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March 23, 2010

Post Mortem: Banned Site Forensics

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Moderator:
Adam Goldberg, Chief Innovation Officer, ClearSaleing

Speakers:
Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOmoz.org
Michael Stebbins, CEO and founder, Market Motive

Banned Site Forensics Panel

Michael, @MichaelStebbins, is presenting first and says that he teaches SEO through the Market Motive courses, but they also take on a limited number of clients to figure out what issues are affecting sites so that they can keep their courses up-to-date.

Are You Really Banned?

Check out your Webmaster Tools to make sure it’s banned. But if you don’t have access to Webmaster Tools for the domain you’re interested in, do a site: search and if zero results are returned, then the site is likely banned. If there are results, then it’s not banned. If there are less results than before, it may be penalized.

One Reason or Many?

  1. Find reasons and prioritize them by the degree of sin, from venial to mortal.
  2. Likely for re-inclusion? If no, then invest in another priority. If yes, then fix your issues.

Myth: Repeated requests to Google can get you banned.

  • Not a reason for Web site removal
  • Typically confused with getting services blocked to a client

Sin 1: Linking to Bad neighborhoods

  • This is a “hint” to Google
  • Imply reciprocal links and/or agreements that are not natural representation of organic links and genuine relevance.
  • Low on the sin scale

Sin 2: Keeping bad company

  • Sharing server IP addresses with bad sites?
  • Find out:
    • Who’s on my Web server?
    • Have any of those sites been banned?
  • Plug your IP into myipneighbors.com or linkvendor.com
    • Are there any sites with zero pages?
    • http://tr.im/smallscript is a little script he wrote that queries Google
  • Medium on the sin scale

Sin 3: Using other people’s content

  • First page to put the content up and get indexed wins and the rest are considered less relevant.
  • Pure scraper sites don’t show up in the index.
  • It’s not the main reason a site will be pulled from the index, but it will exacerbate other problems.
  • Medium on the sin scale.

Sin 4: Fake popularity

  • >80 percent of links to a site are to or from your other sites
  • Detected by seeing same C class IP
    • AdSense ID (they’re 90 percent certain that this is being used to determine common ownership)
    • Google Analytics ID (40 percent certain)
    • Registration info (90 percent certainty when manual)
  • Incoming links should be evenly distributed across many IP addresses
  • Mortal sin

Sin 5: Selling naked links

  • Usually results in penalty but can result in removal
  • Exacerbated by other sins, if caught
  • Hard to detect: sites can fly under the radar
    • Unless ratted out
    • “Buy text links” or other like phrases on site
  • Mortal sin

Sin 6: Fake relevance

  • This is the number one reason they see people pulled.
  • It’s okay to present different content to bots and users as long as the intent isn’t for rankings.
  • It’s not okay to fake relevance by hiding text, hiding links, hiding auto redirects and doorway pages.
  • Mortal sin

Getting Re-included

  • If your site is guilty of three mortal sins, consider investing elsewhere.
  • If your site is guilty of two mortal sins, it might be worth a try if you:
    • Fix problems.
    • Prepare to confess. In detail.
    • Submit site for reconsideration. Use the Webmaster Tools form.
    • Note: They’ve never seen a site re-included if one of the mortal sins is selling text links.

In a reconsideration request:

  • Claim love for your site. Explain why your site is worth while to Google’s users.
  • Admit what you were doing wrong and explain what you’ve done to remove the problem.

Rand, @randfish, takes the podium next. He’s going to talk about knowing when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em and how to circumvent the reconsideration process.

If you’ve confirmed that a ban or penalty is happening on your site. So are you doing to fight or take flight?

Conditions for a Fight

  • You have a respected, prominent or growing brand and have significant traffic coming from multiple traffic sources.
  • If you own a single site, or maybe two or three. When many sites are owned by one person, the search engine’s perception is that something is up because that’s not typical and doesn’t make much sense.
  • Non-egregious violations
  • Low number of offenses
  • First-time offender
  • Connections to the engines. Knowing people at the Googleplex helps. Likewise, it can help to come to events like SES where you can talk to people with connections.

Conditions for Flight

  • (Somewhat) easy to recreate
  • Low brand value
  • Low quantity/quality of links
  • Multi-strike offender
  • You’ll get the experience to do better next time

How to Get Black Hat Results with White Hat Tactics

These are legal ways to do the stuff you’ve been getting penalized for.

  • Linkbait and link magnets
  • Embedded content, like badges and widgets
  • Branding and product naming. Be strategic with your product name, domain name, microsite.
  • Content and technology licensing
  • Cookies/session IDs and logged-in users. It’s okay to serve different pages if people are coming in from different places looking for specific things.
  • Selling links. The white hat way.
    • Sell access to a link-likely audience. Mashable includes links to advertisers between stories. Other examples are TechCrunch and TechMeme. Yes, they’re nofollow links but it’s got branding, advertising and traffic benefit.
    • It doesn’t have to be on the Web. It can be on e-mail.
    • Redirect live link conversations to event sponsorships, promotions, partnerships. “I’m sorry, we don’t sell links because it’s against Google guidelines. There are some options we offer you might want to investigate.” And show them examples that suggest that links are part of it as well, just not in so many words.
    • Sell “reviews” of sites/products/services for potential inclusion and not for links.
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