hi Spencer. Interestingly, the overall traffic across my sites actually went up about 5% after the update. Mainly because some of the spammy sites got pushed down the serps for some of my main keywords.

One other observation I made is that it seems like exact match domains are carrying less weight now (especially for keywords with 3 words or more).

Do you notice the same trend with your sites as well?

With regards to this:
“I have a couple of really great podcast interviews that I just recorded that will discuss this very topic of what sort of sites you should be building. Those will be coming in the next little while.”

Sounds like another great podcast. Will be looking forward to it!


Yes, I kind of went overboard and have recorded about 5 podcasts in the past week. So, I will probably be releasing 2 a week for the next little while. The 2 podcasts I recorded yesterday are with Fraser Cain and Pat Flynn. These guys both had some great insights into these current events…


This guy tries to make sense of what is going on. He says things are worse than they have been in 8 years.

I have had analysis paralysis for several weeks now. I don’t feel comfortable building links to anything anymore. I have very informative, helpful sites on health topics and no one will find them.

They will find governmental crap that doesn’t help them.


i def agree with this! there are a lot of sites out there that have those spammy titles and the anchor texts or images that leads to their own site for “SEO purposes”

well if they only wanted to EARN through blogging and black hat SEO, they’re not worth the payment.

Chris G.

Same crap is happening to my sites. Of my 10 or so sites that were actually ranking decently and making money most are gone from the SERPs. None of my homepages are ranking but some of the inner pages are ranking just as well as they were previously.

I used to have around 400-500 unique views per day between those 10 sites, and then yesterday I had less than 50. I made a whole $1.44 yesterday.

No sure where to go from here. I’m going to wait it out, but I’m thinking about switching models entirely.

My wife has been throwing around the idea of starting a blog about being a new mother, teacher, and over all women type blog. This market is kinda saturated, but I think she can put a unique spin on it and become an authority. We’re still trying to figure out how we’ll monetize the site, but this site will not rely on SE traffic. We’re going to concentrate on guest blogging and social media for traffic generation, as well as a great email list.


Give it some time for things to shake out.

Jon Wick

This whole thing pisses me off. I don’t know if Google cares that they are affecting how people feed their families. Several of my clients got hit. I don’t think there is going to be a scalable solution for SEO anymore. I’ll bet the agencies that deal with a high volume of low spend clients are going to be screwed. I am sick of SEO.


Noticed today a backlink fro my site from article syndication (probably UAW), is ranking first page over the page its linking too.

Strange thing is, the anchor text in this backlink article was not even close to the keyword that ranks first page…


Yes, Jon. I am thinking things are moving in the direction of only the big guys ranking things.

It appears to me that Google is now ranking article sites very well. I’m wondering if that is why adsense flippers has not seen a decline. They do submissions to ezinearticles for their backlinks.

It makes sense to me that the article directories should be a more trusted link with Google. I’m drastically scaling down the number of sites I will do. I will do directory submissions and article submissions. I dropped UAW. Too much spun crap on those blogs.

Brian Greenberg

I did some research and I believe that the main factor in what flags a site for the Over optimization penalty is the over use of keyword anchor text. I wrote a post about it here .


I was wondering this. I updated all of my UAW links from the keyword to “click here” and “read more”. I am thinking of dropping UAW all together. I used Long Tail Pro to check the sites that are now ranking for my biggest keywords and 4 of the top 10 sites are PR 0 with 0 backlinks.


Hi all,

Yesterday my site suddenly lost ranking on most of my keywords and I haven’t been making changes or indexing to my site. No messages from google. It all started yesterday noon EST. Some keywords disappeared and others lost ranking from number 1 to 3,5,8.

Does anyone know what is going on?


I have 20% of the traffic to my mini niche site I had 2 days ago. I think it must be onsite keyword density…


and I just ordered 10 more articles….


Google can do what they want with their business. It’s what I get for relying so much on them. I had 10K page views per day from 2 sites and I am now getting 200 per day.

If Google wants to play hard, that’s fine. There is more than one way to get traffic.

I am going to master other traffic sources.

To me, it is just another challenge.

Dan O'Keefe

Not sure if it has been mentioned or not, but google put up a form that can be used to submit your site for review if you do not think it should have been affected by the update. I take that with a grain of salt but it might be worth a shot.

This link redirects so I believe you need to be logged into your gmail or google apps account.


So just how are we all going to get traffic to our websites without relying on Google? Does anybody think that email marketing, with useful and unique ezines, works or is that too a method well past its sell by date?

The problem with what we all do is that we work long unpaid hours with the hope it will bring us riches – but I seriously wonder if it is all finished now as every single Google update brings more and more innocent casualties!


It looks like UAW links are completely dead. My sites have tanked. I also used directory submissions and the sites have still tanked if I used UAW on them.


I have a feeling that something profound has happened. The seo rules have perhaps changed significantly. Perhaps some “business” models are outdated and some new possibilities have risen?

kyle proctor

I have not seen much other than an increase in traffic. I have taken the advice of you and others to only build the best quality (non spammy) content that I can. I have very few backlinks so there is not much for them to penalize me for. this may come back to haunt me but I am going for quality to see what happens.

Great post


wow, thanks Spencer. i dont know how, but i missed this post, its definitely something to be aware of


A new poll to see how sites were affected by Penguin.


Hey Spencer, I just realized.. this may be why my site just jumped up 11 positions, i was seeing minor improvements through my link building, (from 23 to 17) but then this update comes out and BAM im #6 sweet. i must be doing something right 🙂


Just one thing after the next. Google is really cracking down on us, huh? Anyway, my sites are actually still doing alright. Maybe they’ll get hit here pretty soon – we’ll see. I’m definitely going to start making a move towards bigger and better sites. I’m also really starting to fall in love with adsense and other monetization strategies.


What do you guys think, is it possible to get the traffic back by decreasing my keyword dencity and perhaps eliminating my linkweel… ?

Spencer Haws

That might be a good idea, but its hard to say if that will bring the google traffic back for sure. You may also want to look at the anchor text of the links pointing to your site; I would recommend decreasing the use of exact match anchor text big time (if you were using it heavily).


This is why I HATE Google now… my site suddenly lost from SERP index for several important keywords that I’d optimized since years ago and my business is going slow now 🙁

Sofia Stake

Hello there! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any suggestions?


Since I bought a biz that used all the past ways to rank the sites, I basically shut it down and rebuilt the whole concept to fall into what google wants, It’s kind of odd that I shut it down way before all them updates came rolling out.
It seemed obvious that as just a consumer they were not good sites to look at visually, the content was poor and right on down the line. But that is sad that some sites that were following what google wants got slammed. This might be out of context but i think all the outsourcing played a roll on why the updates were rolled out , since a lot of work that is done is not quality work, that just guess on my part , I’ll even take it a bit farther. I believe the way we turn our head on Immigration has a big factor on the decline of the american and perhaps the global economy. I could go on more on this , but its about google not economics , Or is it.


I find the whole thing strange. Having ranked for my main keyword for 2 years.

An up and coming site that has only been going for a year has moved to top spot on page one. While I have dropped to third with a forum blog is in second.

After looking at the site that now ranks top and checking their back links only to find that they have used spun content on their in bound links.

Is this not what google is trying to stop?

Spencer Haws

Google can be strange sometimes indeed.


Another one of my keywords I have ranked 1st for for over 2 years has also dropped to bottom of the page. While a site with no inbound links ranks top.

Now someone tell me that links count.

Alphonse Langueduc

I have the personal opinion that Panda, but especially Penguin updates are utterly stupid. How in the world an algorithm could determine is a website is a quality one? I saw blank or spammy pages in the top of search results after the Panda update, but especially I saw tons of youtube or wikipedia results without absolutely not the diversity I found in other search engines, such as Yahoo!

And about Penguin, why it’s utterly stupid, especially this one? Simply because from now on webmasters should bother and are responsible for unbound links, something they can’t control because it’s something they don’t own.

Example: a competitor with a website having more than 1000 pages ask me for a link exchange or cross link exchange (white seo), but in reality he want to make me out of business. He proposes a normal link exchange in home or in some secondary page. Ignoring the malicious intentions, I accept the exchange and after some time, my competitor put my reciprocal link in ALL his pages, all links having the same anchor text, so I potentially have a paid link or a Google bombing without even knowing it.

Experience shown me that two link exchanges like that are perfectly enough to kick me off of Google search results completely (because of Penguin effect). I lived the experience on my chair, for more than a website.

Ok, this was just a typical example. There is not even the need to perform a link exchange (but who doesn’t perform them?). Suppose I don’t like I create 10 websites with 500 pages each. In all of them I put my winning keyword. Foobar is gone.

The most ironical part is that big sites doesn’t suffer from that. I could never knock down Facebook or this way, and I hate enough Facebook to would do that. The problem only affect small or medium business websites. So, indirectly Penguin substract democracy and freedom from search results. This way only big sites are well ranked. The result is that only sites that never did any SEO honest work, link exchange or even legal advertising are ranked.

And the ultimate result is that Google search results are less relevant than ever. In my personal experience I almost never find what I looking for in Google. Most of the time I must use Yahoo! as well to find any consistent result.

Another thing to add is that many webmaster are not aware of that. They don’t even use Google Webmasters Tools and they don’t even suspect the cause of their site drop. And I talk about honnest people, people who never participate to a links scheme or paid link program.

For these reasons I consider that Penguin update is not a sign of progress in web searching and Google must eventually drop or modify it in order to provide more relevant and different results. I personally consider that Penguin is a mistake and that there must be other ways to solve attempts of spam or tricking Google with link schemes or paid links. Making webmasters responsables for incoming links will never work.

Jay H

Since April this Google update has messed with me a lot.

I had 20+ pages on Page 1 of G, and after this update they all shot down to Page 45 or more.

And these are pages I’ve had in the top of SERPs for 3+ years!

Bye bye 20k month 🙁

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