Search Engine Optimization

Did You Lose 50% of Your Traffic Overnight?

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In the last three weeks, some websites lost 50% of their traffic.

Losing 50% of your traffic overnight can be devastating in a competitive industry. In some cases, that translates to losing thousands of dollars.

Here’s why they lost so much traffic, and how you can learn from their mistakes.

What is Google Penguin?

On April 24, 2012, Google released the Penguin Update. It’s an update to their algorithm meant to penalize “web spam”.

According to Google’s rep, Matt Cutts:

Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.

Now there’s an important distinction in what he’s saying. The terms “white hat” and “black hat” are used to differentiate between the types of SEO tactics people use.

For example, tactics that are used for short-term gains that deceive or manipulate search engines and users are deemed “black hat”. Google is opposed to these because they generally result in a worse experience for users.

White hat SEO on the other hand, is an essential component of digital marketing, and is endorsed by Google:

“White hat” search engine optimizers often improve the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster, which is good for both users and search engines. Good search engine optimization can also mean good marketing: thinking about creative ways to make a site more compelling, which can help with search engines as well as social media. The net result of making a great site is often greater awareness of that site on the web, which can translate into more people linking to or visiting a site.

What Are They Penalizing?

Google is constantly trying to improve the quality of their search results by improving the rankings of people using “white hat” SEO, while punishing and pushing down the rankings for sites using “black hat” SEO tactics

This update is still only a few weeks old, so there’s still a lot of unknown variables.

But we do know that this update is targeting the following:

  • Aggressive exact-match anchor text
  • Overuse of exact-match domains
  • Low-quality article marketing & blog spam
  • Keyword stuffing in internal/outbound links
  • Manipulative link building schemes

The Biggest Factor

So far it looks like the biggest focus is on link manipulation.

Basically, this combines different link building schemes with the goal of acquiring as many links as possible for the sole purpose of improving their SEO rankings, regardless of the quality or relevancy.

Here’s where those links usually come from:

  • Blog networks
  • Reciprocal linking
  • Article spinning

You may have heard of these tactics, or used them yourselves. Don’t worry, we don’t judge. 🙂

But if you have used these tactics, then it’s time to evolve your SEO strategy.

Because if you haven’t been penalized yet, you probably will be soon.

What Should You Do?

Good “white hat” SEO is essential to digital marketing. And building links will always be important.

But don’t just acquire links for the sake of SEO. Use link building tactics that will also get you targeted traffic and build your brand.

How do you do that?

Here are a few easy ideas:

  • Have a blog writer submit guest content to other related media properties.
  • Interview other important or interesting people in your industry and turn it into a blog post or podcast.
  • Reach out to bloggers and online journalists with ideas for stories
  • Speak or do pro bono work at a local nonprofit, school, or charity and get them to write about the experience
  • Run a social media promotion with other brands for your users, where the winner has to get their friends to “Like” or “Share” your update.
  • Take advantage of local SEO and create active profiles on Google Places, Yelp and Foursquare. Incentivize your customers to “check-in” or leave positive reviews on these platforms, because you’ll receive a higher Click-Through-Rate (CTR).
  • Create an amazing resource on your website that people have to share and link to.
  • “Buy” white hat links by sponsoring a local event or contributing prizes.

Basically… start doing some marketing.

None of these tactics are too difficult or complex. And if you understand how SEO works, then you can integrate it with your existing marketing campaigns.

You’ll be able to get more SEO traffic, and save time & money in the process.


SEO is still a valuable tactic for getting people to discover you and send consistent traffic to your site.

But just like anything in life, you need to build your marketing for the long-term.

You might be able to exploit something for a small window of time, but it won’t work forever. You can’t build a business on short-term thinking and using shiny tactics without a sound strategy.

And you can’t live and die by one tactic alone.

You need to integrate your tactics and have multiple, consistent ways to get traffic.

Get long-term ROI.

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