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Thursday, August 20th, 2009

How to Identify a Google Penalty

Last week I wrote a story called “How a Google Penalty Can Make Your Site Stronger” and since then I have received a lot of inquiries about how to identify if a site has been penalized. Instead of answering every email individually, which I could never find the time to do, I figured I had better create a quick list of the most obvious indicators of a Google penalty which I could refer people to and build on when I have more time.

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Over the past 12 years consulting on web marketing  I have answered countless questions but one question I receive often stands out from all; how to remove a Google penalty. The following is an example of a question I received in the past from a person named Patrick:

PLEASE HELP! For the last 8 years we were #1 for a ton of search terms but then my site got penalized by Google because we had overused some keywords. We fixed the issue months ago but my top rankings are all still over the place. Sometimes we get back into the top 10 and we all breathe a sigh of relief, then just a few hours later we are on page 5. What is going on and how can I correct this? We are beyond frustrated!


First, Some Research

In order to answer Patrick’s question I needed to find out a couple of things about his website to make my answer more accurate:

  • His site has excellent content right now and when I looked at past versions of the site I see the content was still great but definitely had keyword stuffing problems.

    Key finding: his site is really well done so I can see why it had top rankings before.

  • I took a look at competitors found in the top 10 under several keyword searches that were obviously main targets for his website. After reviewing the backlinks (definition) for each competitor’s sites I could see they were all very well entrenched but their content was not up to par with Patrick’s site. I reviewed Patrick’s backlinks and was surprised to find that he had very few.  Key finding:his competitors have a lot of backlinks than Patrick’s site does.

    An SEO Tool Note: I use Yahoo Site Explorer for cursory examination of backlinks for my clients and their competitors. For more in-depth research I use OptiLink by Winrose Software (that is an affiliate link) which provides excellent statistics that are very useful for analyzing the quality of backlinks among other things. Here are more recommended web marketing tools.

  • I checked the server headers for their home page and other key pages to make sure nothing was outwardly wrong with their server configuration; everything was fine.
  • I took some time to surf through Patrick’s website and discovered that not all of the keyword stuffing had been removed.

    Key Finding: Google may still feel his site deserves a penalty because it is not 100% clean.

Read more…

marketshare-may-2009Earlier today Nielsen Online (pdf) released the latest search share rankings. Figures are pretty much what one would expect, Google far in the lead followed by Yahoo and MSN, but this past month Google has taken another small hit.

April and May of 2009 each saw Google lose a bit of ground. Back in March their search share was 64.2%, and in April it was down to 64%. May has seen another drop, bringing them down to 63.2%, a full percentage point in 2 months. In these same two months, Yahoo has increased a total of 1.4% to 17.2. Read more…

I was just reading more about the IIS SEO Toolkit when I came across the following interesting tutorial on how to block competitors from running the IIS SEO Toolkit on your servers. If you have an asp-based website then this is a mandatory update in my opinion unless you want your competitors to have easy access to your site’s information. That said, a lot of the information that the IIS SEO Toolkit provides is likely available through other tools but at least if you block the Toolkit you will make it that much harder on the competition.

Here is the tutorial: Read more…

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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Top Posts on Tips

Here are the top posts on “Tips” from the old StepForth SEO Blog.

The Ten Minute Optimization REDUX – A SEO Tips White Paper

‘A 10 minute process to optimize a web page for top search engine rankings.’

How to Troubleshoot Dropped Search Engine Rankings – A StepForth SEO Tutorial

‘Discover why your search engine rankings have dropped and what to do about it.’ Read more…


I came across a video on Twitter yesterday (thanks to user @mypluginplay) and after watching it I learned a few things about LinkedIn (a property where I have a profile but I haven’t researched yet) that were definitely worthy of sharing. Read more…

I was doing some of my daily news digging when I came across the following chart on MarketingCharts.com showing the Share of Ad Spending by Medium as of September 2008. With all of the discussion these days about TV and print advertising suffering during the (brace yourself for the phrase we all hate) economic downturn it will be interesting to compare these numbers to data a year from now. Read more…

google logoGoogle announced yesterday morning over at the two improvements they have made to the search results. These improvements include more refined results for specific searches, and longer snippets for long tail searches.

Search Refinements

This refinement will allow Google to offer more “related searches” for various queries that users perform. Now when you do a search in Google, at the bottom of the results there is small section of links titled “Searches related to:” These are links to other related searches. Read more…

From what I can gather RedZee should change their mascot to an animal more identified with shiftiness than a cute Zebra. Ever since I wrote “Seeing Red – Search Engine RedZee Reviewed” I have lost count how many people have either thanked me for saving them from spending money fruitlessly at RedZee or have told me they wished they saw my article before they paid for advertising there. But what brings me to mention RedZee today is an email I received from “Abe” (his name has been changed to protect his identity), a RedZee victim who is asking me to help him recoup nearly $1500 USD he spent on the search engine. Interesting, well let’s dig deeper here:

Abe, why are you trying to recoup your spend?

“After a week and several hundred “hits” I realized the service was a scam because I had no conversions and my tracking software showed that all my the “visitors” from RedZee landed on the same page and stayed less than 1 second.”

And what can I do to help?

“I was wondering if you can help me by providing your expert opinion to my credit card company regarding RedZee’s Referral Spam practices that have resulted in my receiving thousands of ‘hits’ but no conversions over the past 6 weeks.” Read more…

A big thanks to the wonderful Abby Prince from WebProNews for interviewing Matt Cutts explaining what the new Canonical tag is for and why it was created.


Here is a link to the Matt Cutts video shown above.
by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.