The Good Neighbor Phenomenon – surveying the link building landscape
Recently one of my main websites took a massive hit in traffic. As expected, it had something to do with my Google Rank slowly slipping and then taking an abrupt tank. After nearly 100 hours of restructuring my internal links, adjusting ad placements (yes, Google will knock you if a great percentage of ads are above the fold), and optimizing every small detail about my site, the rankings did not come back. I had done almost no link building on this domain as people naturally linked to the content in a manor far better than any spam links would achieve. So, being hit for this would have made no sense.
I resolved that I must have been experiencing an overarching new Google update that the SEO community loves to hate. The timing was a bit delayed, but that was the only explanation. I turned my head down in solemn defeat. My days of passive income from this site were gone, and after one heck of a fight.
I turned my head down in solemn defeat, my days of passive income from this site were gone, and after one heck of a fight.
Days later, I had a brief moment of joy. When I had purchased this site and all its grandiosity some months earlier, I had to agree to satisfy existing contracts for advertising. Yes, there were a few paid links that had to stay on my site against my desire. Many advertisers with the old owner contacted me to renew, but I turned down the business. One advertiser did the opposite. I received an email from an individual saying he was the new account rep, and he was not renewing ANY contracts.
I had not yet removed any of the links, but a new ounce of suspicion led me to investigate the neighborhood my outbound-links were pointing to. After much effort I concluded a surprisingly white-hat group of sites. The coal in the bottom of the stocking?… The website that had attempted to improve its investments, shot itself in the foot.
The coal in the bottom of the stocking?… The website that had attempt to improve its investments, shot itself in the foot.
The website, while white-hat in aggregate, had removed a great deal of their old “black-hat” links at such a velocity that they had triggered bad attention from Google. This, in return, was dragging my site down with them; a site that couldn’t move much further up the white-hat scale. (Despite my obvious sainthood, I will admit that not all of my sites are managed in this way)
I removed the link. For testing purposes, I waited to remove the rest to see if one bad neighbor could have so much impact. Within 36 hours my rankings skyrocketed upwards. Three days out and they were almost entirely back to normal. However, removing the other links that did represent a black-hat activity from the previous owner had no effect.
A Few Thoughts:
- Keep an eye on your outbound neighbors. You don’t have to track every link, but the few with prominent placement across your site should stay in the back of your mind.
- My experience may not me normal. In most cases one bad neighbor shouldn’t hit you so hard. I believe it was exacerbated by the level of error made by my neighbor.
- If you have paid links out there and are trying to clean up your image, use some common sense, don’t let them all expire at the same time… that isn’t very natural.
If you have paid links out there and are trying to clean up your image, use some common sense, don’t let them all expire at the same time… that isn’t very natural.