I'm wondering if anyone else has noticed this. I was working on a traffic drop audit for a site and noticed that when I searched for text from the homepage of this site, the site did not appear on Google. However, if I enclosed the text in quotation marks, the site appeared at #1. The same thing applied for several pages of the site, but not for all of them.
If I searched for the title of each page with no quotes, the page did not appear on Google. If I searched for the title with quotation marks around it, Google would tell me that there are no results for this search.
This site has no known manual warnings from Google.
I decided to try this out on other sites that I suspect have been affected by either Penguin or a manual penalty. Now, granted I don't have a large sample size, but I found that on sites where I highly suspected Penguin had affected them, the same thing applied (titles searched in quotes give no results and chunks of text searched without quotes did not display the page in question...with quotes the page displayed in the SERPS just fine.) On sites where unnatural links warnings were received, some of them had perfectly normal search results and others had the issue described above. If my theory is true then I am guessing that those sites had manual warnings PLUS Penguin issues.
Is it possible that this is a hack to determine whether your site has been affected by Penguin? Has anyone else noticed this?
However, in a recent discussion in SEOChat, fathom said that he feels that Penguin was actually not a penalty at all but rather Google had simply removed all of the ranking benefit from overused anchor texted links (i.e. disavowed those links). If this is the case, then my above theory would not be true. But, I believe that Penguin is a filter just like Panda. If this is the case, then a page (as opposed to a site in the case of Panda) would be flagged with a Penguin flag and have difficulties ranking for the overoptimized term again until the flag is removed. Removal of the flag likely involves link removal/disavowing and possibly on page deoptimization.
What do you guys think?