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New Google Penalty Or Same Old Stuff, Which Is It?
JoeHouse




msg:4178546
 1:23 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

I need some opinions from the SEO experts from webmasterworld, and your replies are much appreciated.

We have a 5 year old domain that approximately 11 months ago launched. Its a wordpress blog and I work for a large company. We have writers on staff that write fresh targeted content about our industry and our services.

This company is rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau and is extremely reputable. We run national television ads etc...

We started promoting our website via onpage and off page SEO and things were going great. We targeted 30 keywords and they were all in or close to the top 10 with our main keyword at number 4.

All of a sudden without warning we were hit with a what I believe a Minus 30 (40 or 50) penalty by Google. All 30 keywords are now no higher than page 5 and many nowhere to be found.

The question is this:

About a week ago we have found a competitor of ours stealing about 25% of our pages and placing them on his website as his own along with using them in articles and popular 2.0 sites.

Could this be the reason why we received the penalty?

If I had to venture an educated guess he stole close to 20 pages that we know of and maybe lots more!

Also we have hired an SEO company for about 4 months now building links using the popular "profile page" method. This is where profile links are placed on inner pages of high PR websites.

We have been building approximately 250 profile links a month for the last 4 months. Plus sending press releases, article marketing and directory submissions.

Could this be the reason why we were hit with this penalty? I have never heard of anyone suffering a penalty from profile linking, but could it be?

I need your expert opinions on what caused this problem and how do I fix it?

So then, is it:

A) Stolen Content?
B) Profile Backlinks?

Or

C) Both contributed to the penalty?

Thanks in advance for your response.

 

tedster




msg:4178707
 5:14 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

With a Wordpress blog, my first suspicion is always a server hack that injected cloaked, parasite links. Have you checked for this? It's a pandemic these days!

JoeHouse




msg:4178728
 5:45 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi Tedster

How do we check for this? I have access to the server host but I don't know what I am looking for.

Can you explain this to me in a little more detail?

Thank You!

tedster




msg:4178735
 5:52 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Here's the way this hack works: once the criminal gets server access, they don't deface your site, and they don't inject malware. Instead they place THEIR links on your pages, and they cloak those links so that only googlebot sees them.

This is one big reason why Google introduced the "Fetch as googlebot" function in the Labs section of Webmaster Tools. It gives the verified site owner a much easier way to check. I would check several URLs that recently lost rankings, just to be sure.

jimbeetle




msg:4178736
 5:58 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

The copied content is not helping. Have your company's lawyers get the competitor to remove all copies of the content on all sites he placed them.

tedster




msg:4178743
 6:04 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Jim is right on - that's the next place I'd go.

----

One sign that you may be hosting parasite links on your pages is a sudden pop in strange backlinks. After those links are in place, the scammer wants to give them more link juice. This is an automated short-term process in most cases, and they don't give a hoot that you're going to get a penalty sooner or later. They just want whatever pop they can get for however long they can get it.

JoeHouse




msg:4178749
 6:19 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is very helpful information. My question is why doesn't google realize that it is quite possibly a hack? Why the penalty and drop in rankings without an notice?

Our company is a top notch reputable well known organization nationwide that is rated A+ by The Better Business Bureau.

Doesn't Google consider this before they hit you with such a severe penalty?

We cannot afford to be so down in rankings for months. This must get resolve within weeks!

JoeHouse




msg:4178756
 6:26 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ted You Stated:

One sign that you may be hosting parasite links on your pages is a sudden pop in strange backlinks. After those links are in place, the scammer wants to give them more link juice.


Do you mean links within our wordpress site or showing up as backlinks pointing to our website?

JoeHouse




msg:4178764
 6:35 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ted

I am told that the dead giveaway is that you can see cloaked links in the RSS feed even if you canít see them on the page.

Is this true? Or is there away around this where it cannot be discovered in the feed?

tedster




msg:4178871
 10:25 pm on Jul 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

My question is why doesn't google realize that it is quite possibly a hack?

They're actually working on that - but it's a question of scale - seriously humongous scale that produces many many edge cases and complexities. And always remember, Google's first imperative is to give their search user a good experience, and not to treat every website in the index with TLC.

When even the owner of a site doesn't know they've been hacked, and they're using the site all the time, then think of how hard it would be to automate that detection at the scale of the entire web... and as a free service, no less.

Do you mean links within our wordpress site or showing up as backlinks pointing to our website?

The parasite links are on your Wordpress site, and the scammer-spammer then launches promotional backlinks that point to your pages. In fact, your site can be pointing to another site from further down in a promotional link pyramid scheme and you might have lots of trouble even seeing the final URLs that the scheme is trying to promote.

I am told that the dead giveaway is that you can see cloaked links in the RSS feed

That can be a sometimes giveaway - but only if your feed contains the full article. Even then, these guys are too clever for "our own good", and they may well be scripting the hack to avoid that pitfall.

To catch the hack this way this way, you wouldn't be looking at the feed at the time of publication - you'd need to be checking the historical entires in the feed a while after the initial ping.

Some of these hacks have experimented with dropping cookies so you can't see the parasite links after your first time - so if you are investigating, definitely turn off cookies first. Some also use the IP address of the visitor to block a repeat viewing. There can be a very nasty technical tangle to unravel in some cases.

If this direction (a hacked site) appears fruitful to you, I'd still spend the energy to follow-up on those who are duplicating your content. They might even have scraped your parasite links and when you find the duplicate, you'll see more evidence.

JoeHouse




msg:4179198
 2:23 pm on Jul 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

All of a sudden without warning we were hit with a what I believe a Minus 30 (40 or 50) penalty by Google. All 30 keywords are now no higher than page 5 and many nowhere to be found.


On Monday I purchased an automated query tool to check competitor rankings.

On Tuesday I used it for several hours.

On Wednesday mornings I was hit with penalty. Could this tool be the reason why I was hit with this penalty? Or is this just a coincidence?

Is there anyway to know for sure if this was the cause?

If this is indeed the caused of the penalty, how do I correct this with Google? And on average how long does it take to correct?

tedster




msg:4179345
 6:07 pm on Jul 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

If a ranking penalty ever gets handed out for scraping search results, it's rare-rare-rare. Google's reaction is usually just blocking the IP address. You're probably looking at a coincidence.

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