August 10, 2012 Hangout | Strategies for Removal of Sitewide Links, Semantic Writing, and Whether an RSS Feed in a Widget is a Sitewide Link

Video Hangout Fail Again

We were once again unable to get the video feature to work, so most of the group not there, were unable to view later, as was our original plan. We are running some tests today, to see if we can get it back up and working for our next G+ Hangout.

Recap and Attendance

In last weeks 8-10-12 G+ Hangout, we had some new hang arounds. Bill Powers was there, as well as Alexander Limontes and Robert Ottinger. Of course, veteran Dave Slepkow was also in attendance.

Subjects We Discussed

We addressed Michael Ehline’s efforts at removal of sitewide external links, and re writing his onsite copy so it is more Panda friendly. We discussed whether or not an RSS Feed in a widget is a sitewide link, and if it should be rel=”nofollow” (click to learn what it is.)

Removal of Sitewide Links

Much to the consternation of many lawyers, Penguin and Panda was a real game changer for our SERPS. What had once been bad (click here, view website, etc.), is now “natural”. For a great discussion on Penguin and Panda, and Penguin go here. Sitewide links seem to have really hurt a lot of us.

Definition of a Sitewide Link

A sitewide link is defined as a link that is usually at the footer of the site that has a link to your site (external link), pointed to a specific page (usually your home page) on your website, or “domain”. Typically a footer link contains “anchor text” only, with no contextual or surrounding description. “sponsored”, or “featured” links on a directory, for example, are also typically sitewides.

Pre Penguin and Panda

Google has a hard time interpreting a sitewide link, assumes that most sitewide links are “paid” (a violation of Google’s terms of service), and prior to Penguin or Panda, Google would basically give you credit from each page on the sending site. So if the sending site had 1000 pages, the receiving site would get 1000 backlinks.

Example of a Sitewide Footer Link

Sitewide Footer Links

Screen shot of a sitewide footer wordpress link.

Above is an example of a sitewide link back to wordpress, that is usually prevalent on most free and paid wordpress themes. Prior to Penguin, this was a great way to get lots of backlinks to your site.  You actually siphoned PageRank® from each sending page, back to the receiving site.  Google hated this, and warned people not to do this, unless it was purely for traffic.  In fact, this is one of the main reasons Google created the rel=”nofollow” feature.  In this way, a sending site could tell Google, hey, this is a paid link, “don’t give me any link juice” (what is link juice?)  Google wants votes (links) to your site from legitimate voters, not from someone you paid.  Get it?

Post Penguin and Panda Sitewide Penalty?

Although these updates are different, and target other things besides sitewide links, like link farms, bad neighborhoods, etc., we are discussing sitewides here. As you saw above, Google has a bit of a guilty until proven innocent mentality.  So knowing this in advance, it makes sense that they would not only want sitewides not to count, but that they would relish the thought of punishing both the sending and receiving sites involved with sitewides. And that is, of course what they did.  You heard me right.  If you suffered a ranking loss (or haven’t had the filter run on your site yet and surely will in the future), and have sitewides on YOUR site linking out to other sites you like, such as in your blogroll, this is probably a big reason why.

How Did I get These Do Follow Sitewides?

Promoters

In Michael Ehline’s case, he purchased a great style sheet theme from a seller selling themes online. The seller then placed an ad in his footer to promote his own services, showing the ehlinelaw.com site as an example. That particular sending provided site with thousands of pages. Over the years, the site become stale and was not being updated. When Penguin hit, Mike decided to try and figure out why his site plummeted. After reading and educating himself, he discovered that he had over 10,000 links coming from that one domain (hello Penguin Penalty).

Negative SEO

Now if I can regress. There are many other ways to get sitewides. One recent technique is used by jealous competitors in the form of negative SEO. In effect, Google has now given black hat SEO people a roadmap in how to destroy your competitor’s site by making sure to place your competitor’s links on bad sites, especially in the footer. But that’s ok, since you can always do pay per click…right? It is called “negative SEO” and is a topic for our next Hangout.

How Do I get Rid of Them?

In Ehine’s case, he was unable to get any response from the sending site, by using the info he obtained off of “who is“, or the info on the site itself (emails were bounced.) Not to be thwarted, Mike then traced all of the links on the sending site to other sites mentioned above the fold, apparently owned by the webmaster. Eventually, this led him to the social profile of another site, and to the place where the webmaster worked.  Alas, he got the phone number, called a secretary, she contacted another person, and in a few days, fwashew, the sitewides were gone.

Is an RSS Feed in a Widget a “Sitewide Link

The next issue was whether that RSS Feed you have on another site, is helping or hurting you. An RSS Feed is defined as a “Rich Site Summary” Also known as a feed reader, or feed aggregator, it feeds data from one site to another, usually as sitewide widget in the sidebar or footer.

Example of an RSS Feed

RSS FEED

Snippet of RSS Feed

In the above example, you see a footer RSS feed.  It displays on all pages of the hosting/sending site.  When you do an <a hrefs link report, they typically show as a sitewide link.  So, yes, I think it is safe to say, it is a sitewide link, for which you could be punsihed by Google.

Solutions

One solution, is to do what Ehline did above. Contact the webmaster. Get crazy. Another could be to try and disable the feed itself and make it go dead. The problem is that most of these feeds also link to your url and are still sitewide, live feed or not.

So that really only leaves you with the option of getting hold of the sending site, and having them add the no follow feature. Or just have them remove the link, until Google figures out how to handle the feeds.

Rewriting Content to Make it Attorney Panda Friendly

Ehline readily admits that his site was overoptimized with way too many exact match keywords. So naturally, he took a hit in rankings in around April. After narrowing the issues, and dealing with sitewide externals, he was simultaneously dealing with semantically related, Google friendly copy that Google seems to like.

Example of Keyword Stuffed, Over-optimized Copy

Here is an example of site copy that ranked well prior to Panda.

Hire an experienced, aggressive Los Angeles bicycle lawyer for accidents in LA now! If you need personal injury accident attorney Los Angeles for bike crashes and serious accidents, you need accidents attorneys now who got your back at Ehline Law Firm accident injury lawyers.

In the example above, you see that this is really ugly for a reader or consumer. But the algo could easily figure out this was a personal injury website, and with the right number of backlinks, you could rank well for the terms: “Bicycle Injury Lawyer”, for example. Now you may notice that sites with hardly any target keywords are ranking above you and are scratching your head. Enter the first installment of real latent semantic indexing and a whole new leap for SEO.

Example of Post Panda Site Copy

So after some testing, we found that copy like this will rank much higher, as it is semantically related to your two main targets: “bicycle”, “accident/injury” and “attorney”.

Sample LSI Content:

Baby seats on a bike can be dangerous to kids. The child’s extremities can still hang over and hit, or catch moving parts on the bike. Their feet can get stuck in the chain, they can get their hand stuck in the spokes, or suffer a friction burn or amputation of a finger when their hand gets stuck in the mud shield. If you suffer a bicycle mishap (instead of accident - use the related search tools on Google on the left), it probably was not an accident. It was probably due to someone’s negligence. Even if your kid was wearing a helmet, he or she can still suffer a closed head injury.

So there you go. You can see how all the semantically related words make Google see what your topic is. Surely when discussing a bicycle you can talk about a chain, a helmet and tire. And of course a head injury and an attorney with words like “mishap” can suggest an accident without being unduly repetitive. Pretty cool, right?

Results

Ehline reports a significant improvement in site quality, and in traffic. So Panda is actually pretty cool. It actually lets us rank AND write for clients not just for a dumber algo. Ehline also reports that he has started to rank for words he never even tried to optimize for, and in getting some of his old ranking back. So far so good. So anyways, this was our discussion. The video would have been nice, but oh well. Maybe tomorrow we will get it working for our next Google Hangout.

Posts by Michael Ehline

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