Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi
 


Friday, August 17, 2007

Google Penalization: Text Links, Redirects Not Likely Causes - Spam Comment Links Maybe - The Story Continues

It is one week today since all of the over 16,000 Master New Media web pages of this site have been actively penalized by Google and have essentially disappeared from Google search result pages (what was before on position 1 is now on 504 - check for yourself by searching for "independent publishing" for which Master New Media was ranked first).

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The reason(s) for which the site has been penalized are not yet clear and at the end of the story, it may even be that I will not know which one of the possible errors and mistakes that I have corrected on my site is the key responsible for this unforgettable nightmare. It is likely, at least from what I have come to feel in these last 24 hours, that text links are not the issue that caused the penalization while some other less evident and totally unconscious error (spam comments left on articles for the longest time, or issues with multiple domains pointing to the same IP and creating apparent duplicate content on the site) may have actually been the key sinner in this story.

The consequences of these last seven days are so far pretty heavy:

a) over $4,000 in AdSense revenue lost - this keeps growing hour by hour (note that Google itself loses likely an even larger share of this advertising budget - that's why it is such a shame that if there is a way they did detect something not working on my site they chose not to immediately communicate it to me saving both parties and the advertisers too lots of grief)

b) over $,3000 in text links revenues lost as I voluntarily decided to come out of the bushes and to endorse a personal campaign to discourage their use. I think that if I have to listen to my conscience I do not see how I can endorse text links. Yes, they can make you earn solid extra money, but at what expense and serving whose interests in the end?

c) web traffic has been slashed to 1/3 or less of my normal web traffic during this time of the year. Yesterday traffic has surged quite a bit thanks to the increasing coverage this story is receiving on many blogs. Being these mostly webmasters and SEO/SEM marketing consultants wanting to extract some learning experience from this or traditional readers of Master New Media, CPC revenue has plummeted.

d) suppliers taking advantage of the situation and not paying us what due (I am waiting to release the name of a company here as I hate to do this - but surprise, surprise this too is a text link supplier too and that says lots more things about some parts of this industry)

e) loss of staff and access to paid resources - while this has not yet been dramatic, I have had obviously to scale down and unless the situation changes I may have to take again on me the full load of running most activities here. This is very demanding in terms of time, energies and effort, especially for someone like me who has given all he had to give for the last 2-3 years. The issue is more difficult to manage when it comes to dedicated servers bills, office space rent, telephone and internet connectivity ad other core expenses which would be hard to easily scale down.

Obviously, if you detach yourself from the emotional side of all this there is lots of things to be learned. The mistakes I made, if any, in trying to grow and nurture alternative revenue streams it has not been wasted time. In fact, there is a great deal of new things and discoveries that me and my staff have made in these last few days, that are going to serve us and our readers for a very long time.

The comments and advice received from many of you greatly helped us attack issues and problems we had not considered before and in the end it may actually have made a difference.

Some of you even went to the extreme of doing everything possible to put me in direct touch with someone at Google that could help me, and that by itself is a showcase of such esteem by this community supporting Robin Good, that I have sincerely felt touched by the altruistic spirit of many of you. Thanks!

The story is not over yet. While traffic has been raising again since so many blogs started to publicly follow this story, this is not the Google traffic that can keep us alive in the configuration we had. The difference that visitors coming from blogs or word-of-mouth recommendations is indeed very sharp.

Here the very latest updates, comments and thoughts over this Google penalization story you may have missed (with some interesting points to evaluate):

If you have not read the previous posts on this story, you may want to check out:



New discoveries

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Thanks to friends, readers and other individuals who appreciate my online work I was able to discover and realize quite a few extra issues that we had not been able to catch yet.

1) First of all, Italian online marketing expert advisor Giorgio Tave scouted on Master New Media at least two instances of bad comment spam that had been sitting on some articles for over 2 years. Worst than that the spam comment links were going to sites now banned from the Google index. Aia.

That was a great lead from Giorgio. Drazen, my trusted webmaster, set up a number of scripts to first find all such offending comment spam and then to immediately clear it. We did have a number of these bad links going to not very recommendable sites, and this could have indeed triggered some of Google highly sensitive probes.



2) Alessandro Banchelli, former editor of Master New Media Italian edition reported also possible issues related to our management of the three domains pointing to Master New Media and consequent issues Google may have found when indexing our content. I have indeed multiple domains, such www.MasterNewMedia.com and .org and www.RobinGood.com all pointing to the same IP.

MasterNewMedia.org, but it appears that Google has been indexing some of my Italian articles under the www.RobinGood.com/it domain while some others under the www.MasterNewMedia.org/it one.

As it turns out - Google prefers that you have only one domain - and then for all the others - you use a 301 (permanent) redirection which helps their system to not see several URLs with the same content but several URLs which point to the same page. It is technically an inferior solution according to my webmaster, but it apparently Google is happier with that.

In all cases I have full official assurance from Google itself that redirects cannot be the source of our present penalization: "Rest assured that 301 redirects are not a violation of our Webmaster Guidelines."



Notwithstanding we have corrected everything as to comply in all possible ways with Google expectations and, as reuired by Google, I have re-submitted a request for re-inclusion while pleading guilty for the above listed mistakes. And yes, to submit such a request I have used the dedicated tool available in my Google Webmaster Tools account.

Sitemaps, contrary to what some have reported, are up and OK on Master New Media since a long time. I am just not the one checking them every day when I wake up, and we certainly failed in noticing some errors there the instant they came up. But none of the errors reported by the Sitemap monitoring tool could have caused us a penalization. We may have had small issues in being fully indexed, yes... but we certainly did not receive a Google penalization because of these.




Google communications

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Google gave yet no sign of life or of being able to respond to our urgent needs to be re-instated. No emails, and worst no changes to the search engine results.

Contrary to what I believed and knew until now, Google HAS BEEN trying to be proactive in alerting webmasters since about a year. I have had now proof of this by further researching the topic and finding several blogger posts mentioning a Google Quality Service which has been sending out notification emails to webmasters and site owners which had issues with their official guidelines.

Not only. The examples of such notifications offer the opportunity to identify the errors that Google wants corrected and then to notify Google about it in order not to be penalized.

I have never received any such notification in my email. Note, that while Google notification may have been prey of my spam filter, I am an AdSense Premium Publisher and as such, some other department at Google knows very well my name, address, bank account and phone number too.

Further research on this front has shown that Google has indeed officially stopped, over three months ago, sending out these notification emails, as there had been several cases of individuals forging these to appear as coming from Google and misleading web sites into making changes that they were not required to do. Other than this, it should be noted that the initiative from Google to do this exists since 2005, but, sad to say, after two full years, I don't seem to be yet able to enjoy its benefits.




Text Links - Not guilty

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A word of attention is deserved by text link ads to which we have devoted a lot of extra attention in these last stressful days.

They are not the cause and it is not due to them that we have penalized. This is my conviction.

Nonetheless, I have decided to drop them altogether because I believe that there are some important ethical issues at stake and I now feel like standing up to defend them.

From what I have seen, there is no escape from it: you either trick Google when you allow paid for text links in your site (as they game the system by providing extra relevance to sites that have paid for it) or you trick the text link advertisers when you sell them advertising space that, to comply with Google, provides them with no benefit. In both cases you have to trick someone.

But whether you comply with Google or not and use no-follow tags and clearly labels to identify sponsored text links, this is a system "designed" to game the search engines, and as such I am not willing to support it in any way. Good search results, not skewed by who can pay for more links than I can, preserves a more competitive battleground and higher quality results for all.

This is what I stand for.




How much more can MasterNewMedia survive?

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We are already in intense-care as far as financial issues are concerned and I am only saved by the fact that this did not start on the first of August (so that I made some now very valuable money in the first ten days) but only last week, and by the existence of sister sites MasterViews and Kolabora which are also doing their part.

Without external financial support the team behind Master New Media can probably dissipate as early as the beginning of September, when, if things have not gone back to normal, professionals working with me will have to make some tough decisions. Paying everyone who has worked during this month will be an issue, and as staff lowers its contribution I am gradually submerged into 14-hours shifts that are not good for me nor for my ability to have enough free thinking time to strategize a bloodless way out of this.

I need something to happen before this month is over or this will be complete disaster for many of us working here.




Why Google-originated visitors make such a big difference

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For those interested in blog monetization, online marketing and AdSense, the figures and stats that have emerged as soon as Google originated search traffic disappeared were quite illuminating. They all confirmed what I have been preaching in my presentations to Italian bloggers until now.

In essence: if you want to monetize a blog, not only you must have themed, original, quality content that you put out on systematic basis, but you need to market such content in the best possible way via search engines, while being ethical and fully honest with your potential readers. No need for SEM or SEO ebooks to do the right thing and attract lots of high-quality visitors to your site.

If your blog is visited only and prominently by a circle of friends and fans you have cultivated over time, you will NOT be able to monetize that blog site effectively.

Contextual ad monetization at levels that can provide full sustainability to a blog can be achieved when 70% or more of the traffic to the site is search engine originated, as visitors coming from a search result page are already pre-selected, highly targeted and actively searching for a solution to a need they have. These are indeed the best qualified readers for your relevant content as well as the best potential clickers on your AdSense ads.

Here some interesting numbers: Before Google search-originated visitors disappeared, clickthrough rates on Master New Media were as high as 18-20% and above. After the Google penalization average CTR is down to around 5%.




Last minute update

As pointed in the comments a few minutes ago by Matt Mower (thanks Paolo!) there is someone else who has been looking at this kind of problem and has spent significant diagnosing and trying to find a specific solution to it.

I find this a must-read for everyone interested in this topic: Google Proxy Hacking: How A Third Party Can Remove Your Site From Google SERPs by Dan Thies

It may not be my case, as I don't seem to have yet been "proxied" but we are sure looking into it.



Update n.2 - There's something definitely wrong with Google

(Friday Aug.17th - 20:41 pm GMT+1)

I have just spotted inside my traffic referrers several visitors coming from a Google Search in which Master New Media is listed as the n.1 result: Skype Problem

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Now if someone can explain how this can be, I would really be happy.




Want to help Robin Good? You can do so

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Some very loyal readers have come forward proactively and offered to send in some monetary contributions to help this publication survive. I had myself provided a PayPal donation button on my earlier post this week, but after a few hours I felt bad about having to ask money to people... this is not something I am used to and really resist having to beg for help.

But since more of you not only insisted, but started sending in donations via PayPal with amounts way beyond what I could ever expect, I would be only a fool not to invite and let whoever wants to see this publication and its team survive to send whatever amount they deem appropriate.

As a public sign of gratitude here is a growing list of active supporters of Robin Good's MasterNewMedia and a link to their sites:

Heike Philp - Letstalkonline
Cece Lee - On24
Stefano Bianchi - N2O
Anita Campbell - AnitaCampbell.com
Interclue - Interclue.com
Christian Rossi - .......no link ....
Sapo Studio - Jumper.it




Recent related resources:




Originally written by for Master New Media and originally titled: "Google Penalization: Text Links, Redirects Not Likely Causes - Spam Comment Links Maybe - The Story Continues"

 
 
 
Readers' Comments    
2007-08-18 07:17:39

Robin Good

@Michele - I have indeed published your comment Michele - I am a little puzzled at what you are referring to - I do not censor any comments. :-)

@Heike - thank you - appreciate your spirit and understanding



2007-08-18 06:59:44

Heike Philp

Robin

Your openness about this week’s events have added to my deep respect for you because this revealed more than anything else that you keep true to your word of not eliciting money from vendors, whose products and services you promote.

I am amazed at your opening even your financial books to your audience, uncovering your bleeding wound, something that is a no-no in the industry because it attracts more sharks than rescuers in the ocean of a freelancer.

You shared your advertising revenue stream with a team of publishers and could have easily gone on holiday at this time of the year, leaving your team working for you. Yet you were present when this happened and are now working your guts out to get everyone back on board. Knowing for sure that you could have accepted really well paying jobs and yet you decided to remain an independent publisher and your own boss passing this dream on to many others.

Your generosity and your industriousness deserve our deep respect.

Rgds Heike



2007-08-18 05:23:30

Michele

Ciao Robin,
ho visto che hai raccolto la mia segnalazione sui nofollow non presenti, ma mi chiedo perchè non hai pubblicato il post, non vi era presente spam ne' linguaggio offensivo. Mi dispiace che parli sempre di etica professionale ma quando si tratta di seguirla tu non lo faccia costantemente.

Ho dato uno sguardo alla email comunque, ma purtroppo mi sono accorto che chi decide di penalizzarti o censurarti non cerca mai di contattarti prima per spiegarti i motivi del suo comportamento.

Credevo veramente in te Robin, ma forse mi sono fatto solo circuire dall'abilità di un venditore di parole.

un saluto,

Michele



2007-08-18 03:03:10

Robin Good

@Leigh - Google has just re-instated us inside Google search results - one week has gone and it is over - it looks like if you fix the right thing (without knowing it) things do go back to normal

@Cece - thank you - I really appreciated your kind words and tangible sign of support

@Matt - thanks again a million Matt - it wasn't our case but that article is great reading indeed

@Michele - you are very right - just corrected :-) - thanks for your support



2007-08-17 21:22:33

Leigh

I have been watching your posts on this issue the last few days with great interest.

My site fell in the Google hole nearly 3mths ago. I have tried been trying to fix what I thought the problem was, and have just recently dumped TLA too.

Like you, I am happy to do what I have to, to get back in Google's good books. But without so much as a hint from Google it makes it hard.

Makes me wonder what hope a little guy like me, trying to do the right thing has in getting it sorted. When big guys like you, with all the support and advice.. are struggling just as much.

I wish you good luck in getting it sorted ASAP.



2007-08-17 20:10:01

Michele

...ehm... Robin... sbaglio o hai appena inserito dei link dopo aver ricevuto del denaro senza il rel=nofollow?!? ...

I'll donate something too anyway, i really hope everything will get back on the track and that you could finally take a well deserved sleep as soon as it will be possible.

Master New Media simply deserves to survive.



2007-08-17 14:41:21

Cece Lee

Hi Robin, thanks so much for the mention. I truly believe that you provide great information and hope that this gets resolved quickly. Good luck and let me know if there is anything I can do.

Best, Cece



2007-08-17 08:21:56

Matt Mower

Hi Robin. Paolo pointed me to your story. I can empathize as the same thing happened to me some time ago although with less serious consequences.

It may be unrelated to your problems and/or you may already be aware. But I read something today which may help, here's a summary: http://matt.blogs.it/entries/00002613.html

Best of lucking getting things back on an even keel.

Regards,

Matt.



 
posted by Robin Good on Friday, August 17 2007, updated on Thursday, June 11 2009


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