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John Hayes
By
November 13, 2014

How we restored our Engineering Visitors after Google’s Penguin update in October

Google penalized us for something we didn’t do.  Thankfully, the fix was easy.

 Like all engineering marketers, ENGINEERING.com relies on traffic from Google.  I track these figures daily because our 1.5M unique visitors per month are the lifeblood of our company. So when traffic to ENGINEERING.com dipped one day in October, I was a bit anxious. 

The first thing I did was check the daily traffic to our forum site, Eng-Tips.  Sure enough, traffic was down there too.

There are lots of reasons for short-term dips in web traffic, so rather than taking immediate action, I mentally filed it away for later follow-up. When it got to three days in a row, I called in our VP Digital Operations, Jon Semkiw.

 

penguin

Jon noted that the timing of our drop in traffic corresponded to a new refresh of the google “Penguin” algorithm.  This update punishes sites that have bad inbound links.

 

“The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared black-hat SEO techniques involved in increasing artificially the ranking of a webpage by manipulating the number of links pointing to the page.” - wikipedia

 

How did this happen?

ENGINEERING.com does not knowingly engage in any “black hat” SEO techniques.  So how could this happen to us?  And could it be happening to other engineering marketers?

 In reviewing Eng-tips Forums, Jon found several automated link aggregators (m.biz from China being the worst) that had 109,000 links to the site which accounted for 15% of total inbound links.  There were about a dozen other similar sites he found in a first run through the top 100.   Coincidentally, he also found 2 sites that had completely replicated Eng-tips Forums pages in their entirety.  Yikes!

When Jon researched ENGINEERING.com, he found more interesting results.  There were about 80 sites that appear to have been hacked that contained 9 links each to pages in one of our industry sections.  These were tagged with keywords such as payday loans, rolex watches cheap, and a couple of porn sites as well.  These sites were all linking to pages on ENGINEERING.com.  Jon’s security software was going crazy during this analysis!

 It seems that hackers attempt to improve their apparent legitimacy in the eyes of Google by linking to authoritative web sites.  Since linking to your web site does not require your permission, you can go a long time without ever finding out.   I recommend that you review your inbound links to see whether any such links to your site might be out there.

 What can you do about it?

Google provides a “disavow” tool that allows you to upload a list of sites/pages that you want Google to ignore in their page rank algorithm.  If you do that, when Google calculates the values of inbound links to your site it will not consider these.

 Jon submitted disavow lists to Google and we appear to have remedied our traffic. 

 This post was a little more technical than usual, but I hope you found it useful.

 John

 

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