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How Penguin 4 Destroyed My Black Hat SEO Method!

In this post, I will be sharing my experience with Googles Penguin 4 roll out and how it has affected my strategies in moving forward. For those who don’t know, Penguin was created to directly counter the concept of black hat search engine optimization I chose to pursue and is designed to prevent people manipulating Googles search engine rankings via automated tools such as GSA Search Engine Ranker or automated web 2.0 creators.

In early September 2016 Google began to roll out their Penguin 4 update before confirming its completion on the 26th September 2016 Google released this post, amongst other things they confirm Penguin is now apparently running in real time and that it is now “more granular” meaning it is better at detecting the use of automated tools.

So, Did Anything Actually Change?

Well, before we even get to the data from my sites lets take a quick look at some snapshots from the free tool Algoroo. In the past, Algoroo essentially displayed data in a traffic light system based on the amount of change in the search engine ranking positions they track and they are color coded as below.

  • Green – Stable
  • Amber – Unexpected Change
  • Red – Large Amounts Of Change

Below you can see a snapshot of the Algoroo display for the back end of August 2016 before the Penguin 4 update began to roll out. As you can see it is relatively stable with a majority of green with minimal amber hits. Although I only check Algoroo around once a month this is the kind of think you could expect at any given time.

Algoroo August 2016

In the screenshot below, we have expanded the data of the screengrab to include the beginning of September 2016. As you can see, there is nothing but continuous days of unexpected change with one hit of large amounts of change. I expect the red hit to be the last parts of the algorithm update coming into effect. As you can see, things are changing.

Algoroo with September 2016

In fact, it seems to have changed so much that Algoroo has now redefined what they consider normal amounts of change amongst Googles search engine results on a daily basis. I took the above screenshots around the back end of September, as you can see in the screenshot below that was taken recently covering the same time periods as above, Algoroo now says Google was relatively stable during this exact same period.

Algoroo version 2

As you can see the visual representation for the same time period look totally different, I can’t find anything official explanation from Algoroo to explain this but my theory is they re-coded their definitions of how much change is required to trigger various colors due to how often things now change since the Penguin 4 rollout.

When I checked Algoroo today so I can link to them from this blog post I noticed we have just had another red hit on the 15th December 2016 as shown in the screenshot below, it is too early to work out what that’s changed and I have not noticed any changed in rankings or traffic for my sites but I will be sure to make a post if I notice anything.

Algoroo December 2016 Red hit

So What Effect Did Penguin 4 Have On My Live Projects?

The screenshot below is the Google Analytics data for one of my websites from my money site network. Prior to the Penguin 4 rollout this is how I would expect traffic to grow using my old method of ranking in Google with GSA Search Engine Ranker.

Google Analytics data prior to Penguin 4

The below screenshot is the Google Analytics data for the exact same website but now it is displaying the data from the start of October 2016, I have no idea why but I did not see any changes on my sites during September 2016.

Google Analytics since penguin 4

As you can see, before penguin 4 daily traffic for the website was steadily climbing nicely. Since the penguin 4 roll out the daily traffic for the website is steadily declining. Although this is not the same for all of the sites in my money site network using my old GSA Search Engine Ranker method but it seems around half of them show the exact same symptoms.

I have put a sizable time investment into finding similarities between the sites in the group that are maintaining or climbing as well as similarities in the group that is declining but I can’t see any other than the one I will touch on in the next few paragraphs.

The strangest thing about the sites with declining traffic is that their rankings for their main target keywords have held steady for the most part. My theory is that their long tails that I do not actively rank track are dropping off their first-page meaning the pages are getting less traffic from their long tails while their main keywords hold steady. As I have never tracked long tail keywords for these pages I have no way to accurately check the longtails they have previously ranked for in comparison to the longtails they currently rank for.

I find this interesting as the main keyword terms are still ranked so I doubt the pages have an active penalty against them as I would expect them to drop off the first page for all terms if this was the case. My current theory is that there is perhaps an issue with the anchor text ratios for the pages. In the past, I have never put much effort into anchor text breakdowns other than trying to make sure the main keyword term does not make up more than 5% of the anchor text profile but that can’t be the only issue with my old method.

Below are three screenshots of the Google Analytics data for three of my new sites launched since the Penguin 4 rollout. They are using the exact same method as the site above.

Google Analytics 1 Google Analytics 2 Google Analytics 3

As you can see their traffic has not taken off in the same way as the sites I built in this way had previously done. The pages jump into Google for their main keyword after around a week but they refuse to climb.

One of the users on the GSA forum has suggested using platforms such as blog comments, guestbooks and image comments as a tier three to index the contextual tiers can cause problems but I have a mixture of sites now all showing the same symptoms with around half using a tier three for indexing and half using a number of different indexing services.

So What Does The Future Hold?

Below is a screenshot of the Google Analytics data for one of my sites that I used for a private blog network test.

Google Analytics PBN

As you can see, over the same time period as the three GSA Search Engine Ranker based sites above, all this site has done is increase in traffic as well as rankings. It is currently ranked third for its main search term and I will be happy if it stays in this position in all honesty as it has already covered the costs for its private blog network domains and began providing a return on investment.

Below is a screenshot of the Google Analytics data for a test network site I created on the 1st December 2016.

Google Analytics data web 2 tier 1

To most people, this will not look impressive due to the screenshots of exponential traffic growth that I suspect are faked in the various locations trying to sell search engine optimization “services”. Personally, I am happy with the sites performance, so far as it is behaving very similar to how sites used to behave with my old GSA Search Engine Ranker method. This site is actually part of a case study I plan to release publically in the blogs case study section when I have collected enough data.

The main differences between this site and the three shown earlier is that this sites tier one is made up of nothing but web 2.0 article platforms, its tier two also has various web 2.0 article platforms on it as well as contextual articles from GSA Search Engine Ranker with a tier three made up of nothing but blog comment, guestbook and image comment links made from GSA Search Engine Ranker.

Does This Mean Black Hat SEO/GSA SER Is Dead?

Since I became involved in black hat search engine optimization this is the only hit that my money site network has ever taken that I can recall. I say this as I began in a time when black hat search engine optimization was in a state of flux due to the initial penguin and panda rollouts so I may have been slapped back then without knowing it due to being so new to the industry and not knowing what was happening.

Although I feel both black hat search engine optimization and GSA Search Engine Ranker have both taken a hit I don’t believe they are dead by any definition.

I know everyone has their own definition but I personally class black hat search engine optimization as doing anything to rank in Google that is against the Google recommended guidelines so I personally class building any backlink to your sites as black hat. To some extent, I also consider editing an article to have an exact keyword density that you want as black hat as I have seen a number of articles and YouTube videos released by Google that touch on how you shouldn’t do it.

By that definition, black hat seo is far from dead. As I have shown earlier in the article I have a site earning money that I ranked using my private blog network and I class that as a black hat method, especially when its content is automatically generated from tools. Although its very early days the site using automated web 2.0 articles for a tier one is using 100% automated links and is looking very similar to how my old sites would initially grow giving me hope that it is still possible.

With regards to GSA Search Engine Ranker, I feel it has definitely taken a hit with regards to how it can be applied on live projects. From what I have seen on the GSA Forum, I am confident I was one of the last people still using the tool in a working method to rank sites using 100% automated backlinks from SER with no other link source. It would seem that method is now dead unfortunately but the site above with the tier one made from an automated web 2.0 tool is still using links from SER in its pyramid so with any luck the site will take off.

If that case study is successful, I plan to run two additional case studies where I will build two new websites targeting the exact same keywords with one having links from SER in its pyramid and one with only web 2.0 sites in its pyramid to observe how the sites react.

I also have a case study planned for a new private blog network site that I plan to release as well as twelve case studies I currently have in progress that are just waiting for data so be sure to keep an eye on the case study section here!

Wrapping It Up

Although I had no direct goals from this post I hope you have managed to take something from it and now have a better understanding of how important it is to keep developing additional methods of ranking as well as different income streams!

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