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Excess Of Bad Previous Backlinks Harming My Site? Google Penguin Invol


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#1 garryepstein

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Posted 28 July 2015 - 07:22 AM

A bit of a backstory

Our company website has been around a while, and has had great success in the past. Around April 2012, however, we had an enormous drop in traffic, from which we have never been able to recover. I believe this is due to the Google Penguin update. However, I am unsure, as I did not own the company prior to 2013. Around 18 months ago, I signed on with an SEO company in order to try to recover our search rankings (despite being the largest supplier of ____ in North America, our rankings were terrible, on the 4th and 5th page). After paying them a grand a month for approximately a year, there was a small increase in our position, but 0 increase in organic traffic (the rankings for our keyword phrases were ~10th to 35th. When I asked the SEO company about this, they cited a lot of excess backlinks and that "more work needs to be done". I checked Google Webmaster Tools and we have a few hundred backlinks (~400), and most of them look pretty high quality 
So my questions are:
1. Can you confirm/say pretty accurately that the April 2012 decrease in organic traffic was due to Google Penguin? If not, then what could it be? I do not believe any large changes to the website were made during that time. And the dropoff in traffic was large and sudden.
2. What do you believe I should do, to recover my site? Should I:
a) stick with my current SEO company
B) look at my website and try to improve it? I'm questioning doing that because of our great past results in terms of traffic for our site
c) try a different SEO company? What's to say that my results won't be any different? I might just end up in the same predicament, out another 12 grand next year.
d) disavow my backlinks and start anew (though SEO companies have warned me that it could cause more damage than good)
e) get a new domain and just have the old one redirect to the new one, starting from square one

Thanks

 



#2 Jill

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Posted 28 July 2015 - 08:38 AM

Really impossible to answer most of your questions without a thorough review of your website.

 

One thing for sure, however, if a company hasn't got you more targeted organic visitors with a year of work, then I'd definitely dump them.

 

Not sure that another SEO company would be any better, as it's most likely stuff you need to do yourselves as a company. 

 

The main thing necessary these days to be putting out great content that sets you apart from your competitors and showcases your knowledge and expertise. Then getting the word out about that.



#3 AvyGuttman

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Posted 28 July 2015 - 04:26 PM

I had a somewhat similar predicament and am about to answer my own previous question(s) and perhaps it may be of use to your situation as well.

 

You say your incoming links are mostly pretty good... 

 

Are your links coming from trusted and authoritative websites that are relevant and related to your industry?

 

Are you seeing a lot of the same anchor text used in your backlinks or many instances that may seem spammy or unnatural?

 

Do you have many crawl issues showing up in google webmaster tools?

 

Is it possible your visitors are unhappy with the content you are providing them?

 

 

The disavow tool is a last resort after all else had failed with attempting to remove "bad" links that you believe are harming your site's ranking potential. This means if you do find any links worth removing you need to make attempts to contact the website in question, or find them with whois etc...you may want to document that and prove that you made the effort just in case.

 

Google has said (John Mueller specifically) that they look at links on an aggregated level across everything on your website. If they "see" that things are improving and going in the right direction, then that's something their algorithms will be able to take into account. 

 

Better content may bring in better quality links from better sites more related to your industry and help.



#4 Michael Martinez

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Posted 28 July 2015 - 09:16 PM

1. Can you confirm/say pretty accurately that the April 2012 decrease in organic traffic was due to Google Penguin? If not, then what could it be? I do not believe any large changes to the website were made during that time. And the dropoff in traffic was large and sudden.


The April 2012 Penguin algorithm release went after what are called "home page backlinks". The most common type of HPBLs that were targeted were published on for-hire blog networks that published full articles on the front page (not just excerpts). The vast majority of the content published on these blogs was "spun" articles, machine-produced articles that were developed from master templates containing special markup language.

If whomever you bought the site/company from had been building links via those blog networks, then you have two problems:
  • A probable Penguin downgrade (like a penalty, but without an explicit notification in Search Console)
  • A loss of rankings across large numbers of incidental but relevant keywords due to the loss of inflated PageRank
The vast majority of those blogs were taken offline. It has been more than three years but we have no way of knowing if Penguin is still punishing Websites that used those links.

In my opinion, what is most likely happening is that the site has a fraction of the PageRank it used to command from probably thousands or tens of thousands of links that have vanished.

2. What do you believe I should do, to recover my site? Should I:
a) stick with my current SEO company
B) look at my website and try to improve it? I'm questioning doing that because of our great past results in terms of traffic for our site
c) try a different SEO company? What's to say that my results won't be any different? I might just end up in the same predicament, out another 12 grand next year.
d) disavow my backlinks and start anew (though SEO companies have warned me that it could cause more damage than good)
e) get a new domain and just have the old one redirect to the new one, starting from square one


You have to make a business decision and as Jill said, you cannot get much useful advice from a forum where people cannot look at all the necessary data. It's a judgment call and you have to have full faith and confidence in whomever is helping you with your SEO. They may or may not be up to the task.

They may also have already made some suggestions with which you are not comfortable. It's tough to present exactly the right solution for every company.

If your site has only a fraction of the link value it possessed prior to Penguin, getting a new domain will only make things worse.

If your site is HURTING because of Penguin 1.0 then getting a new domain will make it easier for you to start over BUT you cannot redirect the old domain to the new domain (the Penguin downgrade will be passed to the new domain). In which case, you'll lose whatever good link value the site still has, so it will make things worse in the short term but give you a chance to grow.

If your site is suffering from an unrelated cause (maybe a bad design and a Panda downgrade) then changing domain won't help, fixing links won't help, and you're kind of stuck.

What makes Search Engine Optimization work is experimentation. You try something, measure the results, and evaluate where you are. That takes time. A year is about enough time for an SEO company to establish a baseline and build a good relationship with the client. It's also about enough time for the client to realize they have the wrong SEO provider.

We cannot advise you on your relationship with your provider. What I feel comfortable saying is that a good SEO provider will (in my opinion):
  • Be transparent with you about what they know, what they do, and what they do on your behalf
  • Provide you with good explanations of what they think is relevant to your situation (algorithm changes and search engine policies)
  • Provide you with reasonable explanations of what they think is NOT relevant to your situation
  • List the pros and cons of any business decision (as they understand them)
  • Offer you at least one practical alternative to any SEO strategy or action you don't feel comfortable with
There is almost always more than one way to do things. Any SEO provider who relies extensively on a single source of information is probably not a good match for a company with an advanced SEO challenge (you sound like that is what you have).

Now, could your loss of traffic be due to things OTHER than Penguin or Panda? Absolutely. Major Website changes could have killed the relevant traffic. Or competitive Websites could have upgraded in ways that left your site behind. Or there could have been some other algorithmic change that is inflicting grief on your site. Or it could be that some new thing in your industry led to consumers changing how they search for your products/services.

There are many potential explanations for why a Website suddenly loses a lot of traffic. Most of the time it has nothing to do with a major algorithm like Panda or Penguin. But you have to go through a lengthy checklist of things to narrow down the possibilities, and even then the most experienced and knowledgeable SEO providers in the world can be wrong.
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