#47 – Everything You Need To Know About Google’s Latest Penguin Update

What you will learn

  • What is Google Penguin and what does it matter for your site?
  • Why this update is different?
  • How to handle negative SEO in future?
  • How good and bad links will work differently from now on?
  • What to expect next from Google?

Several years ago, when we ran a digital marketing agency, a Google penguin update caused over 80% of our clients to lose their rankings overnight.

Google algorithm changes can have a huge impact on your site’s ranking. It is therefore critical that you fully understand how these changes will affect your site. ​

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Full Transcript

Gael: Hey guys, welcome to the Authority Hacker podcast, we are finally back to the podcast with Mark, how is it going Mark?

Mark: It’s going pretty good actually. After that crazy two and a half week launch period we’ve just been through, I’m starting to finally recover. How about you?

Gael: I am not recovering because I am actually working on a newbie program, so I am working, I’ve recorded like seven videos yesterday and rewritten something like 15 lessons this week with Perrin, so we are definitely still working but I am taking a break from tomorrow so I can’t wait actually.

Mark: Awesome.

Gael: How did the launch go?

Mark: Pretty good. For everyone who is listening and who did sign up, I want to say a big thank you to that, and to everyone who helped us promote it by sharing it with friends and family and whatnot, it went very well. As we said during the launch period, we were going to close Authority Hacker Pro to new sign ups at the end of September which we have now done, so if you are listening to this from October onwards, which everyone will be because it is start of October now, then, we are actually going to open Authority Hacker pro probably at the start of 2017, not sure exactly when, but if you are interested in joining and want to be the first to hear about it, then go to authorityhacker.cm/pro, make sure you sign up to that mailing list. And one of the things is that from time to time we do these ‘ask me anything’ kind of podcasts, and we are looking for more questions for that, so if you have a question which you want to ask Gael or I about authority sites, business, even if it’s something about politics or religion, we will answer that as well. Go to authorityhacker.com/ask.

Gael: Yeah, we should call it like the stuff you should not talk about at dinner podcast or something. Anyway, today we are not talking about politics or religion, we are talking about the new Penguin update, and I should have said that earlier, I hope haven’t dropped off, but I’ve seen a lot of sites, obviously Google update Penguin update, we are going to explain what this is in a second if you don’t know. but a lot of people listed what it does but didn’t really explain what it meant for people so we are going to try to do that, today and talk about real life implications. But, let me just first explain what Penguin was and you are going to tell people how it was horrible for us the first time it came out, but essentially, it’s an algorithm layer that google has to rank websites, that was released in April 2012, so it’s been a while now. So far, it used to be an update that was targeting backlinks and especially anchor text in the first generation and then got a little bit more refined, and if you had a lot of backlinks essentially your whole site would drop down in Google and all your rankings would drop down, and no matter how good your site is, if you have this terrible links pointing your sites, you would just not be able to rank very well in Google and your traffic was often divided by 5 or 6 when you were hit by that, so essentially, you could forget traffic from Google, and because it was only rolled out every 6 to 18 months it was really random, they would just say oh by the way, we just refreshed it, then when you got caught in it literally there was nothing you could do to recover your traffic until this was refreshed again. And, obviously, you had to do things so that in the next refresh you could be out of it, removing links and actually emailing people to remove links became a thing using this disavow tool that they released something like two years later, which is essentially a tool that tells Google hey please ignore these links because these are bad links, and basically you do all these things when you get penalized, and then you would hope that the next refresh would work out and sometimes it would be up to 18 months, and if you didn’t do good enough job they would not unpenalize you so would wait maybe another 6 to 18 months. That actually-

Mark: There is no way of telling you, you wouldn’t know.

Gael: It’s just like you are kind of like doing your best and hope. And that shut down a lot of people’s businesses, especially because back then, if you look back in 2012 it was very easy to rank with spam and to be frank, this is what worked, right, if you would try to do content marketing, social networks were not nearly as developed as they are now, and Google was really the one source of traffic, it was really difficult, big companies could do it, Moz was still already preaching it etc, but the truth is, for small businesses it was very complicated to do that stuff.

Mark: The vast majority of small and medium businesses, especially if they worked with an SEO company, like our former agency for example back then, they would pay a couple of hundred bucks a month and just basically spam using automated or semi-automated software lots and lots of articles and variations of these articles to blog networks, automated blog networks to get links and it all came crashing down.

Gael: Yeah, and to be frank, this was an interesting, I want to take on from here and then I will let you tell our story, but that also set the price of SEO services back then, so it was quite expected to be charging between something like 400 to 1,000 dollars a month maybe for SEO services, and that was a profitable business model for gray hat because you could run that for maybe a 100 or 150 bucks per month per client, if you include the content, the spinning, the distribution etc for the links that was great business, but, the prices when Penguin came out did not change and a lot of SEO agencies also died off because small businesses were not ready to pay more and all the tactics that actually built the pricing and the expectations in that industry, were based on these gray hat strategies that were no longer working, or were at least a lot more risky and that is in my opinion, what signed the end of the small agency model for a lot of people. But, I’ll let you tell people what happened to us actually when that happened, because we did that stuff, and we paid for it.

Mark: Yes, so basically, for the previous 9, 10 months, before this hit, actually no, it was more than that, it was about a year, year and a half I think, we’d been building up our digital marketing, our SEO agency, it was pure SEO back then, and as I alluded to earlier, we were basically taking people’s money and buy subscriptions to these tools like article marketing robot, Linkvana and 70 others built my rank, and basically get a few articles written spin them so create multiple non sensical variations of them and push them out through all these tools. And it created hundreds, thousands of links if you started diving into another even shadier software than hundreds of thousands of links, and it worked you could rank almost any site very quickly.

Gael: I think my record was like, starting a site and ranking in 4 hours on page one on Google. Just to give an idea to people of like how fast this stuff went.

Mark: my personal favorite was our friend Taso, he had an about.me page and we were just like chatting about this software and he challenged us to rank that for the keyword-

Gael: There was no content on it right, there was just a picture.

Mark: Just a picture of his face, three pictures of his face for the keyword how to date models, so we did it, and he was there for 6 months or something.

Gael: Even more, he was there for a year and a half actually. That stuff worked, basically, just to say.

Mark: Yeah, it worked. Just to be clear though, it doesn’t work anymore, in April 2012 when penguin 1 first came out we had no idea this was coming, they wrote this on wall I guess, but no idea it was coming out specifically then, suddenly over night 80% of our clients got penalized or lost most of their rankings. Now, these were mostly small businesses, which we had been working on since the early days, we did work for a few sort of much larger sites, so they didn’t seem to be penalized to the same extent, but this was a huge deal for our company and it forced us immediately to completely change our business model, and go from gray hat to white hat and we lost obviously a bunch of clients in the process, we did a full podcast on that.

Gael: I was going to say that, we made a party for the 100 clients just before, and then this happened and literally we lost 30 clients or something.

Mark: We never quite did make it to 100 clients. And to be honest, I am kind of glad but yeah, we did another podcast if you look through our previous podcast on the agency if you want to learn more about that. but yeah, basically over night, this whole thing,the house of cards just fell down, basically. And that was our first introduction to google Penguin, and part of the reason actually why we ended up moving toward the sort of authority site model as a way of constructing our business.

Gael: Yeah. I mean, in general, that update scared so many people off link building in general, gray hat yeah, all these article services we talked about, unique articles, I think they still exist but probably their revenue is 10% of what it used to be back then, it scared off a lot of people of link building in general and I think it’s actually a good thing, it hurt us in the short term, although I am pretty happy this happened, otherwise, I’d probably still be doing crap link building right now, and also, it made room for all that content marketing stuff, and figuring out this guest posting, editorial stuff etc, it opened up all these things, all this people that you are following today like, Neil Patel was probably around back then, and rand Fishkin were probably around, but Breanden was not around and Chriss form Rank Excel wasn’t around etc, and all these people, they got room to figure this stuff out because of these updates, together with the panda update which was penalizing no quality content, essentially that kind of spam content on websites, on people’s own websites, and people would rank with that and put AdSense and make money, so these two updates together actually essentially created the inbounds, today even though you might have no need as it is right now, for the whole time you’ve been working, it actually was very different before these two updates.

Mark: Yeah, the whole term inbound marketing I mean, it was very very few people who were even using it before 2012.

Gael: Yeah, everyone was like SEO, SEO, SEO and if you look at Google trend, SEO has been stagnant since the search for SEO has been stagnant since more or less these updates, and content marketing etc has been growing, so I think it’s good overall. Now, let’s talk about what changed, because there has been probably the biggest update to the Penguin algorithm ever done I think a week ago, or something, so we are not exactly, we are a little bit late to the party but I think it’s going to be a little bit more comprehensive and I’ve been reading a lot about what people said, and there is really three big changes, the first one, remember how I told you that you had to wait 6 to 18 months for Penguin to refresh and if you got caught well you had to wait and hope for the best, well that is gone, now, the penguin algorithm is real time, meaning that it’s actually part of the Google algorithm, so you don’t need to wait for the refreshes, if you have a site that is penalized, it should slowly start recovering and it should be fine, and there was that thing, it was a real thing, that a lot of people did gray hat in the past, and since it was penalizing for all the links you have pointing to your sites, even if you’ve been doing it 5 years ago, when nobody even knew that that kind of stuff would be possible, you were penalized, and so that ended up with a lot of people having wasted sites, sites that were just literally unable to recover because they had so many spam links.

And, we had a lot of members in AH Pro coming and saying hey, I have all this crap links to my site, and the recommendation was like well, probably you should just start a new site because there is going to be so much work to clean it up, by that time you will have a pretty decent new site, so that I think is going to be gone actually, because you will be able to clean stuff up much faster, and most importantly, and that is another, the second point, is Google is trying to ignore spam links rather than punish you for having them, so before it was like ha, you’ve got a bunch of spam links, well no matter what else you do you are penalized, your whole site is penalized and basically that’s it. Now they are trying to say that instead of doing that they are just trying to not count these spammy links. And so as a result, what I expect is that this penalized sites that have a lot of spammy links, our old agency website by the way, will slowly and naturally start to recover, and I think that is going to be interesting for people that still have these domains, to look at the analytics in the next three months.

And, another massive update, the third one, is that before when you were caught in this update, even if you had spam pointing to one or two pages of your site, it would end up penalizing the whole domain, right, all your pages no matter how clean they are would be down in rankings and you level of organic traffic would drop dramatically, well now, it’s not the case anymore, now it’s actually they are trying to be more granular, and basically what it seems to be is they are trying to be page level, and that was one of my big predictions for this year, so I am really happy it happened, it’s that penguin now will if it takes effect, because they are trying to ignore, but it’s kind of a spam score, we’ll talk about that at the end, it will kind of penalize that one page and not the entire domain, and that means actually several things, but we are going to talk about the implications, so that is the three big updates that Penguin, so that’s why I mean it will penalize it, I think it’s going to be good, if you have these sites you have a good chance of [14:23 inaudible] rank them and I know you had a few Mark, I don’t know if you still have them, but-

Mark: Yeah, well, I was just sort of thinking how this is going to play out with, I tend to avoid buying domain names second hand just because there is always such a risk, in fact, most of them have really bad links that are pointing towards them, but now with this rolling out, I am kind of questioning whether there might be sort of more of an interest for white hat people in buying expired domains or old domains.

Gael: Yeah, yeah, I guess if you can conserve the good inks and ignore the bad ones, it’s definitely opening the range of interesting domains to buy. And that’s why we don’t buy domains generally, because finding a domain that is branded properly, with proper links, tends to be really expensive and especially if you remove the spammed ones, then there would so few of them that we would tend to ignore them, but now if there is a mix of spam links and quality links, knowing that Google will probably ignore it’s probably interesting still.

Mark: Yes.

Gael: Now, let’s talk about parasite SEO, because I know a lot of people do FBA- Fullfillment by Amazon businesses, where they have a page on Amazon.com that sells their product and a lot of people will try to essentially shield behind the domain authority of Amazon because Penguin was penalizing the entire domain and kind of looking at the link profile of the entire domain right, so Amazon.com it was pretty unlikely it would be penalized by Penguin, because even if it was spamming a single page like crazy, it would be such a tiny percentage of links to Amazon, Amazon.com would be penalized, but that had a good chance of ranking that page up for interesting keywords using both of the domain authority of Amazon and the links that you’ve been pushing to that page. Well that stuff since now it’s becoming more granular/page level is going to become a little bit more difficult so if you do parasite SEO, parasite SEO being trying to rank a page on another domain usually a very strong domain to rank, people were still using these links networks etc it was working, and I am expecting this to work a lot less with the update.

Mark: I think that is going to have quite a big implication for people who do the so-called web 2.0 s, I see a lot of people in Health niche have review type keywords and they will go on one of these big websites, I am not going to name them, but

Gael: Rebelmouse.com.

Mark: Yeah, that’s the classic one, out the review on that, spam a bunch of links to it, and then rank for- I think that is going to be wiped out basically quite soon.

Gael: Yeah, I mean, I already checked them out, they just for the few keywords, they are not ranking anymore already.

Mark: Yeah, there you go.

Gael: It seems to be working. And also I think that is going to shake up the reputation management industry. Reputation management is a service that is kind of a spin up for what SEO agencies do, for example, if you are a celebrity or a popular service or something, and someone writes a really bad review about you but when people google your name or people google your service, this comes up and this costs you sales essentially. Then there is services called reputation management that essentially try to remove that page out of Google, now how do they do that- they usually just try to rank all the things above and push that result to page 2, so you create ten pages around the keywords that are targeted, you usually publish them on these web 2.0s and you spam the hell out of it to try to rank them up and because they are on these really strong domains, it’s unlikely it’s going to be penalized by Penguin, and you charge our client a lot of money for that. Well, that is going to be more complicated as well, because google is trying to ignore spam links now and since it’s going page level once again, it’s going to be more complicated, so I think the reputation management industry which is a very lucrative industry if you want to have some kind of SEO services, very lucrative, you can charge tens of thousands of dollars sometimes for this, we probably need to look a little bit more into the white hat side of things for a lot of them, not all of them do that. But let’s talk also about what that means for the spammers, for the gray, black hat people out there etc, because actually it’s good for them too, why, because before it was like you had to put your site up and then they were spamming it and it was ranking a little bit and usually getting penalized within 6 to 18 months maybe, and then they were doing another domain and doing it again because this domain was essentially in the Penguin realm which was very difficult to get out of. Well, if the update works the way Google means it to work, they are going to be ignoring the links that they classified as spam which will maybe be 95% of the links these guys build, but I imagine some of these links will actually count as value, Google is not perfect, they will have [19:07 inaudible] etc so that essentially means two things, first of all, all these black hatters and gray hatters can recover their old domains much easier and these domains might recover on their own as well. And second of all, it means that they can throw a lot more stuff at the wall and see what works and what doesn’t without taking a lot of risks if it works that way. However, I expect Google to have some kind of system to limit that at least, and I am going to talk about this at the end of the podcast, but sure, it’s also a positive thing for spammers actually, which is going to be interesting to see how it plays out.

Mark: Do you think the reason it’s positive for them though is because they are trying to stop punishing and more moving towards ignoring, or because of it’s more granular?

Gael: Well, it’s probably because they are trying to not punish, it means that they were wasting so much time, rebuilding the same site, again and again, some people would like to find a very profitable keywords, spam the hell out of it, rank for 6 months, make a lot of money, lose the site, rebuild the site, respam it etc, now they might be able to either maintain themselves longer or like-

Mark: Or just put a new page up or something.

Gael: Exactly.

Mark: Yeah.

Gael: It just goes like let’s work.

Mark: I think reading the blog posts on the Google site, I think, it’s always hard to tell, and whatever we say it’s always going to be at least partly guessed, I sort of took away that there was just kind of going to be this roll up effect, to a certain extent at least, so because it’s going to interpret this is one of many ranking signals, ranking signals although they are applied the page level, there is also the domain side aspect of it.

Gael: Yeah, and I want to talk about this idea and actually I have some kind of like theories/predictions I want to talk about, which I think that will kind of limit that, but first let’s talk about what that means for negative SEO because I think a lot of people are afraid of negative SEO, I think a lot of people get hit by it, and I see a lot of people are very afraid of it.

Mark: Can I just say, if anyone who is listening to this podcast has ever had any experience directly, you have been personally hit by negative SEO, please email us, [email protected], [email protected] I honestly, I have never encountered someone who’s been properly hit by this.

Gael: Who has been losing traffic, there are attempts like we had some on Health Ambition.

Mark: We’ve had the links pointing at us but we’ve never experienced any negative effects of it. If you have then, let us know because I am still dubious whether this is actually a thing or not, but yeah.

Gael: Yeah, but still, a lot of people talk about it they are afraid of it and part of it was, it was all created by the Penguin update essentially, that is what it did and Google is kind of trying to undo that, with these updates, by making them softer right now, so I think first of all if it was effective at all, I just think that is going to make it even harder to make it happen, and also most importantly, people that were really afraid of it would be like hey just monitor your links everyone, and disavow the bead ones, but I don’t even think it’s necessary anymore, Google is basically doing it for you automatically, by ignoring the bad links. And, they are basically saying that the disavow tool, it’s helping them find bad domains but overall, you don’t need to use it for algorithmic things it’s only if you have a manual penalty which you will see in the webmaster console. I don’t think it’s really worth disavowing anymore. Hopefully it’s going to let people move on, because a lot of people get excited at blasting their competitor with shitty links, which I think is terrible but it’s the truth, especially in very competitive industries, even though it’s not very effective it seems like it’s something that a lot of people got interested in doing as part of their business strategy, I hope it is going to help people move on. That is basically what it means, penalized sites essentially they should hopefully start recovering on their own, and you will be able to recover them quite quickly. parasite SEO, well, it’s going to be a lot harder if you are using spam; gray hatters, black hatters, well, good luck, you are going to have a little bit more [23:13 inaudible] in trying your crazy stuff. Negative SEO is I think really going to be, I am really curious to see one as you said, I haven’t seen really strong negative SEO killed the traffic of the website. But, there is one thing that I wanted to talk about, which I literally have no data to support, it’s just like having worked on a lot of sites and when we had the agency we had a lot of clients get out of penalties they had- it’s funny, because after we did all that Penguin stuff actually we had clients come to us trying to get our help to get out of that. And we did, for a while, we did these outreach for removing links, we did disavow files. and we did, we covered a bunch of websites as we were running this white hat side of things, and so, I want to talk about something that I believe exists which I call personally spam rank for websites and webmasters.

Something I suspect Google is keeping as an internal metric, essentially, you know how page rank worked, you had a scale from one to ten, I think that basically as a new webmaster you start as a spam rank of 5, and then as you are caught in doing spamming activities, your spam rank increases rather, and it decreases when basically automatically decays essentially. And the reason I am saying that is when we recovered websites from Penguin, or manual penalties that kind of stuff, I would see them recover 80% of their traffic, 90% of their traffic and that would save the business, but, I rarely saw a website recover 100%.It’s almost like when you breach the trust of someone and they forgive you but they always remember, they never trust you the same way they trusted you before. That is kind of how I feel about Google, and especially you see it when in a lot of the industries and in a lot of our sites now we publish a page and boom, it ranks on page 2 or page 1, without doing anything, within 48 hours , and that is what I think is either a sign from Google but, these sites that have been penalized, that have had a lot of terrible links and they are out of the penalty, usually you do the same thing and they rank barely on the top 10 pages and they don’t really get that kind of level of passive traffic that you usually get from sites that never been caught before, so I actually personally believe that especially when we talk about the gray/black hatters and recovering their sites etc, I think they will be able to recover most of their traffic but I think their spam rank is just going higher and higher and as this happens, they get a lot less site benefits from passive traffic from Google etc that more white hat sites get and one thing that is interesting I want to add on this topic before you tell me what you think about this is that it seems like they actually keep tabs on people and accounts not just the single website, I had a friend that did gray hat, he was called Greyston on WickedFire back then, and he wrote a blog post about some black hat stuff essentially and literally, Google was able to deindex all of his websites, even the ones that have no gray hat at all, and I’ve seen that several times where people had the entire website portfolio that they’ve touched the index of penalize even though this sites, these specific sites are not necessarily engaging spammy activities, so it seems like this spam rank would work on the website level but we would also work on a person level/probably google account level, but even I’ve seen people that have had their entire portfolio of sites penalized, that they had registered on different google accounts for analytics webmaster console etc, so it seems like that is my feeling at least, that is how I feel about it, I don’t know what do you think?

Mark: Yeah, I always sort of have this impression that if google will pretty much know everything you do, online and I remember way back looking at this and thinking about this and most of us use Chrome as a web browser, right, so basically Google knows everything you do, if not you are using google analytics or gmail, or android is another great example, or even google docs to make a list of your PBN or whatever.

Gael: Or you are login with google in other services.

Mark: Yeah, I mean, just all this stuff, there is so much data out there, and I mean, basically nothing you do online is really that secure these days anyway, I am sure if the NSA wants to read you , then they can and so can google most likely, just because they’re fingers are everywhere, so I don’t know, if I were google, and I wanted to combat gray hat, the best way I would do that is by making it not work but not telling anyone that that is why I had done it.

Gael: Yeah, so people waste their time, yeah.

Mark: Yeah, I don’t know, I really, I am not close enough to the gray hat sphere of things, I only know a handful of people who do this stuff, so I really, I can’t comment on how effective it is or whether it is still continuing to be effective or not. If anyone out there has any information on this, please leave a comment. I don’t see that happening on an automated level, what you said would be attributing a spam score to individuals, I am sure that it can be done manually, and I read some other example of some business, a voucher site or a coupon code site which was a competitor to one site which google actually owns a share in and there was a whole legal debate about that, but, I don’t know enough about it, but I don’t think that would be done on an automated level.

Gael: For sites I think it can be, for people-

Mark: That’s what I mean, for people.

Gael: For websites, I believe so, I see the sites, even getting out of penalties, they are like 90% out of it and every time they get penalized, this goes down a bit more, you can see the new pages don’t rank as high, you can see the amount of long tail keywords they rank for is not as high etc, and it’s like you get most of it back but as I said, it’s like if you’ve betrayed the trust of someone, and they forgiven you,they will never forget what you did still. I would compare it to that, it feels similar to that.

Mark: Yeah, you also have to remember that a lot of people got stung by hiring an SEO agency and back in the day when the first Penguin came out, so I think if Google is implementing something like this, they have to be able to, that would be a certain sort of leeway for people making that initial mistake and then stopping doing it.

Gael: That’s why I said it decays over time probably. It does decay over time it decays but we are talking a two year decay to get back to a neutral position.

Mark: Yeah, that would be reasonable I think.

Gael: Okay, let me talk about another theory I have which- that’s the last one, after that I’ll take my- The second one is that I think the next step for these algorithms Panda and Penguin especially, is to apply artificial intelligence to it. I was watching the google keynote where they revealed the new phones, the Pixel phones etc, but most importantly, they revealed a bunch of software updates where they are building what they call the google assistant where it’s literally it’s an AI that shapes to your personality based on how you search and talks to you, you don’t necessarily need to search, which is pretty crazy, it’s in the Pixel phones, it’s going to come to Nexus as well, but most importantly, they were like oh we actually our priority is not mobile first anymore, our priority is AI first now. And, I believe that this Ai is going to be applied to Panda and to Penguin so right now, they have soften both on Panda and on Penguin, both of them are continuing through, now they are part of the algorithm, there is no big press of the button big shake above the search results anymore, and overall, they have been softer, so we are kind of in that period a little bit similar to where we were just before Panda and Penguin came out, right, where it was very easy to spam etc, we know the rules, but I think that is going to lead to a lot of abuse as well, it’s easy to still get low quality content on your site, sure it’s unique but it’s low quality, the facts are not verified, you could write anything medical and you could rank in Google for that etc or you could have an editorial link like on the high quality site, in completely unrelated article where that still gives you as much credit as a related article etc. Well, I believe this level of AI they are building, AI rank brain which is now basically part of the core algorithm, in fact that was backlinks etc, the very basic factors, it’s going to be applied to these more advanced algorithms, Panda and Penguin, and I think that is going to do things like if you write something that is wrong factually on your website you will rank lower, in terms of content, or if the context of your link doesn’t make sense inside the content, then the link is going to account less or even is going to be counted as spam and discarded completely by the Penguin algorithm, and I believe that is what is going to happen and we are going to get back into a period where it’s going to be like a big shakeup, like we’ve known for the first Panda and Penguin without the AI stuff, it’s just going to be the same stuff, smart like as if a human was looking at it, obviously not as good because AI is just not at that level yet. But that is what they are aiming to be, that is what I predict will happen and that is what I think that if you buy content from someone that doesn’t know what they are talking about and writes factually wrong things etc, one day it’s going to bite you because google is going on the AI direction.

Mark: What you are saying is that trying to game the system even if it’s in the white hat way, is not going to be a long term answer.

Gael: I think so, yeah. It’s like if you contradict Wikipedia it’s like they will blast you eventually for example.

Mark: To succeed in the long term then your site, your content, your links actually need to be good.

Gael: The information needs to be good, right now you just need your content to be long enough and have the right keywords in it, and I am talking about the Panda variation, and what I believe is going to happen is it’s going to start understanding the facts, as they have the knowledge graph growing, as they have the reach snippets, where they start to understand the answers to questions etc.

Mark: There was a couple of years ago they had that, there was some announcement, I think it was specifically about health, they were going on some fact checking thing which Google was doing.

Gael: Yeah, but it’s not very good, I mean, now they are making really really big progress in AI and the first part of the keynote from October 4th from Google if you want to check it out on YouTube is all about their progress in AI and it’s really impressive, literally, they can tell exactly what is on the picture now etc, they are going to be able to index pictures the exact way as the index content, etc, it’s really quite impressive, and but they had to make Panda and Penguin part of the core algorithm to be able to develop this rank brain which is the AI part of the algorithm, to work with it, and I think that is the next step but it’s not there yet. Once it’s there, it is going to be a lot harder, you are going to have to be a lot tighter in terms of your content guidelines, factual things etc, and it is going to be the same for links as well, if it’s going to be easier to see like this link is completely out of context, it doesn’t mean anything in the sense of the sentence here etc, it’s not just going to based on anchor text, that are done factors, it’s going to be this, it’s going to look at the whole page and be a little bit smarter, and as AI progresses which is a lot lately, that is going to be more and more refined and I imagine eventually it’s going to be like a human reading your site and saying this makes sense, this doesn’t make sense.

Mark: One other interesting thing that I just thought of is do you remember ages ago they had that author rank or author id?

Gael: Yeah, author rank yeah.

Mark: Yeah, it would probably make sense that they could eventually, if they haven’t already done it like automate that, using AI to identify patrons and who is writing which content, and then so if your PBN owner in that case having the same person write content for all your sites, that is probably time to worry at that point.

Gael: I mean, most people say author rank never went away, it’s just the real author rank in the markup in the search results, right, the photo of people, because, it was ridiculous, everyone had a photo even like a services and stuff. But yeah, a lot of people say, autorank never went away, and I would tend to agree, I mean if we want to talk about something very specific, I can definitely see a trend where certain authors on Health Ambition rank on average much higher than others.

Mark: Is that because they have better content?

Gael: It’s hard to tell, right, I am not google, I can’t tell how they see it, but I definitely have a trend where some writers get 80% of their articles successful, whereas others get 10%.

Mark: Yeah, I guess, but to quote you Gael, correlation is not causation.

Gael: Oh that is what I said, I can’t prove it and I don’t have data to say that, all I am saying is it could be that is part of this autorank thing, because there are clearly like their photo is on there, their name is on there, links to their site is on there etc, it’s very easy for google to correlate that stuff, so I am saying that could be part of it although some people say it never went away I can’t say it, I am not google.

Mark: Yeah.

Gael: Alright, I think that is going to wrap up for this podcast, so guys, we are back with the podcast, we are going to try to stick to one a week, I am pretty busy with the newbie program which hopefully will come out soon. This is the marketing name, The Authority Site System.

Mark: I just realized the abbreviation for that is the ASS so…

Gael: Awesome.

Mark: [laugh]

Gael: If you want to buy Gael’s ASS you need to wait a little bit and we’ll see you guys next week.

Mark: Sorry, seriously though guys, the Authority Site System is probably the piece of content we’ve ever produced, it’s not finished yet but it’s going to be-

Gael: And the most challenging as well.

Mark: It’s going to be a complete beginners’ guide to starting an authority site from scratch, it’s going to presume zero knowledge, it can teach you everything you need to know, and it is going to be super actionable, the most actionable digital product I think that’s ever existed and there is also going to be a complete over the shoulder video of us creating a site from scratch from start to finish. Stay tuned, we’ll announce that probably next month some time.

Gael: Yeah, okay, well. guys, see you next week, thanks for listening, and have a good day.

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4 Comments

  1. Do you think it’s possible for a site to start out with black/grey-hat SEO and transition into a white-hat site? Simply because the content is THAT good?

    An analogy I like to use is someone stealing $100,000 from a bank (using black hat SEO), turning it into $1,000,000 (as your rankings grow you acquire NATURAL white hat links), and then returning the original $100K back to the bank (removing your old spammy links).

    1. Depends on if you control the black hat links. If they are PBN, then yes, I do think you can transition it to white hat.

      I really wouldn’t use the stealing analogy because MOST black hat techniques are not illegal, they just MAY get you penalized by Google….but that’s for another discussion :)

    2. Well if the spam score theory is true, you will most likely get lower return on your initial 100k investment for stealing money, hence lowering the cap by a LOT with compound interests if you stole the money vs obtained it legally.

      So yeah I think it’s possible but you’re probably putting a much lower ceiling above yourself by going that route.

      1. @Matt Hagens
        Good point- it’s not illegal. I was just trying to give an analogy to conceptualize my thoughts.

        @Gael Breton
        The spam score theory sounds interesting. Do you think that the spam score is assigned to your whois info (affecting all of your sites)? Or to the site specifically?

        Just to add to what you and Mark said in the podcast, I have noticed the effectiveness of web 2.0 backlinks going WAY down. About a year ago, I would use The Hoth to build web 2.0 backlinks and rank for tons of high-traffic keywords. Today, many of those exact same links aren’t doing the job. And coincidently, they lost their power right around the same time of the Penguin 4.0 update.

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