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Has Your Business Been Hit by Google Algorithm Updates?

As we survey how the search engine landscape has altered over the past couple of years, it seems obvious that more and more website owners have been feeling the impact of Google’s various algorithm updates.

Penguin and Panda have been hitting the headlines, causing serious damage to some previously profitable businesses. In our own case, we’re finding that more and more business owners are approaching us to ask for Google recovery strategies. This has become central to the way in which many SEO consultants are operating.

When we take a look at a site for the first time, we’re always careful not to blame any loss of positioning on the behaviour of previously hired consultants. The reality is that techniques that were perfectly successful a few years ago are now leading to penalties. That’s not to say that all such penalties should come as a surprise, however. If you’ve been relying on spamming thousands of web pages, or making use of hidden text within the pages of your own site, then a penalty should probably have been expected.

Getting all of the information

One of the key concerns that many clients have is that they don’t always have access to all of the information. They can see that search engine positioning has been lost and they are starting to feel the impact of that, in terms of lost business. They also know that they previously hired an SEO company and that they were provided with some sort of reports in the past.

What we’ve found is that those reports weren’t always comprehensive enough, that they didn’t make sense to the reader, or that they were simply trashed. As a result, there’s a clear requirement to get access to a detailed breakdown of what has gone on. Without having a full picture of events that have taken place, it’s extremely difficult to understand how a recovery can be enacted.

Examining Google update dates

The actual dates of Google’s main algorithm updates are all well documented online. Assuming that you are making use of Google Analytics (or a similar package), this means that you should be able to cross-reference falling visitor numbers against known update dates.

My own feeling is that such an approach is absolutely critical. You need to be able to identify exactly when your site was hit by a penalty, since the work that’s needed to bring about a recovery will very much depend on what has caused the problem in the first place.

This tends to be somewhat easier for those who know that a penalty has had an impact relatively recently. If your site suffered from a loss of positioning at some point in the last few years but you didn’t deal with that situation immediately, then things may have become more complicated. The biggest problem that you will face here is that it’s possible that you have fallen foul of multiple updates. This certainly makes it more difficult to bring about a recovery, leaving you reliant on carrying out a detailed sweep of your site and the link profile.

Take care when identifying the penalty

We’ve had a few people approaching us recently, requesting that we resolve problems that have been caused by Google Hummingbird. I think that this is indicative of a wider issue here, relating to the fact that certain updates reach the mainstream headlines. As a result, it’s easy for people to jump to the wrong conclusions.

Our own experience has dictated that most people who believe that they lost positioning as a result of Hummingbird were actually more likely to have been hit by one of the Penguin updates. Without exception, they have websites that previously relied on bolstering positioning via the use of low quality links.

What does a low quality link look like?

This cuts to the core of the problems that many sites are facing. I’ve heard people suggesting that a link is bad if it’s on a website with a PageRank of zero. I’ve also seen people classifying directory links as being low quality and in need of removal.

Each of those definitions of a poor link is far too simplistic. If you simply look to remove links where the PageRank is low, or where you see that your site is listed within the pages of an online directory, then it’s unlikely that you will resolve the problem any time soon. That’s because you are probably tackling the wrong areas.

You need to think much more carefully about whether a link is provided within the right context, on a website that is closely related to your own. In short, is your link really being added as a valuable resource? If it’s purely there to boost the performance of your own website within the search engine results pages, then it’s time to re-think the approach that you’ve been taking.


A loss of positioning caused by a Google penalty can be catastrophic. It will usually take many months of activity to bring about a recovery.

In order to produce the best results, you need to quickly identify the cause of the penalty. You can then seek to take remedial action, giving suitable consideration to whether your work is of the requisite quality.

Keith Barrett

As a consultant with, Keith Barrett helps to provide Hampshire SEO services to local businesses. He takes an interest in the latest Google algorithm changes.

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