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    Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    Marie Haynes was discussing this on another thread but I think it deserves it's own discussion!

    In my experience, you cannot rank in the 3-pack with a penalty because if you don't rank high organically, it's almost impossible to rank in the 3-pack. Every now and then I do see a business ranking there that has no website or has no high organic ranking, but it's not generally for competitive keywords.

    We had a client a couple years ago that came to us with a manual penalty. We got it removed but his ranking didn't increase. Then when Penguin 3.0 refreshed last year, his rankings shot up everywhere (organic & local).

    What have you found?

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    Re: Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    Joy, I've had a similar experience. In one case I had a client with a manual penalty maintain local rankings for about 3 months. This was pre Pigeon though.

    Recently I have seen issues with those in algorithmic penalties having trouble ranking in the local pack.

    As Google shifts to more organic ranking signals it won't be getting any easier.

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    Re: Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    Here are some of the previous posts I cited in the other thread with Marie that Joy is referring to, just to carry over more of the basis and full discussion.

    Penalty ranking in pack example starts post #8: Local SEO - Why is this ranking so high?

    Joshua said:

    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaMackens View Post
    He has a Penguin penalty. Penguin penalties will affect organic listings but will not affect the local pack. The local pack ignores them. It creates a type of buffer.

    Almost any time you see someone ranking high in the local pack but not anywhere organically, they're under a penguin penalty.


    Same thing as above. October 4th I believe was Penguin. Sounds like they got hit but the local pack buffer kept them in the local pack ranking
    .
    Then Ben said:

    Quote Originally Posted by Broland View Post
    Often times if a site has an algorithmic penalty such as Penguin, it will still rank well in pack results. But there is also something Google uses called the diversification of search results by merging (Worth looking up if you want to read about it.) Most of you have seen it in action, basically merging the organic and local listings to only display a domain or page once per SERP result. This factor/algo gets tweaked at times (usually with updates) and you will see changes.

    So then Joshua wrote a really in-depth post that goes into more detail and also covers other Pigeon related issues as well. It's written for business owners but worth a read by consultants as it explains more about his Penguin/Pigeon theory.

    Local SEO: Why Does My Competitor Outrank Me in Google’s Local Pack But Not Organically?

    Joshua goes into a lot of 101 stuff about how the algo works, for SMBs to understand and the part about the Penguin/Pigeon connection is a little buried so I'm quoting that part here:

    Unbeknownst to almost the entire local SEO community it seems, Penguin actually doesn’t affect the local search results. The local pack seems to act like a buffer against it. Which is extremely odd as you would think Google would make sure anyone caught by Penguin was banished from all ability to rank well.

    The “buffer” we’re talking about means that if you were penalized by Penguin and took a death drop to the bottom of the red section (organic), you would still survive in the green section (local pack). Odd, right?


    If you were to go back and type in “roofing dallas tx” into Google and you knew what to look for, you would see that a whopping 5 out of the 7 businesses in the local pack don’t rank well organically (4th page of Google or further) while they rank very, very well in the local section.

    You can see how this would create tremendous confusion among the local SEO community when the rule we knew before to be true which was, “If you rank well in the organic section you will rank well in the local section,” now seems to be utterly wrong (also, props to Linda Buquet of Catalyst Marketing for being the first person to really push this theory that I was aware of, even if I didn’t agree at the time I became a believer Linda!)

    I actually was fooled a bit myself for a awhile. I even started doing an analysis of certain cities and industries after Pigeon hit because I was so confused. After about an hour of looking at Facebook likes, social metrics, Google+ driving direction requests, and anything else Google may be taking more into account, I decided to start checking into the penalty issue on a hunch.

    Amazingly, in every city/industry I checked, every single search result could be explained through this explanation: if Company A was ranking high in the local pack but not in organic, they were under a Penguin penalty.

    I would check for a Penguin penalty and 99% of the time, sure enough, they had been hit by Penguin.

    They had hired some Local SEO companies to engage in tactics that Google had deemed unworthy of their search results and had popped them. They got caught.

    In fact, if we go back to the “roofing dallas tx” screenshot, those same 5 of the 7 of the local businesses in the local pack are under a Penguin penalty right now.

    Considering the local pack acts as a buffer and protects the local business from getting penalized from Penguin, this explains 99% of the local results I’m seeing.
    2 more:

    Google Pigeon Forgives Penguin Penalties???

    Ranking #1 in the Local 7 Pack - Even Though Panda or Penguin Penalty?

    In that last one the example is now ranking in organic, so no longer has an organic penalty, so can't use it to prove anything, but as you can see in the post from early 2015, he def had a penalty and still ranked #1 in the pack.

    So those are all post Pigeon, 2014 and 2015, but not super recent. So I'm not saying this is still true with the current 3 pack.

    Joy's original question in the other thread was asking: POST Pigeon, can you still rank in pack with a penalty? My answer was yes, based on those examples.

    If the question is, can you still rank today, my answer would be I don't know. Have not see any more recent discussions or examples since the one in 2015 which was before the shift to the 3 pack.
    Is Our Content HELPFUL? Please pay the community back by sharing!

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    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon". ;-)

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    Re: Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    Quote Originally Posted by JoyHawkins View Post
    In my experience, you cannot rank in the 3-pack with a penalty because if you don't rank high organically, it's almost impossible to rank in the 3-pack. Every now and then I do see a business ranking there that has no website or has no high organic ranking, but it's not generally for competitive keywords.
    Just hunting and pecking, didn't research so am not sure this is a great example but:

    beverly hills plumber

    None of the pack listings are on page 1 organic. 1 is on page 2 and 2 of them are back on page 3. On the other hand, there are 6 local plumbers ranking page 1 organic and none of them made the pack. (Not saying there are penalties here, because they do rank - just not very well. Just showing examples of 3 pack where none are page 1 organic.)

    On a totally unrelated note: noticed that 2 of the pack listings, even though they don't rank page 1 organic DO rank on top in Yelp in the G SERPs. I think I've seen high Yelp ranking speculated about as a Google Local ranking factor somewhere.
    Is Our Content HELPFUL? Please pay the community back by sharing!

    LocalSearchForumLinda Buquet .:. Google Local Specialist

    Consulting, Troubleshooting & White Label Services for SEOs & Agencies

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! SUBSCRIBE to Daily Email Digest Here

    Are you a PRO? Join the "Local Search Pros" G+ Community!

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon". ;-)

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    Re: Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    This is really fascinating. I think Joshua is onto something here.

    I would love to see some examples when Penguin 4.0 rolls out where businesses that tanked organically didn't tank locally. That would really confirm it.

    So do you think the bad links are helping them rank then? I mean they generally help in organic UNTIL you get a penalty. So if the penalty doesn't impact local then why shouldn't every person wanting to rank in the 3-pack just spam their way there?

    Boss Plumbing has some bad links (like this one - chimyen.biz/?tag=home-repair)

    Moe ranks 25th organically and also has some shady ones (polypat.org/index.php?c=1989&p=41)

    Great example Linda.

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    Re: Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    This is really interesting. Looks like I'll have to dive deeper.
    Casey Meraz: Local Search Nerd, Moz Local Search Raking Factors Contributor, Speaker at SMX & Author of How To Perform The Ultimate Local SEO Audit.


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    Re: Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    Thanks for starting this discussion Joy.

    My gut instinct is that you can indeed rank well locally even if Penguin is suppressing your organic rankings. But, I don't feel confident enough to say that this is always the case.

    It's a tough thing to prove because there are so many variables. If a Penguin hit site is not ranking locally, is that because of Penguin? Or perhaps it's because the site has disavowed many of its valid citation links? Or maybe they never were ranking locally to start with.

    I spent some time reviewing some of the sites I've worked on that are awaiting a Penguin refresh and here's what I found:

    I am working with one site right now that is severely suppressed organically by Penguin and is ranking #3 locally for a moderately competitive term.

    In another example, a small business' site is severely suppressed by Penguin (and this was confirmed by a Google employee) and the site is ranking #11 locally. So does that mean that Penguin is suppressing the local rankings? I don't know.

    I'm working with a dentist in a big city with Penguin issues and a manual unnatural links penalty. This site is currently #1 in the local pack.

    I've got a service provider for a very competitive term that is suppressed organically by Penguin, but ranking #3 locally for a large city.

    Another one in a profession similar to a house builder with lots of competition. They're suppressed to page 6 and beyond by Penguin but ranking #2 locally for a competitive term.

    After looking at all of these, it seems to me that most Penguin hit sites can indeed rank locally, even with the new 3 packs and post-pigeon.

    On September 14, John Mueller said the following (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfKMnDPi5ms at around 15:36) when John Mueller was asked whether a penalized site would be restricted from ranking locally, he said the following:

    So you specifically mean the local business rankings...the map results? That’s not something that’s directly tied into the web search results so I don’t know how they would handle this situation...they have similar algorithms, but I’m not really sure about that. But in general, when it comes to the web search results, even for localized queries where we’re showing normal web search results, that’s something where this could come into play...With regards to maps and local business entries that’s something that’s generally handled completely separately
    And this was said after the launch of Pigeon.

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    Re: Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    We can run some analysis against our a sample of ranking reports in our DB and pull data on -

    a) Business ranked in top 7 maps results*
    b) What is their average organic ranking

    We would need to remove branded searches to get a true view of correlation here.

    We could even look to go back 12months & 24months and see if the results differ.

    *I would choose maps here rather than pack since pack is now limited to just 3 results. And maps mirrors pack closely anyway. Joy/Linda - let me know if you think this is floored theory.

    We're always open to research ideas and making use of our data set so other research suggestions are welcome - NB any data provided would be anonymous and provided in aggregate.
    Founder of BrightLocal.com, the Local Search Tools & Citation Experts

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    Re: Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    Quote Originally Posted by Myles Anderson View Post
    We can run some analysis against our a sample of ranking reports in our DB and pull data on -

    a) Business ranked in top 7 maps results*
    b) What is their average organic ranking

    We would need to remove branded searches to get a true view of correlation here.

    We could even look to go back 12months & 24months and see if the results differ.

    *I would choose maps here rather than pack since pack is now limited to just 3 results. And maps mirrors pack closely anyway. Joy/Linda - let me know if you think this is floored theory.

    We're always open to research ideas and making use of our data set so other research suggestions are welcome - NB any data provided would be anonymous and provided in aggregate.
    Myles,

    Have you ever considered a report showing stuff # of citations, overall citation authority, website authority, backlinks, kw and location in title tag, you know all the stuff on the Google + Wizard report, and comparing the top 3 with the next 3, and then maybe results #30-33?

    That would be interesting to see.

    You could even of course just do a few of the more competitive industries and cities, and just the main keywords-

    dentist las vegas
    seattle personal injury attorney

    etc.

    I'd love to see something like that.

    I suspect that there isn't near the difference between the top results and the bottom results.

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    Re: Can You Rank in the 3-Pack with a Manual or Penguin Penalty?

    Marie,

    I would love to see if the ones that don't rank well locally that have penalties have any other glaringly bad ranking signals that only matter for local (like duplicates) that would be hindering them. If you feel comfortable emailing me any specifics for the ones that do NOT rank well locally I could take a look.

    If that's the case I would say it's safe to assume for now that the Penguin penalty is not the thing hindering local results. Especially that dentist reference you gave - that's killer! I mean dentists are really competitive and if someone can stay#1 with a penalty that's impressive. Is it for dentist + city?

    Myles - that info would be golden.

    I was thinking about writing about this topic and compiling some of the notes everyone has put together in this thread. I've never seen anything on Search Engine Land or even Moz about it so let me know if you 2 want to collaborate on something!

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