Google is SLAPPING Hard Lately…Here’s The Why and How to Fix It

By: Brian Horn on: March 2nd, 2011 6 Comments

You may or may not have seen the story in The New York Times about the SEO debacle involving JC Penney:

The Dirty Little Secrets of Search (if that doesn’t work, read it here too)

Basically, JC Penny got busted for using practices that were not inline with Google’s policies.  They got busted, and dropped from hundreds of #1 spots for terms like “dresses”, “bedding” and “area rugs” to #70 or higher over night.

Internet giant, got busted too:

Google Penalizes Overstock for Search Tactics

Let’s go over the timeline of events, then I’ll cover what you should do going forward.

November 2010

  • Google engineer, Matt Cutts spoke at Pubcon and he said that “some of the webspam engineers had been loaned out on other projects but since the completion of most, he is getting them back and there were two big projects they were working on.”
  • He was also reported to say that they will be taking a look at “Exact Match Domain” names and that he thinks right now having an exact match domain is giving a site too much power in the ranks and that this will be revealed in the coming months.

January 21st

  • Google released a “State of Search” type of blog post
  • Stated that they “have new efforts underway to continue to improve our search quality”
  • Including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content…also known as “content farms”

January 28th

  • Matt Cutts further told us…“ the change was approved at our weekly quality launch meeting last Thursday and launched earlier this week.”
  • And he went on to say… “The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.
  • Very targeted launch: less than half a percent of search results change enough that someone might really notice

February 12th

  • The JC Penny debacle was released to the world in the New York Times
  • Other sites suffered the same sort of ranking drops…however most were just a few spots
  • According to Google the change noticeably impacts 11.8% of the queries
  • Now known as “The Farmer Update”

February 24th

  • This change has ONLY been launched in the US at this point, however Google plans to roll it out elsewhere over time.
  • “Exact Match Domains” are history. There are some exceptions of course, but unless they are a .com and have age and size, they have been pushed to the back of the pile.

What To Do Now:

Product Quality Content

  • Without question, the focus is now on producing original, quality content.
  • Scraper sites are the way of the dodo bird
  • Business owners need to be careful about posting content that could be considered “low-quality”
  • The focus seems to be shifting toward quality, not necessarily quantity

Build Your User Base

  • Search is powerful but it’s not the only way to ensure visitors to your website
  • Build a strong following on social networks
  • Work hard to increase email sign-ups and newsletter subscribers
  • Drive subscribers back to your site on a regular basis

Produce Varied Forms of Content

  • In addition to a blog, consider producing:
    • Videos for your YouTube channel
    • Photos on Flickr
    • Create a Podcast for iTunes
    • Squidoo Lenses
    • Press Releases

Hire a Good Writer

  • Well-written, compelling content tends to attract links, garner social mentions and spread through online communities .
  • For the budget conscious, you can use to get the base articles written…then edit to put into your voice and some personality

Get a Variety of Quality Inbound Links

  • Backlinks will remain a pivotal factor in search engine rankings
  • Be diligent about networking with like-minded content producers and work to get links

Hope that helps!  Leave comments and questions below.  I’ll check back regularly and answer your questions.


Brian Horn, of HornDog Search Marketing, is recognized by many as the "Glazer-Kennedy Secret Weapon", because of his role in helping not only Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer with search engine optimization and social media, but also many of the top Information Marketers in the world. Brian shares SEO tips for small businesses over at at his blog,

6 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    Sounds like this will mostly be an issue for crappy scraper sites and whatnot- the exact match thing has been coming for a while, no biggie.

  2. Allen Sayer says:

    Best article I’ve read on the update and ‘What to actually do’ so far.
    Had been ignoring the recent changes but best sit up, take action and just be better – they just raised the bar (which ain’t always a bad thing).

  3. Ione Pullman says:

    Like the post! and i enjoy the blog, really useful info here

    • Mike Stodola Admin says:

      Ione, Happy you liked it…what was most helpful to you? How will you use this info?

  4. […] Google is SLAPPING Hard Lately…Here’s The Why and How to Fix It […]

  5. LogoViz says:

    Great detailed article!

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