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Google Penguin Insight Using Google’s Webmaster’s Tools

May 8, 2012Joseph LancasterInternet MarketingComments Off on Google Penguin Insight Using Google’s Webmaster’s Tools

Out of all of our clients only one site was hit by Google’s latest update called Penguin so I needed to do a little digging. A drop in traffic according to Google Analytics is not fun to see. Especially for me, I’m the SEO guy, right? Plus, I am highly competitive so I next want to know why this happened, was it us or something prior to our work, and most importantly is it something that can be fixed.

If you’ve come to this post because you too see a site that has lost traffic and are worried about what this means and are looking for answers you may be at the right place. I say “may” since this post is more about finding answers than just handing out the general do’s and don’ts of Google and their best practices guide. Google Penguin is more than just finding sites that are over optimized or seo spammed. Think of what Google is trying to accomplish. They are trying to get better results, especially the right results for the right people matched with the best website.

Open Google Analytics (GA). Did the traffic drop on April 24th or a few days prior? If it dropped around the 19th it might have had more to do with over optimization (Panda 3.5). Drops on the 24th are Penguin related or have more to do with spammy optimization tactics. You may have been dropped for both even. Or maybe none of these. Remember, any shakeout or even change to Google’s algorithm can have a change on your site.

Let’s dive a little deeper into “Why I’ve lost ranking on Google search”.

Watching your traffic is good. Understanding your traffic and the behaviors is better. For this we’ll use Google’s Webmaster’s Tools (GWT) ( If you are new to it you can authenticate your site using GA account or use the many other ways they’ll provide but the associated analytics account is the quickest. Now, I won’t cover the entire use or power of Webmaster’s Tools here, just a few areas to learn more about your drop in traffic you saw on GA.

Google Sends Our Warning Messages

Once in Google Webmaster’s Tools, look to see if Google sent you any warnings or messages. They recently sent out “unnatural link notice” to those with obvious link spam. If you didn’t get it you may still be effected just wasn’t as bad as some.

Whether you are new to GWT or not, know that these instructions are based on their new Google Webmaster’s Tools layout as of 5/5/12. In the center of the screen you’ll see three boxes. Crawl Errors, Search Queries, and Sitemap. Look at Search Queries. This is what will give a quick chart showing you your site’s exposure based on organic non-paid search. The blue line graph represents your impressions and the red line is your clicks.

They may be very different from one another. But there is hidden info here. If your site shows up as number 96 on page 9 for a search phrase and it’s searched 1,000,000 times but your page (and therefore your link) is seen only 100 times than that’s where you’ll fall for impressions. It’s not the impressions of your keyword or phrase but rather your specific link in search results.

Google Webmaster's Tools landing page showing the different initial charts.

Click on the header Search Queries and let’s see the info behind the small chart (plus you’ll see a larger graph). Queries number indicates how many search terms or phrases where used in this period of time where a link to your site was shown by Google in all of it’s search results. Impressions are the number of times a link to any of your page’s site was shown, and Clicks is how many times the links were clicked. If you are still reading this it means you’ve seen a drop and you’ll still see your drop represented here too.

If you dropped on 4/19 it was Panda 3.5. If it was on 4/24 it was Penguin.

Below the graph there’s a chart and you’ll see in the center Basic and With Change. Click With Change to see the changes in green or red to indicate a drop or increase and the number or percentage of change of impressions, clicks and position. Don’t get too excited yet. This isn’t the full extent of the power here yet. But does shed some good insight. Or does it? Can this information be wrong?

Click "with change" to see the changes over the last month.

The information you see could be VERY misleading if you don’t take the simple steps to go even deeper.

The information by default is searches globally, for all devices and in more than one medium of search. Up top under the Top Queries tab is a Filter button. Once you click it you are presented a simple option window to change Search Type, Location and Traffic. Before we make any changes, look at this pie chart data. How nice and hidden but a quick representation of your divided traffic search source. You’ll see if a lot of your search traffic was coming from searches on Google Images or Mobile vs Web (traditional search).

You can change the data from Global to just US and from all search types to just Web to filter best results.

You can see this elsewhere but I like it here on this page in relation to the chart below since now we can filter out those that don’t convert to sales giving us a better picture. I wish you could select more than one search type but you can’t so for now just select Web, and in Location, if you are mostly selling to the US select United States and leave Traffic alone. Now the results may have changed and this new data is what you want to pay attention to.

In the case of our client that at first sight was effected by the Penguin update, it turned out that Google’s changes just fixed their site from coming up in results outside of the US. So, yes, their traffic dropped but higher quality traffic remained the same, even improved in some areas. They also get less traffic from image search which for some sites you might need but their site, it isn’t a critical factor.

One last tip to change here. Adjust the start date. The data in the chart is based on the last 30 days. Since everything is different now since either April 19th or April 24th, you’ll want to adjust the dates to get a more accurate picture of your site as it currently stands or as it was prior to the changes and do a comparison. This is easy data to review, you don’t have to get too crazy about this to see where you might be okay or areas for which you need to address.

What if the change in data is still negative? How can I fix my site after the update?

So, what if your site was affected by Google’s latest change to their search algorithm? Click here to continue reading about ways to fix your site and get back in higher search on Google.



About Joseph Lancaster

Joseph Lancaster is founder and senior marketing consultant at SurfingExpert.

View all posts by Joseph Lancaster →

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