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Website Recovers Over Op and Penguin With Counter Intuitive SEO (Detailed example)

Discussion in 'Black Hat SEO' started by Scritty, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. Scritty

    Scritty Elite Member Premium Member

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    It was Forest Gump that said that "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get". Extrapolating that tortured metaphor a little bit more, Google can be like a "box of chocolates". What are they going to pick on with their next major algorithm upgrade or new subroutine?

    In search engine optimisation, it's our job to keep an eye on what's going on and try predict the future. But there are so many branches and possibilities. So many different events that could happen that could potentially change, out ranking, visitor levels or profitability. Which is going to hit us first? What she we be doing now to predict and prepare for Google's next update?

    Let's be honest, other than learn what we can about the general aim of the search engine giant most of us will never really know all we would like to know. The internet is enormous and the inter-relationships between sites are well beyond the means of anyone to fully comprehend them entirely.

    So when a change happens, and, for example, a new algorithm is unleashed, or a major update takes effect, it can be difficult to go back and extrapolate why and how it happened. It is almost impossible to work out whether it could have been predicted.

    But we do need to quickly work out what any possible solutions to the problems caused to webmasters may then implement them ASAP

    It would be nice to have a crystal ball, but for the most part, just like Mr Gump, you never know what you're going to get.

    Best Practice SEO Is The Same As It Ever Was But In BHW We Can Shortcut Much Of This

    With hindsight 2012 could be described as a very turbulent year for search engine optimisation. With many Panda updates still on-going, the introduction of Penguin, the levelling of exact match domain benefits the introduction of various features such as "linked disavowal" designed to both combat negative SEO and spread the message that over optimization was bad practice.

    But what we can do now? More than six months on from the over optimisation penalty and unnatural linking notices, can we see some websites who were seriously affected but have by this point in 2013, managed to recover or even improve on their original status?
    Doing the opposite of what may seem natural works in certain circumstances

    The site in the video is extremely popular site ranking for a phrase which generates the best part of 100,000 unique searches per month. It is also ranking for other similar phrases or composite phrases and has an Alexa rank of around 4000.



    A few months ago I was thinking of setting up a similar site myself, and this was one of the sites I was lucky enough to be keeping an eye on when it got hit by what appeared to be an over optimisation penalty. It went from number one on page one for its main targeted key phrase to bouncing around at eight or nine, in real terms of reduction of about 85% of its traffic potential and possibly a catastrophe for the website owners.

    Now, six months on it has recovered and as the metrics in the video show house, in many cases improved various of its key performance metrics.

    Analysis of the way the site has changed as well as the offsite SEO efforts undertaken in the past few months reveal that two main ways were used to recover the site. Both, on the surface at least, seem entirely at odds with best practice or common sense.

    But that's only if you look on the surface, there are underlying good reasons why these two particular methods worked well for the site in question. Let's go into a little detail.
    Over optimization? Let's create a lot more links!
    Anchor Text Dilution Is Going To Require More Links. It's As Simple As That!

    In response to an overall demise in SERPs and an overop penalty, the website owners decided to increase the number of inbound links dramatically and used a phased approach to do this. They embarked on a program that involved the creation (above the background norm of naturally created links) of in excess of 10,000 backlinks per day, and continuing at approximately that level for several weeks.

    This would seem to break many of the rules, including those in our own Blue Hat Demon. But again that's only on the surface. This website contains many thousands of URLs and the overall demise and penalty was in large part due to a lack of variation in the linking anchor text. The large linking campaigns seem in the most part be aimed at diluting the anchor text. Over a period of several months they did a particularly good job.

    This is an established site with many years of both self-promotional and natural linking accrued. Creating a few dozen links here or there would not substantially alter the mass or percentage of overall backlinks links. The website owners had two choices. To take many years and hope that they could recover naturally, or too push the self promotion button and to deliberately dilute their anchor text variation as much as possible in the medium to short term. In this case around three months.
    Not Keeping Visitors On Site? Let's REDUCE Social Interaction
    Is Social Interaction Distracting Your Visitors From Your Sites Primary Aim - MAKING MONEY?

    SEO forums allow full of people asking for "traffic bots" or ways to mimic traffic behaviour on their websites. It's been a marked increase over the last few weeks and months. This is because (I believe) that it is becoming apparent that Google takes visitor retention, user experience and metrics such as bounce rate quite seriously. Whether the bots being requested are to negatively impact a competitors site, or to mimic a good visitor relationship with the user's own site is not certain. It is likely that these tools can be used for both purposes.

    The site is in question here originally was full of interactive elements.

    Every product and application featured had its own set of indicators underneath an image representing the product itself.


    • How many people were "Liking" it on Facebook?
    • Was it Hot or Cold? [The websites own popularity gauge]
    • How many people were actually using the application at that point in time?
    • When was the last time you (the logged in user) had used the application?
    • On top of this each individual application or program had its own set of social interaction buttons. Like, Tweet or +1.

    They've all been removed

    The website owner realised that social interaction is not the core business of the site.
    At best it may garner a few useful comments on multimedia sites, at worst it is a distraction that could lead people straight away from the main objective of the website.

    In this particular case the website's main objective is getting people to play online games. Many of these games are barely disguised mini versions of popular full priced games.

    The thought process of the average user would be looking to get an experience as similar to a full priced application but for free, and, ideally would be able to find the software or application that would allow them to do that very quickly.

    By playing this game, perhaps paying for an "unlocked" version eventually, buying game elements using micro-transactions or possibly just by viewing the advertisements embedded in the software the website owners would make money from the visitor.

    If that same visitor presses a Facebook "Like" button and ends up simply browsing Facebook and chatting to their friends, then the website owner made nothing.

    The main site level social interaction buttons have been repositioned strategically, the individual interaction with games have been entirely removed altogether. Along the right-hand side of the screen a block of "tags" featuring popular game genres has been implemented which allows users to browse to the genre or particular game of their choice and get playing quickly. Playing a game is the "call to action" of the website. No play = No pay.

    Social interaction has been largely removed.

    Social interaction was not a method for the website to make money nor was it a desirable outcome for a visitor.

    This may seem to go against all the information that has been propagated in the last four months regarding social noise and social media. But at the point where it becomes a distraction, where the message that leads the visitor to take the key action on your website or URL is designed for, then it needs to be cleaned up.

    As a result of these changes this particular site now ranks number one for its key phrase has improved in search engine rankings and many of the other secondary phrases. It is improved its bounce rate and its Alexa Rank has recovered.

    The actions it took, increasing the quantity of self-promotional links after an over optimization penalty and removing social interaction to improve bounce rate may seem to many entirely counterintuitive. But they were precisely the actions which lead the site to recover and progress past it's original high standards inside a few months.

    But like everything else in SEO, and everything else in life in general it is entirely contextual. I just thought I would share this recovery and success story with you guys.
    Would this work for every site in every circumstance? NO!!!!
    Is it worth considering if your site has a similar profile and issues to the one above. I'd say a resounding YES!!!
     
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    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2016
  2. phpbuilt

    phpbuilt Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    In regards to all the social buttons removed, that could have been a great idea that helped them, not because of bounce and retention, but because of outgoing links. Facebook/twitter are like PR 9/10. That level of PR comes from websites all over the internet leaking their precious PR to them. That's great for Facebook, but it sucks for your website. When you've got a plugin installed that inserts that junk ON EVERY PAGE, that is a super massive amount of leaked PR. And some of those plugins that go overboard and inject like 10 or 20 different sharing platforms on every page, I always feel bad for the site owners every time I see that. Then again, I also believe that Google monitors bounce so it could very well be exactly that as well. Also, balancing over optimized anchor texts is actually intuitive in my opinion. I'd consider doing either that, or disavowing the over optimized links. But because they are still in the top 10, I'd probably sway more towards balancing the over optimized anchors than disavow (might go for the disavow if they were on page 4 or not even in the top 1000).
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  3. gorang

    gorang Elite Member

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    You know, i came into work today reviewing each of my clients current standpoint, this video was great to watch and makes me think more about paying less attention to what Google says and more attention to what the successful sites are actually doing.
     
  4. gorang

    gorang Elite Member

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    They're now at 95.6% anchor text diversity.

    I'd like to know more about the type of links they're creating.

    This is one extensive SEO campaign, in fact i've never seen such a huge amount of links created in such a short amount of time.
     
  5. gorang

    gorang Elite Member

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    I *think* what they've been doing is creating links with no anchor text at all. Their profile is so huge it is hard to examine.

    I noticed a lot of their games are hosted trough an iframe on other websites. It could be that they started adding a backlink inside the iframe to all existing games, although it is hard to know if this is a new thing or now.
     
  6. kasheshe

    kasheshe Regular Member

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    We were really grappling with the issue of social media on a client's ecommerce store. All over the net, plugins, systems and other apps are being created to use facebook expecially in one's own site. We had to ask a question "when at the supermarket, do we tell our friends about the maize meal we just bought?"

    We are still thinking hard about this issue. Half of us are saying remove all social links and plugins from our site. Instead, go to facebook and direct the traffic to us. The other half is all for social media icons etc.

    I guess your video will help us come to a decision sooner. I'm all for removing anything that promotes anything else other than our client's products on their sites. Thanks mate.

    A question for you. Do you think that plugins or software that allow the traffic from the social networks to the main sites are useful?
     
  7. Scritty

    Scritty Elite Member Premium Member

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    This is a good point. It does depend on the maths a bit here - then a gut decision.
    As far as counter intuitive goes, that's a mindset I'm channeling. Playing devils advocate: I see people posting and read into their mindset and subsequent decision making the idea that "I've been hit for over op..STOP MAKING LINKS" It's like turning into a skid when riding your motorbike. It's the right thing to do, but if you relied on your natural reactions alone - many inexperienced riders do the opposite

    And disavow? An option for sure, but as you say not in this case. With a site as old as this one - with links from all over the place - sorting the good from the bad would be a mammoth task in itself.

    @Gorang

    A lot of the phrases are compound that include variations on "free online games" or synonyms. I think Google is a little better at working out context. But even adding all of those up it seems to come to well under 33% as a group.

    Scritty
     
  8. deviatus

    deviatus Power Member

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    Maybe I missed it, but did he just primarily use SB for increasing link dilution? Or did he have xrumer too. Unless you want to spend massive amounts on captchas on senuke or SB Bomber, and these are more time consuming bots, those two options and maybe wiki links are all I can think of. Commenting, guestbooks, profile links.. and I'm guessing he didn't tier anything just blasted or did I miss something?

    Great video, I agree almost to the point where it shouldn't be counter-intuitive. If you received the anchor text over optimization penalty, and his looked terrible, and sites regularly get away with thousands of poor quality backlinks added indefinitely, it seems like the only solution. Maybe down the line Penguin will take a second look at the site, but the site is so established that it's not going to be taken down easily by doing daily blasts.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  9. Scritty

    Scritty Elite Member Premium Member

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    The mix of links here seems very diverse. However, a look at a random 30 odd of them shows less than 20% are forum sigs/blog comments.
    Most have content, though much of it is not particularly readable.

    Interestingly, checking on 2 direct links at random for tiered linking, there are zero blogs or forum sigs/progiles there either.
    Lot's of articles, lot's of blog posts (as opposed to comments) a few WIKI and some really nasty looking "pseudo web2" sites (blank pages with a nice looking header and just a link in the middle of a blank page).

    A lot of links.

    Scritty
     
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  10. deviatus

    deviatus Power Member

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    About the articles and blog posts. Are they on platforms where you can blast them? He's using free article sites and social network type contextual links right?

    Or is he on private blog networks of some sort? Because that would have the link juice that would help explain his rankings better. But it looks like all his link sources were open and free?
     
  11. jr_sci

    jr_sci Senior Member

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    its nice that you posted the video. watched the whole thing. Nice one..

    btw I knew the earlier owner of demondemon.com and I remember doing some SEO work on it if I am not mistaken.. haha
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  12. FatSteve

    FatSteve Regular Member

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    It's nice to have someone coming to same conclusions.

    I think it is rather easy to dilute OP penalty now especially with tools like GSA where you can specify 40% url as anchor and 40% generic anchors and let the rest be long tail/LSI keywords/domain branding.

    In fact, I can contribute that with similar method I have managed to get 2 out of 4 sites back (from nowhere in top 1000 serp's to pages 2-3) - no page 1 yet, but at least I see movement up, which is nice. All I did is set up link building campaign - about 400-500 links/day, broad varity including track backs, relevant blog comments, profile links, wiki's and so on.

    Just don't expect it to happen over 2 weeks - month can be a good milestone. Patience and patience again.

    And keep in mind, if you already have an OP penalty and can't seem to shake it, you have nothing much to loose (btw, in my case 301 redirect to new site did apply the penalty to new domain too, so no joy there). Just set up few link building campaigns and let it run, consider it a long term experiment.

    Just my $0.02

    P.S.

    Great post and video :)

    Andy
     
  13. dbyrn

    dbyrn Power Member

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    The link dilution part is good, but the social noise part is even better. You can rethink your user experience strategy in total.
    Thanks Scritty.If you write a book I will buy it.
    D.
     
  14. Camouf

    Camouf Regular Member

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    Hi Scritty,

    Awesome video!

    Anchor Text Dilution
    What would be the best method to create many different anchors?
    Keyword Scraper in Scrapebox?

    The anchor text chart in Majestic is very interesting. It shows the naked urls % is below 10%.
    I might lower this % myself, because my naked url % is about 20-25%.
    Do you think I should lower this for better results?

    Many thanks,
    Cheers,
    Camouf
     
  15. nihilnovi

    nihilnovi Newbie

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    This is actually really interesting, I wonder if you can set things up on a smaller scale and automate the process to minimize penalties.
    Food for thought =)
     
  16. Scritty

    Scritty Elite Member Premium Member

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    Scrapebox could indeed be used, however, Google can do it - the keyword tool lists (by default) in order of relevance. "dog" "puppy" "canine" "hound"...that kind of thing. Mix in generic and naked URL's. This site has done the "http.www" - the just "www" and also naked URL's with neither. Again this goes against what some SEO bloggers are saying, and Googles on WMT gets confused sometimes between your www and your none www - but having this in the mix would seem natural. (as would a few spelling mistakes)

    Scritty
     
  17. catmutts

    catmutts Newbie

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    Great vid. Anchor text dilution should recover a penguinised site without doubt. But link building at this velocity the will surly result in a manual unnatural link penalty. And when that penalty comes it would most probably be game over for the site as they would be impossible to clean up.


    It would be interesting to see how thing pan out in the future
     
  18. feyt333

    feyt333 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Thanks for very informative post. Which tools do you suggest for anchor dilution ?
    dilute anchor text for homepage or all pages ?
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013
  19. Scritty

    Scritty Elite Member Premium Member

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    Link velocity was not so much of an issue here as the site in question had many hundreds of thousands to begin with.
    Link effectiveness is another issue however. Above a certain level they have a limited impact, but that is not a consideration when AT dilution to remove an over op penalty rather than pure SERPs gains based on link accumulation is the main aim for creating them.

    Scritty