The dynamics of run of site links penalty
These days forums and blogs are heavily populated with webmasters asking for help. Most want to know why they are disappearing from the SERPs for no apparent reason.
Many complain they have been bumped down 6 places (the -6 penalty) or multiples of 6 (something like -60) …
At first this happened on US sites, action was swift as the same pattern took shape here in Europe – here is what happened to a Client – it’s a story worth reading.
I got a call asking if there had been any significant change in Search Engine Rankings – "not that I know of" was my answer, but there had been for his website – a significant drop across the board for strategic keywords.
What had happened ? There was something very wrong with this website and it didn’t take long to find out. My first stop was Google Webmaster Tools. I headed straight for the link count and I found an increase in external links by a factor 8.
Within minutes I identified a number of sites with a link pointing the Home Page – 14 sites in all with the same identical anchor text for a grand total of 170,000 links that came into existence within a short period of time.
Run of site links triggered a penalty.
My Client knew nothing about these links, and I hadn’t ordered them either … they came about because the original site (with 1 link from the home page only) had blossomed into another 13 thus creating an ugly mini net. They decided to use the same template for all new sites as well, so each and every page of the entire network carried a link, thus flagging the website.
There was no change in PR – it looked like a healthy PR5 website, perhaps indicating this penalization was temporary.
When I contacted the mini net owner urging him to immediately remove the footer link he had no idea what he was doing and how it could affect 3rd parties involved – pretty scary isn’t it ?
Now to what happened when the links were removed.
It took 4 days for the penalty to be removed – rankings returned to the natural beauty 🙂 I was tempted to see if rankings would continue to sink if the run of site links hadn’t been removed but .. well that just wasn’t possible now was it ! (I am wondering if you might have more info to share on similar episodes you might like to share with me and other readers here – please do leave your comment).
So the run of site links were removed and they all lived happily ever after … or did they ??
- First of all in the eyes of a search engine this is seen as a (stupid) attempt to artificially inflate rankings and draws (unwanted) special attention
- It will be a cold day in hell before anyone can convince a Quality Control Engineer at Google (or any other Search Engine for that matter) that you had nothing to do with the incident and this will show up in the website history that could be used against you one day in the future
- Picture a scenario where your competitor sets up a mini net of spam sites and points hundreds of thousands of run of site links to your website(s) and send your site tumbling down, time after time … sounds like Google Bowling doesn’t it ?
- Let’s go one step further and elaborate this concept – I can see SPAM mini nets do hit jobs on commission to damage legitimate websites
If on one side Search Engines tend to actively discourage this technique, I think the case that I present should call for further in depth (internal) discussions to protect the white hat approach:
Wouldn’t it be better to simply ignore these links ? After all there is enough technology to understand the importance of page layout in SEO.
What’s your line of thought ? Do you have similar experiences to share ?