Is Google Going to Target WordPress Sites? 14

I’m not sure where this rumor started, but I have heard it from two people now.  Here is one email I received:


I heard that Google are going to penalize all WordPress sites because so many spammers use WordPress.  Should I switch back to a static HTML site?”

When I first read this email, I had a little laugh to myself.  Then I had time to think about it a little more …. and had another little laugh to myself.   

Sorry, I am not making fun of the people who sent me the email…Really…  If this ever happens, then I’ll join the bandwagon of Google haters.  Until that time, I’ll continue to (naively) believe that Google’s motives are to clean up their search results.

Why Google will not Penalize ALL WordPress sites

WordPress may be used by spammers, but it is also used by major Corporations like Sony, CNN, Samsung, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Wired, Forbes, Reuters, need I go on?  Do you really believe that Google is going to penalize all WordPress sites?

Perhaps you think that sites like those mentioned above will be tagged with a special field that makes them immune to penalties? 

Sorry, but that just isn’t the Google way.  They like to identify features of poor sites, and penalize the features.  That way they can avoid less “collateral damage”. 

For example, if Google find out that a WordPress template is being given away with a course that teaches people how to build websites that they believe are spammy, then Google will identify a footprint unique to that template and penalize all sites with that footprint.   This is something they have done in the past, but penalizing ALL WordPress sites?  That is something completely different.

Sure, Google have introduced things like the page layout algorithm (they were very transparent about it) which some may argue is Google throwing their weight around and forcing webmasters into NOT using a particular layout.  If we are talking about Google penalizing a layout, or a template in the previous example, then is it too big a step to think they might penalize WordPress sites?   I think it is.  I’d argue that they introduced the page layout algorithm to make the visitor experience better.  I mean how many people enjoy landing on a webpage with no text at all above the fold?  Is that a good experience?  Wouldn’t it better if the sites you landed on gave you the answers you wanted without having to endlessly scroll past graphics, banners and advertising to get to the good stuff? 

If (and I know a lot of you believe it is a BIG “if”) the recent changes at Google are an attempt to make their search results better, why would they penalize WordPress sites?  WordPress sites can be the most professional, high quality sites on the web.  People landing on a good quality WordPress site may have a great user experience.  It’s a bit like recalling ALL brands of car to get the brakes checked just because the Toyota plant found a serious fault in a batch of brake calipers destined for the 2012 Toyota Prius.

Make no mistake.  There are a lot of crappy WordPress sites built by spammers that offer little value to visitors.  These are the type of WordPress sites that Google will penalize, and rightly so.  What I believe Google WILL do (and is already doing for all types of sites, not just WordPress sites), is to identify features of these crappy sites and then create an algorithm that penalizes the sites with these features.  This probably involves setting up the new algorithm for their human raters and showing them side-by-side SERPs, with and without the new algorithm.  If search results are improved with the new algorithm, it may go live.  Will there be “collateral damage”?  Probably.  However, Google are being a lot more transparent about what is, and is not, acceptable.  If a good site gets hit, it is often a case of visiting the webmaster guidelines to see where the site was going wrong, or where it was breaking those guidelines, and fixing it.

So, to summarize, in my opinion, there is no chance that Google will penalize ALL WordPress sites.  I hope they do penalize the bad ones though so webmasters like me and you can get better rankings with our high quality websites Winking smile.

I have heard a few stories of people assuming that WordPress sites are penalized, because after they switched their site to HTML, their rankings improved.  I have no doubt that this could be the case for a lot of websites.  Not because Google penalizes WordPress sites, but simply because most people struggle to setup WordPress correctly to minimize issues like duplicate content (which WordPress is known for).  If you are a beginner starting out, I can recommend my WordPress for Beginners Kindle book.  That will show you how to minimize the problems with duplicate content.  For those wanting to take their WordPress site building to a new level, join my Insider’s Membership Group where we used more advanced methods.

A final thought.  If Google did penalize ALL WordPress sites,  simply because Spammers use WordPress, what next?  Spammers will just switch to building static sites using HTML.  Will Google then ban static HTML sites because spammers have switched to using HTML? 

Sometimes if we hear a rumor from enough sources, it’s difficult to ignore.  I mean “no smoke without fire”, right?  Not in this case.  I recommend you ignore the rumors, relax, and concentrate on providing quality content for your readers.

What are your thoughts on this rumor?  Please leave your comments below:

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14 thoughts on “Is Google Going to Target WordPress Sites?

  • Mr Bearly

    Currently there are estimated to be something like 30 million WordPress websites. On that basis if G did ban all WP sites there would be a significant hole in their results. I agree Andy, they will not ban all WP sites.

    Think I’ll build some Blogger blogs as well 😉

    Now I’ll go get your book.

  • Mark

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks as always for you taking the time out of your busy schedule to write up your informative and thought-provoking posts – most grateful!

    Regarding Google and seemingly ALWAYS trying to keep up with what they’re doing with their algo dances……I really wonder about this ‘text above the fold ‘ issue with which you remarked.

    What if we as affiliates wish to create a site that is similar to these examples below…..?

    Yes granted they’re e-commerce sites, but I know many people who have created their affiliate sites quite similar, with little to no text at all above the fold. So how does Google view these, as i was just going to start developing a site in this format…and the irony is…for the viewers’ visual pleasure…for a nice user experience !

    I’m so strongly against their wishes that we must conform to how our site is formatted. What right so they have to dictate how we can design our sites AND…the gall of them thinking that if there’s little to no text above the fold, that it’s now deemed thin and useless??!!!

    Quite honestly, I’m really fed up among the thousands of other ‘good’ marketers’ with their fickle and controlling ways.

    However, I’m NOT AT ALL going to throw in the towel, as I’ve worked far too hard over the years to give up now. I’ve acquired too much knowledge, trial and error and blood, sweat and tears to throw it all away and allow Google to come along and screw up my well thought out plans at will.

    Therefore, I’m really going to lean heavily on the social media aspect of my marketing, so I’m not so reliant and at the mercy of Google. Social media has now become such an integral part of the internet that I can’t see it slipping away whatsoever. Yes, perhaps there might be another substitute for FB, Twitter and YouTube one day, but the concept will still remain.

    I’d rather take my chances on developing a following through my brand, than always worrying what lies around the corner with Google. I respect your willingness to go along with what they do Andy… have a lot more tolerance and stamina than I do……but I’m worn out as I’m sure so many other white-hatters are.

    Thanks for listening Pal…didn’t mean to go into any rant…..but my boiling point with G is nearly there. 🙂

    Best wishes,

    • Andy Williams

      I don’t think content above the fold necessarily means text. It can be images. What I think Google have an issue with is a page that loads and all you see is advertising. That’s advertising for affiliate programs or Adsense, as opposed to a merchant displaying images of their products which IS a totally different thing.

      • Mark

        Hi Andy,

        Yes, I truly understand this and perhaps I should have clarified that in my note, but when I read your comment –

        ” I mean how many people enjoy landing on a webpage with no text at all above the fold? Is that a good experience?” (However, I’m presuming you were referring to the ads. banners and junk, et al).

        It made me think that there are tons and tons of sites out there which are so incredibly pleasing to the eye that DO have graphics and photos at the top (minus the annoying banners and ads), that are actually at times, more refreshing to view that having to read a bunch of text – ‘above the fold’…and the site in general does indeed offer good value on top of that.

        I’m not disagreeing with google at all to want to weed out the the sites with no value…

        I guess my point was, is that is comes at a dear price for the people who do it right, and like Jim said, human reviewers couldn’t possibly solve that task of reviewing sites by hand…….

        So there will be the good innocent site-owners who will get caught in the cross-fire and I just don’t want to be a part of it any longer as we are so powerless. Look at all the innocent victims post panda and penguin…they suffered greatly, while Google was trying to weed out the garbage.

        And the cynical part of me says….you’d think for such a huge powerhouse of might that Google is, and with all their high-tech weapons in their arsenal, they would indeed be able to be more discerning and selective with their weeding out of the rubbish, rather than using such a broad brush.

        Yes I confess….I now have their logo in a tuft/cushion form with pins in it!

        • Andy Williams

          Hi Mark, I get your point.
          You said “Look at all the innocent victims post panda and penguin”.
          I should as where. I have seen a few “innocent victims” but not on the scale that many people are saying. Don’t confuse people on forums complaining they were hit with innocent victims. EVERY site that was sent to me by an “innocent victim” asking for my opinion was in violation of Google’s guidelines.

    • Jim


      I do not think that Google is consciously trying to make anyone conform, they are simply trying to give their users the best search experience possible.

      They are faced with the task of serving up a few pages that are the best possible from the thousands or even millions available for a given search.

      That is no easy task because it is not possible to classify each page using live reviewers because there are just too many pages.

      Google would be out of business if they allowed their results to be filled with junk and they are in a constant battle to make sure that does not happen.

      You gave three good examples to make your point. How many pages do you think are out there that would make the case for the “text above the fold” argument?


      • Mark


        I appreciate what you’re saying…truly….

        But I find it incredibly interesting that one of the most respected IMer’s to ever step foot in this business since the mid 90’s whom I HIGHLY admire and respect, and who’s also a friend of Andy’s….recently sent me this email…here’s an excerpt regarding this discussion……… for thought…

        From Michael Campbell….

        Personally, I think its distasteful that
        Google has the ability to mandate your
        page layout choices. They can force the
        internet into a text only medium above the
        fold. Conform or risk being penalized.

        Mandating graphic design under the
        pretense of “user experience” is
        censorship. Graphic design of websites,
        or art, must remain freely expressed,
        just like freedom of speech.

        What’s next? All hyper links must be blue?
        Sites must be 980 pixels wide? It’s a pity
        that some Americans don’t believe in
        freedom of speech – and design – anymore.


        • Andy Williams

          I agree with Michael’s sentiments, however, two things.

          Firstly, I don’t believe Google are penalizing sites without text above the fold. I believe its “no content” above the fold they have a problem with. Content is not just text IMO. It can be text, or images or some form or interaction that is designed to keep the visitor on site. The problem with ad heavy websites is that they are trying to lose the visitor to another site to get paid. The problem with sites that have a lot of ads above the fold is that they don’t even want the visitor to look at the site. Land on the page and click on an advert please. If a site wants people to click off as soon as they arrive, what does that say about the site?

          • Mark

            Fair enough Andy, fair enough…..I understand…

            I really do appreciate your input and thoughts regarding this hot-button issue not only with me, but others as well in other IM forums, (I won’t use the term ‘innocent victims’ 🙂

            In your most recent comment where you state – “Content is not just text IMO”, I guess if you had said that in your initial commentary as opposed to what you stated, perhaps I would have posted/answered differently.

            It was never my intention to confuse people with my comments. However just because people who submitted their sites to you all failed Google’s guidelines, we certainly can’t disregard the countless of others around the web whom I presume ‘did’ abide by G’s guidelines and still got the shaft, (sorry I can’t give you exact numbers), but I’m sure they were numerous…(I know you feel the numbers are less than perceived).

            I guess the extremely bitter pill that’s lodged in my throat towards ‘G’, is just far too hard to swallow at present.

            I just can’t accept this expansive slash and burn mentality, where they could and SHOULD be a hell of lot more selective if they wanted to – they have the resources and technology I’m quite sure .

            Thanks again for your thoughts Andy… points well taken respectfully.

  • Peter Sundstrom

    There’s probably just as many people that say Google has a special love for WordPress sites as there are that say Google hate WordPress sites.

    It always assumes me that people treat Google as an anthropomorphic entity.



  • Howard Harkness

    Oh, my! If Google penalizes WP sites, how am I going to find this one again?

    Oh, wait… I have it in my RSS reader. Plus, I didn’t find it through Google in the first place. A friend told me it was a good place to get the straight scoop and level-headed reporting on Google.

    So screw Google. I usually get better search results from Bing anyway.