Perhaps in response to one of my recent blog posts about search engine ranking problems, I got an email today from James who owns a website called 4insure dot net. He asked me if I would take a look at his web site and see if I can figure out why he is having search engine ranking problems. Here is his question:
I love your blog… you have a lot of useful internet marketing content.
I was wondering if you could do a blog post about the situation I’m currently having.
My site, 4insure.net, was recently penalized in Google. I got one of those -50 penalties where I go down to page 5 or 6 for all of my search terms (including site name). It has been like this for nearly 2 months… since September 24, 2010.
I used to be ranking #1 for the term “auto insurance quotes” and also on page one for “auto insurance”.
Now, they say that incoming links cannot hurt your site, but that is the only explanation I can think of for my situation. There are a lot of blog comments pointing to my URL. Most of these comments, as well as many of the links pointing to my site, are links that I personally never created.
I have never purchased links nor have done any automated link building such as xrumer… The domain is 11 years old and I have devoted the past few years of my life to it. I built it up to a million dollar company with many employees only to have it unexpectedly crash and burn over night.
You can check the lengthy thread about my site on http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread?tid=6dcd2428eb4fc691&hl=en
Possible blog topics for this include:
competitors damaging your SEO ranks
getting penalized for incoming links
Google penalizing your site and not telling you the reason/never responding
I look forward to hearing your response.
Thanks a lot,
Well, James, I did take a quick look at the Google support forum thread and quickly figured out that there were several people who took issue with the site in general (like talking about the content) rather than looking and analyzing the issue at hand: which why the site is not ranking as well as it did in the past. You mention the links, so that is where I went first (after verifying that the site’s content really isn’t the major issue here). I crawled the website and it does not look like there are any major on-site issues. However, you may want to start linking out a bit more to some more “trusted” websites.
It looks like you bought the domain around May of 2006, and it had some links already (it’s not 11 years old): the site does not look like it did in 1999 and even in 2005, so it may have been an expired domain: did you pick up the domain name and start building links (which were not the same quality as it already had)?
I took a look at the nearly 100,000 backlinks to the website that site has. What I quickly determined is that the site does not have “ideal” links. In fact, there are a LOT of blog comments, links in blog posts that are completely off-topic (a link on a Cat blog to your auto insurance website). You mentioned that the site was “recently” penalized in Google, but it does appear that there have been a lot of off-topic links that have been posted for over a year now like this one:
You do have some good links like this one here: http://www.business.com/directory/automotive/finance/insurance/ that have been around for quite some time. However, lately, there have been some additional links like http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978394826 where the anchor text used is a bit “too good” for my personal taste. And then there are these links like this one: http://www.mfpayments.co.uk/forum/read.php?2,7103 that indicates that someone from “low cost links” may be building links for your website. Are you sure it’s your competitor buying these low cost links?
If one of your competitors has actually been “building links for you” as you might be suggesting, then they certainly are using anchor text that is targeted to your website, and you may be suffering because of that. If you take a look at all of the backlinks to your website and analyze the anchor text, the majority of the links pointing to your website includes “auto insurance” or something related to auto insurance. While this is good, I believe that Google may think that this is “too targeted” and “unnatural”. I would personally expect that there would be “some” anchor text that includes your targeted keywords, but there is an overwhelming amount of backlinks that do NOT include your brand name, 4insure or 4insure.net.
The good news is that the website is not banned and does not appear to be banned in the search engines.
So, what now?
That’s probably what you are thinking at this point. How do I recover from these search engine ranking problems? You have several options at this point. You could simply take your website content, move to a domain, and start fresh again. While this is an option, most likely it is not what you would prefer. But, because of all of the old links that are very spammy in nature, this may be the best option.
Another option would be to not worry too much about those links. Start building quality links to your website, create “link bait” type of content, and start thinking more about an insurance business and a bit less about being an affiliate. Start working on building your 4insure.net brand, making absolutely sure that all of the anchor text that you get to your website does not include “car insurance” or “auto insurance” but your BRAND name. Take a look at all of the links to your website. The majority of them are spammy blog comments and low quality links. Work on getting quality links, links from the social media websites (be active on the social sites, be helpful). It will take time to build up the brand links to your site. The problem is that your anchor text is “too targeted” and not natural.