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Advice on unnatural links on old site - hit hard with penalties

12:32 pm on Nov 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

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joined:Nov 21, 2013
posts: 3
votes: 0

Our website has been hit hard with penalties since last year. Traffic dips were at the same times as Panda and Penguin updates and only 30% left :( I never thought they would affect us, as we don’t do over optimize and create quality content. We receive lots of links from manufacturers of the widgets we cover, and we’re linked in signatures in forums of large companies, like the software giant from Redmond. We have not bought links, participated in link exchanges etc.

But users have added links to guides from us in signatures, some people link to use from all their pages. We also do support forums for some companies and they link from all their pages to a subforum we've created for them.

The site started in 1997, name was changed in 2010 with 301 redirects correctly setup. We have been an authority site, we have 500k forum members.

When I look at Webmastertools our incoming link profile looks like this:

Domain Links | Pages with Links

oursite 1.273.403 | 91.864
largecompany 4.221 | 19
whatarewidgetssite 14.143 | 3.903
famoussoftwarecompany 9.868 | 169
whatarewidgetssite 9.260 | 4.062
rssaggregator 8.596 | 7
knowncommunitysite 7.945 | 174
crapsite 7.229 | 1
gallerysite 6.735 | 1.025
softwarecompany 6.652 | 1
redmond 4.612 | 44
productpagessite 3.221 | 164
personalrssaggretorsite 2.980 | 1
largeforum 2.470 | 19
largeforum 2.228 | 270
largeforum 2.100 | 51
largeforum 1.989 | 221
domaininfo 1.636 | 593

whatarewidgets sites -> I mean sites that explain terms and link to e.g. our guides.
domaininfo -> a site that gives domain stats and that kind of stuff

What I've done so far

      I've asked the software companies to add rel=nofollow to the links to us on all their pages

      Disavowed the crapsite mentioned

I guess I should also try to get the RSS aggregators removed (at least the personal one?) , the gallerysite, the productpages site (really bad site) and maybe the domaininfo site?

I would love to hear what your advice would be...
1:21 pm on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Hello Mh1980 and welcome to WebmasterWorld!

You are mentioning Penguin and Panda updates, but your actions listed above only target drop caused by Penguin.

You also say that you have been hit since last year - does this mean your site has only been hit with Penguin/Panda updates in 2013 and that Penguin/Panda before that did not affect you?

When did you lose most traffic - on Panda or on Penguin updates? Is it possible to give us some timeline with % of traffic drop?
2:03 pm on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I've asked the software companies to add rel=nofollow to the links to us on all their pages

It's easy to give advice when it's not your site that's suffering, but I'd not be that hasty myself. If you didn't pay for the links from the software companies then why should you nofollow them? You could make things worse - those links could be responsible for the 30% you're still getting.

Conversely, if you're sponsoring a forum, then according to Google's edicts then those links definitely SHOULD be nofollow.

If you really don't know what links could be suspect and what aren't, you could get perfectly fine links 'removed' and still leave problematic ones.

Bottom line - it looks like you're new to this. I'd recommend finding a Penguin link detox expert with a proven track record in helping large established sites to do a full assessment and propose a plan of action before touching anything else. You could be making things worse.
3:27 pm on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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joined:Nov 21, 2013
posts: 3
votes: 0

Thanks for the answers guys! Much appreciated!

To start with the easy question. The link from the software company is relative new, I think one month old. It's 7000 links (side wide link) to a single page on our site, all with the same anchor text.

Times we were hit by updates (stats only from July 2012, I re-acquired the site back then, long story, but I know it has been hit before). I used the tool that draws the update dates over the analytics data.

- Panda 3.9 (27/07/2012) - Little bit of traffic lost
- 7 Result SERPS (14/08/2012) - traffic came back

And this goes on till:

- Panda update 23 (21/12/2012),
- Panda update 24 (22/01/2012)
- Panda update 25 (14/03/2013)
- and the biggest dip with no update at the 7th of April.
- Then it went up a bit again.

And traffic went down again at Penguin 2.0 (22/05/2013) and now it's relative stable but a bit of a downward trend.

Traffic from slightly before the first traffic loss, till now is less than 30%.

To give another idea, I recently obtained a log file of a very popular widget, it was posted around the web including all big tech sites, the best backlinks I could get I think. While the log file of that widget is not related to the regular widgets on which we post news and reviews, I was able to get on lots of tech sites at least 6-7 times before. So lot's of high quality link. This biggest story was around the first of October, so far no influence at all.

I hope this additional information provides some detail that might something about the causes away. I think I indeed need an expert. I've previously done all SEO myself and I _was_ very good at it. I left the site in 2009 and returned in 2012 and things have changed a lot, so I know I could use some help.

But I would like to know about this as much as I can myself. As the revenue drop is pretty much the same as the traffic drop, I can't easily spend money on it so the more I can do myself, the better. At least some understanding of what the culprit would be, would also be good, it also helps me to seperate the charlatans from the real experts ;)

If anyone has ideas than I would appreciate it a lot!
12:39 am on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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votes: 221

Over the past two or three years there have been lots of threads here in which someone reported significant traffic losses but was either completely mystified as to the reasons why, or else could only speculate about possibilities. In many of these cases, I don't think the specific cause (or causes) was ever pinpointed. Flaws in the ranking algorithm may be the ultimate cause for many of these cases, but if so, that just adds another difficulty to attempts to analyze the problem and come up with a solution.

Just to get you started on your research, Penguin is generally thought to be an "over-optimization-type" penalty, with, among other things, the anchor-text in external (or even internal) links used to target certain keywords or key-phrases. Panda was originally described as an attempt by Google to demote "content farms" (large sites with a lot of mediocre content).
1:15 am on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING - google the term "site audit" and read up some of the posts on how to perform one. You may opt for a professional audit, but start the process yourself. It will involve evaluating your links, your content, your traffic patterns, everything. Some people have posted templates for Excel spreadsheets and Word docs that will give you kind of a checklist. You really should get the full picture before you do anything.

Otherwise it's kind of like asking a doctor to start performing surgery before figuring out exactly where and what the problem is.