Suddenly Webcomics: Top 10 Google results for “webcomics” with the Penguin

Recently, I came across an article on the venerable AdAge site entitled “How Google’s ‘Penguin’ Update Will Change Publishing, for the Better”. If you’re me, your brain was filled with an image a squat guy in a top hat and monocle taking over the offices at John Wiley & Sons with a loaded umbrella.


It turned out to be something better: an article extolling the virtues of Google’s new SEO — named “Penguin” — which went live on April 24, 2012.

Over the past decade, the publishing industry been swinging on a pendulum created by the effects of search engine optimization (SEO). In the old, primarily print days, the most successful publishers were those that could produce great content for a specific audience and keep that audience engaged via subscriptions or at the newsstands. More recently, the kings of publishing were those that could best engage web crawlers and monetize their sites through a windfall of free search traffic. The focus has been less on creating great content and engaging readers than on producing lots of words on lots of pages to engage web crawlers.

But there is a silver lining to all of this. With last year’s Panda release, and the more recent Penguin release, Google is going to flip SEO on its head. If Old SEO enabled some to fool a crawler into indexing borderline junk content to get high rankings, New SEO looks likely to take any notion of fooling anyone out of the equation.

To feed the search rankings with New SEO, publishers must be thinking about the discovery side. How can they get more engaged people discovering their content and engaging with it outside of Google? Ironically, a New SEO expert will probably need to focus more on Facebook than on Google to improve search rankings. The same goes for brands that are investing in content creation and content marketing. To be successful, everyone needs to play by the New SEO rules.

With New SEO, the pendulum is finally swinging back to favoring humans over crawlers. The New SEO rules point directly back to what was valued in the traditional print-dominated days — content will not be a mechanism to convert clicks but a tool to boost awareness, increase overall engagement and offer opportunities to connect with a quality audience. And the “customer” that content is tailored for will no longer be SEO bots (the software apps that work the web automatically), as the New SEO favors the true end-user: the reader.

This was very heartening news. Recent web searches on Google had left me cold. Like, I googled “fantasy football helmets” to put together a logo for my league, and I got some of the worst designed sites imaginable. (Of course, that could be my fault. Who in the world googles up “fantasy football helmets”?) Wither the Google that wouldn’t spit out the most spammy websites ever visited? Then I thought to myself: hey, let’s put this theory to practice. If I googled “webcomics”, what would I get under the results?

Not that much different than what you’d expect from “Old SEO” Google, unfortunately. Here’s a look at the top results:

1.) The Webcomic List – This, incidentally, isn’t really bad for a first page choice. However, it’s a very ugly site. Wall to wall text, links that go nowhere, and SO MUCH ORANGE. It sorta reminds you of the ones you encounter when you try to google up song lyrics. I half expect to get a virus imploring me to download ringtones. It also seems to be one of those sites that’s a holdover of the the old SEO: there are so many subpages that repeat the word “webcomics” over and over again that it pretty much clawed its way to the top of the search engine list. Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).

2.) Webcomic entry on Wikipedia – Solid. I know that a few people are a bit weary of how Wikipedia has pretty much staked a claim on all top search inquiries. Yet, I’m rather happy that this is tops. The blurb is pretty much what a webcomic is “webcomics are comics published on a website.” (Pretty much the most cut and dry definition of webcomics.) Also, the wiki piece itself is not bad, though really very dry. Rating: 5 stars.

3.) Top Web Comics – Similar to The Webcomic List in many ways, including the ugliness of a site that looks like it was designed in the early 2000’s. This time, though, the site ranks webcomics in “popularity”. (I am clawing quote marks in the air, and I just can’t make them big enough.) It’s always been my impression that this site was not very effective at actually listing the theoretical “top webcomics,” and more about trying to rally a fanbase to vote. Is there any reason to do this other than the glory of showing up on top on an arbitrary list? No, no there is not. Top webcomics according to this site, by the way? Slightly Damned, Not A Villain, and Twokinds. Not exactly the top webcomics I would rattle off if someone asked me at gunpoint. Rating: 3 stars.

4.) – Honestly, I haven’t visited this site since the pieces went under a paywall. It’s run by the guys who wrote the “How To Make Webcomics” Book. I guess it’s informative, and the dudes behind the book are pretty knowledgeable fellows. I’m going to guess, though, that a lot of people googling “webcomics” are either learning the term for the first time or looking for a recommendation. They’ll probably be a little confused as to why they can’t read anything. But, hey, what can you do? They got the domain name. That more or less guarantees a top-level link. Also, it looks pretty. Rating: 3 stars.

5.) – the first of the webcomic sites to show up after googling webcomics. It could just be me, though, because the piece following the search result says “276 people in Seattle, WA +1’d this.” This is your new SEO at work, people! It’s a little curious, since the creators of The Oatmeal, Penny Arcade, and PvP are all located in Seattle. You’d think that they’d get more up votes, maybe out of regional solidarity; maybe because PAX is hosted in our city. Just goes to show you that Seattle is populated by a bunch of FRIGGIN’ NEEEERRRRDDDSSSS. Rating: 3 stars.

6.) – If I remember correctly, it wasn’t too long ago that had a Top 8 list that used to perch atop the Google results. It seems they’ve been dethroned my Mashable’s own Top 20 list (which was published from way back in 2009). And what a list it is. Making it on their list, for some reason? Homestar Runner. I love me some Homestar, but it’s an online animated cartoon. (A “webtoon”, if you will.”) Also on that list: Ctrl+Alt+Del. Hmmm. Rating: 1 star.

7.)’s webcomics subreddit
– I actually find quite a few minor webcomics using reddit, so I don’t hate that this shows up on the first page. And you know what? Kudos for not all the webcomics being memes or rage comics, as is the Reddit stereotype. I’ll actually give this one a passing grade. Rating: 4 stars.

8.), 9.) & 10.) Penny Arcade, VG Cats, and Ctrl+Alt+Del. Hey, you people saying that webcomics aren’t about video games anymore? Google begs to differ. (Google says: “Webcomics are about video games and stick figures.”) While I may have quibbles on the content, these are still the most read webcomics online. Despite blogging for 5 years now, it’s weird to realize how a lot of things never change. Rating: 3 stars.

As for this site, the Webcomic Overlook comes it at a stunning #37, right below SmackJeeves, and right above… The Webcomic List? AGAIN? WHATTT?!?!?!?! I call shenanigans, Google!

Can’t say I got any complaints though. The results are not terrible, and I’m hard pressed thinking of any better search results for “webcomics.” (Except for that Mashable list. What the what, Google.) I just gotta figure how this new SEO works and hope for the best. In other news, webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics webcomics.

Also, webcomics.


About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on August 31, 2012, in webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. So whats this I”m hearing about webcomics? About overlooking webcomics perhaps? Or webcomics that are overlooked?

    Also, webcomics!

  2. Whoever wrote that AdAge article has been drinking the Google Kool-Aid regarding its Penguin updates. How does an algorithm decide what’s “quality” and what isn’t?
    A lot of sample search results show that the Penguin updates are a part of a newish strategy by Google to favor well-known brands over smaller, unknown publishers.

  3. I call shenanigans on this new Penguin SEO. Matthew Inman’s comic on using a semicolon occupies the same slot it has since at least January 2011, and Inman probably used his SEO experience to get it there. If the new system was so radically different, shouldn’t it have affected it’s standing?

  4. I hope the penguin becomes a regular member at the webcomic overlook

  5. feel like the webcomic overlook has been….. overlooked

    kill me now ))):

  6. “3.) Top Web Comics… It’s always been my impression that this site was not very effective at actually listing the theoretical “top webcomics,” and more about trying to rally a fanbase to vote. Is there any reason to do this other than the glory of showing up on top on an arbitrary list? No, no there is not.”

    Yeah, that’s the basic problem with sites like TopWebComics, in a nutshell – the truly successful webcomic authors don’t care about sites like these, so you’re left with a bunch of B- and C-list webcomics jockeying for attention.

    On that note, I’ve sometimes wondered how one would go about determining what the top X most popular/successful webcomics actually are. What criteria would you use? Pageviews? Revenue/donations? Something else?

    • You can practically define a non-A-list comic by the fact that they actually care about sites like TopWebComics and the old Buzzcomix, with a few outliers like Girl Genius for a while. Then TWC becomes useful for sorting out the B-through-whatever lists once you sort out the residual A-list votes. It’s also vaguely useful for discovering a new comic you’ve never heard of before.

      • Hmmm… I’m going to have to take a deeper look at TWC one of these days. Not sure how I’d go about doing it yet, though. Review? Interview? Opinion article? Trend charts? Probably will put up a poll for starters.

  7. Thanks for not listing my comic that show up on on Top Web Comics top 10 that you wouldn’t rattle off. 🙂 I absolutely agree that Top Web Comics isn’t a proper list of actual webcomic popularity, but to echo darius3’s question, what is the metric? Just site traffic? That would be a useful list to have, but really the google results from about #8 on do that to a degree.

    To answer your question about why play the vote game on Top Web Comics, if you can get into the top 100 (meaning hitting their front page), it’s worth several thousand referrals a month. If you can get into the top 10 (which shows your banner – top 3 puts you above the fold on a monitor with reasonable resolution) then it’s worth (to me at least) 41K referrals a month. That’s second only to direct links, even beating google organic searches, and if you google “grrl power” I’m the top hit (yes, even if I turn off personal results, hah)

    I’m still blown away that I’ve managed to get ranked that high, (I’m #1 at the moment even) though I do have to remind myself that it’s not a real measure of success – after all I’m not making a living off the comic… yet. 🙂 It’s still cool to see after spending 10 years reading webcomics, thinking “I should do one” and now seeing my little project anywhere on the same page as Girl Genius, Questionable Content, Flaky Pastry, Freefall, etc.

    The reason that “truly successful” webcomics don’t rank as highly on TWC is simply, they are successful and they’re not trying to build their audience as aggressively as the comics that are up and coming, so they don’t provide vote incentives or even a link to TWC. If they did the top 20-30 comics would be a virtually static list starting with Penny Arcade, then PvP, The Oatmeal, XKCD, etc, and those guys just don’t care about an extra 40K hits a month. When you’re getting 5 million+, you probably wouldn’t even notice it.

  8. I’m getting the Webcomic List, TWC, Wikipedia,, xkcd, Mashable, Penny Arcade, CAD, VG Cats, and Webcomic Nation (of all things). The first result on the next page is Irregular Webcomic (no fair having “webcomic” in the name), then The Duck, Scott McCloud’s webcomics section, Questionable Content, then a few other random pages with “webcomic” in them with Sinfest mixed in.

    By the way, take a look at the Google Trends data for all of those comics except IWC and Sinfest, plus the other comics that showed up in the “Top References” section, and what happens when you swap out CAD and VG Cats for Cyanide and Happiness and The Oatmeal. The miscarriage appears to have been very, very good to Ctrl+Alt+Del, and QC is substantially more popular than I thought.

    • Wow. I gotta say I’m surprised that CAD managed to increase and retain an audience after the miscarriage storyline. If anything, I think CAD got incredibly boring. For all it’s many, many faults, at least early CAD felt like it stood for something. Now it’s just completely antiseptic. Maybe that’s what brings the crowds in: boring bland stuff.

      • Also surprising: Homestuck is not as wildly popular as its reputation suggests. (To be fair, this disagrees with Alexa rankings, where MSPA is ahead of OOTS… but still behind CAD.)

        • This is a better, more complete chart (prepare to have your faith in humanity shattered).

          • Jay Naylor gets almost as many (in some cases more) hits than Kris Straub’s Chainsawsuit and more than Starslip according to Alexa. That alone depresses me.

        • The Trends for MSPA seem completely inconsistent with actual traffic/popularity. There appears to be several complete gaps in data; one of them matches up with a hiatus, but the others don’t. Also, I have a really hard time believing that its daily unique visitors in mid-2011 were the same or lower than in the time of Problem Sleuth. Don’t get me wrong, PS had its share of fans, and I’d agree that HS also isn’t as popular as some would believe (the Project Wonderful tracking puts it at about 1 million unique visitors per day when updating, and I’d guess the actual number of readers is probably closer to the 100K range), but for there to be such a small rise in readership over 3 years seems contrary to all other available evidence. Really makes me wonder how it all works, heh…

  9. El Santo! You’re currently #20 and #1 on the results for ‘webcomics review’! I think your strategy has worked. 🙂

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