16 Google Penalty, Update & Filter Visualisations By SEO Visibility

Dan Sharp

Posted 28 May, 2012 by in SEO

16 Google Penalty, Update & Filter Visualisations By SEO Visibility

We thought it would be interesting to put together a quick post which helps visualise the impact of various Google penalties, updates and filters. Obviously the best way to gauge the impact would be to analyse analytics, conversion and ranking data. However, we are not always privy to such data as a third party, so a tool such as Search Metrics allows you to get an overview of SEO visibility of a website quickly over time. Some of you might be asking, what is ‘SEO visibility’? Well, Search Metrics define it as –

SEO Visibility displays the visibility of the selected domain in the organic search. Searchmetrics determines SEO Visibility by sorting through millions of keywords from Google’s index.

You can find more details on their website and you can argue the virtue and accuracy of any data set, but internally we have found this measure to be extremely useful as a guide for competitive landscape analysis and trends. If you haven’t already checked them out, then you should do so.

Now, onto the pretty graphs and data. We have not included the website name within the charts below to keep anonymity, but you might be able to guess some of the higher profile cases.

Google Panda Update

A well known Panda update case from the UK in ‘consumer reviews’. The dramatic drop highlights the huge impact to the website which has yet to recover.

Google Panda update

Google Penguin Update

After much speculation about an upcoming ‘over optimisation’ penalty, Google released a web spam update later named as ‘Penguin’ on the 24th of April ’12. While the impact can only be seen at the very end of the graph below, you can see the drop in visibility is substantial.

Google Penguin update

Unnatural Links Profile

Since early 2012 Google started sending out a huge number of unnatural links notices in Google Webmaster Tools. While many received them in March ’12 and saw a subsequent drop a couple of weeks later, others had already experienced decreases in ranking and received the message afterwards. In the below case, the penalty occurred at the end of September ’11.
Google unnatural links penalty

Here is another example of a brand getting hit with an unnatural link profile. They have tonnes of site-wide links with keyword rich anchor text.

unnatural link profile

Buying Links

When you get bought by Google, your link profile will be analysed by SEO’s. So it needs to be squeaky clean, or you will be outed as in this case of link buying (amongst other things apparently).

Paid Link Networks

These two examples are similar to the above and involve two large websites in the states which were outed at a similar time for buying fairly large quantities of low quality network links.

paid link networks

Negative Reviews

Back in December ’10 a website was covered in the New York Times claiming that negative reviews helped him rank on the first page of Google. Facing a PR backlash, Google pretty quickly implied that merchant reviews will be incorporated as a ranking factor and the website plummeted in the search results. Was this the new ranking factor in play? I doubt it, I suspect it was for the paid links they got outed for at the same time. You can see the massive drop in visibility in December ’10.

negative reviews penalty, doubt it

Exact Match Anchor Text

This is an interesting one, so I’ll include a couple of charts that I believe highlight the impact of too much exact match anchor text. You are at first rewarded, but building too many links with your target keyword is often followed by a fall, without the required domain trust.

exact match anchor text filter exact match anchor text

Footer Links Penalty

This example actually involved someone we work with. Have you ever wondered what might happen if you include 150+ links in the footer of your website by mistake? Well, wonder no more. The sudden dramatic dip in October ’11 was due to just this. We noticed them and acted extremely quickly and the period from penalty to complete recovery was exactly one week.

footer links penalty

Comment Spam

We looked into a competitors link profile who had made large gains relatively quickly and noticed they were undertaking lots of comment spam. Our analysis showed that around 80% of it was ‘nofollow’, but all with very keyword heavy anchor text. After their fairly quick rise, they seemed to drop all of a sudden and haven’t really returned.

comment spam

‘Negative SEO’

There has been much written about negative SEO recently which is unfortunate. However, it is interesting to look at a well known case covered over here at SEOmoz. Dan Thies SEOFastStart.com website was targeted with lots of keyword rich, low quality links around the 18th of March ’12. The graph shows he saw an initial spike in visibility, followed by a similar drop before recovery.


More recently another website claimed to be the victim of negative SEO and even offered a reward for identification of those involved. While the below chart certainly shows their visibility tanked, there seems to be other more valid reasons as to why they dropped from the search results.

Negative seo? No

PageRank Penalty

A well known newspaper in the UK was caught selling links back in April ’10 and subsequently had their visible toolbar pagerank reduced and it still is today. Has the reduction in green fairy dust had any impact on their visibility? It certainly doesn’t appear so from the data range we are able to view below.

newspaper selling links

Who Knows

More often than not there is a simple reason as to why you might plummet in the search results. But not always, a well known and respected agency in the states recently disappeared for their brand mysteriously and returned 12hrs later. The graph below shows the sudden drop in mid April ’12 and suggests the full recovery may have taken a little longer. I haven’t looked into this case at all, so I don’t know if it was a penalty of some kind or probably more likely, a glitch.

seo agency brand drop

Have you got any interesting SEO visibility charts to share? Share them in the comments below.

Dan Sharp is founder & Director of Screaming Frog. He has developed search strategies for a variety of clients from international brands to small and medium-sized businesses and designed and managed the build of the innovative SEO Spider software.


  • David Sottimano 12 years ago

    What a clever idea! I’ve bookmarked this and will definitely compare some other examples. How nice would it be if we could instantly diagnose from those lovely SearchMetrics graphs?

    • screamingfrog 12 years ago

      Cheers mate.

      That would be great ;-) I’d love to see more examples from others of recoveries from certain types of issues / penalties with these graphs as well.

      There was some other stuff we couldn’t include due to confidentiality, but hopefully we will be able to write an update to this post at a later date with more.

  • Marcus Tober 12 years ago

    Never saw such a good collection of different penalties. Awesome idea guys.

    • screamingfrog 12 years ago

      Thanks Marcus.

      Big fan of the tool, impressed with the data.

  • Jens Umland 12 years ago

    Really good collection, bookmarked!

  • sherrillh 12 years ago

    I believe the last one may have been the parked domain glitch that Google admitted to in mid-April, I think the 18th.

  • matthew hunt 12 years ago

    Wicked collection of penalties! i will share this with my team this week at our meeting. thanks.

  • Stephanie Hunt 12 years ago

    Great post guys. Hadnt heard about teh parked domain glitch – willGoogle that now!

  • screamingfrog 12 years ago

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    @sherrillh, ahh! I remember reading about this at the same time. Interesting.

  • Ravi Akella 12 years ago

    Interesting set of observations. Should definitely see for a larger set of websites to see these hold true but definitely the old link building methods may not work effectively anymore unless we choose the sources carefully and do it slowly and regularly on a ongoing basis than at one go.

  • Andrew Shotland 12 years ago

    Classic post Dan. I think you can turn these graphs into an art exhibit – that only geeks will attend of course.

  • Tony 12 years ago

    Awesome post Dan. And clients harp on about getting 1000 inbound links for $5 or “will Google notice about my little website!”. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Tim Aldiss 12 years ago

    Really useful and timely bit of research. Disappointingly some of these look all too familiar. Great tool, great idea. Sharing

  • manoj 12 years ago

    Great article. Graph are of great help for understanding and comparing site performance with correlation presented.


  • Sergio 12 years ago

    Very interesting article and awesome idea. Thanks.

  • Martin 12 years ago

    Brilliant post ! Read it before and can’t help drop some words here. This is a great reference for Google penalty related topic.

    PS, How could you list so many examples ?

  • Covax 12 years ago

    Really dramatic traffic stats. Why Google doesn’t wants to create notifications of this causes to webmasters by email or WMT? This will be a good motivations to create the right websites. Spontaneously chop off traffic or ban of Adsense account without warnings and explanations of the reasons. At any time it is possible to expect everything new from Google. There is no confidence of tomorrow. Though retrieval output practically isn’t cleared, in many “tops” there are a lot of “paid-position” websites. I am once again convinced that it is necessary to build websites, at which search traffic less than 20%.

  • c byrne 11 years ago

    Can you please let me know if the links in the Footer Links Penalty were internal links?



  • alastairw 11 years ago

    Excellent post. Very useful information. In my experience your advice has been proved to be spot on.
    A penalty can happen quickly and cut your site traffic within hours by as much as 60-70 percent. It can take lots of expensive developer and designer/styling time, plus new content, to put right the damage that well meaning SEO amateurs can inflict on a site.
    Great work.

  • Wolfgang Jagsch 11 years ago

    Great article. Points out every szenario. I will concentrate on building natural brand links and url links. And only a few anchor text links

  • Limon 11 years ago

    Great pointers. Never seen a well organized article about Google penalties in a single post.

    This is a great reference for Google penalty related topic. Bookmarked for future reading.


  • Zgred 10 years ago

    Great idea to show such ‘natural’ penalties from Google

  • Mariusz 10 years ago

    Chart for “negative seo” could be similar to Panda penalty or unnatural links algorithmic or manual penalty with site-wide matches.

  • Owen 10 years ago

    could define Unnatural Links?


  • Rafal 10 years ago

    nice visualisation, searchmetrics is a great tool, for me especially valuable are charts about negative seo, thx

  • Daniel Hutt 9 years ago

    First off-love the tool

    Incredibly handy and better than other paid options out there

    The old anchor text conundrum is a bit of a sticky point

    Most are guestimating at less than 2% for keywords to rank for with over 50% for branded anchor

    Whats are your thoughts?


    • screamingfrog 9 years ago

      Hi Daniel,

      I don’t think anchor text is something you should worry about too much.

      Concentrate on building authority by getting talked about in front of the right audience and you’ll find that you don’t need to!



  • Steven Male 9 years ago

    Great information Dan!

    Jeez, I’m scared for what comes next ;)

    I guess it goes to show, make sure you’re whitehat all the way and you’ll be fine!


    • Krzysztof Furtak 9 years ago

      There’s no “whitehat”, because we want to appear highier in serps. No matter what we’ll do (even writing content on our own website), we’re doing it for it. Right?;)

  • Nev Rodda 9 years ago

    Loving the post Dan!! Building a squeaky clean link profile is the go! Golden Rule, QUALITY. Searchmetrics looks like the real deal also. Anyone have any idea how much a month it is?

  • Conrad 9 years ago

    Great article Dan. It is frustrating however, that many of the practices above still seem to get results for some of our competitors. It seems “balance” in using them is the key. What are your thoughts on this?

  • Penalty Hammer 9 years ago

    Now we got another update and seems bigger and not just “one type”. It’s “realtime update” so it’ll be “realtime fun”;)

  • Praca informatyk 8 years ago

    Wow… Art from 2012 but its still really great!

  • Chris 8 years ago

    Fascinating insights there, especially the footer Links Penalty. Seems the SEO game has advanced but interestingly the basic rules are still being applied today. It seems google is getting harder to manipulate with advanced technology.

  • STG 8 years ago

    this is nice art!

  • Mark 7 years ago

    Great post Dan ,
    article from 2012 but its still amazing

    Best Regards

    • Ashley Bryan 6 years ago

      Interestingly the recent updates from Google seem to be based around a devaluation of home pages for target keywords. I believe Google is de-emphasising home pages for SEO keywords and focusing home pages more for the brand of the website. Anyone else having trouble ranking home pages for keywords, especially locally?

  • SEO 6 years ago

    This is still relevant even to this day, so it is true what it has always been said. “Basic will always stay the same” even now things will grow and improve. Love looking at old but good articles.

  • Jonathan 6 years ago

    Hi Dan,

    Have you got any more recent examples of changes in rankings that have occurred, possibly from the overuse of links sent to inner pages?

    You mentioned that Exact Match anchors will get you penalised obviously. But have you got any comparative data for sending EM anchors to a branded website (highly likely to be penalised) vs sending exact match anchors, where the domain is an EMD? This should mitigate the issue, as Google and the other search engines are more than likely to see EMD as ‘your brand’ and allow you to effectively get around sending exact match, or even partial match anchors to an EMD?



  • Sandra 5 years ago

    Very good manual

  • Cam 5 years ago

    Still a very relevant list in 2019.
    I would add manipulative on-site tactics such as disabling back buttons, domineering pop-ups, and heavy advertising percentage on a page to the list.

  • Will Mullins 3 years ago

    Nice to see the good old days and see how far Google’s come.


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