After the penguin update disaster: Confessions of a bad seo guy

(c) istockphoto.com/Markanja

The 25th April 2012 changed everything. Google rolled out a ranking update called „penguin“. This update cut off the half of the traffic of our astrology website schicksal.com

We have lost 72% of our “visibility” in the Google index. In our sight of view this is pretty unfair because we have a good site with quality content.

So read here about our SEO (search engine optimization) activities and the reason why we did this.

We have started the website ten years ago, in the year 2002. Our idea: Doing a good astrology website with interesting content and earn money with advertisements. In the first years we hardly had visitors. We only know view things about SEO and we don’t care about it.

Someday (like 2005) a formerly good friend told me he had also started an astrology website. He invested about 10.000 euro into (black) SEO activities. His site jumped to the 1st position with the keyword “Horoskop” (horoscope) in google.de. That’s about 20.000 – 30.000 visits per day (!). (Meanwhile he is not on the first position, but still good ranked.)

His SEO tactics:

Off page:

  • Comment spam
  • Massively link buying
  • Some other off page black tactics I don’t know

On page

  • He blew up his content with pseudo horoscope texts: He has a database with 300-500 horoscope texts. It was a very early “content spinning” thing. He mixed the horoscope texts together by random. So, he created a page for each birthday for each year (365 days x 100 years) with the themes “health”, “love”, “job”. And he did some other content spinning …

    As he told me this, my heart was bleeding. We believe in the rules of astrology, he doesn’t. He just wants to make money. He doesn’t cares if the people got pranked by some random horoscope texts… Well, he had success. His site got 3-5M page views per month!

I was so naive - I told him our best keyword. Two months later, his site was No 1, we were second…

We had a strong believe that high quality content will win at the end. We have created a lot of good content. But one day we made an analysis: Who has the top positions at astrology keywords? Curst spammers. We have done a lot of on page optimizations. That helped a little bit, but there was no serious ranking change.

My first step: I’ve reported the biggest spammers to the Google webmaster tools. (That helped nothing, lost time.) Then we have sold 5 links on our page for one year. (We didn’t know that this is “evil”.) Some guy has reported our site. We have lost the PR, was set to 0. After we have removed the links, we got the PR 3.

And then I made an experiment two years ago (autumn 2010). We have created a horoscope special – the yearly horoscope for each zodiac for the year 2011. The main keyword is: “Horoskop 2011”. We have written a press release. This got published by several magazines, radio stations, newspapers. That was a big success for us! But what was about the ranking? Although we got really good links from authorities we still were at position 9-10 with “Horoskop 2011”.

But mid January something strange happened: We have been pushed to number one. Wow, 500-1000 visits each day! We were happy!

But what has happened? Ranking update? Google was late? Na, I got an email from a “dark” seo guy. I’ve bought comment spam at the end of November 2010 (not much, about $100 worth). He was so sorry, he had no time to finish the 100 Dollar job, but finally it’s done (mid January).

We were amazed: 100 Dollar investment + press release (500 dollar) = 30.000 additional visits per month.

In that case, the number one position had the best quality (no other site had such a detailed report about the horoscope 2011). But we wouldn’t get there if we had not bought the comment spam links.

So, our thoughts: If Google punish a site for extern links (like comment spam), it’s easy to do “negative seo” – tear down the competitors with spam links.

One year later: A new keyword arrived: “Horoskop 2012” (aha!) So, we did the same as the year before. Result: We had no chance to be number 1 because two keyword domains ranked above us:

www. horoskop2012.org (what a crap WP site…) and

www. horoskop-2012.org

If you compare these sites with ours:
http://www. schicksal.com/ Horoskope/Horoskop-2012

So – which of these sites has more quality?

The end of the story

We have been punished after this ranking update. The others were cleverer than us. There is such a huge amount of spam belonging to horoscope and tarot keywords…

So what are the others doing: Building a huge amount of crap satellite sites and doing content spinning.

That’s not our way. We try to focus on our content again. Maybe there is a chance to get back to the top soon.

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