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Linking Penalty Due to PageRank Channeling?
I think I May Have Been Penalized for "Managing" the PR Within My Site...
egomaniac




msg:3369178
 11:36 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I want to turn some of your brain power onto unwinding what I believe is a linking penalty on one of my sites.

The site has been around a long time, and up until this winter, had done very well in the rankings. In fact I had a few dozen #1 rankings for many keyword phrases that I was happy to get the traffic for.

When I architected the site back about 5 or so years ago, I took a lot of ideas that were being talked about (and some that weren't) and put them into practice, such as authority pages, hub pages, thematic internal linking, anchor text relevance, reciprocal linking, and internal pagerank channeling.

The first time I really had any problems with ranking was for about a month or so in the summer of '06. I bounced back from that though in after disappearing for a few weeks without any significant changes to my site.

Early in 2007 though, I started noticing real changes in my rankings. My main home page started to fall in the rankings. Then it started getting penalized. It would show up at the bottom of the search, the "950 Penalty".

I made some changes to what was probably a spammy breadcrumb link on one of the domains of this site (it has 4 other subdomains that have multiple pages with unique content in them), and my rankings partially recovered for about a month or so. I also cleaned up my reciprocal links, got rid of links to bad neighborhoods, and culled out the number of links to a dozen or so OB links (in other words I don't have a giant recip links directory with pages and pages of junk - and I never did).

Then on May 4th almost all of my pages got hit with a penalty. Some were +30'd, some were 950'd, some were 150-200'd.

Strangely though, a few pages stick with their top rankings. I even have one page for a competitive, high-dollar 2-word phrase that is still ranked #1. Also, my PR seems to be holding steady (at least as indicated by the toolbar, which I know could be way out of date).

So here's what's left to clean up.

On some of my pages, I put a link or two into external javascript files to link to product sales letter pages in my site. I did this to avoid channeling lots of page rank to a page that I believed would not ever rank well, so I was trying to conserve pagerank inside my site for more relevant pages.

I also put all of my navigation links into a one large external javascript file. I did this for a similar reason to avoid pagerank from being wasted on my contact page, etc.

I suspect now, today in the spring of 2007 that these pagerank channeling ideas may be the source of my problems with my rankings. I don't know though.

I do have outbound links on my sites. Yes they are in my "resources" section. Yes some are recips, but a significant number are not. All of those links are real and pass pagerank through them.

None of my topranked competitors put outbound links on their home pages. It just isn't done in my field. So I don't believe that is the answer.

I can pretty easily change out the external javascript links to the sales letter pages.

I am more uneasy about changing my navigation links from an external javascript file to in page links. Although my initial intent was for pagerank channeling, there is a significant benefit to this approach that has nothing to do with that intent. When you put your navigation links into an external file, they can easily be changed in one place. And for a site that is 200+ pages, that is really nice to be able to manage the navigation links from a single file.

So I am interested in hearing what others hear think the problem might be.

Could I in fact have a penalty across lots of pages simply because of the fact that I link to other places in my site using external javascript files?

BTW, if all you have to say is that you think what I did was wrong, bad, blackhat, etc., then please don't post here. Such comments aren't useful

If however you can contribute to a discussion about what Google is doing to combat spam and link manipulation and how what I have done may have gotten caught up in this then please join in the discussion.

 

trakkerguy




msg:3369208
 12:49 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm not clear on the chronology. Are you saying you put the nav links in the external javascript file recently, or it has always been that way?

What makes you think the nav links are the reason for the penalty? Doesn't seem likely to me.

egomaniac




msg:3369228
 2:00 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

The external javascript files containing links were done a few years ago, both on page for single links to sales letters as well as the navigation bar links.

Part of the reason I wonder if this may be a problem is that over in the Adwords world, Google is Quality Scoring pages and downgrading the Quality Score if you don't have "typical links" that make your site appear credible and trustworthy.

So it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Google applying elements of this quality score concept to their organic rankings. Checking for the presence of "typical links" like Contact, About Us, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, etc. would be easy to do.

My site has none of those "typical links" visible through traditional on page hyperlinks. I do have a "Contact" link available in the navigation link, but that is off-page in the external javascript file I mentioned.

pshea




msg:3369229
 2:01 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Use the site: command to check the size of the sites which outrank you. You may find, as I have, that the sheer number of pages your competitors have successfully indexed and pageranked are part of an arsenal they have that you don't.

egomaniac




msg:3369231
 2:03 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Also, I have heard that in the Adwords Quality Score formula, the presence of any "ads" are your page, downgrades your Quality Score.

An external javascript file in the middle of your text could be interpreted as an "ad" by a bot. Google does have the ability (and has had for some time) to look inside of the content of external javascript files.

egomaniac




msg:3369232
 2:06 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

My site is similar in size to other sites that are at the top.

Also, this is more than just getting outranked. I have a definite penalty on many pages, particularly the main domain's home page has a 950-penalty on it.

pageoneresults




msg:3369249
 3:00 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I am more uneasy about changing my navigation links from an external javascript file to in page links. Although my initial intent was for pagerank channeling, there is a significant benefit to this approach that has nothing to do with that intent. When you put your navigation links into an external file, they can easily be changed in one place. And for a site that is 200+ pages, that is really nice to be able to manage the navigation links from a single file.

When you view the source of the page, do you see all of those navigation links in the source?

On a side note, do you have any popups on your site? You know, those one's that popup automatically when you visit the home page? Get rid of it.

egomaniac




msg:3369250
 3:28 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

When you view the source of the page, do you see all of those navigation links in the source?

No. None of the links, nor any of the content of these external javascript files (*.js) are visible when you view the source code of my pages.

On a side note, do you have any popups on your site? You know, those one's that popup automatically when you visit the home page? Get rid of it.

Yes I do. Hmmm, that's certainly something the Adwords group hates. Are you thinking that it might be a Quality Score negative for organic search too?

The code for that is also in the same external javascript file as the navigation links, though the function call for the popup is visible when you view the source code of the page

pageoneresults




msg:3369263
 3:57 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yes I do. Hmmm, that's certainly something the Adwords group hates. Are you thinking that it might be a Quality Score negative for organic search too?

I'm positive its an issue. If it triggers the Google Toolbar Popup Blocker, I believe it is a "LOUD" signal and a potential problem. Certain popups (yours specifically) are the kiss of death. Anything that triggers a popup blocker these days is sure to cause problems, especially when it is the Google Toolbar popup blocker.

No. None of the links, nor any of the content of these external javascript files (*.js) are visible when you view the source code of my pages.

Another potential issue. The bot has no method of following important navigational links. How do you get the bot to index the primary pages of the site if the links to those pages are not there?

When did you add the popup?

pageoneresults




msg:3369301
 5:11 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

If it triggers the Google Toolbar Popup Blocker, I believe it is a "LOUD" signal and a potential problem.

I guess I should state that this is "my opinion" and not that of others. We know that Google tracks user behavior in search. If a user visits a site and gets hit with a popup, I'm going to guess that a large percentage of those users hit their back button.

If you check your stats, do you have a "very high" bounce rate or exit rate for your home page? Or other pages where popups are forced on the user? Wouldn't you think these are all signals of quality within an algorithm? Remember, there are millions of Google Toolbar users out there. That Toolbar sends a bunch of data back to the Gorg for assimilation.

Popups have a notoriously bad reputation.

suggy




msg:3369420
 11:49 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

This 'links in external javascript' bit is cheating. Plain and simple. You're deliberately showing something to the users that google doesn't get to see. Maybe Google just got smarter.

Let's face it, with all the boffin brains at Google's disposal, how hard do you think they would find it to do a regex on external javascript and unearth your extra links?

Miamacs




msg:3369471
 1:56 pm on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

...

Do you have inbound links with anchor text that matches the terms you went under for? You are using them in your internal navigation right?

But are there any links from outsite with these anchor texts?

egomaniac




msg:3369537
 4:06 pm on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm positive its an issue. If it triggers the Google Toolbar Popup Blocker, I believe it is a "LOUD" signal and a potential problem. Certain popups (yours specifically) are the kiss of death. Anything that triggers a popup blocker these days is sure to cause problems, especially when it is the Google Toolbar popup blocker.

This does make sense pageoneresults. I'll check into the date I added the popup. I must say I see this as a significant new possibility that I had not thought of as the source of my site's problem.

Another potential issue. The bot has no method of following important navigational links. How do you get the bot to index the primary pages of the site if the links to those pages are not there?

The site is very indexable, this is something I put a lot of thought into when designing the site 5 years ago. The whole idea was to avoid "wasting" PR on pages like Contact and About Us and focus more PR on pages with valuable content channeled through fewer links. Each domain has the equivalent of a content site map linked either directly off its home page or only 1 link away from the home page. Internal content pages have breadcrumb links back to the domain/subdomain home pages. The home pages and content pages have hundreds of incoming links. So the site is very spiderable and well indexed.

egomaniac




msg:3369548
 4:20 pm on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Do you have inbound links with anchor text that matches the terms you went under for?

Yes. For the more competitive terms quite a few. For some of the less competitive terms, the internal link anchor text is the only anchor text to some article content pages, yet many of these pages used to rank #1. In fact a handful (4-5) still are ranking #1.

You are using them in your internal navigation right?

Yes. Every page has a few SE visible links that point back to that domain's home page, and to an internal category hub page and some point to other content pages in its domain.

Miamacs




msg:3369686
 7:52 pm on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

So your nav is full of the penalized phrases. You say you have quite a few of these ( for which you have the penalties for ) in inbounds' anchor text to your site. OK. Note that whatever I ask apply only to the links you yourself think worth the most.

...

From what sites/pages do you get these links?
I mean what kind of places?

Are the source pages on topic?
( ie. are they relevant to the anchor text and your landing page? )

Are the source pages trusted?
( as in 10.000 scraper sites that found you thru DMOZ or well trusted links from other anuthority sites, meaning sites that do well themselves for the topic, or somewhere in between )

Are the source pages/sites... *cough* yours?
( same IP and/or same server and/or same domain ownership... etc. )

...

And finally an expert mode question.
Do the source pages - the ones you think that have the highest quality links to you - have at least a single instance of the words/phrases in anchor text linking to THEM? I mean they're linking out to YOU with highly competitive terms, they're trusted and all, but are THEY linked to with any of the words? ( Are your links' sources -950 as well...? )

...

Might be some clues in there.

julinho




msg:3372434
 6:01 pm on Jun 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm positive its an issue. If it triggers the Google Toolbar Popup Blocker, I believe it is a "LOUD" signal and a potential problem. Certain popups (yours specifically) are the kiss of death. Anything that triggers a popup blocker these days is sure to cause problems, especially when it is the Google Toolbar popup blocker.

Pageone,

For a certain keyword, a competitor of mine ranks #2 (out of 12 million), even though Google puts a warning "This site may harm your computer. [google.com]" under the link to the site.

I think that if Google don't seem to care about malware (when it comes to rank the site), it seems less likely they care about popups.

(BTW, I agree with you, that popups do not say good things about a site).

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