Clean up your backlink profile and keep an eye on the horizon with MozCast.
When I think about the current state of Search Engine Optimization, I am always reminded of my favorite nugget of advice from Professor “Mad Eye” Moody of the Harry Potter series: Constant vigilance. Of course, that battle cry was spoken by a crazed Death Eater who was impersonating the real Moody and was actually trying to do in The Boy Who Lived, but I digress.
By definition, vigilance describes the state of constantly being watchful of potential dangers or threats—always on alert and waiting for something to happen. While our daily lives at Adpearance do not closely mirror the drama and danger of a fictional wizarding world, what we do merits its own kind of vigilance in regards to Google’s search algorithm.
Spammy Links & SEO
Case in point, Google’s Penguin update, which was released on April 24, has wreaked havoc on a number of businesses that have yet to recover from lost rankings and organic traffic. Penguin devalued and deindexed links found to be “spammy,” including a number of directories, 20% of which were permanently penalized or banned.
While reputable SEO agencies refrain from such “Black Hat” link building tactics as keyword stuffing, article spinning and submitting to low-quality directories, some clients who come to us do bring along a backlink profile that would make our moms shudder. If nothing else, Google has taught us it doesn’t like links that hang out in bad neighborhoods…and neither does your mom.
A Case Study
For example, one of our clients recently redirected and relaunched a new website in May 2012. That first month, we recorded a baseline of 167 top-ranking keywords in the first 20 SERPs of Google. When we measured again in June, that number plummeted down to 40. In performing a complete link profile audit, using tools such as Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer and NetPeak, we identified a core list of unnatural links.
Out of 462 domains, 112 were deemed “spammy” and marked for immediate removal. Additionally, 280 links were flagged from a second website that was redirecting traffic to the first using a 301 redirect, which carries 90-99% of the link juice from the referring site. Some of the worst culprits include the following (open at your own risk):
(The name says it all.)
(The picture says it all.)
(Hey, at least they are being honest.)
We are in the clean-up phase right now to disavow these unnatural links by contacting the individual webmasters, tracking our correspondence and submitting our documentation to Google for reconsideration. We’ll have an update on this process in a few months.
In the meantime, while large updates such as Panda and Penguin receive a ton of press, Google is known for making daily tweaks that go by unnoticed. In fact, in 2012, Google revealed it made 516 total changes to its algorithm. Earlier this March, Google announced 40 changes to its search algorithm, which suggest day-to-day changes are likely the norm.
But what does that mean to the local business owner? How can you keep track of all these nuanced changes? Well, it turns out, there’s an app for that.
At Mozcon 2012, SEOMoz released its latest tool for the SEO community, aptly named MozCast. This Google Algorithm weather report demonstrates the turbulence in the search engine's algo over the previous 24 hours—the stormier and hotter the forecast, the more Google's rankings changed. Each temperature is also paired with a "severity level" for more visually inclined folks:
SEOMoz tracks a selected list of 1,000 keywords and grabs the Top-10 Google organic results for each. Each day, MozCast takes the current Top-10 SERPs and compares it with the previous day’s results to calculate a rate of change across the entire set of keywords. The result is a daily forecast with an explanation on days where major Events occur, which looks something like this:
If you are still not convinced that daily monitoring of Google’s algo is necessary, or why you might want to care about SEO in the first place, just ask fellow SEOs who are anxiously awaiting the next Penguin update after Matt Cutts’ slightly cryptic and naturally wherewithal remarks at SES San Francisco this past weekend:
We're still in the early stages of Penguin where the engineers are incorporating new signals and iterating to improve the algorithm. Because of that, expect that the next few Penguin updates will take longer, incorporate additional signals, and as a result will have more noticeable impact.”
In any event, business owners and SEOs alike need to brace themselves for the next big Google update…and the Level-5 storm that’s on the horizon. Keep reading our blog in the near future for more updates on our cuddly “Pandeguin.”