zehrila - 10:58 pm on Feb 24, 2013 (gmt 0)
ZydoSEO: Thanks for your detailed input. Let me clarify few things. The site had around 11,000 links majority of them were with rich anchor text "Keyword Keyword". I was told they ranked on page two for their prime keyword about 5 6 months after they started. Their overall traffic was 25 to 45 unique visitors a day when i checked, main keyword ranking on page 10. Top sites in this niche get 200k+ uniques a day roughly. I checked the stats for about 1 year and traffic was pretty much like that.
I have been under impression that if a site which is that old, building content regularly and has that many poor quality links and rankings this poor then most likely there is something wrong. I tried to match dates with panda penguin, but i could not find anything as the prime keyword was already ranking page 10, if a site which ranked page 1 and two and then lived on page 10 for a long time then there is probably something fishy in there. Anyway, i believed it had some sort of penalties in place. But i agree i should have done more to identify when exactly traffic went down in last two years time.
Any way, the first point was to start correcting things, The URL structure was pretty much like i used to have in 2006 - 2009 and i see every thing wrong with domainwidgets.com/cheap-blue-widgets.html domainwidgets.com/cheap-red-widgets.html domainwidgets.com/cheap-purple-widgets.html with titles like Cheap Blue Widgets - Free Cheap Blue Widgets etc etc. This yells cookie cutter, over optimized, same routine followed through out the site, template etc. I have seen penalties in past over such url/meta/quality of backlinks and it was my gut feeling to correct all those things which give a vibe that site is overly optimized. I feel changing the url structure has not caused the drop, drop has happened because tens of thousands of "oldest urls" which were previously redirected to "older urls" are now redirected to homepage and older urls redirected to latest urls.
This is where i should have had been more cautious, i had asked them about all the previous changes, the only thing they told me was that they have changed design about 2 3 months ago and no that design change did not impact their ranks negatively or positively. However, i think it would of been better if i had dug on data deeper.