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How a Google Penalty Made One Company Stronger - from Inc.com

 7:11 pm on Aug 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

The article has quite a provocative title: How Google Cost Me $4 Million [inc.com]

It starts out as the horror that story no business owner wants to live through. A business is booming on organic traffic and outsources their SEO. That third party starts buying links, and BAM! A big penalty right before the holiday buying season. In addition to filing a full disclosure Reconsideration Request, the owner, Ryan Aboud, made some very savvy changes to his online marketing. His article is rather short, and worth a close reading.

And there is a happy ending for the organic search part of the story, too.

We didn't see the kind of ratings we had before the penalty until Google's Caffeine update, this June. That was our final pardon. Now we're back at the top.

Without the Google penalty, we wouldn't be anywhere near as far along as we are. You have two choices: You can roll over and die, or you can grow beyond it.



 7:32 pm on Aug 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Interesting story although of course you can't miss this part:
That holiday season, we pay-per-clicked out the wang. We spent a lot of money. They penalize you organically, but they still let you buy ads.

Also interesting is the fact that Compete.com shows their traffic actually down in July which is a strange result of having to come out of a penalty.

There are also a few other things they could have done. For example, they link to their homepage internally as .../default.aspx whereas most external links point to just the root / , both returning HTTP 200. The SEOs they hired bought them some links but did not bother to mention possible dupe content issues? Or is this a new de-optimizing trend I'm missing out on?

Thanks for the link, Ted. This forum could really use some real world examples!


 7:41 pm on Aug 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well I am happy they are back but from looking at the site size and slowness they sure could use some help in that area.

Probably close to 150-200k in images on the frnot page.


 12:54 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

I know of a site that was blatantly offering a link mention in upcoming articles in exchange for linking to this site from yours. It got penalized, served 2 years of being unable to rank for anything and then Google lifted the penalty.

Thankfully not all penalties are permanent. Giving anyone access to your site is a leap of faith unless a written contract that specifically outlines responsibilities exists that also outlines what will not be tolerated. Even then...


 1:02 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's easy to think of Google as a public service or something like that. But they are not, they are a for-profit company and they have stated their requirements, whether we like them or not.

It can really hurt if you depend on Google traffic and have the rug pulled out from under you, but there is no reason they can't do it - and no reason that they can't let some sites slide and not others. Google doesn't act on every violation they find - and there are many reasons for this, some of which I can only guess.

I liked this story because in the long run, this company stopped its strong dependence on free search traffic an that is a very wise thing to do. Now they've got a new challenge - the free search traffic is back and the business may need to scale up to meet that market demand. It will be easy to relapse into more free traffic addiction, but I hope they don't. The other forms of marketing take their toll on resources, but the investment is worth it.


 1:05 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

So do you chaps think this is a good story, really ?


 1:28 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

the free search traffic is back and the business may need to scale up to meet that market demand.
Actually, I don't think their traffic is back. There is an uptick on neither Compete.com nor Alexa.com traffic graphs. In fact both graphs point south for much of 2010. I don't know about you, tedster, but I read the article on Inc.com as a promotional piece brought about by their re-vitalized marketing efforts. Amazing what a lack of Google traffic would do to you (for you?).

 2:08 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

You may be right about how the story ended up on Inc - I don't know, but it's surely possible that it is a publicity thing, an intentional plant. Even that wouldn't mean the details aren't true. There are some circumstances here that I'll be watching for a while.

But PR or not - the heart of this message is one I've given to many businesses who are exclusively dependent on free Google traffic. That's a terribly precarious position to be in, and not just because of penalties.


 5:51 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

PAID LINKS = One and half year of penalty! (almost double than canonical one)


 5:58 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

As I understand it, there is no canonical "penalty". Yes, a canonical issue can cause traffic problems for technical reasons - basically it just confuses the Google index. But that's not the same thing as a penalty.


 9:47 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

@bwnbwn they also don't have compression turned on and have dud links on the page - sounds like a similar uk company I briefly worked with a year or so back - normally run by non techies with a poor grasp of web technology and a sense of entitlement and good contacts in the media.

The sort of trustfund kids I rember seeing at first tuesday back in the day


 1:40 pm on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

The general concensus is the buyer of links does not get penalized. Has that changed now?


 3:29 pm on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think I read somewhere in the comments and reactions section of the Inc. article, that Matt Cutts and Google are considering a public outing of the SEO company that bought the links. (second hand-repeat from the article, no proof to link to)

(Edit: After tracking MC's tweets, it looks like he is not going to out them, but knows who they are, and feels it will be known in time. He added the youveheardofthem tag)

I can only see this as have a very negative impact on Google as a whole. It screams... "Internet Police" to me... and if they want the job, they should be prepared to legally defend their choice to do so! So much for the super-secret algo and grey-area guidelines they hide behind!

Opening <meet> The Box of Worms!


 3:51 pm on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

It screams... "Internet Police" to me...
Crowd Control 101
Rule #1:
Keep your rules vague. Then people will be afraid to do anything for fear of repercussion. It is much easier to control a disoriented crowd.

[edited by: tedster at 8:49 pm (utc) on Aug 31, 2010]


 4:48 pm on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

The general concensus is the buyer of links does not get penalized. Has that changed now?

Apparently, that gift baskets company still buys links and they're not being penalized for it.


 8:07 am on Sep 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

if you can "read between the lines" of MC's tweets you can make a pretty good guess who he's hinting at.

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