Linda Buquet

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Does Google Pigeon Forgive/Ignore Penguin Penalties???
<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/pigeonpengBlueMagnet.co_.nz_.jpg" alt="pigeonpengBlueMagnet.co.nz" width="35%" />
Image credit: Blue Magnet Digital

Discovered a new theory that helps to explain some of the Pigeon results we've been seeing. I'd noticed some of the listings showing up post-Pigeon were sites that used to rank but for a long time had dropped out of the pack. Then suddenly after Pigeon they were back. I think we've all noticed many listings in the pack are pretty spammy.

Just heard about a theory that makes perfect sense and could help explain things. Penguin penalties do not always affect the pack. That's why I'm seeing listings that rank high in the pack that DO NOT RANK IN ORGANIC. They have a Penguin penalty, but Pigeon ignores the penalty and still puts them in the pack. Here is the back story and lots more info...

We have a Ranking Puzzles section of the forum where we investigate and try to figure out interesting rankings we see. In the following post, the Penguin/Pigeon connection came up and once I investigated a little, it made perfect sense to me.

<a href="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ranking-puzzles/22269-local-search-engine-optimization-why-ranking-so.html">Local SEO - Why is this ranking so high?</a> START READING POST #8 and down.

Joshua said:

He has a Penguin penalty. Penguin penalties will affect organic listings but will not affect the local pack. The local pack ignores them. It creates a type of buffer.

Almost any time you see someone ranking high in the local pack but not anywhere organically, they're under a penguin penalty.


Same thing as above. October 4th I believe was Penguin. Sounds like they got hit but the local pack buffer kept them in the local pack ranking
.

Then Ben said:

Often times if a site has an algorithmic penalty such as Penguin, it will still rank well in pack results. But there is also something Google uses called the diversification of search results by merging (Worth looking up if you want to read about it.) Most of you have seen it in action, basically merging the organic and local listings to only display a domain or page once per SERP result. This factor/algo gets tweaked at times (usually with updates) and you will see changes.


So then Joshua wrote a really in-depth post that goes into more detail and also covers other Pigeon related issues as well. It's written for business owners but worth a read by consultants as it explains more about his Penguin/Pigeon theory.

<a href="http://university.tutelarymarketing.com/2014/09/09/local-seo-why-does-my-competitor-rank-in-googles-local-pack-but-not-organically/">Local SEO: Why Does My Competitor Outrank Me in Google’s Local Pack But Not Organically?</a>

Joshua goes into a lot of 101 stuff about how the algo works, for SMBs to understand and the part about the Penguin/Pigeon connection is a little buried so I'm quoting that part here:

Unbeknownst to almost the entire local SEO community it seems, Penguin actually doesn’t affect the local search results. The local pack seems to act like a buffer against it. Which is extremely odd as you would think Google would make sure anyone caught by Penguin was banished from all ability to rank well.

The “buffer” we’re talking about means that if you were penalized by Penguin and took a death drop to the bottom of the red section (organic), you would still survive in the green section (local pack). Odd, right?


If you were to go back and type in “roofing dallas tx” into Google and you knew what to look for, you would see that a whopping 5 out of the 7 businesses in the local pack don’t rank well organically (4th page of Google or further) while they rank very, very well in the local section.

You can see how this would create tremendous confusion among the local SEO community when the rule we knew before to be true which was, “If you rank well in the organic section you will rank well in the local section,” now seems to be utterly wrong (also, props to Linda Buquet of Catalyst Marketing for being the first person to really push this theory that I was aware of, even if I didn’t agree at the time :) I became a believer Linda!)

I actually was fooled a bit myself for a awhile. I even started doing an analysis of certain cities and industries after Pigeon hit because I was so confused. After about an hour of looking at Facebook likes, social metrics, Google+ driving direction requests, and anything else Google may be taking more into account, I decided to start checking into the penalty issue on a hunch.

Amazingly, in every city/industry I checked, every single search result could be explained through this explanation: if Company A was ranking high in the local pack but not in organic, they were under a Penguin penalty.

I would check for a Penguin penalty and 99% of the time, sure enough, they had been hit by Penguin.

They had hired some Local SEO companies to engage in tactics that Google had deemed unworthy of their search results and had popped them. They got caught.

In fact, if we go back to the “roofing dallas tx” screenshot, those same 5 of the 7 of the local businesses in the local pack are under a Penguin penalty right now.

Considering the local pack acts as a buffer and protects the local business from getting penalized from Penguin, this explains 99% of the local results I’m seeing.


That Dallas SERP is very interesting to look at and kind of proves Joshua's point.

I tagged a Google engineer about this because if someone is penalized for spammy techniques and violating guidelines, I don't think they should be allowed to get a pass and rank in the pack.

What do you guys think???
<meta property="og:type" content="article"><meta property="og:title" content=""><meta property="og:description" content="Why Does My Competitor Outrank Me in the Pack but Does Not Rank in Organic?">
<meta property="og:image" content="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/pigeonpengBlueMagnet.co_.nz_.jpg">
 
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Phoenix has been driving me nuts. So, this is what I have come up with in the latest Pack for Orthodontists Phoenix.

---------- Post Merged at 01:34 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 01:26 PM ----------

I also want to add that the sites currently ranking in the pack were ranking well a couple years ago. #A is a violation and #C has 4-5 duplicate websites with different domains.

phoenix Orthodontists.jpg
 

JoyHawkins

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How can you know for sure a site has been hit by Penguin?

---------- Post Merged at 02:11 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 02:01 PM ----------

The reason why I ask is b/c this article explains well on how to know if your site got hit by Penguin - http://www.searchenginejournal.com/3-steps-take-suspect-algorithmic-penalty-google/86549/. I just don't know how I could assume that about a business that I don't work with was hit by it when I can't view their Webmaster Tools and match up the traffic drop with the algorithm updates...
 

JoshuaMackens

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I don't know much about the geography of Phoenix but is Scottsdale really its own city? On the map it looks like it's 15 blocks away.

The same thing for Peoria, Litchfield Park, & Glendale.

Are these actually neighborhoods?
 

Linda Buquet

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I wondered about that too Joy but forgot to ask.

There is a site that for a long time ranking #1 for Seattle Chiro even though it was farthest from the cluster. Then it totally dropped out of site for a few months, so I assumed penalty.

But then it started ranking in the pack again after Pigeon. But it puzzled me because I noticed it was not ranking in organic at all.

After I read Joshua's 1st comment, it all made sense to me. However you are right, without seeing webmaster tools, it would just be an assumption of Penguin penalty.
No way to know for sure.
 

JoshuaMackens

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How can you know for sure a site has been hit by Penguin?

---------- Post Merged at 02:11 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 02:01 PM ----------

The reason why I ask is b/c this article explains well on how to know if your site got hit by Penguin - 3 Steps to Take When You Suspect an Algorithmic Penalty From Google - Search Engine Journal. I just don't know how I could assume that about a business that I don't work with was hit by it when I can't view their Webmaster Tools and match up the traffic drop with the algorithm updates...

Joy,

WMT isn't going to tell you about a Penguin or Panda penalty as they are algorithmic. WMT will only tell you if you've been manually penalized.

There's no message from Google when you get penalized by Penguin. Your ranking just bottoms out.

I look at a few different things when trying to figure out if a website has been hit by Penguin:

A) PA/DA
B) On-Page optimization
C) Majestic SEO Metrics and Backlink Information

From analyzing hundreds of local business SERP's and thousands of website metrics, I can tell (as probably most of you can) through these metrics when a website should be ranking on the first or second page organically.

If it isn't, and it's on page 10, I know there's a problem.

Then I look at Majestic's backlink details and I can always tell from there.

Penguin hit a lot of people with spammy backlink sources (Web 2.0's, spammy forum signatures, link farms, etc) as well as people with over-optimized anchor text. Majestic can help you find that data.

That's how I do it.
 

Linda Buquet

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I don't know much about the geography of Phoenix but is Scottsdale really its own city? On the map it looks like it's 15 blocks away.

The same thing for Peoria, Litchfield Park, & Glendale.

Are these actually neighborhoods?

You've never heard of Scottsdale Az? Yes it's a distinct city. The others too.

LP sounded like maybe a neighborhood but it's a city too. http://goo.gl/maps/vaYRj
 

JoshuaMackens

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You've never heard of Scottsdale Az? Yes it's a distinct city. The others too.

LP sounded like maybe a neighborhood but it's a city too. http://goo.gl/maps/vaYRj

I have heard of Scottsdale. Why does the map for Phoenix Orthodontist results show a business in Scottsdale that is 15 blocks away from the middle of Phoenix?

Nevermind, Scottsdale is further away than that. My eyes were deceiving me. How far away is Scottsdale from Phoenix? From the map it looks like maybe 10-15 miles? That's pretty close to Phoenix?

Help with an Arizona geography lesson requested!

Also, before Pigeon were these people outside of Phoenix showing up at all in Map Pack for this query?
 

Linda Buquet

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I just caught the end of a Max Impact Hangout that featured Marie Haynes.

She's one of the 1st people I did Google Local training for years ago and now specializes in organic penalty recovery. So I mentioned this thread and asked her to stop by and weigh in.
 

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Phew, maybe I'm not crazy!!!

On Tuesday I had said
I had the thought last night that it's almost like they turned an algorithm/filter OFF... not added a new one.

I didn't have time to investigate further (and still don't, catching up from vacation last week), so I really appreciate everyone looking into it further! I don't keep local screenshots, so I couldn't really see who has moved up or down unless it was a search term that our clients "owned" the pack in (4/7 spots).
 

Marie Haynes

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Thanks for inviting me to join in Linda. I couldn't access the chat during the hangout yesterday so I didn't know you were there!

Let's start with this:

" I just don't know how I could assume that about a business that I don't work with was hit by it when I can't view their Webmaster Tools and match up the traffic drop with the algorithm updates..."

One thing that you can do is take a look at semrush.com for your competitors. Here is an example of a site that was hit by Penguin in April of 2012 and then after we did a really thorough cleanup and disavow for the site made a good recovery in October of 2013. (You rarely see a complete recovery as many of the original rankings were held on the power of unnatural links):




penguin-hit-and-recover-semrush.png



So, can a Penguin hit site appear in the local pack and rank well? Yes, I have seen it happen. John Mueller from Google has said that the Penguin algorithm runs completely separate from local ranking algorithms. With that being said, I have seen Penguin hit sites drop out of the local algorithms at the same time as being hit with Penguin. My theory is that some of their local rankings may have been propped up by citations from directories that Penguin devalued.

Also, in some cases, I have seen sites that fell in local rankings because they did a far too aggressive disavow and disavowed a bunch of directories that were actually good citations.

Did Pigeon change any of this? That I am not sure of. I don't think I have enough data to make any conclusions. I have to admit that although I am quite comfortable explaining Penguin, Pigeon still baffles me.



penguin-hit-and-recover-semrush.png
 
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@ Joshua: First, thanks for your insight Joshua. Scottsdale is its own city as well as Peoria , Litchfield Park, & Glendale. Since Pigeon, the pack has changed 3 times. Searching Orthodontist Phoenix is now only bringing in a 3 pack.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Thanks for inviting me to join in Linda. I couldn't access the chat during the hangout yesterday so I didn't know you were there!

Let's start with this:

" I just don't know how I could assume that about a business that I don't work with was hit by it when I can't view their Webmaster Tools and match up the traffic drop with the algorithm updates..."

One thing that you can do is take a look at semrush.com for your competitors. Here is an example of a site that was hit by Penguin in April of 2012 and then after we did a really thorough cleanup and disavow for the site made a good recovery in October of 2013. (You rarely see a complete recovery as many of the original rankings were held on the power of unnatural links):




GMB Dash4.jpg



So, can a Penguin hit site appear in the local pack and rank well? Yes, I have seen it happen. John Mueller from Google has said that the Penguin algorithm runs completely separate from local ranking algorithms. With that being said, I have seen Penguin hit sites drop out of the local algorithms at the same time as being hit with Penguin. My theory is that some of their local rankings may have been propped up by citations from directories that Penguin devalued.

Also, in some cases, I have seen sites that fell in local rankings because they did a far too aggressive disavow and disavowed a bunch of directories that were actually good citations.

Did Pigeon change any of this? That I am not sure of. I don't think I have enough data to make any conclusions. I have to admit that although I am quite comfortable explaining Penguin, Pigeon still baffles me.


Great insight Marie!

I would add that about backlinks to local as well. Backlinks, as Linda has mentioned (by mentioning organic ranking factors) tend to drive, in my opinion, the majority of the ranking in local packs. If Penguin pops some of your links, you lose the power of those links as you mentioned and that affects local as well.

I don't believe Pigeon changed any of this. The buffer for local existed before Pigeon and still exists like this today. The reason it has gotten so much attention is now everyone is evaluating the SERPS due to Pigeon. It was happening beforehand but no one was really checking too hard into SERPS because we all felt relatively comfortable with how the ranking worked.

Now? With Pigeon, we're all uncomfortable again so now we're doing tons of research and preexisting issue are coming to the surface.

No doubt some of the issues we've discovered are new but some are old as well, just now being discovered for the first time.
 

Linda Buquet

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One thing that you can do is take a look at semrush.com for your competitors. Here is an example of a site that was hit by Penguin in April of 2012 and then after we did a really thorough cleanup and disavow for the site made a good recovery in October of 2013. (You rarely see a complete recovery as many of the original rankings were held on the power of unnatural links):




GMB Dash4.jpg



So, can a Penguin hit site appear in the local pack and rank well? Yes, I have seen it happen. John Mueller from Google has said that the Penguin algorithm runs completely separate from local ranking algorithms. With that being said, I have seen Penguin hit sites drop out of the local algorithms at the same time as being hit with Penguin. My theory is that some of their local rankings may have been propped up by citations from directories that Penguin devalued.

Also, in some cases, I have seen sites that fell in local rankings because they did a far too aggressive disavow and disavowed a bunch of directories that were actually good citations.

Did Pigeon change any of this? That I am not sure of. I don't think I have enough data to make any conclusions. I have to admit that although I am quite comfortable explaining Penguin, Pigeon still baffles me.

Sorry Marie I was out most of day and missed your post.

VERY insightful! Thanks so much for sharing that - it helps a lot. I was just looking at a site I was suspecting got hit by Pigeon because it used to rank A. Then dropped out of site. Then with Pigeon it's back in the pack but not ranking in organic. So just checked with SEMrush (great tip) but I don't really know all the Penguin dates and how to read what I'm seeing. Anyway it's not a client or anything, just a SERP I watch to try to reverse engineer - which is an exercise similar to banging your head against the wall since Pigeon. After awhile it hurts - so you just have to stop doing it!

Anyway, really appreciate you stopping by to share that. Really beneficial!
 

Linda Buquet

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See new post and new example with some theories here:

<a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/local-seo-ranking/28300-ranking-1-google-local-7-pack-even-though-organic-penalty.html">Ranking #1 in the Google Local 7 Pack - Even Though Organic Penalty</a>
 
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