How Can I Tell if My Website Has Been Affected By Google Updates?

08/21/2013 by David Caffey

Learn how Google's latest search updates are affecting your website's search engine potential.


For those lucky individuals involved with search marketing over the last few years, it's been nearly impossible to avoid an impromptu field trip to Google's three-animal petting zoo. Whether you’ve been bitten by the panda, accosted by the penguin, or annoyed by the recently-added hummingbird, Google’s animal-named algorithm updates have completely changed the way in which the search engine juggernaut interprets web content and displays search results.

For seasoned SEOs, this post will be a quick review. For those unfamiliar with the subject, this post might already be the strangest thing you’ve read today, but it will definitely translate to success for your site. With the first major changes released in 2011, Google launched the Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird updates, much to the dismay of marketers and site owners across the web. If you haven’t updated your site to meet the new regulations, you could be losing serious ground against your competitors.

So, has your site felt the wrath of Google? Let’s review.


Many online marketers like to say that “content is king.” When the original iteration of Google Panda went live in 2011, content became king, queen, prince, emperor, prime minister, and Grand Poomba all overnight. Since Panda version 1 went live, it’s already had 27 updates and revisions, but its objective remains the same: low-quality sites with trashy content must be destroyed.

Reports indicate that nearly 12% of all sites indexed in Google were affected by this update when it hit the web two years ago. For sites that are using, have used, or are still using these tactics, you may have been punished by Panda.

  • You copied and pasted content on your site (or someone else copied your content and pasted it on their site.)
  • You have low-quality content on your site or outsourced your content production to an offshore copy mill.
  • Your site contains more advertisements than original content.
  • In general, your site does not offer a good user experience.


Remember those less-than-legit links you or your SEO provider purchased several years ago? Well, those are about to bite you in the behind. Recently, I was presented with a site that was receiving almost no organic traffic from both branded and non-branded terms. A quick glance at their link profile revealed that the previous SEO firm had built thousands of spammy, no-value links in random directories. The web spam-fighting penguin had landed.

So, if you or your SEO provider have been engaging in these “black hat” tactics, your site has more than likely been fed to the penguin:

  • Keyword Stuffing: You’ve attempted to “stuff” a specific keyword into your site content over and over again in an attempt to gain rankings. Read more here.
  • Link Schemes: You or your SEO firm bought or sold links to your website, “exchanged links” with other sites, participated in mass article marketing, or used an automated program to build links. Many sites that have hired a bargain SEO will experience this. Read more here.
  • Cloaking: You’ve attempted to trick Google by presenting content to humans that’s different from the content presented to Google. In other words, you tried to fool the ever-vigilant Penguin. Read more here.


Officially announced in September 2013, hummingbird is the latest addition to the lineup. This update ushers in the future of Google with concepts like conversational search. What most SEOs will take away from this update is “keyword: (not provided).” Remember how great it was to see what keywords people were using when they came across you site? That is no more. Instead, your Google Analytics dashboard will show your top keyword is "(not provided)." Meaning, you are no longer able to view the keywords that users searched for when they found your site. Secure for searches; almost detrimental to marketers.

In addition to these changes, Hummingbird completely updates the way Google functions. Panda and Penguin are now just parts of the all-new hummingbird engine. Check out this FAQ on what Hummingbird will mean for webmasters in the years to come. 

So, do you think your site has been hit by one of Google’s attack animals? Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Check out the complete list of search algorithm updates. Do any of them correspond with massive drops in traffic for your site?
  2. When you search for you brand name, does it not appear in search results?
  3. Have you gotten a notification from Google about unnatural links? In Google Webmaster tools, do you see any alerts under the “manual actions” tab.

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a serious issue with your site. The good news: Vanick Digital’s Memphis SEO services are designed with update recovery in mind. Sign up for a free 30-minute review and you’ll get a free Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird diagnosis.

David Caffey
SEO/SEM Analyst