How can you tell whether or not your website has suffered a traffic loss or some sort of penalty as a result of the Google Penguin updates? And if your website actually did suffer a traffic loss, you actually might not know it: especially if you are looking at your Google Analytics. Recently, I took a look at a site’s Google Analytics to see if the site suffered from Google Panda, Google Penguin, and if my intervention into the Google Penguin recovery process was needed.
First, I took a look at the Google Analytics for the site as a whole. At first look, it actually appears that the site’s traffic has gone up (not drastically, but actually it is on an upward trend). Take a look at this website’s overall traffic from all sources:
If you look at the above screen capture (you will probably want to click on the image in order to see the larger version), then honestly it does look like the traffic is just fine. After all, one of the last “key” Google Penguin dates was around the beginning of October according to the Google algorithm update history. I even outlined this during my Google Penguin and Panda update when I spoke at the Pubcon Conference in Las Vegas during late October.
So let’s dig a little deeper into the Google Analytics for this particular website. Same website I mentioned above, but let’s look at the Google organic traffic to the site during the same period of time.
Again, the same thing. Although, there is less of a change in the traffic over time. This normally would look like the site has NOT suffered any sort of penalty on organic traffic because of Google Penguin.
But, here’s where you have to dig even deeper. Don’t just trust the Google Analytics traffic to show you what’s going on. In fact, I wouldn’t fully trust Google Analytics at all after seeing what I found today, by looking at the Google Webmaster Tools data:
WOW, what a difference! If you look at this chart, you’ll clearly see that around the first week of October the site DID receive some sort of traffic loss. Turns out that I ended up digging into the site a little bit more with some additional analysis (which took some additional time) which I won’t go into right here. But, there were certain keyword phrases (the “money” type of keywords) that the site really converts well for and has a lot of traffic. And it appears that the site was really hit by Google Penguin, which this latest update. There were some previous losses in traffic, but not as drastic as this latest round of updates from Google.
So, why is Google Analytics showing that the traffic wasn’t down but Google Webmaster Tools shows that the site suffered a loss? There are several reasons why this can happen, which could include the GA code not being installed on all pages, or it could be that the site lost rankings for certain keywords because of “over optimization”, or it could be a combination of certain keywords who anchor text links are now deemed to be “over optimized”. In this particular case, it looks to me like there are certain keywords phrases that the site has targeted in its past linking campaigns–and that link text appears much more than the actual brand phrases that are pointing to the site. The only way to tell for sure, though, is to have a real expert review all of the data and, only based on experience, make an informed opinion.