What’s Up With PuppyInTraining.com?

WARNING!  Some technical mumbo jumbo and a little bit of venting coming ahead…

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to create 366 blog posts from February 1st 2012 to January 31st 2013.  Basically one post a day.  In case you missed it check out my 2012 goal post.  I was doing quite well missing a couple posts due to unforeseen traveling and internet problems, but besides that everything was going well and everything was right in the world (the world of PuppyInTraining.com that is).

Unfortunately, the happy days never seem to last that long.  Of course someone had to throw a wrench into my happy blogging days (not to mention a screw driver, a hammer, and any other relevant tool).  I recently came across an email message through my Google Webmaster tools informing me that there was unnatural linking on PuppyInTraining.com.  So what the heck does that mean?  I’m just about as dumbfounded as you!  Here’ the email message exactly as I received it:

Unnatural Links – Google Webmaster Tools

Subject Line: Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links on http://puppyintraining.com/

Dear site owner or webmaster of http://puppyintraining.com/,

We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include selling links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.

If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.

Sincerely,

Google Search Quality Team

Since Google represents about 75% of the traffic to this site when they tell me to jump I say “how high?”  Unfortunately for me I’m not really sure what to make of this whole debacle and because I don’t participate in linking schemes of any sort I’m not sure what’s going on.

Linus Working

I'm glad Linus likes to work on these technical issues.

So I sat down at my desk and thought about what could be triggering this email from Google Webmaster Tools.  Here were my thoughts:

  • I’ve been monitoring my traffic for the past couple weeks.  My traffic has dropped about 10%.
  • I notice my pages no longer have a Page Rank.  I used to have hundreds of indexed pages with PR ranging from PR1 – PR5.
  • I haven’t really done any link building in the past 2-3 years besides trying to create great content.  However, I did submit my site to directorys way back in the day and some of those backlinks may appear spammy.  I’m not really sure how to undo that one.
  • I went into Google Webmaster Tools and I’ve been attempting to cleanup all of their suggestions.
  • I have 2 other pet blogs that link back to PuppyInTraining.com, but I really haven’t been managing either blog for about 2 years.  So I did the following updates to both blogs because I think Google may think that they are spammy blogs.
    • Update to the latest version of WordPress
    • Update all plugins
    • Turned off commenting and trackbacks
    • Deleted all of the spammy looking comments
    • 1 of the 2 blogs had a “do follow” comment plugin.  I deactivated this plugin
  • I used to run a blog carnival.  Some of these links could be spammy as well so I started removing all the links in my blog carnivals.
  • I had 2 affiliate links in my footer that I changed to “NoFollow”
  • I removed Chitika ads from the sidebar and below posts

This is what I’ve done so far and I’ve been taking about an hour or 2 a day to work on this cleanup and basically that’s killing my ability to produce new content. :(

By the way, I’ve also been reading through many forums trying to find answers and no one really knows for sure what’s going on.  A lot of people sound like they’re in the same boat as me and have not ever participated in a link network nor do they really know what unnatural links Google is talking about.  It appears that 700,000 of these emails went out in January and February 2012.  I received my email late March 2012.  I’m thinking by now Google has probably sent well over a million of these emails.

Another thing to ponder is could this be a result of negative SEO?  Basically if these unnatural links are harming my site (and others) then why couldn’t someone just send your site a bunch of spammy links to give you an unnatural link profile and fall out of favor with Google.  Think about it…this could be disastrous!

So, unfortunately I’m going to be changing up my posting schedule so I can work to get this “unnatural linking” business with Google straightened out.  From now on I’m going to post between 3-5 articles a week and use my other spare time to try and clean things up to make Google happy.

Here’s my cry for HELP!!!  Have any of you experienced any of this fun and excitement?  If so, what are you doing to fix these problems.  I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comment section below.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Guys,

    First BIG Congrats on winning the Petsmart/Blogpaws contest…..

    Second, so sorry to hear you’re having these problems :(

    I wish I knew how to help, but I’m no techy Dog! I’d have thought Google could have told you what you needed to do to fix this problem, but what do I know….? :)

    Good luck in getting it resolved,

    Your pal Snoopy :)

    • says

      @Snoopy, Google was very vague in their email. I’ve been trying to read up on this stuff to find out what steps I can take to get back in good standing with Google. Apparently this same email has gone out to millions of other site owners. It’s very frustrating because I really don’t know what’s going on. After reading through a bunch of articles on the subject a few more things that I think may be causing this issue:

      1. I’m in a popular blogroll that creates more backlinks then I have combined on the rest of my site. I’m guessing this could be construed as “unnatural linking”
      2. I noticed a lot of back links from blogs that are scraping my site. Obviously scraper sites would be considered low quality backlinks, but I have no control over this.
      3. I have 2 other pet blogs that I link to and from. I wonder if Google thinks this is a blog network?

      The good news is traffic on my site is back up, but I still noticed that my pages do not have Page Rank. I probably keep working on cleanup mainly because my old posts written nearly 5 years ago could use a facelift.

      Thanks for your support and congratulations again to you on winning the PetSmart/BlogPaws contest!

  2. Jason says

    You’re about right…just about anyone and everyone has received these in the past couple months. Some see a major drop in rankings and traffic after they get it and some dont. The scary thing too is several people have seen their adsense accounts disabled not too long after receiving this message. No one can figure out if there is a correlation to these two things though.

    Google is like the weather. You can’t change the weather you just have to adapt to whatever it’s doing. So keep adding good content designed to attract readers and potential links and thats all you can do.

    • says

      @Jason, thanks for your response. I know there are a lot of people out there who have received the same message. I wish I had a better idea of what I needed to fix. Right now my thought is that I may be over optimizing my posts and inner links since I have never bought or exchanged links and I’ve never been a part of a blog network.

      The good news is it’s given me a chance to look back at and make some updates to some of my older posts.

      Here’s to hoping that the weather gets a little bit better :)

  3. says

    Earlier today I read this on QuickSprout:

    “If you were looking at your Google Analytics around the dates of March 21-23, then there is a good chance you saw some changes to your site…

    Like a 10% to 30% drop in traffic.

    It could be on sites you were working on…or sites you hadn’t even touched. Some speculated that the long-term search was being affected where keywords were disappearing in the Google Suggestions.

    In fact, what happened was Google rolled out a fresh update of Panda in February…and then another in March.

    Some significant changes have been made through those updates that can affect your link-building strategy…so let’s explore those changes and others to help you maintain if not increase your rankings.” – Check out the full article 7 Link Building Mistakes You Ought to Avoid

    Sounds very similar to what I’m noticing with my site and March 21st to the 23rd are the dates I noticed a decline in traffic. I read through the list and here’s where I think I might be able to make more improvements to my site.

    Mistake #1: Too many exact anchor text links – I only do this when I inner link my pages, but in general I don’t have much control from outside links since I do not buy or do any link exchanges.

    Mistake #2: Not enough semantic keyword anchor text links – I don’t think this is a problem since most of the linking I have control over is within my blog.

    Mistake #3: You don’t have enough junk anchors – I usually do not create junk anchors when I inner link my pages. I’m going to try and increase my number of junk anchors.

    Mistake #4: Not enough brand mention within text links – When I look at my link profile I say a large percentage of brand mention in my text links so I don’t think this is a problem.

    Mistake #5: Not enough social signals – This is an area that I’ve neglected a bit. Moving forward I’m going to make an effort to get more social signals to my blog.

    Mistake #6: Buying links – I never bought links before so this should not be a problem.

    Mistake #7: Exchanging links on a mass scale – I’ve never exchanged links so this should not be a problem either.

    Some good tips and hopefully working through some of these will not only make the experience better for my readers, but also get me out of the Google dog house.

  4. Jason says

    I wouldn’t worry too much about over optimization on site. When they refer to over optimization they typically are talking about the anchor text of your links. Best of luck getting it cleared up! It’s sad to see they are now penalizing people who honestly have not broken their “rules.”

    • says

      @Jason, thanks for the advice and reassurance. I’m going to keep working on it then resubmit my site along with all the updates I made.

  5. says

    Hey Mate,

    I’d probably recommend you do not do a re-inclusion request at this point.

    Remember at this point, it is an algorithmic notice.

    As soon as you do a re-submission request, it becomes manual, and REGARDLESS of if you built the links or not, you will be expected to get them removed.

    Check out this post.

    http://blog.iacquire.com/2012/04/10/googles-2012-phishing-expedition/

    It’s a very good write up on the matter.

    Also if you received some drops, it may not be because of that notice at all.

    It’s highly possible it was just part of an algorithm update, though you would know your own stats best.

    If you have been doing quality posting, and none of the link building yourself or through a hired company, chances are you “should” be safe.

    Putting in that re-submission request may prolong the issue for you.

    Some circumstances it is better to do a re-submission request. When the penalty is clear (loss of all main term rankings).

    Hope that helps

    • says

      @Marc, I have been hearing that it’s a bad idea to do a re-inclusion request. I have seen a small drop in traffic, but I think this was due to the most recent Panda update. The only thing that is really bugging me about this (besides the letter) is the loss of PageRank. Have you heard of Google returning PageRank after a penalty?

      I most likely will not do a re-inclusion request unless I see a significant drop in traffic. Thank you for your advice!

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