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6-week old site disappeared from SERPs around March 1

9:08 pm on Mar 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

I started a site in mid-January (domain registered around January 12, site indexed around January 15) and since then, I've been creating a lot of content on it and doing some very aggressive link building (white hat only). The main keyword I was targeting gets more than 300,000 exact searches/month. In late February, the site's homepage was ranking on page 6 for that keyword but on around March 1, it completely disappeared from the SERPs (not in the top 100 or top 1000 or anywhere at all). One of the site's subpages though is ranking on page 43.

Is my site in the infamous sandbox, implying some sort of a domain age "penalty" and should I just wait it out while continuing to build links? Or is there something else I should be worried about?
7:00 pm on Mar 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Read my post. I said that's an indication of a quality website. And the statement is true for all niches, not just obscure niches.

Well, my misunderstanding then. I think I get you now. You're saying that a sign of a quality site is that it gains natural backlinks, but not all quality sites will gain natural backlinks. In which case it might be more accurate to say "some good sites will gain natural backlinks on their own" which I think is more realistic. If you're saying ALL quality sites gain natural backlinks, I think that's a bit unrealistic and a blanket statement. First off, how do you judge quality? A "good site" might be deemed "good" to only a very small target market that don't usually link out. Compare an SEO pundit site with a site selling self-adhesive velcro straps to businesses. The latter may provide a great service to its target market, but why would its customers link out? Instead they show their appreciation through repeat custom. And that same company may struggle to win new business because they're nowhere in Google. Their "content" is actually their products and service they provide - not so much the text on their website. To the company selling velcro straps, the website is merely a means to and end - a kind of brochure. To Google, the company IS their brochure, not what they actually do, and how well they do it. An SEO pundit site is much more likely to gain links just because its target audience link out at the drop of a hat, and the SEO pundit is writing opinionated articles that are more likely to gain links. Try transposing that technique to mundane products - I've seen sites try to write "controversially" about their nuts and bolts catalogues, and it's not pretty. You hit a content wall with such e-commerce sites. Couple that with their target market not being predisposed to linking out, and then add to that their competitors engaging in proactive marketing efforts - you soon find the small business website owner not waiting too long to engage in those efforts himself.

To sum up, it's impossible to accurately prescribe a cause-and-effect for all websites e.g. build great content, then people will link to it. That works in some categories of sites, but it simply does not work in others.

[edited by: ColourOfSpring at 7:37 pm (utc) on Mar 18, 2013]

7:27 pm on Mar 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Of course you can still promote your content in various places - that's one of the benefits of social media, as it makes it easy to do so (but you need to do other things, too). I think folks here are simply saying you shouldn't try to aggressively and manually build links, as that looks manipulative.

Promote your content, and if it's good the links will come.
3:20 am on Mar 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

Update: Site is back and ranking on 3rd page now... I didn't really do anything on my part. I did gain one PR1 link... not sure if that had anything to do with it though.

Lets see what happens next.
6:13 pm on Apr 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Update: Site is unranked again. I did build a couple of backlinks but they haven't been indexed yet.

Edit: just checked again and site is back to being ranked where it was before... that was weird...
9:02 pm on Apr 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

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When the site/domain name linked is not in a proportional relative to the number of links and varied anchor text expected out of the whole of links to a site in the same niche it could easily be considered unnatural in my opinion.

In other words, if you have 95% of inbound links with the site/domain name as the anchor and most in your niche have 58.3% with 41.7% being varied, yours could be unnatural (not like the others).

Just trying to learn, here: what happens if most of a given niche is involved in buying/trading links? Wouldn't the norm for your niches then NOT represent natural link building, so a natural link builder might get mistaken for a spammer? Or do you think Google has ways of filtering for all that?

Google's monopoly and reliance on links - and subsequent "rules" to prevent gaming of links - subverts how marketing has worked in business for years. Now we're supposed to not market, but simply build it and gain marketshare without any marketing (well, asides from Google Adwords, right?). I'll just wait for sites to naturally link to my crane hire service website.

You know, the conflict between white hat webmastering and proven marketing techniques is something I'd love to see a whole thread on. Because unfortunately it ends up being somewhat irrelevant to threads where someone's trying to figure out what Google wants... it wants what it wants, whether it makes sense or not. But I think we could have a great discussion on the way Google's definition of white hat subverts traditional marketing. Anyone else?

A "good site" might be deemed "good" to only a very small target market that don't usually link out.

Also, some niches are dominated by social media, not traditional sites. Even the brands won't link to anyone from their site - they do that from their FB page or Twitter. Unfortunately, search engines don't distinguish a "like" from Big Brand's fan page from my personal "likes". So in some niches, you can be pretty popular with a significant amount of people, and attract good outbounds from authorities in your niche, and still have a very humble presence in the search engines.
11:13 pm on Apr 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

Just trying to learn, here: what happens if most of a given niche is involved in buying/trading links? Wouldn't the norm for your niches then NOT represent natural link building, so a natural link builder might get mistaken for a spammer? Or do you think Google has ways of filtering for all that?

1.) When dealing with the numbers they are, almost anything is possible in some cases. This is one of the reason the answers they give really have to be so "noncommittal". I would guess even if you pointed out specific paid links on a random page that were obviously paid to a Google Engineer who works in that area and asked if those links count and you got a "definite response" it would be something along the lines of "they shouldn't" and my guess is if they expanded on "they shouldn't" it would likely be "they shouldn't, but I'll have to check to see for sure..."

2.) I think they try to safeguard against that (have a way of filtering) especially over time and will likely get better at it in the future especially as more time passes.

Penguin was supposed to be a "playing field leveler" of sorts and even though people may think they have "natural looking paid linking" (or even link building in general) figured out there are probably a number of factors that over time will show built links are not actually natural, and "sheer numbers" may actually indicate "more unnatural" even if it's for most sites in a niche than the limited number of sites in a niche going "completely natural" and allowing links to happen without building any. (Feigning natural/random is much more difficult than I would guess many think, and over time my guess is a non-random (not natural) building "scheme" is likely algorithmically detectable.)

I don't think they get it right with the safeguards (filters) I would guess they have in every case and obviously they don't hit every site that's building links (paid or otherwise) right now today either, but I would think part of that is because it may take quite a bit of time for a pattern of unnatural to emerge and be apparent enough to be algorithmically actionable, but one day, eventually, when the pattern of "unnatural linking" shows up we have a webmaster who joins WebmasterWorld because they don't rank any more and Google's broken because they have the most links and all the right anchor text in all the right percentages and they have obviously out SEOed everyone else in the niche and the other site(s) that are outranking them don't have anywhere near as many links and some haven't even built any, so there's no way they should be number one, except that Google's broken.

(Does the preceding sound increasingly familiar from recent posts? I think one thing to remember is Google generally has a much "longer-term" goal than most webmasters seem to and I'm also fairly certain I remember reading more and more of those type posts recently. I would guess we're seeing the results of the "filtering" you're asking about more and more frequently, but that's just a guess/opinion, so I could be completely wrong.)
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