Check out my thoughts on the latest Matt Cutts Video over on the Creative Jar site here!
In this post I’m going to take a look at the now infamous Interflora Google penalty.
1. What happened?
I guess the first thing we should cover off is exactly what happened. In February of this year, Interflora was hit hard by a Google penalty. Overnight, they lost established rankings for keywords such as [flower delivery], [florist], [flowers], [flowers online] and hundreds of other related keywords. They were even deindexed for their own brand name. I imagine that the 20th February was probably a long day in the office for the team managing Interflora’s SEO, but I don’t feel too sorry for them.
2. Why did this happen?
Interflora got hit with this penalty because they purchased backlinks, there is nothing more to it than this. They had approached hundreds of bloggers and given them free products in return for links. However, the quality of these blogs were poor. They are blogs that take any handout or payout going and link to just about anything. They have little relevancy and unfortunately for Interflora, this tactic has backfired badly.
3. How did they fix it?
Interflora made contact with all of the bloggers they had secured links from and asked for them to be removed. There were bloggers reporting contact from Interflora less than 24 hours after the penalty hit (see below), so the team knew what they had done wrong and knew where to go to fix it. I imagine they were also submitting disavow requests like their lives depended on it.
Full credit for the above screengrab must go to Geir Ellefsen.
4. What happened in the end?
Interflora are back, their rankings have more or less picked up again and they have hopefully learnt from their mistakes. It’s alarming to think that this happened to such a recognised brand that has dominated the SERPs in their market for a long time. It’s also frightening to think that it was only 24 months ago that I was reading about how sending free products to bloggers was a viable strategy to get links. Now it looks as though Google can not only detect this, but is actively penalising those that have engaged with the tactic.
It was only by chance when I checked my Twitter stream after a late night call with the awesome guys over at Woopra, that I saw a lot of tweets about a session at SXSW on how to rank better on Google & Bing. My interest was sparked when I saw the panel for the session was made up of Danny Sullivan, the founding editor of Search Engine Land, Duane Forrester, a Sr. Product Manager with Bing and the big man himself, Matt Cutts, the head of the webspam team at Google.
To save you the hassle of looking through your Twitter stream, I’ve pulled together some of the highlights for you below.
First off, Matt confirmed that 98,000 sites were penalised this week as part of an effort to bring down a link network. The community has been awash with theories that it was the Russian SAPE network that has been hit, check out this post by Barry Schwartz. However, if you dig a little deeper and go a little darker, the chaps over at Black Hat World are pretty confident that it’s not the SAPE network that has been targeted, check out this thread for yourself. All we know for sure is that a link network has been hit and I’m sure that there a few amongst us that had an extremely stressful day once they found their site had been wiped off Google.
trashed gave some insight on press releases, stating that they might be good for getting honest citations from newspapers, but they don’t actually have any value. In fact, Google hasn’t trusted press releases since 2006.
Duane revealed that dirty links, I’m looking at you Scrapebox abusers, are being ignored when pointed to sites with high authority, which got a nod of agreement from Matt. Please don’t panic all those pedalling negative SEO, you’re still free to build 10,000 links to my clients low authority domain with the anchor text “cheap viagra” and it’ll still get penalised.
Duane also shared with us that Schema data does not directly affect rankings, though it does help search engines understand the site better – queue “Schema” to join “Guest Blogging” as the top SEO sales buzzword for 2013. Please don’t get too excited though, both Google and Bing are still testing how users respond to showing schema markup in the SERPs, so it’s still sporadically appearing.
Thanks for reading this far, as a reward, I’ve saved the hardest hitting insight till last:
Duane offered this piece of wisdom, “there are no shortcuts to online success anymore. Start building authority in a niche, then expand”. Thankfully, I’ve spent the best part of a year reading variants of that statement all over the SEOmoz forums, so I’m already one step ahead of you buddy.
Credit for this post must go to Thomas Høgenhaven for his fantastic coverage of the event.
I have an awesome job as a Digital Planner at Creative Jar where my time is spent optimising sites, generating insight from analytics and solving problems that both colleagues and clients come to me with. I’m lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented people who are all brilliant at what they do and can design, code, manage projects and deal with clients a lot better than I can!
In my career so far, I’ve developed bespoke SEO strategies for clients, generated hard hitting insights from analytics and have been hired as an SEO & Analytics advisor by a FTSE 100 company.
This blog isn’t to act as a commentary on what I am up to at work, for that you can check out my Twitter or the Creative Jar Blog. Instead, this blog is to give a little back to the fantastic community that has given me both a career and one of my passions. I’m going to do my best to share with you what’s in my head and hopefully you’ll learn a thing or two along the way.
By Tom Blackshire