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Can a single link take you down? Went from #7 to #1 to #98

 2:45 am on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

I was quite excited when a high profile widget site mentioned my green-widget site on their frontpage where they do sell links. After few days, 3-6, my site went from #7 to #1 and trippled the traffic for my most important query. But now, 14 days later, I am sticking at the bottom of the serps.

Can this link have triggered some penalty or did I loose temporarly trust or something similar?

I am gonna ride this out, as it really is a good link (traffic and coolness factor).



 3:58 am on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

One link TO your site is extremely unlikely to have done any damage, unless part of some weird link exchange.

It is YOUR links that usually do the harm.

But there could be other factors; anything else changed lately?

The extra attention - and rising in the serps - may have caused a rival to examine your site and maybe report you, if there was anything to report?

Not nice, but it happens.


 4:22 am on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

It is YOUR links that usually do the harm.

Yes, and especially beware of linkrot. I've clicked on old links on reputable sites and been taken to malware and/or adult content sites. My old, abandoned Blogspot blog still has links to it even though it was taken over by a spammer years ago.


 11:07 am on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

When mentioning your site - have they copied any text?


 8:15 pm on Feb 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

A new link can move you down, but usually it is for a short period of time. [ under ten days ]


 2:23 am on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have been experiencing issues like this very often lately. A page ranks very well, then all of the sudden an inbound link comes in and the page disappears.

The signs of a penalty are classic - entering the search term plus our domain name results in our home page and an unrelated page at the top of the serps. For example if the search term is blue widgets and our domain name is example.com (ours is very unique) the blue widgets page is nowhere to be found when searching "blue widgets example".

I've never posted about this issue simply because it seems insane, the ramifications are obvious. The penalty is not site-wide at all, it only affects individual URL's. It sounds like the classic links being discounted type penalty, what doesn't make sense is why virgin pages (those without inbound links) rank well (lets say 8-15) until a link comes in, elevates that page to #2-#6 then drops it completely. Some pages afflicted have hundreds of backlinks, others have only a few.

The only terms the URL will rank for is the exact anchor text of the inbound link(s) (it is always on page 2 of the results). Anything else, the anchor text plus our domain name, the exact title, sentances of content, etc. are nowhere to be found.

After the intial drop, the symptoms of 950 take over, it goes in and out of penalty, on an unpredictable cyle. My google traffic overall is pretty steady, it's just killing me that 30%-40% of my popular pages are in this weird, unexplainable penalty.

[edited by: JerryRB at 2:26 am (utc) on Feb. 18, 2008]


 5:55 am on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Can this link have triggered some penalty

I think it is possibility. I suspect that sometimes one link can be like the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of a spam penalty.

[edited by: Jane_Doe at 5:56 am (utc) on Feb. 18, 2008]


 2:45 am on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I found what you said very interesting.
Could google "brand" a page so that it thinks the only THING it is about is what the anchor text suggests?
I have seen similiar examples in my day to day work, however I can't quite put my arms around how closely it narrows anchor text suggestions to topics.


 5:15 am on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

When mentioning your site - have they copied any text?


Now I am able to watch some interesting behaviour: some sub-pages of my green-widget site, expecially the light-green-widget page and the dark-green-widget page made some significant improvement from top 100 to top 10. and the green-widget homepage, which received the link is jumping from 90-100 to 5-2 back and forth.


 12:47 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

typical when the inbound link anchor text and the navigation link text says something different, both use competitive phrases and probably don't even fall within the same theme ( category ).

if you go back half a year I've warned everyone that getting high trust links with different anchor texts ( especially of different themes ) will send their pages to -950 for those phrases which they chose on their own for the nav links.

either get the inbound's text modified, consider your nav link for modification, or get some links with the proper text ( and theme ) to that page to get it out of -950.

and yes, this is real.
when Google doesn't get the relation between the inbound's anchor and you nav link text, when both are competitive, and when the inbound link comes from a page with high enough trust to rewrite your history. basically it's your word vs their word, and they consider the higher trust source when deciding what to rank the page for. The fact that it's -950 and hasn't dropped out means: you still have a chance to prove yourself.

basically this is the -950 filtering backwards, ( making sure people don't forge their own high rankings with empty vouchers i.e. high ranking sites don't mass produce pages for all competitive phrases ) ... the new link made you look like as if you were aiming for something else you were known for. even though this link came later, the link age script and the -950 scripts aren't cross-checked in this manner, although they really should be. but... they're not, so you have to deal with this.

if you got one such high trust link you shouldn't have problems getting another one.

this time with the proper anchor text.



 9:02 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

So lets say my site sells widgets - blue, green, red, etc. If a high ranking site links me using the anchor text is blue widgets, and my navigation for that page is just Blue (don't want to repeat the word widgets too many times on the page) will that confuse Google?

Blue widgets is still in my title, header text, etc.


 10:38 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

no not exactly...

We're talking about your site using the phrase 'Blue Widgets'...

having a borderline unhealthy link profile ( low trust, low quality links. etc )...

And getting a link or two from Harvard with the anchor text 'Widgetology' ... or worse yet... 'news'...

which isn't 'widget retail'...
is unrelated to the site navigation thus is not propagated to other pages within the domain...
and will send the signal to Google that your site's navigation and content is NOT in line with what their most trusted sources tell them about you.


scenario on what happened from the viewpoint of the script
(btw this is the original purpose of the -950 reranking)

Site has trusted backlink(s) for 'widgetology experts'.
This is a widgetology theme phrase, fairly competitive.

suddenly the site changes its navs to ultra competitive 'widget retail' phrases, which is a different theme... stuff like 'blue widgets', and gets a bunch of low quality links trying to convert its high ranking academic site into something else... going against that 'highly trusted editorial link' with a bunch of low quality, exchanged, blog, forum, bought, whatnot links from who knows where.

... original script ( pagerank + trustrank ) elevates the site to top 10, and then comes the -950 reranking filter, kicking it all the way down to -950 until further notice for aiming for something else than which it's trusted for.


Of course timeline is backwards, but there's no communication between the scripts on this one.

can you see the point now?



 11:44 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Totally makes sense, thanks for the input.


 11:53 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

How about this scenario -

Lets say a page has a decent link profile, not the best, but a mixture of natural, some paid (never through a broker), blog, etc. links through the years. All the inbound anchor text is very highly related to the page, i.e. blue or blue widgets.

Now instead of an authoritative site like Harvard coming in and linking with the anchor text "news" - the site itself (which is an authority in its niche) features this product on its home page with the anchor text "read more".

Could this trigger a penalty?


 9:39 am on Feb 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Why do you think that might happen?


 12:37 pm on Feb 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

if that is the first or only link on the homepage to the subpage then:

naturally the page that's now losing out on a major relevancy signal ( nav links' anchor text ) might slowly slide in rankings. And it's unlikely to start ranking for 'read more' either.

But this isn't a penalty... this is the ranking algo at work.
revert the link to 'blue widgets' and the page should be able to rank where it was before.


but if the subpage is otherwise linked abundantly with more relevant text throughout the proper sections in the site,

and/or on the homepage, that 'read more' link comes second in the code after a more relevant nav link...

...nothing would happen. I'm doing this all the time.



 4:04 pm on Feb 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

I really have a hard time believing that google would take your site down because of links to it. Especially since you really have no control over who or what links to you, nor how they do it.

I do think who you link to can cause a factor and broken links within your site can be a factor.


 6:46 pm on Feb 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Especially since you really have no control over who or what links to you, nor how they do it.

I agree with that ... but let's not forget the occasions when you do have control over who or what links to you, and how they do it.

Google have quite specifically warned about reciprocal links (in some circumstances), link exchanges, paidlinks and link 'schemes'.

I really have no problem believing that Google could and would take your site down because of links to it - if those links were part of an attempt to game google and their results.


 8:29 pm on Feb 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Very interesting threat
how can we check and find which link/s might have caused the problem -950 penalty and correct them?


 10:31 pm on Feb 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I really have no problem believing that Google could and would take your site down because of links to it - if those links were part of an attempt to game Google and their results.

I agree 100%. I think it works something along the lines of this:

Your page has a trust score, you get an incoming link that increases that score. If for some reason Google later labels that site as a link scheme - that page stops passing pr and your trust score is lowered. If the amount of trust your page loses in a certain time period crosses some predefined threshold - you get slapped with a penalty.

It's really difficult for a competitor to hurt you - because to do so they would need to help you first. They would need to put you on a quality site, that actually increases your trust score (helping your rankings in the meantime). Knowing that nobody has any idea if and when a certain site would be labeled as participating in a "scheme" its a very risky predicament to try and sabotage a site.

That being said I really don't think removing bad incoming links will do anything to help you. Inbound links can only help you or do nothing. Once a link is devalued - it is worth 0, not -1. There are 2 scenario's that would cause me to try and remove incoming links:

1. It is a paid link, and I don't want to pay anymore
2. To help your case when filing a reinclusion request, admitting that you've done wrong and you want to clean up.

[edited by: JerryRB at 10:39 pm (utc) on Feb. 21, 2008]


 11:41 pm on Feb 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Your page has a trust score, you get an incoming link that increases that score. If for some reason Google later labels that site as a link scheme - that page stops passing pr and your trust score is lowered. If the amount of trust your page loses in a certain time period crosses some predefined threshold - you get slapped with a penalty.

almost correct.

except your trust and pr is never lowered.
it's more like... 'put on hold', it's overridden, but not lost.

-950 is reranking, meaning the scripts first put you somewhere at the top, and then comes a second layer of analysis that's kicking you down. The second layer is automatic you don't need to file a reconsideration request, just get the factor that's flagging you corrected.

There's more than one way a site can get flagged, but the most common problem is link relevancy ( or the lack of ). Second most common is co-occurrence, third most common is repetitive keyword use in navigation for example.

whatever the reason, removing the high trust link will eventually hurt you more than not doing so.

afer all this can only happen to borderline spammy or otherwise unhealthy websites, which have a low enough trust that a single high quality link can distrupt the balance of their parameters. this high trust link will help ( see OP ) then comes the second check, and it decides it believes the relevancy signal from the link more than the site itself. ( site's own trust was lower that that of this single link ).

for Google is about links, and trust too can be earned through links.


So. Again. the way to overcome the -950 is to look at the site, asking yourself what it's lacking. If it's trusted links using keywords that your site targets, get some. And the temporary loss will turn into a gain as soon as the 'irrelevant' trusted links turns into 'just another link that adds to the natural link profile'.

remember, the # of positions your site is displayed from the last result is a mirror image of where you'll be once you get the parameters fixed. For more severe problems -950 is more like -450, burying you in the middle. For less severe you get -20/ -60 /-120. Every single link will have a visible, measurable effect making the site come back in huge leaps.

alternatively you can start deoptimizing your site until it's not targeting anything at all ( dunno why anyone would do that ), or change every target and perhaps sell stuff you got the most links for. but that's just silly.


tested this enough times, have put sites in the position of being irrelevant to their own high trust inbound links, and they sank to -950 within weeks. additional inbound linkage, and reworked nav links then brought them back. it's nothing special, really. look at ultra spammy authority sites and ask yourself what's keeping them there... it's well saturated, well varied inbound links with loads of trust.


 12:22 am on Feb 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree with you but I see it this way (-950):

The main first reason is co-occurrance.
Second reason is link relevancy.

If you have a high co-occurrance you can get as many trusted links as you can, it will not help you in any way to get out of -950. I have tested it. First you need to remove the co-occurrance (deoptimize), then the trusted links will be able to kick in.

[edited by: SEOPTI at 12:49 am (utc) on Feb. 22, 2008]


 2:53 am on Feb 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

You're probably right.

It's just me, I'm living in a world where there's no such phrase as 'over optimization' only 'SPAM'.

And no such phrase as deoptimization only normalization.

heh... yeah, coming to think of it you're right, the most common mistake WAS co-occurrence. It's just I never bothered with people who had their pr2 sites' navigations set up from the Tome of Lucrative AdWords Phrases on Widgets A-Z.

That was just too obvious so I went after the kind I feared the most... you know, the sites we called 'collateral' when the phrase based re-rankings were first introduced.

... hence I start my lectures from paragraph 2, with paragraph 1 being: learn SEO.

where O is for Optimization, not opportunism
( this is a public forum. this is my public stance *grin* )

But with paragraph 1 I don't think I can help anyone. I don't have the patience...


[edited by: Miamacs at 2:54 am (utc) on Feb. 22, 2008]

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