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Site stuck in the serps and not moving

     
2:25 pm on Oct 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I took on a client in April in the travel sector at the time they were at position #71 for their target phrase

They had maybe 500 links of which 250 seemed toxic. I created a disavow and uploaded it.

Since then I have replicated all the good links their competitors appear to have.

I've added blog posts to reputable travel sites, posted in forums, exchanged links - each time checking for link toxicity.

Some of the links I added have a good domain authority score and page score using the Moz tool.

But nothing has moved not even a single position. Yes there is the odd random up and down move on a daily basis. But the average position is unchanged.

Other sites I work on respond well to this approach.

Could it be a Penguin Penalty? There is no manual penalty notices in their WMT account.

Its strange but I can't understand why otherwise its not moved up to say page 3 or 4

Any advice appreciated
12:40 am on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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What works in one niche won't necessarily work in a more competitive niche.

Copying a competitor's links is an old strategy and useful. But the efficacy, imo is limited because there are always more links you can't copy, so they will always be just ahead of you.

What has always worked for my clients is to obtain better, unique and completely original links.

In the box link building like reciprocals and copying competitors aren't going to cut it in a competitive niche like travel. You really need leave behind the low level tactics, step up the game.
6:58 am on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I agree with martinibuster, both about the competition levels of different niches and also the limitations of "box link" type building, but I'll take it a little further.

Conceivably, Google may have seen your rate of new link acquisition as unnatural. Additionally, Google may feel that the content of your client's site may not merit those links. Were you enhancing content while you built the links? While in some cases content improvement might not be necessary, in most cases it is. It certainly would send more "holistic" signals to Google than simple link building would send.

Worth noting that a while back, John Mueller of Google even dropped some broad hints that site improvements by themselves might in some cases be sufficient to escape link penalties.

Also, when did you "finish" building the new links, and what have you been doing since? What kinds of links did you add to what kind of content when you posted in forums and blogs?

Take a look also at this thread, where John Mueller (and members here) discuss how long it takes Google to recognize signs of quality... and types of links that might not work....

Search engines need time & other signals to confirm a site is "fantastic"
June, 2012
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4467831.htm [webmasterworld.com]

I should add too that Google is constantly raising the bar, so what might have worked for you before might not work now.
9:27 am on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thanks guys - appreciated.

The sector is competitor but its a real niche being chalets in a small single resort. The sites above are 95% chalet operators or individual chalets and almost none of them have more than 300-400 links in total. Of course there are a few large players in the mix but most are not.

I have added around 100 links replicated from the competitor and around 200 guest blogs unique content and nice travel blogs each of which I approach and offer the content to which they published with out charge.

I continue the process and work each week like this - that is why I find it strange to see no movement - zero!
9:42 am on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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My first thought when you mentioned that the niche blogs published your content without charge was that they can't be very good quality. I could be wrong, but anyone who just publishes content sent to them isn't likely to be the sort of high quality link that you're going to need to improve things.

Since you've taken on the client, have you done any work to improve user metrics... i.e. are users spending longer on the site, viewing more pages, etc? If not, perhaps spending some time improving that would be more beneficial?
10:11 am on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Zulu - Thanks - I research each blog carefully - they all have good Domain authority and the success rate is not high, I approach maybe 25 blogs before I get an acceptance. A few I have paid for a post but only when I am confident they are good ones, not spammy or old domains re-registered etc.

Ref onsite - we have re-written the content and there is something in what you say about the site not being as crisp or eye-catching as the better ones - but again this is a real niche. Every site has basically the same format, pictures of the chalets, the resort, prices and what they offer. So I don't think there is that much of a gap between my client and say page #2 maybe page #1

I have in my mind that the 250 original links I disavowed were toxic and until Penguin reruns that change will not be notice/ accepted
2:31 pm on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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and until Penguin reruns


There's a difference between an excuse and a diagnosis. Be careful to know the difference between the two. It sounds like they do not have Penguin. They're simply ranking where they should be ranking.

Do not rely on DA for evaluating a site. DA only tells you the metrics related to sites that tend to rank well. In fact, even the Moz site tells you that DA is their opinion of a site's ability to rank well. That's not going to help you identify a high quality site and Moz doesn't make that claim on their web page explaining DA.

Beyond that, the DA metric is flawed. One of the components of DA, TrustRank, has been discredited from shortly after it was invented. TR is based on Yahoo research and it was swiftly found to be flawed and subsequently superseded with better methods.

Many high quality sites have poor DA scores. Of course they do. They're not trying to rank for anything. They just are what they are, natural sites. Natural sites that do not exchange links. Natural sites that do not publish guest posts. Natural sites that do not sell guest article opportunities. Get what I'm saying? Wink-wink.

High probability that your client's problem is not Penguin. The problem is in-box link strategies resulting in lower quality links.
4:17 pm on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Oh, and please don't take the above as criticism. It's not. I'm encouraging you to do better.
9:11 pm on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I think it's important that you find out whether you have the Penguin penalty or not. Was your site making good progress previously? If it was, I doubt it was Penguin because one of my sites has been stuck at roughly the same rankings for almost a year now. I've added a bunch of new content, made other posts more substantial, moved to a faster host, installed caching, tweaked images, reduced keyword density (although it was never that high, and not a focus at the time), optimized images... and it hasn't budged. I've also removed what links I could and disavowed plenty of exact match spam a competitor had built.

It could be that you're experiencing some kind of sandbox - I believe one of my recent websites is stuck in a penalty. It was making progress, then a few links later it has just been stuck and only moving a few spots up or down for a variety of keywords.
10:20 pm on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Don't worry I am thick skinned and find your comments helpful.

Its still strange though, I have used the same approach for another client in a Beauty niche and for me that seems much more competitive and steadily they have moved up the rankings from page #12 now to page #4 Whilst this client has not budged.

The site is about 5 years old and has never performed better than where it is now, I only took it over in April and so have no data other than clients recollection.

The frustrating thing is that in April I looked carefully at the links the sites on page #1 and #2 had and felt the gap in link quality was closeable, now I have in my own mind improved the backlinks the site has to such an extent that it ought to be on page #2 or #3 but nothing.
11:10 pm on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It could be that you're experiencing some kind of sandbox
This brings up an interesting thought. Take a look at this discussion...

Google's Rank Modifying Patent for Spam Detection
Aug 18, 2012
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4486158.htm [webmasterworld.com]

We don't know for sure that this patent has been implemented, but I'm thinking it has been and that I've seen it in action. Possibly, if Google thought your links were manipulative, it might be putting your expected rise on hold... in a sandbox, so to speak... to see what you do next. Anything too obviously reactive to the lack of movement and looking like old-school SEO could get you tanked.

OTH, you've started a pattern of artificial link acquisition, and it would be unnatural for that to suddenly stop, so they've got you in an uncomfortable situation. You may actually need to significantly improve the site and promote it. ;)

Again, the bar is constantly being raised. I'd look to break out of the formulaic content mold enough that site stands out in some way, and that your content is more useful.

I agree with mb that DA is not a good way to evaluate a site. With regard to backlink evaluation, I have much more faith in Majestic's Trust Flow.
8:20 am on Oct 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the heads up on Majestic - I have an account but not used since they started to charge for data from sites not in your WMT account.

A sandbox would make sense though how to get out is another matter - I'll continue on until year end and then re-think.
 

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