What images ad sizes do I need for Adwords Display Network >

Until recently there were 51 different ads sizes so making creatives for your Adwords Display Network campaign was a real chore (read ‘expensive’).
Fortunately AdWords are now automatically resizing ads, so you can reach 95% of the Google Display Network (GDN) with just three core ad sizes:

  • 728 x 90 pixels
  • 300 x 250 pixels
  • 160 x 600 pixels

In the past, the same three sizes could only reach 54% of the GDN. On average, this feature increases conversion volume by 6% at the same CPA.

Many thanks to Scott MacGregor from Google Australia for this information

What is the Payday Loan Algorithm?

In June 2013 Google decided to target search results for some specific terms, which was a new direction in their web spam attack strategies.  Google had previously attacked poor backlink profiles (Penguin) and poor content (Panda – updated to 4.0 this week as well)  This week Google refined the ‘PayDay Loans’ algorithm to version 2.0

Matt Cutts refers to these as ‘very spammy queries’, and the industry has labelled this as payday loans as it is a classic example of these searches.

Why ‘Pay Day Loans’?

'Payday Loans' searches in Australia The search Pay day loans is a strong sales signal for the short term finance industry (NB I didn’t say ‘loan shark’ ) Regrettably its a term that is used increasingly frequently as you can see in the Monthly Searches provided by Google’ Keyword Planner. Is it an indicator of our economy or maybe the increasing reliance on credit?

You might be surprised to learn Keyword Planner also reveals that an AdWords click for payday loans will cost the advertiser upwards of $23 – BTW this is paid to Google. The cost per conversion would be very expensive indeed, and so as you might expect the corresponding organic search (ie SEO) competition would also be commensurately intense. Competing in this environment means that online marketers need to go hard to get a result for their clients, which often leads to schemes that cross Google’s ‘Quality Guidelines’, and that is presumably why Google have decided to address these markets.

 Who is really getting the money?

Given there are approaching 10,000 searches per month this is a big marketplace, and with Google collecting $23+ for every AdWords click they would be making lots of money from it as well as the financiers. You have to wonder if Google’s motive is purely to make an ‘equitable internet’, or is there a hidden agenda to generate more AdWords revenue by controlling the organic search outcomes more tightly?

 Update Pay Day Loans 3.0

13 June 2014 and Matt Cutts from Google has announced the launch of Pay Day Loans 3.0 update

Search Engine Land notes Payday 3.0 specifically targets spammy queries, versus spammy sites. What exactly that means is not 100% clear. But the types of queries this targets includes terms like [payday loans], [casinos], [viagra] and other forms of highly spammy queries.

Watch for more info as it comes to hand…

How do I remove un-natural backlinks?

Backlinks are connections from other websites to yours, so removing unnatural backlinks to your site involves persuading the operator/owner of the remote website to remove the link(s).  The process involves:

Identify the unnatural backlinks

There are a number of excellent tools now available to collect backlink data to determine if the link is potentially unnatural, but the most relevent information comes direct from Google WebMasters Tools.  Refer to the Google Quality Guidelines, and in particular those that refer to link schemes

Form the links into a list so the remote webmaster can easily process them – the easier you make their job the more likely they will action your removal request for you.

Determine Contact details

Many of the websites that generate unnatural links will not have phone contact, indeed many don’t have any form of contact in their website.
If you manage to get an email address that is probably most helpful, as you will need to send your list of backlinks to them anyway. Emails make it easy to followup and of course also create a paper trail of your interactions with them.

Dispatch the Request and backlink list

Send a removal request with your list of links


If you don’t hear from the remote site followup, followup and followup
Removing bad links is the fastest way to recover from a Penguin penalty so is you best option.

Can’t get the links removed?

If the remote website wont remove the links, they may agree to converting the links to NOFOLLOW
In some cases NOFOLLOW is a preferred option, for example where you attract prospective sales leads to your site, but don’t wants the link’s unnatural characteristics to compromise your site. A backlink that Google thinks is a paid or sponsored link is a case in point.

Still cant get the link removed ?

The final option is to ask Google to consider disavowing the unnatural links.
This process involves uploading these remaining unnatural backlinks into Google WebMaster Tools’ Disavow Links Tool
Be *very careful* as this tool can completely destroy your site’s Google authority if used incorrectly.

What is Google Panda?

Panda is a Google search engine ‘sub-system’ that assesses website ‘quality’, and then may impose a ranking penalty (ie reduce the website’s position in search results) if it determines the website’s quality is ‘too low’.

The challenge is understanding what Google (or its Panda subsystem really) is programmed to flag as ‘low quality’, particularly as this changes over time.

The terms ‘thin content’ or ‘thin sites’ are used to describe low quality sites that Google want to weed out of search results, but sometimes well meaning websites get innocently caught up in Panda’s filters and are impacted by rank penalties too.

Consequently Google is regularly reviewing and releasing updates to Panda to refine its ability to exclude innocent sites and also to include other forms of low quality sites. 



What is Google Trends?

Google accumulates an amazing amount of search activity data and also provides a number of publicly accessible portals to selected portions of this data. Google Trends is an interesting tool that provides information about searches conducted in Google. Trends has data captured since 2004 and can regionalise and compare results. Trends is a valuable free research tool and to illustrate its ability we’ve prepared the South Aussie Rising Searches display in our website. This shows Rising Searches for South Australians over the last week as a simple illustration of Trends amazing ability.  

Rising Searches are those searches that have increased significantly compared to the previous period (in this case the last 7 days), providing the ability to identify trends as they emerge – a valuable research tool for business where subtle changes in customer interest can mean the difference between success an failure.

Given the widespread use of Google, this Trends display literally shows what is top of mind for South Australian’s this week…



What is a Google ‘Manual Action’?

If your website is considered to be ‘naughty’ by Google i.e. if they believe your site contravenes Google’s Quality Guidelines Google may choose to ‘manually’ enforce a penalty on it. If you are using Google WebMasters Tools for your site then this will be reported under the Search Traffic/Manual Actions menu item.

Notably there are two forms of Manual Actions:

  • Site wide matches
    Impacts your entire website
  • Partial matches
    Impacts a page or section in your site

To remove a manual action, you need to Request a Review via Google WebMasters Tools

Read more about Manual Actions here:

In the video below Matt Cutts, Head of WebSpam at Google talks about Manual Actions.

What should I do to avoid or recover from a Google Penguin 5 penalty?

Your site may be penalised by Google’s Penguin 5 if it calculates that your site has Low quality backlinks 

Recovering from Low Quality Backlinks 
If Google determines your site has a significant number of unnatural backlinks it may be at risk of a ranking or even a manual penalty.

Unfortunately backlinks seem to be more typical cause of a Penguin 5 penalty. Read more.  To recover from or prevent a future Penguin 5 penalty, arrange to have the low quality backlinks removed or converted to no follow links ASAP.

Unfortunately this is not as easy as it sounds as the link(s) that need to be removed or reprogrammed are at the originating website, not yours so you need to convince that person to take action on your behalf.  Further, many website owners are just not aware of the risk they are exposing your site/business to and probably all of their other clients as well!

If all else fails then you can request Google ignore or disavow your unnatural links via your Google WebMasters Tools interface.

If all else fails contact us and we can facilitate the removal or disavow of unnatural links from your site.


What is a ‘low quality’ Backlink?

Since the arrival of Penguin 5 there is a great deal of interest in understanding what a low quality backlink is : specifically what Google ‘thinks’ is a low quality backlink.

Google defines broadly defines low quality backlinks in its WebMasters Guidelines in the Link Schemes section where they refer to these as:

  • Buying or selling backlinks
  • Excessive Link exchanges
  • Large scale article marketing
  • Automated programs to create links

Google also provides a range of examples of unnatural backlinks including:

    • Text advertisements (without a no follow directive)
    • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles  (without a no follow directive
    • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. 
    • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
    • Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites
    • Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites
    • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:

My interpretation is:

  • Backlinks from advertiser sites that do not include a no follow tag
  • Backlinks from low quality sites eg sites that are clearly just a backlinking farm

Ironically backlinks that may have helped your website rank prior to Penguin 5, may now be the cause of its non-performance.

Who are the Victims of Penguin 5?

Backlinking Industry

This ‘industry’ was an enormous global market that was made instantly redundant by Penguin 5 – Presumably thousands of people with previously gainful employment have been impacted.  Some of the backlink creation businesses are still operating, despite the risks of compromising the websites their work is intended to assist.

Businesses with Backlinked Sites

If your website was involved in an SEO program prior to Oct 5 2013 it is very likely that a backlinking program was part of it. If the Penguin 5 filter deems the level of ‘unnatural links’ in your site is too high then your site will be penalised by not appearing in search results.
For contemporary businesses reliant on online sales or sales lead generation penguin 5 penalties are catastrophic.

Innocent victims of Penguin 5

I have witnessed several ‘innocent victims’ of Penguin 5 as a result of :

  • Directory sites
    Google has clamped down on backlinks even from well known directory sites who provide links without a no follow directive.
    I’m sure I’m not the only SEO specialist who is contacting the directory site’s management to have my client’s backlinks removed or converted to no follow. These people are typically shocked and in denial of the thought that their site is compromising their clients sites. I feel for them, as they are providing a genuine and valuable service. There is no way they would deliberately compromise their clients sites – Who would ‘bite the hand’ that feeds them ?
  • Advertising Links
    If advertising links to your website do not have a no follow directive it can result in ranking penalties. As an example, Ive been involved in one case where banner advertising on an industry portal site didnt not contain no follow resulting in a client’s site being penalised with significant ranking drops.

What is Google Penguin 5?

Penguin 5 is the fifth update to the Penguin series (also known as Penguin 2.1) of Google’s spam detection filter. Penguin 5 penalises websites that its algorithm says has “low quality back links” and /or “thin content”.

Affected sites can be identified by the sharp drop in ranking (typically between 20 to 30 rank positions) within days of the Oct 5 2013 release. Notably, Penguin 5 impacts all organic ranking results in the site – ie across all terms for the domain.

Read more about Penguin:

Penguin History

Penguin is a part of Google’s results processing that detects and removes or diminishes ‘web spam’  in search results.

Where does low quality content come from ?
‘Low quality’ web content exploded after backlinking became proven as a technique to improve Google website rankings. This lead to commercialisation of backlinking  driven by businesses wanting to maximise their exposure in Google. The technique was to create multiple articles online containing links back to the client’s site, and to maximise the value of the link, the link text contained the clients’ target terms. As a result thousands of websites also emerged with the ability to publish articles, directory entries, bookmarks and other forms of ‘thin content’ that could be quickly created to generate the desired backlinks.

In the meantime Google’s Caffeine infrastructure upgrade (August 2009) enabled Google to more effectively digest literally all content on the internet, including this burgeoning ‘web spam’.

Google launched its first major web spam offensive in April 2004 with what has become known as Penguin; a filtering process that identifies and removes web spam from Google’s search results. After several iterations, Penguin version 5 emerged in Oct 5 2013 as a much more evolved ‘web spam detective’ targeting low quality backlinks and ‘thin content’ as these are the signals that Google interprets as web spam.

Particularly notable in recent Penguin releases Google is being more heavy handed with penalties for websites it determines are connected to link spam; applying penalties such as a rank reduction of 20 to 30 positions, sometimes across all searches for the site through to complete removal of the website from Google search results.