Google Penguin Refresh in the UK

Google Penguin Refresh in the UK

Blog Google Algo Update Google Penguin News SEO SERPS

Tonight at 22:30 we are seeing huge movement in the Google UK SERPS. As we predicted we thought the Google Penguin update might take another couple of weeks to feel the full affects of it in the UK as Google had announced approx 2 weeks ago the roll out had finished.

On October 10th 2016 we report that we were seeing some big changes in the organic results and previously Penguin affected sites were showing signs of improvement. But tonight we are seeing way more than even compared to the 10th October.

My guess is the data is finally hitting UK data centres and over the next week or so you should be seeing solid positions.

I hope you’re seeing more ups than downs, but remember guys even if you do get hit by the Penguin, never give up you can always recover.

Google Penguin Dataset Fluctations – But Penguin Recoveries Are Happening Right Now!

Google Penguin Dataset Fluctations – But Penguin Recoveries Are Happening Right Now!

Blog Google Algo Update Google Penguin SEO

Hey everyone I decided to hold off posting anything about the latest Google Penguin 4.0 algorithm update until I had collated enough data to report properly, and not just another click bait post.

So what do we know about Google Penguin 4.0 update

Well officially according to Google it rolled out on the 23rd September 2016 but many including myself believe it may have rolled out even soon than that. We tracked ranking fluctuations weeks and week before this and later in this blog we will share with you dates throughout the year where we tracked massive but temporary ranking improvements.

This is what Google has to say about the Penguin 4.0 Real Time Update

  • Penguin is now real-time. Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the internet, many of Google’s algorithms would take that into consideration very fast, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed. With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page. It also means we’re not going to comment on future refreshes.
  • Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.

Let’s break this down in more detail and what Penguin 4.0 means for SEO’s and webmasters right now.

‘Penguin is now real-time’

get out of penguin jailThis now means if you’re website gets caught out for manipulating it’s organic search rankings then it can be as quickly corrected. More importantly though it means those who were hit by a previous generation of the Penguin algorithm and were waiting on a refresh to clear any penalties against them, as long as they have cleaned up their link profile and haven’t continued to spam will finally be free!

Google makes a big point of mentioning it’s now granular rather than penalising an entire website.

I think this is one of the most interesting points about the latest Google Penguin update. Previously spammers would feel the full wrath of Google should you get caught out. But now they are quite clearly telling us all that if you spam or try and cheat with paid links etc then you shouldn’t expect your whole site rankings to get killed off.

How Google Penguin now looks and deals with link spam

This is the biggie without a doubt and I could write about this all day but I will keep it short and sweet.

Google tells us that now it won’t penalise you but in fact will ignore suspicious links to your site. Hang on a sec!

No more Google Penguin Penalties, ever?!?!?!?!

google penguin 4.0 devalues links rather than penalizes

Yep according to this post Gary Illyes at Google said that they now look at signals that suggest spamming or link manipulation and will just devalue the links rather than penalising for them.

Goodbye link spammers and negative SEO problems then?

Looks like Google sorted that issue out then. But it does also make you question is a rolling Penguin update even that important if it just ignores spam? There are two types of websites right now that this applies to.

1.) Sites that already have a penalty from previous Google Penguin updates

2.) Sites that are yet to spam and have no issues.

So for the first type of website which have had Penguin issues, once the update has fully rolled out and all data is refreshed they are free from the evil Penguin.

The second type, the good guy not doing anything wrong then this really has no affect on them. Because if Google Penguin now devalues spam then it with neither harm or positively affect your rankings anyway.

The ones that slipped through the net

So far so good then with the Google penguin 4.0 update it seems. But what about serial spammers the seem to have slipped through the net? I discussed this in my last blog post about certain websites we’d found to be link spamming and getting away with it.

Techniques such as using link networks (SAPE/PBN’s) but cleverly using no relevant business keyword anchor text. Thus being able to keep off the radar from Penguin and the manual spam action team at Google.

Will Penguin ever catch up with the no-good-ers?

I think Penguin will only continue to evolve and catch black hatters out but right now from what we have seen those who choose to link spam using a bit more grey matter are getting away with it and dominating search results.

So that’s what we know about Penguin 4.0 so far and what it means right now for SEO’s.

Evidence of Google Penguin Recoveries

This is the really good news and also some pretty strong evidence that contradicts what many believed a Penguin recovery to really be.

The U.S were reporting Penguin recoveries a little sooner than we were seeing here in the U.K – We started to see these on Monday 3rd October 2016. At first the results of obvious recoveries were hit and miss but over the next week we saw many sites recovering and showing huge ranking and traffic increase.

Don’t worry about ranking fluctuations Google has a lot of data to go through

If you’ve been seeing fluctuations in your organic rankings over the last 2 weeks then don’t worry as Gary Illyes once again has said this is normal and to be expected.

During parts of the week we reported as many as 8 fluctuations per day, with rankings moving up and back down to their last seen position, pre Penguin 4.0 roll out.

google penguin recoveries and ranking fluctuations


Strange results in Google search for your domain?

I thought i’d mention this incase anyone else had seen strange indexing issues with their website.

For one website we are tracking who’s site has seen a huge Penguin recovery in the last week with traffic increased by as much as 50% their home page was not listed in the results if you searched

This site has no manual actions and I wouldn’t expect it to either as it has a very organic and clean link profile. Plus it’s rankings for every other page have increased massively. Plus what’s even more interesting is when using a mobile browser or even mobile device tethered to a laptop the home page is indexed and has been reindexed twice since we noticed the error.

I think there must be others seeing pages missing, even their home page/root domain but if you do don’t panic as there are no penalties from Penguin anymore, we know that anyway and it looks as those there are just some holes still in Google’s dataset.

Biggest Google Penguin Recoveries We’ve Seen

One site we look after was hit with a manual action in 2012 and Penguin penalty in 2013. We began the long drawn out task of auditing all of their inbound and outbound back links. Once we were certain on the offending links we started to reach out to websites asking them to remove them, and where we couldn’t get them removed disavowed them. 2778+ referring domains removed in total.

Waiting patiently for Penguin to refresh, we expected huge improvements in their rankings, but sadly it never came.

Recovery without link building as the primary SEO focus

Without building links, just a few organic ones the site has now fully recovered. Even with very few back links, only good content the website has made a full recovery.

During the early part of this year the website traffic started to increase and peaked in July (this is a seasonally effected industry)

traffic increase





Their website traffic hit almost the same peak as it did when they were spamming, over 45,000 unique visitors in a month.

Then came Penguin 4.0 last week and everything changed

I must be clear nothing else has been done just added more good content and concentrated on getting the on page SEO in order.

Last week everything changed for this website (which I’m not going to publish). Suddenly where it had once ranked page 1 but not been seen for almost 3 years was now back. Plus more importantly with all the new content it was getting a lot more long tail keyword traffic, over 30,000 search terms in fact as apposed to 200+.

So this leads the question can you recover from a Penguin penalty without link building and still rank page 1?

YES, Yes you can! We’ve seen it in more than once too.

We’re seeing sites previously panned in search with no SEO since and no links whatsoever now ranking where they once did.

Don’t give up on your penalised website, you can recover fully and even higher than you did before.

I say this because i’ve read so many times where business owners have been told by SEO’s just give up and build a new site on a new domain. But if you’ve spent thousands on building your site and just as much if not even more getting it to rank well just throwing it away shouldn’t be your first decision.

We’ve now recovered more than 50 websites in the last 24 months and more in the last 2 weeks.

If you’re site isn’t doing as well as it once did or has taken a hit recently then talk to us and we’ll try and help.

Say hello on Twitter


SPAM is BACK! The Latest Google Algorithm Update Apparently Loves Link Spam

SPAM is BACK! The Latest Google Algorithm Update Apparently Loves Link Spam

Google Algo Update

So last week we saw around the world reports of significant SERP changes in Google and chatter of a big algo update.

For us we saw very little change in our own sites and clients sites except for 2.

We did notice a lot of the verticles changing for brand searches and product searches but in the main localised searches, very little movement.

Reports of a big Google Algo update September 2016

Anyway looking in to two specific industry searches for 2 clients of ours we noticed one big difference and it smelled like spam right away.

The first was for ‘IT Support London’ this search term has been plagued by link spam for years and even to this day after numerous Google Penguin and Panda updates a lot of the main offenders still maintain strong page 1 results.

We immediately noticed that the worst link spammer in this niche whom have acquired a large number of back links in a very short time. See the screen shot from below

dirty dirt link spam at its worst

Since January 2016 this website has managed to acquire over 18,000 referring domains and 247,000 back links giving them a very healthy Ahrefs Rank score of 220,848 and domain rank of 55/100.

Take a look at their suspicious anchor text ratio

spam anchor text ratio

Noticed how their anchor text ratio is very varied and nothing to do with their business, searches or brand. We’re seeing more and more of this in the black hat SEO world where using lots of spammy links but keeping the anchor text ratio diverse seems to be avoiding any manual or algorithmic penalties from Google. Their anchor text ratio for any given keyword/phrase never rises above 1% keeping it diverse and organic looking if you were a Google Bot looking for patterns in aggressive anchor text ratio abuse.

From 8th to 2nd on Page 1

So going back to the recent Google Algorithm update that caused all the chatter this serial link spammer who built a lot of links very un-naturally from comment spam, forum profile links, web 2.0 links, footer links amongst others has seen a bit boost in their rankings and organic traffic. ‘IT Support London’ costs over £15 per click so this is a very profitable search term if you’re a link spammer.

I’ve also checked other sites on the SERP and virtually all on page 1 are link spamming and getting away with it, but the worst offenders are prevailing above those who choose to play by the books and not spam.

The playing field just isn’t level in this current version of Google

My point is until Google Penguin refreshes the way of the black hat SEO if adheres to certain fail safes can prevail and will out rank those who play it straight and don’t bend or break the rules.

Forget Google Penguin for now

I’ve stopped looking for announcements on Google Penguin Updates in the news search simply because we have been told time and time again a few weeks, this quarter, before the end of the year. Clearly Google isn’t quite ready to push this update and roll it out (although i do think we’ve seen it being tested as mentioned in my other blog posts) but I do think when the time does come there is going to be a big shift in the search results for spammers. The first version of Penguin hit hard and was very aggressive in taking spammers down, lets hope this only improves.

Other sites/industries positively affected by link spamming

We have also seen the same for ‘kitchens edinburgh’

Look at this site, not exactly well built or very well optimised, even the URL structure is a mess but they’ve jumped in the top 3 positions and i’ll show you how.

I don’t this the person responsible for their SEO has anything to do with their ranking improvements but in fact is from a hack.

We’ve all seen those nasty code injections to wordpress sites etc where a hacker gets in to a website and uploads a load of crap content. They then inject a bunch of other sites and link back to site A and before you know it theres a huge link network which redirects users to another site usually for calis. viagra or UGG boots.

Well this site has a huge amount of links coming from this attack which throws up a lot of strange anchor text links (see below)



Again no links with relevant brand or product search anchor text for this business, just spam.

Great for their website for now but I think this boost will be short lived as the links drop off.

So that’s example #2 of link spamming but this time not intentional by the website owner

Why is the latest Google Update loving link spam?

google link spamWe can only speculate why this latest Google Algo update yearns for link spam but my guess is that it’s recently been through a major world war and for years on rations now has access to some form of tinned  meat and has developed a taste for it.

Is Google Just Testing?

Or more seriously it’s testing something for certain verticals to see what the results are?

This would be my guess as Google says we don’t like link spamming and we will punish those who continue to persist with this method of bringing traffic to their website.

Recent Google Places Listing Update

I also read on Twitter that something was happening with Google Places listings and people all over the globe where seeing massive changes.

I’m going to put my neck out and suggest what this recent update really is.

I don’t think its an update in the traditional sense i think its a data set merge/error.

We’ve seen it time and time again over the last 9 years and it has all the hallmarks of a simple dataset error.

The signs the recent Google Places update is just a dataset error

  1. [‘Keyword’ + ‘Location’] and [‘Location’ + ‘Keyword’] don’t deliver similar results

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-10-09-18 screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-10-09-07










See above this search results in different businesses being showed, in fact they’re almost completely different.

2.) Not all locations seem to be affected

Surely if this was a major update we’d see this across every single search and location, but we are not.

Unless Google say we’ve updated Google Places algorithm i’m just not buying it.

Usually what happens is that when Google are making changes to it’s places layout or features we see dataset merges or errors. And this is all i think it is. Pinging the listings with an update isn’t doing anything to correct and this is the same error we saw a few years back and eventually it just corrected itself.

Don’t worry people I’m sure this will correct itself.

3.) Local Pack + Organic results are not always related

We know that the organic result of the website and places listing position are correlated but with this glitch we’re seeing some places listings ranking very well with no organic positioning at all.

That’s all from us today just thought we’d give you our 2p (I’m not saying cents I’m sorry) but if you have anything you’d like to share with us you can reach my on twitter @seotwentyone or leave a comment below.


Google Search Console Error

Google Search Console Error


Hey folks if you’ve found this blog titled ‘Google search console error’ it’s a good chance you too are seeing errors in what used to be called Google Webmaster Tools.

I logged in to one of our accounts today to only be greeted with the error message ‘Hm. Something isn’t right. We’re checking into it now.’

Just proof Google does have off days and does break from time to time. Don’t worry it’s probably already fixed by now.

Wait a few hours and try again.


Google search console error

What’s with all these SERP fluctuations in Google?

What’s with all these SERP fluctuations in Google?

Blog Google Algo Update SEO SERPS

With Penguin chatter still occurring daily on Twitter etc it seems a lot of webmasters and SEO’s are hanging their hopes on the next big Penguin refresh. We’ve even blogged several times when we’ve noticed significant movement or ranking fluctuations.

However I think something else is going on behind the scenes and Google HQ which may not be Google Penguin and something completely different which is why so many are reporting ranking fluctuations.

Lots of movement in Google SERPs

I’ve noticed over the last 2 months in particular that Google keeps showing incorrect results for UK searches in particular niches and also for certain locations.

Let me show you an example

For the search term ‘bi fold doors Perth‘ in you can clearly see now 7 out of 10 positions are sites

google showing incorrect country sites for

Does Google not understand GEO location any more?

Until recently Google has always been pretty spot on when it comes to understand your IP location and what you are searching for and presenting the most accurate results. So why now is Google getting confused with a location such as ‘Perth’ in Scotland and delivering Perth Australia?

Way back eons ago when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth (in 2103 really but it does feel a long time ago to me) Google released an update code named ‘Venice‘. The Venice also update was created to understand your GEO IP location and to tie this in with the results you required. This meant if you were in London and searched ‘Restaurants’ you would be served ‘Restaurants in London (UK)’. Perfect, Google is a magician, it can read my mind.

So how in 2016 when we have RankBrain and the most up to date search algorithms can Google get confused and serve up Australian websites in it’s UK search engine?

And it’s not just this occurrence either, I have found it in Cambridge, Basingstoke, Kingston (upon Thames) and others.

What does this have to do with a Google mystery update?

I’m not saying it’s directly related to this mystery update but it sure does fit in with the same time line that we started to see these glitches. The same with Google Places, we are seeing incorrect map data every week although the last 10-14 days has been a lot more stable than it has been in the past.

Here’s one idea why things are messed up

One idea is that RankBrain is learning and it will take it time to understand locations the way we humans do.

Dude you broke Google!

Another idea is that it’s just broken. Why not, Google breaks all the time. Really? Oh yeah! We reported earlier this year about Google reporting a catalogue of copyright entries after page 2 of the search results.

Another possible reason we are seeing rankings fluctuating

Google is texting out a new algorithm. I am seeing over the past 3 weeks a lot of sites using high numbers of inbound links via SAPE and PBN’s ranking a lot higher. This goes for ‘IT Support London’ if you look at this site which came from nowhere HTL.London and from March to the present has acquired over 13,000 back links in a very unnatural way.

example of PBN Sape Links

How are they ranking without getting a penalty?

Look at their anchor text ratio?

links anchor text ratio

You can see their anchor text is all over the place. No mention of ‘IT Support’ but have some very ‘interesting’ shall we say link anchors coming in to the site. So maybe by using this approach they are able to get better organic rankings without getting penalised for search terms they are targeting.

Has Google uprated the importance of inbound links as apposed to referring domains?

This is one thing I’m definitely seeing more of in the spam world. Sites with huge number of inbound links but far less of new referring domains outranking sites that have great relevant content and authoritative links.

It’s impossible to say for sure what the reasons are but I’m pretty sure it ain’t penguin as this goes against everything Penguin is about. My best guess is Google are testing something new out or it’s rank brain. It doesn’t seem to effect every niche and with rankings across the board fluctuating so much daily all signs point to testing. Or it’s dataset merging but I’m not sure its that either.



How to remove a fake Google Places Review

How to remove a fake Google Places Review

Google Places

You work hard to market your business online, blood sweat and tears no doubt then some dirty little urchin writes a negative review on Google Places (Google+) about your business and you feel lost and don’t know what action to take.

Here I am going to share with you how you can potentially have negative reviews especially fake ones removed.

First of all let’s look at a popular blog our sister site published some years ago about removing fake google places reviews.

Since that blog gets a lot of traffic and we get enquiries daily I have decided to write a new blog which covers the latest ways to hopefully get negative reviews removed from Google Places.

However that link we posted no longer works as it used to and i’m not sure it will be dealt with by Google for this matter.

This is how you remove unwanted Google Places reviews

I want to start by saying this is not guaranteed to work but is your best chance at getting a fake/false review taken down.

5 Step Process to Requesting Google to Remove Reviews

  1. Go to
  2. Click on ‘Contact Us’
  3. Select ‘Photos, reviews, or business summaries’
  4. Click on ‘Inappropriate reviews’
  5. Select ‘Email’ and fill out the form. I recommend selecting the option to have someone call you back so you can talk through why you consider the review to be inappropriate.

Hopefully if you have backed up your reason why the review should be taken down such as ‘business not yet trading’ ‘no records of any customer under this name’ ‘we are taking legal action regarding this individual who is posting false reviews’ – then you have a good chance it will be removed.

Now we’ve shared that with you if you would be so kind as to spread the word and share on your websites/blogs/social media with a mention of our blog. Dont forget to follow us on twitter @seotwentyone

Peace & Love x

Is Google already rolling out or testing it’s penguin update?

Is Google already rolling out or testing it’s penguin update?

Google Penguin

I’m sure we are all sick of reading about the pending Google Penguin 4.0 update but it’s something that many people are still discussing and wanting to know more.

We’ve covered many blogs about Google Penguin:

We’ve also covered SERP fluctuations in the UK over the last few months and strange results showing up then disappearing but what we all really want to know is when is Google going to release the new (improved?) Penguin update which is said to be an ongoing part of the core algorithm.

Why Google Might Have Already started to roll out the latest Penguin update and not told us?

I have a theory well it’s more of a speculation but it may be possible that Google has been testing the new penguin algorithm for months now and just kept it a secret.

Prove it!

Ok well until Google say’s ‘penguin is live’ then we can’t officially prove it but here’s some interesting information that might make you think otherwise and Penguin is slowing being rolled out or tested.

  1. Many site owners, SEOs and webmasters all reporting massive ranking fluctuations since January.
  2. We have seen websites previously hit by Penguin recover in the last 6-8 weeks. we are talking about sites not on page 1 to top of page 1 overnight. These sites are not currently doing any SEO or link building and seem to have just recovered of their own accord.
  3. Seeing weird stuff in the search results. Now I know this is far from evidence of Penguin but we’ve seen before that just before an algorithm or core update takes place we see weird data merging and bizarre features in Google search results. These usually do not last very long, from a few hours to a few days. But it’s another clue that Google might be making some pretty big changes. This always happens with Google Places in fact. When a significant change happens to Google Places such as the removal of star ratings, colour changes to the layout, 7 packs to 3 pack we always see oddities in data such as wrong cities or country results in Google Places.

Why would Google keep it quiet about rolling out it’s next major Penguin update?

They might well not be but think about it this way does your business leak all of its information publicly before everything has been tested?

Would you release a product that has not been finished?

No! Neither would I and maybe that’s one reason why all these strange goings on in search are penguin related. Just maybe Google is testing to see how it affects search for the good and bad before it announces to the world the next version of the Penguin algorithm has been released.

I would bet money that when we do hear that announcement Penguin 4.0 is live that in fact they’ve been testing it for months before announcing it’s ready.

Google Penguin 4.0 isn’t just another update it’s a lot bigger than that.

The difference we are expecting from the Penguin 4.0 update is that it will work on real-time basis. It doesn’t necessarily mean you get a bad or good link from a site on Monday morning and at 9:01 you get a penalty or ranking improvement. From how we understand Penguin 4.0 to work it will crawl a site check the outbound links to your site then make an alteration to your organic search positioning depending on the quality and legitimacy of the link.

i’m not saying Penguin 4.0 is definitely here but I think it could be very likely it’s already being tested live and will be released/announced very soon.

Google Testing 9 Organic Positions on Page 1

Google Testing 9 Organic Positions on Page 1

Blog Google Algo Update SEO

Over the last 2 weeks we’ve been noticing 9 organic results for page 1 instead of the usual 10. This doesnt seem to show up on any other pages.

On the 10th Feb we blogged about an error in search showing a list of catalogue copyright entry queries

I’m not saying this is at all related but it is odd to say the least.

Google search results showing 9 not 10 listings

Could be just some testing they are doing or it could be related to the new layout of the Adwords results with 4 positions at the top.

We will let you know more if we see anything else.


Is Google Broken? Google showing catalog of copyright entries

Is Google Broken? Google showing catalog of copyright entries

Blog SEO

Something odd happening today in search when i click next page I’m seeing strange results and all other pages are not showing.

is google broken

Sometimes it’s page 5,6,7,8 etc sometimes its page 2 of the Google search results.


google showing book results


I have reached out to @methode on Twitter but didn’t get much more of a response than ‘define strange‘.

Anyone else seeing these odd results?

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All calm on the Mozcast today

All calm on the Mozcast today

Blog Google Algo Update SEO

After our last blog which we report some very strange goings on in search Mozcast today is showing much less turbulence.

So why has their been so many fluctuations in SERPS in January?

Although not confirmed it’s most likely down to either some testing or those core algorithm updates that rolled out earlier in the month in the US. Quite often will see roll outs of it’s core algorithm after

Gary Illyes at Google replies but doesn’t confirm anything

Merging Datasets in Google search

The easiest way to explain it is imagine you have 2 computers all with some data syncing software like Google Drive or Dropbox.

Google Dataset Merging Explained Simply

You upload your favourite pictures from your smartphone, or music but the data is massive thousands of Gigabytes or known as Terabytes. It’s going to take time for both machines to replicate all this data. So whilst you search on your computer for your favourite song you can’t always see it straight away.

Same goes with Google and its algorithm updates, it just takes time to roll out the data merge. So we sometimes see strange results that fluctuate.

Things seemed to have settled down now and things were as they were.

But if you’re seeing inconsistent results let us know so we can share it.