This article was originally published on the TrainSEM blog on 15/5/2012
In April 2012 two major updates came out, another Panda Update on the 24th and a few Penguins throughout April. Each of these updates have hit people who were not expecting them, though many people are starting to expect to be hit with each update, even though they don’t think they deserve to be hit.
How do you know if you were hit?
The first place you should check is your Webmaster Central and see if you were given a notification.
If you haven’t got a message in there, then the best way to tell is to log in to Google Analytics and compare how many daily visits you were getting leading up to April 24th and how many daily visits you got afterwards. Keep in mind that when these updates are implemented they may take a few days to completely set in, but if you have noticed a significant drop since then, you have probably been hit. If you have actually been boosted significantly since then, then maybe a competitor got hit and now you are getting their usual traffic instead. Hopefully, it is the latter.
A lot has been said about the new updates across the web already.
One topic that I haven’t noticed anyone bring up so far is legitimate uses of hidden text. Whenever I see an update that mentions hidden text I am amazed that hidden text is even a technique people use anymore. I also imagined it would have been made ineffective long ago, so any more changes regarding it seemed excessive or a bit late.
Some legitimate forums actually use hidden text in a legitimate manner that is used innocently without any hidden SEO agenda. It is sometimes used to hide “Spoilers” when discussing movies, TV shows or games. Some forums force you to use these techniques to avoid spoiling narrative events and may punish a user if they do not warn people about a spoiler.
On this forum, people use a quote box with white text so the text is totally invisible unless a reader highlights the text with their mouse. There are also instances where people just change the colour of the font to something similar to the background and always mention *Spoiler* before the text. In the past, people would do this on their actual web pages and it was called “Colour matching”.
Having done some research into hidden text on forums, I could not find much discussion about it except for several people admitting to having used hidden text on their own e-commerce websites on some SEO forums and then a discussion regarding it. The advice these people give is that any hidden text is likely to be seen as bad by Google. Anything that the user cannot see can still be seen by Google’s spiders and colour matching is a dead giveaway.
There are other types of hidden text, such as hiding the text outside the usual bounds of the computer screen, the “above the fold” update from a few months ago probably would have sorted out users who relied on this technique though. Another example of hidden text includes hiding text behind images, which Google can recognise.
The Penguin update also has a strong focus on keyword stuffing, which often goes hand in hand with hidden text, if you have been doing either of these things, now is the time to time to go back and manually fix it all. Even if you haven’t been hit yet you should really do this because eventually Google will find you and punish you.
To manually fix this, you may choose to start with your oldest or newest pages and work through them all in order to cut down on anything that Google will frown upon. It might take a while but it is worth it. There isn’t much point of having a website and continuing to update it if Google won’t let anyone find it.
The Penguin update also looks carefully at your links. This could cause some people some stress and wasted time if they have been acquiring bad links. If you have noticed a drop in your ranking and you have not done anything I mentioned earlier, it might be because of the sites that link to you. Some of it might not even be your fault.
- You may have bought 1,000 links from someone on Fiverr who gave your BBQ sauce company a thousand links from porn sites. Chances are (and hopefully) all those links were not relevant at all and Google has picked up on this.
- What to do about it? – This is kind of tough, you may be able to get whoever made the links remove them, but chances are they used a bot to go spam hundreds of forums, the forum admins may not be too pleased to help you since they will probably blame you for indirectly spamming them in the first place. Hopefully, if they were forum or blog spam, the owners of the sites will remove a lot of them anyway.
- You may have been using sneaky redirects on your pages to get links. This is something you can easily remove.
Not your fault:
- The good sites that were linking to you previously may have either shut down.
- The good sites that were linking to you may have changed domains and lost their quality score and not made any redirects. You are still getting a link from them but it is not as valuable as it used to be.
- The sites linking to you may be devalued and their links are no longer as good as they used to be.
- Sites linking to the sites that linked to you may have been devalued, making the site linking to you devalued.
- The competition may have been linked to by some quality sites, or sites linking to them may have become more powerful.