Recent Google Slap – A Case study

by Jason Acidre on April 26, 2012 · 46 comments · Search


This entry is a guest post by Moosa Hemani, and you can follow him on Twitter @mmhemaniThe views and opinions expressed on this post don’t necessarily reflect my views as an Online Marketer.

In the early era of my career, I got a chance to work with few competitive industries and logo design industry was one of them! I worked for a company who at that time was ruling the 1st page of Google with the term ‘Logo Design’. You can imagine how much traffic they used to get!

Although it was a good learning experience but by the time I started reading blogs, followed the influencers in the industry and ran small experiments in the search industry, I got to know that the online marketing and to be more specific the link building approach we were using at that time was of low quality. Therefore, I discussed this in the meeting with the authorities quite a few times but as they were ranking on the top, my suggestions didn’t get in to notice as they were intersecting with the way they usually worked!

Today I got a message from one my friends, he asked me to Google Company’s name and guess what; The Company’s URL was nowhere! :O

Instead of the main website, the tumblr blog is ranking! So, is it a Google Slap? Yes it is! The site is penalized and has been de-indexed from the Google search results!

Google is getting tougher to those who were ruling the industry with tons of low quality links or who tried to game search engine in anyway, due to the lack of knowledge or by purpose!

I took a quick look to their link profile (Thanks to Open site explorer) and here is what I got!

Tons of Blog Comment SPAMS:

By the time, we all know that Google doesn’t like low quality links. Apparently incase of having tons of links from low quality blog comments and forum signatures, your credibility will be shaky in the eyes of Google.

The penalized website got tons and tons of blog comment links that in a single go looked spammy and low quality! Checkout few examples links they got in their link profile!

I guess this is smart! You can read the full comment and you will find out that it is a general comment and can be used anywhere! :). The comment has been made to build a link, pointing to their blog with an anchor text ‘logo design’

Here are few more:

And:

Above snap shots are few of the examples. Sadly, they got ample of these kinds of links that strongly indicate Google to re-think about the website’s credibility!

What the hell is Google Guidelines?

Another majority links were banner ad-links that they were getting from different websites, which also violates Google guidelines. Before I explain further, here is what Google says about Paid links:

“Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:

  1.        Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the <a> tag
  2.       Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file”

-          Google

Moreover, number of links they got in their link-profile, were actually advertizing links (banner ads), here are few of the examples.

And:

Above-mentioned links are counted as advertizing links commonly known as banner ads. Google defines 2 different ways to deal with these banner ads but in this case all links are do-follow and were pointing directly to the targeted URL, which simply means that they were violating the guidelines provided by Google!

Link Network:

It didn’t took me long to figure out the personal link network they have where all of their new projects, top designers are linked. Few of the blogs that featured almost everything on their sidebars are:

  • Graphic Design Blog
  • Logo Blog
  • Logo Snap

All site wide links on these blogs are pointing the main website with do-follow attribute! Google neither likes too many side wide links nor does it like excessive linking from the link networks, in-fact Google is working really hard to turn down as many link networks as possible.

So what should they do?

The damage has been done and they are actually paying the price. Yet still their boat has not touched the bottom of ocean and they are still left with some great stuff in their pocket.  So, I believe doing a little frustrating yet technical work may bring them back in the Google Index!

Good stuff they already have!

They have attended quite a few conferences and sponsor awards (that I got to know through their link profile) and they got some good links from high PR websites, Conferences, award websites and similar!

Another powerful weapon they are left with is the social engagement! Although it’s not up to the mark but it didn’t seem as lousy in one go! Google counts in social as one of the important ways to determine website’s credibility, so this can be counter as another plus point for them!

Things they should be doing!

Add/Edit Low Quality Links:

The first thing they should do is to get their hands dirty with their own link profile and remove as many low quality links as possible! They should also follow the Google’s guidelines for banner ad links

Following Google guidelines may not directly help them get back in to the index but it will surely help them to get better rankings in SERPs

Build Quality Links!

Their Link Profile is messy and is filled with a whole lot of low quality junk links; all they have to do, starting from today is to build quality links that includes: link baiting, guest blogging, interviews, infographics, humor posts, memes, white paper and lot more!

Change the Mindsets!

Changing the mindset is something that can help most. SEO is never a cheap service and neither it as simple as many think.  Re-vamping strategy or paying a little extra to a professional is actually long-term investments that will surely payback.   Taking up the policy changes and going with new and more authentic ideas is something I believe can help this company and many more companies going through the same scenario, the most.

Special Thanks to @DaniZehra for the editing favor.

About the Author:

Moosa Hemani is passionate about search and social in general. He writes on different major SEO blogs as a guest writer. List of his writings can be found on his About me Profile.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Rabeel Dennis April 26, 2012 at 4:09 am

Businesses must learn from their silly mistakes and take SEO seriously or else you’ll be no where in the search results.

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Dead_Man_Walking April 26, 2012 at 4:48 am

Well, Moosa, I guess the sour grapes in your case got a little too sour. Allow me to point out the parts you missed out on in the article during your employment tenure at Mycroburst:

During your professional tenure at Mycroburst, you were designated as a team lead, leading a team of SEOs subjected to your professional guidance. And as your primary responsibility included none other MB itself, hence it was none but yourself who was mentoring what you now cutely term as “low quality link building approach”.

And of course, not to mention collecting the accolades and reaping the gains of MB’s #1 status on google search result pages at that time.

I can also confirm, being present myself during those “meetings” as you referred to, that not once did you raise a voice of concern regarding those SEO techniques, low quality or whatever. And of course, it is perfectly understandable that you didnt, since they were techniques recommended by you, leading the SEO team for MB.

Good luck with all the cheap publicity, while back here we are hard at work cleaning your mess,

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Kumail Hemani April 27, 2012 at 3:48 am

Hey Man,

That was my question too… If you are an SEO of that company how you were not able to stop those spams?

I would say there are still so many mistakes on the website i.e. no canonical tag, missing sitemap.xml, ror.xml, sitemap.html, 404 errors on the website … I would recommend you to dig the website again and you will find more problems, if it has.

As Moosa said, Mycroburst has so many quality links from authority websites like news.yahoo, prweb, blog mentions etc. You can easily filter out the problems and those low quality blog comment links won’t affect you and your ranking may back. Also your website is still indexed, try to get more quality links from authority websties. As Matt Cutts said, “we devalue low quality links when you have strong link profile”

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Ron April 27, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Moosa, I found your case study to be useful useful and I enjoyed reading it, but it seems unethical to out them considering you used to work there. It hurts their reputation as well as yours. Perhaps you could have blurred out their name on the pics? But I can’t blame the company for using spammy blog comments especially since they used to be very effective. The only problem is that they didn’t adapt their link building strategy as Google started making big changes in their algorithm.

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Moosa Hemani April 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Hello Ron, Thanks for finding it useful!
As far as the post is concerned, this was total constructive post and I never meant to hurt anyone’s reputation out of it.

As far as blog commenting is concern, I think it is still a constructive strategy (this blog itself is a do follow blog) if done with the purpose of reputation building and not just for a link grabbing tactic. I would highly agree with your point because I left the company in the pre Panda world and after Panda the world of SEO and links changed drastically!

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Rob Cubbon April 26, 2012 at 4:57 am

One of my sites has tanked in this last change

For linkbuilding I used Web 2.0 sites, article marketing, guest posting, blog commenting, SM, all done by me, by hand.

I was hit yesterday which was targeting over-optimization. I was always careful to vary my backlinks. And I never keyword stuffed, just wrote articles that I thought people would want to read.

I’m probably going to give up on this site now as there’s no point in continuing – I’ve spent hours creating articles that no one will read.

I no longer understand what to do in terms of SEO and promotion after 6 years blogging – if you build a link with anchor text you seem to be asking for trouble.

I got so many organic links from people who liked the content and linked to it that I think either this change by Google is really stupid or I’ve done something else wrong. At the moment it seems that it would be really easy to kill one of your competitors – just build a few links to them.

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Moosa Hemani April 27, 2012 at 2:54 am

Few things that might help in your case!

1. Fix your on page and make to up to grade A. SEOmoz tool for on-page analyzer might help!
2. Try Guest posting and if you can get article space in some magazine or news website… get in and get links from there!
3. Submit reconsideration request and give it some time and see if it is going to work!

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Xain Devraj April 26, 2012 at 5:42 am

Great sharing Moosa, though I’m agree with your prediction about Google slap to the mycroburst. The link building strategies being used for this term or website was 100% unacceptable though by Senior SEO’s even. But still that low quality stuff went continue and recent panda update might shot them penalty.

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Syed Noman Ali April 26, 2012 at 5:49 am

This site still index. Yeah its true bad link or low quality links hurt your ranking that is way i always prefer to quality rather quantity, cool insights mate.

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Moosa Hemani April 26, 2012 at 8:43 am

you are right sir! but still not ranking even with the brand name!

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Corey D. Schmit April 26, 2012 at 6:24 am

Great and deeply researched article, We are talking about low quality backlinking, Black Hat and Grey Hat SEO. But the concept of banner marketing and blogging have created enough misconception among people, as we have seen in this research how people are using banners and nofollow attributes wrongly and I was shocked after reading this post that a brand like Mycroburst was involve in activities like this.

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Debi April 27, 2012 at 12:29 am

Hi, there! Times are definitely changing and I can only be happy. I have no expertise and intention to game Google, so I can’t compete with all these guys building thousands of spam links…

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Alison April 27, 2012 at 12:31 am

Hi, Moosa! This is a very insightful post, hope to see you guest-posting here again :)

I see you used Open Site Explorer to check the link profile of the mentioned site. I find it a bit pricey for my needs – is there any other tools that is more cost efficient, but still good?

Thanks!

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Moosa Hemani April 27, 2012 at 10:24 am

Thanks Alison, I am glad that you like the post!

As far as backlink analyzer tool is concern, most of the good once are paid but if all you are looking for is a free software then Back Link Watch‘ can be a good software to start.

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Kaiserthesage April 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I use Ahrefs’ free version (quite helpful and displays up-to-date links).

Majestic SEO’s pro-version is also awesome, definitely worth-checking out if in case you decide to invest on link building tools.

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Aasma April 27, 2012 at 12:36 am

Great insights, It’s always best to get 1 quality link then 10 low quality links. I know acquiring quality links does take more time and efforts but hugely impact your reputation and ranking. Plus try to get both do-follow and no-follow links, as it helps to create natural link building of your site.

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Shez April 27, 2012 at 12:39 am

I see. You didn’t exposed them you just pointed them out what things they are doing wrongly. Good post moosa (:

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Blake April 27, 2012 at 12:51 am

How do we know if the page where we are linking are bad or good for our site?

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Moosa Hemani April 27, 2012 at 10:34 am

Indeed a smart question Blake!

There are multiple characteristics of a SPAM websites which and some of them are:
- It always contain low quality content
- Excess internal linking (non user friendly)
- Too many Ads
- Pathetic domains
There can be many, I would highly recommend reading this article if you are looking for more info regarding this! http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/blog/website-quality/10-reasons-why-your-website-looks-like-spam/

Hope this helps!

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Erik Emanuelli@Make Money Blogging April 27, 2012 at 2:14 am

Hi Moosa,
nice case study, thanks for sharing your experience.

I have some doubts about last algo change and update.

This is my case study : I have two sites, one linked in this comment,which I have working a lot on it, with quality link building, nice original and unique content written by me or guest posts, social media shares, no keyword stuffing or black hat SEO at all. And the traffic is growing, but so slowly…
Then I have another site (sorry if I mention, but to let you understand the case :
http://www.tokyoezine.com
I have never built any link on it (a part just few articles on EzineArticles at the very start),
I post once a month and I have 100 posts, most of all written at beginning of the site, at beginning of 2011.
Well, it is growing so fast, with big spikes of traffic during the last days after the Google Penguin update!
Ok, it is a niche, with low competence, in relation than my principal blog,
but I do not understand the big spike of traffic lately.
It has a lot of ads also above the fold…

What do you think?

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ADIL SIDDIQUI April 27, 2012 at 2:52 am

This is correct that low quality links are always unacceptable and leads the site out of the index.Google is strictly penalizing such websites which are using excessive or low quality link building techniques.You are absolutely right about changing of mindsets.There are many good ways apart from traditional link building.Thanks for sharing valuable information.

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Rafay Qureshi April 27, 2012 at 3:44 am

Extremely Shocked to know that a website like Mycrobrust has applied a strategy that no good seo will Accept Ever! A Terrible Link Strategy will definitely give you the terrible output that will harm your website rankings for sure!

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Mark April 27, 2012 at 6:35 am

I agree somewhat with your post but Google is getting way too powerful in some respects. We have been told over and over again by Google to build back links and article linking and yet if you do you stand the chance of being slapped.
Recently I was working on a site for some one that had been slapped and the reason for the slap was a company had linked too them and then got slapped and that slap trickled down the line. I think in some respects Google needs to come clean and say what it is looking for. I also know that doing so or asking it to be done opens a whole new can of worms.

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Moosa Hemani April 27, 2012 at 10:43 am

Mark if you are asking Google to come up officially and let you know what they want then all you are going to get from there will be more or less like this!

‘Build websites for humans and not for the engines! :)’

For a real win you have to keep experimenting in a safe area!

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Pavel April 27, 2012 at 9:04 am

I knew Google penalized websites for low quality links but I had no idea it was to this extent. My company website has some low quality links but they constitute less than 5% of all the links to the site. What I find interesting is that our primary competitor has alot more low quality links than our website, yet it outranks us for most of our targeted keywords. Do you have an explanation for this? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

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Moosa Hemani April 27, 2012 at 10:41 am

Exact stuff need lot of explanation and insight information because links are not the only thing that matters its content, its on-page, social and other stuff that matters with links…when ranking a website in Google.

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Andrew April 28, 2012 at 1:01 am

It can be concluded that the lower quality links and over advertising can penalize your site, no matter it ranked in Google or not. Another example of lower quality links is to use of exact match anchor text rather than partial match or meaningful key phrase.

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Moosa Hemani May 6, 2012 at 1:11 am

I was already in the sphere and many folks were warning that exact match anchor text will hurt the rankings and use of diversified anchor text is healthy. I am glad that you concluded right!

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John April 28, 2012 at 4:52 am

I’m sure MycroBurst are wishing they would have listened to the advice you gave them back then now Moosa. Google is definitely getting tougher with low quality links. Not only that I think switching up your anchor text with different variations as much as possible is necessary. I believe the days of linking with the same main anchor text your trying to rank for over and over again are done.

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Ella Turgeon April 29, 2012 at 7:41 pm

This goes to show that more than ever, quality is more important than quantity. This is such great advice for someone who is starting out and is trying to build traffic to their website and move their way up the SERP. Thanks for the great article!

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Moosa Hemani May 6, 2012 at 1:13 am

Thanks Ella, I am glad that you like the post!

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Mohsin Ali April 30, 2012 at 10:43 am

Well said its really a slap on the face of professional bloggers. They keywords for which i was ranked number one before Google Penguin update now showing one page blogspot blog with very little content in it.

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Jack Sander April 30, 2012 at 11:20 pm

This happens especially when one wants to see quick results. Instead, if we work continuously and build several quality links each day, on the long run the results will be great. As you have pointed out, nowadays quality is more important than quantity.

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Moosa Hemani May 6, 2012 at 1:17 am

That’s my point Jack! If we are going to work hard and continuous to build high quality links then I don’t see any animal from Google is going to come and hurt us!

All Google is doing at the end of the day is to improve the quality of search results… and all we have to do from now is to produce quality content!

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Arwin May 1, 2012 at 7:03 am

Great points you have shared here and I believe that it would be best if you go on the lighter side of optimization although I really hate this recently Penguin update and it just makes webmasters back to square one. I am really looking forward for a quick Penguin update this coming week.

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diedra May 2, 2012 at 12:14 am

Well done kababayan! I have the same question as blake. I need your personal answer if that’s okay?

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Glenn Ryall May 2, 2012 at 10:33 pm

I am happy to have adopted the SEO genes just when the panda update struck so was lucky to implement it in all my work.

The case study is really great as your pointing out the mistakes and also giving the solutions to it which are quite clear, but what in my opinion was unethical was the mentioning of the firm.

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Jane May 4, 2012 at 6:48 am

Interesting case study, Mycroburst was a famous crowd sourcing website with strong social presence and i am really surprised to see all this, seems like someone reported their paid banner links and a result of this they are in trouble.

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Annie May 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I guess people should really consider looking for other traffic sources other than Google. When you put all your eggs in Google’s basket, you’ll never know when the next update will squash it to pieces =(

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Moosa Hemani May 6, 2012 at 6:44 am

Annie great input! Keeping the Google’s previous updates in mind, I have to say that we should empower other traffic channels and keep optimizing them for targeted traffic if we want to be on the safe side in terms of business!

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Chris Barker May 13, 2012 at 1:38 am

This is really a big slap. Hope there gonna be another channels that can compete this kind of issues.

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Brian May 15, 2012 at 6:52 am

I always get a bit wary of my own link building process. What exactly is a low quality comment link. I saw the example above and it might as well be jibberish. But for example, I visit many commentluv enabled blogs which are often blogging or social media related. I make relevant comments, I hope I add value to the conversation, but often times I list my website address as my pizza related website. Am I only allowed to comment on other pizza websites? Is a comment anywhere else a low quality comment. I hope it doesn’t matter what website I enter in the website space in the comment forms. I think quality should be based on the content of my comment.

I definitely want to find another source for traffic. Just having a hard time finding it. Almost all my traffic comes from Google.

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Richard May 25, 2012 at 6:13 am

Hi Moosa,

If you believed everything you read about how much power Google has over what it doesn’t like about your site you would assume it could literally send a Terminator to your address to smash your PC, and your fingers for daring to mess up their perfect search engine. However I don’t believe most of the hype, mainly because there are so many rubbish pages ranking highly in their results.

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Matt Clarke July 13, 2012 at 9:25 am

This is a useful case study and whilst the results are unfortunate, they can serve as a useful lesson for the rest of us. I was actually a customer of Microburst at the time when they were at the top of the search results. in fact, I performed this exact search and became a customer as a result. I have to say in their defense that the service was great and I was very happy with the site and the logos I received.

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Shivam Technologies August 8, 2013 at 5:46 am

wonderful cast study. yes Google is strictly penalizing such websites which are using excessive or low quality link building techniques.You are absolutely right about changing of mindsets.

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