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Of course this is anecdotal evidence, but I think it is quite strong nonetheless.
The sites were relatively young and not TOO much work has been put into them yet, so if they don't come back soon i'll just start over.
Do most people who run multiple sites in same broad industry here use false WHOIS info? Could this simple 2 minute fix after I buy a domain be preventative for this sort of drop with future sites I build? Any downfalls to false whois info? Or changing whois info?
Thanks so much!
Google is certainly using the Whois Info in order to find relationships between site networks; that's the main reason they became Registrars anyway.
If your sites were using white-hat SEO without heavy interlinking (!), there is no reason for Google to drop them. If not, then I suggest that have enough patience or start over.
I wish you best of luck.
So basically my question is whether or not just changing my WHOIS b4 G/Yahoo come around will do.
Even though it may be tempting to suspect/believe that they may have indeed done something evil like that, it is more probable, imho, that you may have some commonality in your collections of sites (structure, templates, SEO style, inbound/outbound link partners, etc.) that may have made them "equal opportunity whacking candidates" as a result of any new algo tweaks that G may have applied recently.
I am not saying this to dismiss/question your hypothesis. I am only suggesting that you may also want to look for any (non-obvious) commonalities that you may be able to remedy on your own.
Regardless, I would like an answer to my original question of whether or not changing my WHOIS before being crawled is sufficient to hide true ownership from engines.
If we are talking about a new domain registration that had third party whois info in it from day one, then you would be protected. If we are talking about an existing domain that you changed to third party registration, who knows. Assuming that Google is using this data, they could keep a cached copy of the original whois info. All wild speculation of course.
Unless you are doing something high risk like cloaking, I don't think you need to be that paranoid about it.
Only 7 sites with same whois won't make your sites drop for sure, IMO.
They just rank weaker due to "The sites were relatively young and not TOO much work has been put into them yet..."
Starting things all over again is simply a waste of time. It is better to hang on and work more on them.
This (whois data) is the only commonality that I could identify.
Aren't your own specific SEO skills a common factor as well?
Without seeing the sites in question it's hard to say anything for sure, so please excuse the wild and unjustified speculation, but I would guess that a broad based drop in ranking over 7 different sites isn't going to be down to one single factor.
It's more likely that a combination of many SEO techniques you have used need redefining - rate of link growth, variation in link text, keyword density, etc - a minor tweak here and there could cause a shift in rankings (particularly if you are using the same "formula" for all sites).
Bourbon saw many "innocent" sites fall in ranking (or drop out completely), and GoogleGuy did say more than one factor was being tweaked this update - so it's not unreasonable to assume that what a SEO could "get away" with before will now be a little too much.
Sorry to say it, but the most common factor in your sites all dropping in ranking is you. You have more influence over your sites than any other factor.
The next most common factor is not the WHOIS, but the industry itself - your sites are all in the same broad industry - there could be a few reasons for a shift in ranking - increase in competition, new sites (previously sandboxed) being added to the index, etc etc etc.
Slightly offtopic and more of a general point, but these days you need to do more to be "white hat" than just have "unique content" and "no interlinking".
I use to create more websites in the same industry and interlink them a bit, all websites have unique contents... BTW who know what happens nowaday! :)
Could this simple 2 minute fix after I buy a domain be preventative for this sort of drop with future sites I build?
No, correct who is information can never be the problem. The issue rests with the sites. Something has caused a dip in your rankings; could be content, links or an algorithmic change.
Now false who is information is a different story.
A classic example could be the new sitemap feature - adding multiple sitemaps for different domains using a single account may trigger google to investigate further. They may also monitor the url removal tool to see if a single user is removing URLs from multiple domains. I guess they could also monitor the IPs, just in case someone sets up multiple accounts.
I guess this would be easier than trawling through the whois database to try and find multiple sites under common ownership.
Has anyone else considered this possibility, or are we just getting too paranoid?