Gnome Likes: Query Percentages, Disavowing Links & Penguin Predictions

Last week was quieter than most. For the second straight week, Google didn’t announce any updates, and there weren’t any major conferences or new tool releases.

Despite the slow news week, the SEO posts were still flowing, and we still had more than enough high quality content to choose from. So without further ado, let’s get on with this week’s recap…

What Does “X% of Queries” Mean?

Up until a few weeks ago, Google was announcing algorithm updates left and right (e.g., Panda 20, EMD 1, Penguin 3, etc.). Each of these updates is focused on different characteristics of websites, but they all share at least one thing in common: their announcements reveal the percentage of queries that are affected. Here’s an example:

In this post, Dr. Pete attempts to decipher Google’s most popular update phrase: “X% of queries noticeably affected.” First, he dissects the statement and tackles the following subquestion: is the reported percentage calculated using (1) the unique number of queries or (2) the total query volume? Based on a Twitter exchange with Matt Cutts, the reported percentage is based on query volume.

Next, Dr. Pete tries to clarify the meaning of “noticeably affected” with respect to queries. Again, based on a Twitter exchange with Matt Cutts, a “noticeable” change typically occurs on the first page of a SERP (with more emphasis given to the first few results). Consequently, if an update changes the fourth page of a query’s SERP, that query is probably not calculated into the percentage that appears in the update’s announcement.

Finally, Dr. Pete deemphasizes the importance of the aggregate statistics because ultimately, you only care if a particular update impacts queries in your niche. Algorithm chasers enjoy learning as much as possible about these updates (in a general sense), but the rest of the community should only worry about whether or not an update impacts their websites.

The Disavow Tool Works! Real Sites, Real Recoveries!

On October 16, Google launched a Disavow Links tool that allows webmasters to disavow suspicious links in their backlink profiles. In this post, Tim Grice presents case studies that illustrate the tool’s effectiveness.

Tim begins by explaining the purpose of the Disavow Links tool, disputing the existence of negative SEO, and suggesting that “Google cannot algorithmically tackle link spam.” He also makes it very clear that if your site has been negatively affected by manipulative links (e.g., you’ve received an unnatural links notice, you were hit by one of the Penguin updates, etc.), you SHOULD use this new tool.

Next, Tim provides 3 different cases studies to show the potential improvements that are possible with the Disavow Links tool. In all three cases, more than 60% of the suspicious links were removed, and at least one reconsideration request was rejected. Then, after the remaining spam links were disavowed (and a new reconsideration request was filed), the rankings recovered! Here is a screen shot of one of the recoveries:

Disavow Links tool recovery

Finally, Tim explains the difference between manual and algorithmic penalties, and he offers a 7-step approach for handling a penalty:

  1. Conduct a thorough link audit for your site, and categorize the high quality and low quality links.
  2. Manually remove as many low quality links as possible.
  3. Create a text file with the low quality links that you were unable to remove.
  4. Disavow the links in the text file.
  5. File a reconsideration request that describes all of your anti-spam actions.
  6. Wait for a response to the request.
  7. Recover your search rankings.

6 Months Later: Google Penguin Reactions, Predictions, Tools and Tips

In this post, Tom Anthony celebrates the 6 month anniversary of the original Penguin update by surveying 78 SEO professionals about their experiences with the update.

Tom’s first survey question asks the respondents to predict the target for Google’s next large update. The following graph shows the top 10 results:

Update predictions

The next question ask what types of links the Penguin update targeted. Not surprisingly, the most popular responses were sidewide links, directory links, comments / forums, and blog rolls. All of these popular responses have been mentioned in one or more Penguin-related posts or case studies.

The survey also includes a collection of Penguin recovery tips, helpful tools (e.g., backlink reporting services, Panguin, etc.), and quotes from the survey’s respondents. Be sure to read the full post for these additional details.

And for a comprehensive timeline of all things Penguin, you can always read…

Everything We Know About The Penguin Update – Part 2

Last week, we published part 2 of our popular Penguin timeline. This new edition covers more than 5 months of Penguin-related activities, including popular update announcements, posts, and videos.

Basically, if you want to get caught up on the last few months of updates, this is the post to read. Plus, you’ll be able to see pretty penguin pictures like this:

Penguin update

Over To You…

I hope you enjoyed this week’s SEO recap, and I want to hear from you in the comments. What were some of your favorite posts this week? Have you used Google’s Disavow Links tool? What do you think future updates will target?


steve
About The Author:  is an SEO audit specialist at Web Gnomes. He received his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech, where he published dozens of articles on Internet-related topics. Professionally, Steve has worked for Google and various other Internet startups, and he's passionate about sharing his knowledge and experiences with others. You can find him on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.


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