Years ago I did an awful thing! I polluted the Internet! Just saying it makes me feel better, now on to the post.
Back in the day I was paying for articles to be written for my sites. These sites were never going to be a main site so I didn't really care if they were going to be penalized. Actually I didn't really care since they brought in a lot of money. One of my sites was my sports site that I started back in 1999 or 2000. The plan went something like this. Do some keyword research and find the best keywords, get a writer to turn out 300 word articles and get them to rank using SEO. Next week find more keywords and do the same thing.
Sounds like a simple plan and these $5 articles made their money back in a week and produced very well until April and May of this year. For ten or eleven years these $5 articles produced better than some of their competition who were trying every trick in the book to out-rank them. While I did go in throughout the years and make these articles a little better it just wasn't a passion and it seemed like work. Work I just didn't have time for.
When the Panda and Penguin penalties starting happening I saw a slight decline but didn't care since this site had produced its share already. In truth it should have been sold off a few years back. It wasn't really on my mind until I started looking at it closer a few weeks ago. I noticed that traffic was on the decline and since it was a Friday night I decided to take a closer look. I thought I would be in Google Analytics for hours when it suddenly hit me to use Raventools instead. First I had to do a little addition to the tools at Raven. I had to add to the report section all the Google changes and add them using the Profile tab.
The Events tool in Raven is one of the most important tools that I use. I use it to see traffic surges and add an event every time a newsletter goes out. For this job I would need to add all the Google updates for the last year, I got them off the SEOMoz site and loaded them into Raven as events. I then went to my Raven dashboard and loaded up my sports site. I produced a little report for last year, then a report for the first six months of the year and then from March until the present day.
My goal was to see what pages were ranking, what pages have lost ranking and what ones are still getting traffic. In my head I was going to get rid of any page that wasn't ranking or getting traffic. The site had 414 pages when I started. I figure I get rid of a hundred pages maybe since some were really outdated. Think my Cleveland Browns page still had Vinny Testaverde as the starter for goodness sake. The meta descriptions were horrible and they were all over stuffed meta keywords. I was standing out to Google as a spam site.
I printed out the reports and put them side by side and in about 5 minutes I knew what I was going to do. Last years report wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be. I had over 75 pages get less than 10 visits each and they all had about an 85% bounce rate. Without regard to navigation on the site I deleted those 75 pages. I thought I was done but in my heart I knew I wasn't even close. I started looking more closely at bounce rates and I had a few dozen pages that were at 70% with 1 visit. These were also gone.
Then I started looking at the dates of the Google changes and I noticed that the Penguin penalty of April 27th was a huge drop in traffic. I started to look at the report from the beginning of the year and I could see exactly what pages were either hit or disappeared from Google.
Many of them were the pages that were just getting about 20 visits a week. This was about 200 pages or so that after April 27th dropped to nothing at all. These were also deleted.
I then ran another report from April 24th until present day and saw that I had a few dozen pages that were getting minimum traffic. I said to myself since Google is looking at the overall quality of the site these pages were going to go also. There is no fancy 301 redirects they are just gone. Goodbye and good riddance. This left me with 14 pages of solid content that I wrote myself somewhere along the line. I find it amazing that the pages I wrote were the ones that did ok. These pages didn't over stuff, and had proper meta descriptions. Even the less used meta keyword tag only had 2 relevant tags in them.
Will the site come back to its former self? That is anyone' guess. Since I am still getting the same traffic to the the same pages I don't really care. I know have a clean website to add to it with some quality when I feel like it. Did these 400 pages affect the overall rankings on the site? I would bet that would be a yes. I know if I was a quality scorer at Google I would have marked this site as spam. It just made no sense to keep these pages.
Some pages were test pages that I had long forgotten about. Some pages were automatically generated using a script pulling in products to affiliate programs that have long since shut down. They were doing nothing but letting the search engines know I was a spam site.
If you know your site was hit by the Google Monster take a look at your analytics and see when your dropped happened by looking at the SEOMoz page. It is a good starting point to find out where your site got penalized. Knowing which update was the killer is 90% of the battle to getting your site back on track. You may not go to the extremes I did with my site but you can get a good idea how to fix your site.
Billy Kay says
Every time you write one of these, I kill an entire day re-doing things! Take a day off! (Great tips Vinny). Keep ’em comin’
Mike Allen says
Thank you for these ideas. I wonder if you could have “follow, no index” tagged these pages instead and if that would be as good as deleting them?
My sweeps site gets a lot of traffic, but I still wonder if old posts from years ago should be deleted. I don’t know how to look at all of the posts on that site. I have over 3,000 and counting. What do you suggest? Did you sport site make money with affiliate programs or Adsense.
Vinny O'Hare says
I would have to look at it a little bit in depth before making that decision.
Vinny O'Hare says
I thought about that but in the end the content wasn’t really good for the end user and odds are never will be. Google is looking at the overall site so even with those pages noindex, follow Big G probably still would use them against the site. In the end it just wasn’t worth having them. The interlinking wasn’t working well as it was so why bother having them if they didn’t help the reader or serve a purpose?
Mike Allen says
Thanks, Vinny. Makes sense to delete if they didn’t serve the reader. I have some pages that have useful info but aren’t fully developed (at least in Google’s terms) so was thinking “no index” for them might help avoid a penalty until I enhance the content. It would still allow user access via internal links and internal search so might be the best of both for now?
Mark S says
Thatès a very introspective examination of your own work…. Itès good info for me to learn as to what works and what doesnt on an up and coming website!
Mike Dammann says
Ouch, I have just realized that complaining about dropping in rankings is a big waste of time. One of my sites (a hobby, not income site), has had this drop. Mainly as I have highlighted hard to find articles on the subject matter causing duplicate content to register in Google (or so I think).
On the other hand I saw some of my one pagers which never served more purpose than reference benefit from other sites dropping and moving up.
I personally prefer however to copy articles interesting me and linking back to the source rather than rewriting what has already been written.
I am not sure there is a perfect solution for me, but when I find the time, I am going to condense some of these articles into an original post and see if that one makes it where it belongs.