Still working on Google Penguin Recovery... what a chore!!

23 replies
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So yeah, my site got slammed - not slam-dunked - into oblivion a couple of months ago. I have been trying like crazy to figure out what I'd done so wrong!

I analyzed my backlinks and keyword density - all good. My domain name is good, as are my pages - or so I thought.

And then last night, after leaving the site sit for a LONG time out of frustration - Light Bulb! I knew what was wrong!

You wanna talk about "over optimization!" Google never sent me a penalty letter and they've never de-indexed any of my pages. But wow - if they had, I wouldn't have been surprised, especially after the re-analysis I did last night.

I took another look at how my pages are named. And I can certainly see how Google's thinking I'm over-optimizing the "keywords" when I was just trying to categorize things. My custom order form is set up so that I know what design they're ordering because the form captures the page they're on when they place the order.

Sooooooooooo......

I'm in the process now of renaming ALL of the individual order pages WITHOUT THE KEYWORD in it - and moving them all to respective new category directories. That means I don't have to have the keywords IN the page names, just in the category name.

AND I'm using "shortcuts" for the page names.

Great example is the beach-wedding-favors.html page where every bookmark page is named starting the same way:
beach_wedding_sunset_design
beach_wedding_coconut_design
beach_wedding_seashells_design etc.

I also had A LOT of my page names ending with -bookmarks.html or _bookmarks.html

BIG TIME OVERUSE of the keyword "beach wedding" (or "memorial" or "flower_design" etc.) and "bookmarks" so obviously Google thinks - SPAMMING. When that's NOT what I was trying to do.

So I'm making copies of the old pages, renaming the copies, putting noindex, nofollow on the old pages and meta=refresh from the old pages to the new pages.

What a chore! I never thought of this at all whatsoever when I decided to build out the site. Learnin' the hard way!

Okay, back to renaming this and redirecting that. ROFL
#chore #google #penguin #recovery #working
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  • Profile picture of the author rahmanpaidar
    You are going to kill all those left traffics to your site.
    By renaming all your pages and categories, you will kill pr and backlinks juice to your pages.
    BTW, You will get lots of 404 error in your WMT for a few seasons.
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    • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
      Originally Posted by rahmanpaidar View Post

      You are going to kill all those left traffics to your site.
      By renaming all your pages and categories, you will kill pr and backlinks juice to your pages.
      BTW, You will get lots of 404 error in your WMT for a few seasons.
      Nope - I still have all of the old pages uploaded; they redirect to the new pages so there's no 404 errors at all. And to avoid the duplicate content crap, the old pages are coded no index, no follow.

      I double checked everything, one page at a time - about 170 pages, and everything's cool.

      And actually, I've had just about ZERO traffic coming from Google since the update, so I'm not hurting anything. In fact, this will be a huge help moving ahead.
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  • Profile picture of the author boxoun
    Not sure about recovery but at least you are starting to understand better URL structure.
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    • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
      Originally Posted by boxoun View Post

      Not sure about recovery but at least you are starting to understand better URL structure.
      I'm really hoping it does help with getting my SE position back. I wasn't able to use "categories" and sub-directories though. My custom order form isn't set up for that. But if it was an over-optimization problem that killed the site, then de-optimizing it should do the trick.
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  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that is not the reason your site is not ranking. There is no such thing as "over optimization". And if keywords in the URL were a big problem then ESPN would be screwed for terms like baseball, football, basketball and CNN would have problems because of all the times they use news, president, weather, money, market, war, etc.

    If you didn't do proper 301's with changing all the URL's, you likely hurt yourself further instead of helped yourself.
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    • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
      Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that is not the reason your site is not ranking. There is no such thing as "over optimization". And if keywords in the URL were a big problem then ESPN would be screwed for terms like baseball, football, basketball and CNN would have problems because of all the times they use news, president, weather, money, market, war, etc.

      If you didn't do proper 301's with changing all the URL's, you likely hurt yourself further instead of helped yourself.
      First - thanks for the 301 info! I'm doing that RIGHT NOW! I didn't know what that was so I went on trusty ol' YouTube and I'm doing all of that fun stuff to 177 pages now.

      Next, unfortunately, I think over-optimization is exactly what it was. For instance, I had 30 pages all named flower_design_xxx and another 32 pages named memorial_xxx, and so on. So it wasn't like having a page here and there having the keywords in the URL.

      Also, e-commerce sites got hammered pretty good with this latest update. I have 177 pages that have "nothing" on them but an image, pricing, shipping and an order form. No other content. Everything on each page is exactly the same except for the image.

      And with 177 pages of what Google sees as "duplicate content" plus have most of those pages end in "bookmarks" plus 30 pages here, 15 pages there, etc. all starting with same keyword as the category page, you can bet that "over optimization" is exactly what killed my site.

      My site was on the first page of Google, above the fold, for many of its keywords. And I was getting a good deal of traffic. Until Penguin. I hadn't done anything with the site since the last Penguin update because I needed to analyze what it was that got my site knocked down.

      And this is what it has to be, because everything else is okay. So for example, what I did when I built the site out was added a category page named memorial-bookmarks and then 32 pages - one order page each for the 32 designs, and they were all named memorial_xxx.

      I did the same thing for the flower category, baby shower category, etc. Every order page in that category was named with the keyword. That is keyword stuffing, a/k/a "over optimization."

      Plus more than half of those pages ended with _bookmarks, another obvious overuse or abuse or "over-optimization" of my primary keyword 'bookmarks.'

      So yeah, ignorance isn't always bliss when you're building an e-commerce site for the first time. Live and learn.

      So what I did was remove the "memorial" and replaced it with "mem" so the page is prefaced with more of a code than an actual keyword.

      So yeah, I can see how Google thought I had "abused" the keywords throughout my site.

      And no, if I put "noindex nofollow" Google knows not to index or follow those particular pages.

      Also, on each separate order page, I also added the rel="canonical" referencing the respective category pages.

      My site was doing great until I decided to add a separate order page for each bookmark design. And yes, there is a Google Over-Optimization penalty. I was just fortunate that my pages weren't de-indexed and I never received a penalty letter. But I would anticipate one if I didn't fix this.

      6 Changes Every SEO Should Make BEFORE the Over-Optimization Penalty Hits - Whiteboard Friday | SEOmoz

      Google Plans SEO Over-Optimization Penalty | Practical eCommerce

      Your Website Might Be Over Optimized If
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  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    You are listening to bad, outdated advice.

    This whole idea of over optimization is a big myth. It all started back in January when Matt Cutts was at some marketing or SEO conference and mention that they would soon be releasing an "over optimization" penalty to the algorithm. Everyone started freaking out and de-optimizing their sites. SEOmoz even did that Whiteboard Friday you linked to about it.

    Well the over optimization penalty turned out to be Penguin, which had almost absolutely nothing to do with onpage SEO and almost everything to do with low quality backlinks. This is what the Webspam team saw as "over optimization". People were blasting out thousands of low quality links, and for many keywords it would rank a site.

    Matt Cutts himself later said he wished he had not used the term "over optimization" because it gave people the wrong idea about what was coming.

    If keywords in the URL were a problem, like I said, there are a lot of sites that would be screwed. ESPN has the word baseball in over 3500 URLs. Guess they will never rank for that. Oh, wait, they are #3 for that.

    I could go on with hundreds of examples, but there is no need.

    You are fixing something that is not broken.

    By the way, check the dates on all those articles you posted. They are all pre-Penguin. They were nothing but speculation about what the new algorithm change might be.
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    • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
      Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

      You are listening to bad, outdated advice.

      This whole idea of over optimization is a big myth. It all started back in January when Matt Cutts was at some marketing or SEO conference and mention that they would soon be releasing an "over optimization" penalty to the algorithm. Everyone started freaking out and de-optimizing their sites. SEOmoz even did that Whiteboard Friday you linked to about it.

      Well the over optimization penalty turned out to be Penguin, which had almost absolutely nothing to do with onpage SEO and almost everything to do with low quality backlinks. This is what the Webspam team saw as "over optimization". People were blasting out thousands of low quality links, and for many keywords it would rank a site.

      Matt Cutts himself later said he wished he had not used the term "over optimization" because it gave people the wrong idea about what was coming.

      If keywords in the URL were a problem, like I said, there are a lot of sites that would be screwed. ESPN has the word baseball in over 3500 URLs. Guess they will never rank for that. Oh, wait, they are #3 for that.

      I could go on with hundreds of examples, but there is no need.

      You are fixing something that is not broken. Trust me.
      Okay, then why did so many e-commerce sites get hit? I've analyzed my backlinks. I never did any "spammy" automated backlinking. I've done the normal, everyday, natural backlinks... articles on solid, long-term blogs and other sites, social bookmarking, YouTube - but nothing automated or robot generated. No link pyramids or link wheels, nothing like that. "White Hat" all the way.

      And if it was a thing of overusing the anchor text, what do I do - keep building new, fresh links with off the wall anchor text? The name of the store is The Bookmarks Store; it's what I sell.

      I'm really confused now. I don't know what to do. Leave it alone? Take it down? Just say, oh well, so much for that business and shut the whole thing down? I mean, I can't even GIVE it away now because it's getting virtually ZERO traffic.

      I mean, it can't "hurt," at least trying the page name changes and the 301s, right? :confused: :confused: :confused:

      I'm just really ticked off because the sites that are now ranking higher than mine - which were on page 2 and beyond - are nowhere near as clean and well laid out as mine. Not trying to brag; I had tons of customers - before Penguin - that called me and said that after visiting the other sites, they always came back to mine because I had ...

      1. better designs
      2. easier to navigate
      3. easier to order
      4. better prices
      5. more personalization
      6. easy to contact
      7. better customer service

      But I guess none of that counts anymore because nobody's finding me being buried on pages 5+. It's really, really, really aggravating because I can't get any answers anywhere of what to do.

      It's like, if it's not this and it's not that and it's not something else, then WTF is it?? What do I do?

      In the meantime, since I have nothing else to do with the site, because I don't know WTF to do with it, AND because I've already set all of the pages up for meta-refresh, I'm going to go ahead and finish the 301 redirect - unless somebody comes up with something better.
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      • Profile picture of the author digga123
        What backlink analysis tools have you used? Majestic, Ahrefs?
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  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    For how long had your site been ranking okay? Were you ranking for a few weeks, a few months, a few years?

    How old is this site?
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    • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
      Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

      For how long had your site been ranking okay? Were you ranking for a few weeks, a few months, a few years?

      How old is this site?
      Here's the history:
      2009 I launched wedding-favor-bookmarks.com
      2009 I launched memorial-bookmarks.com
      For three years both sites were ranking on page #1 of Google for various keywords.

      Around April 2012 I merged the two together under one domain, the-bookmarks-store.com

      Within a month, the new site was ranking on page #1 of Google for a variety of keywords and stayed that way until around July or August.

      Again, all "white hat" link building, mostly with content, videos, etc.

      And then BAM. Right after last two Penguin updates, I was buried. No problems with the Panda update earlier this year, just after Penguin.

      So for the last three months all I've been doing is videos and social bookmarking those and not doing anything at all to the site because I had no idea what to do.

      This person says this, somebody else says that; Google says one thing, then says something else. And nobody can tell me what I should be doing - so I've been doing Nothing.

      Until last night when I thought "maybe" it's the on-site keyword usage.

      And now I hear that's not it.

      I'm a firm believe of if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But "something" *broke* my site and I'm trying like hell to figure out what so I CAN fix it. So far obviously to no avail because it's still not coming up in rank. :confused:

      As an aside: it's ranking extremely well in Yahoo and Bing but I don't get enough traffic from either of those to make up for the loss of Google traffic.
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      • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
        Your links are the problem. I just took a quick scan through some of them.

        You have tons of blog comments on pages with hundreds of outgoing links.

        You have links on "directory" pages that have several hundred outgoing links on the same page.

        There are lots of links from completely unrelated sites.

        You have very few links from any pages with actual PR. Also, you are losing a lot of links. I used SpyGlass and its databases found 428 links to your site. However, only 132 of them still exist.

        Some are just gone. Some the entire websites do not exist anymore (or someone forgot to pay their hosting bill).

        This was all just at a glance of your backlinks. I didn't dig in too much. Not to be harsh, but from what I can see, there is no reason why your website should be ranking highly.
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        • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
          Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

          Your links are the problem. I just took a quick scan through some of them.

          You have tons of blog comments on pages with hundreds of outgoing links.

          You have links on "directory" pages that have several hundred outgoing links on the same page.

          There are lots of links from completely unrelated sites.

          You have very few links from any pages with actual PR. Also, you are losing a lot of links. I used SpyGlass and its databases found 428 links to your site. However, only 132 of them still exist.

          Some are just gone. Some the entire websites do not exist anymore (or someone forgot to pay their hosting bill).

          This was all just at a glance of your backlinks. I didn't dig in too much. Not to be harsh, but from what I can see, there is no reason why your website should be ranking highly.
          Interesting... And here I thought that blog commenting was a good thing. :confused: I actually tried to comment on the same blogs where my competitors were. I used Google to search for the blogs that were in my related industry, i.e., weddings, party planning, etc. and I left good comments, not spun spammy things.

          I guess if they chose to let their blogs go to pot, it ultimately affects ours, and that's not a good thing. That's actually pretty crappy.

          I don't know about the unrelated sites part. That isn't something I would have set up myself. But then, we can't control if other people put links to our sites from their crappy ones. And we can't control what other sites shut down either.

          So what do I do to clean that up? Or can I? Or should I just keep on doing social bookmarking and writing more content so I get some more natural and solid links to offset the bad ones?

          I'm also going to look into that tool.

          Thanks!


          Note: I'm putting everything back the way it was. If the page names aren't the problem, then it's useless to take up any more time on it setting up the proper 301 redirect. :-/
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        • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
          Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

          You have very few links from any pages with actual PR. Also, you are losing a lot of links. I used SpyGlass and its databases found 428 links to your site. However, only 132 of them still exist.

          Some are just gone. Some the entire websites do not exist anymore (or someone forgot to pay their hosting bill).

          This was all just at a glance of your backlinks. I didn't dig in too much. Not to be harsh, but from what I can see, there is no reason why your website should be ranking highly.
          Yup - looks kind of sucky, doesn't it.

          I downloaded and ran SpyGlass.

          So I guess I have my work cut for me - again - to try to get this site's positioning back up before Google takes my PR away next!
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        • Profile picture of the author jmae SEO
          Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

          Your links are the problem. I just took a quick scan through some of them.

          You have tons of blog comments on pages with hundreds of outgoing links.

          You have links on "directory" pages that have several hundred outgoing links on the same page.

          There are lots of links from completely unrelated sites.

          You have very few links from any pages with actual PR. Also, you are losing a lot of links. I used SpyGlass and its databases found 428 links to your site. However, only 132 of them still exist.

          Some are just gone. Some the entire websites do not exist anymore (or someone forgot to pay their hosting bill).

          This was all just at a glance of your backlinks. I didn't dig in too much. Not to be harsh, but from what I can see, there is no reason why your website should be ranking highly.

          Wow! Talk about some serious help.

          The blog comments and directory listings would certainly have an impact - especially given the changes that came with Penguin.
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          • Profile picture of the author troybh
            Give it up. Your going crazy and it is really of no use. You got a 2 bit site and google wants these 2 bit sites to pay for adwords or go out of business. Start a new site or concentrate on getting social with your old site.
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            • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
              Originally Posted by troybh View Post

              Give it up. Your going crazy and it is really of no use. You got a 2 bit site and google wants these 2 bit sites to pay for adwords or go out of business. Start a new site or concentrate on getting social with your old site.
              Well, that "2 bit site" as you call it paid all my bills every month until Penguin. I was shipping bookmarks nationwide including into Canada and the UK. And I had repeat orders. So I don't think I'd refer to it as a "2-bit site."

              My two top competitors don't pay for AdWords. In fact, there's only ONE other competitor of all of my competitors who does. And they get LESS traffic than my competitor who doesn't use AdWords.

              Now that I know where the problem is, I can start figuring out how to fix the problem. But I'm certainly not throwing away all the work I've done thus far - with the help from a few members here in fact.
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          • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
            Originally Posted by jmae SEO View Post

            Wow! Talk about some serious help.

            The blog comments and directory listings would certainly have an impact - especially given the changes that came with Penguin.
            I know!
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  • Profile picture of the author ProSence
    I think this url structure would be helpful for your new site, for old site is not helpful.
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  • Profile picture of the author bookmarking
    It also happened to me with a site of mine (very similar story with yours!).
    After a lot of struggle I decided to give up and start with a new site
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    • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
      Originally Posted by bookmarking View Post

      It also happened to me with a site of mine (very similar story with yours!).
      After a lot of struggle I decided to give up and start with a new site
      Oh, I feel for you!!! I JUST finished my overhaul!!! What I did was actually made two videos - one for a temporary index.html page and one for the 404 Error page.

      I wanted to be able to actually TELL them that I was giving the site a good cleaning up and avoid people not coming back due to pages not being found. It makes it more personal I think.

      And then I went about creating new directories, renaming some pages and literally re-reading every.single.article on my site, checking outbound links, etc. I may have missed a few, not sure. I'm going to run a tool to check for any broken links after both of my site maps are finished.

      It's been a LONG day working on this but I'm not ready to give up on my site yet.

      I did some reading about URL structure and I think that was one more thing that was really hanging me up. So now everything is cleaned up and very well organized.

      And as for the crappy inbound links, I'll probably outsource the cleaning up of those - maybe. I haven't decided yet. I'm still a little leery about using the Disavow tool. And in the time it's going to take me to try and contact the website owners, which for most of them it'll be nearly impossible, I can use that time a lot more wisely by looking for other great linking opportunities to offset those.

      It may take some time, but I believe it's worth it.
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