We had an interesting experience recently with one of our clients. The client approached us with a need to improve their natural search engine rankings for targeted keywords in Google. As normal, we implemented our search engine optimization (SEO) process, but were not witnessing the normal results we’ve come to expect. The results were strange in that what our process was doing was having a positive effect on the targeted terms in Yahoo and MSN search results, but not Google.
Following a good bit of intensive research, we developed a theory. After speaking more with the client, our theory was only bolstered. We found out, and the client confirmed, that previous to the SEO work they had contracted with us to perform, they engaged with another firm to purely build links for them. Two problems arose from this strategy:
1) The links built previously were not quality; many were devalued by Google for being in “unimportant” directories. As far as we could tell, while these links were not valued, the client at least was not being penalized for them. But certainly, these non-quality links would have to be overcome with quality links in order to drive the results the client was seeking.
2) The more important of the two, separate from the links built by the other agency, the client had its link featured in the footer of many non-related websites. We were almost certain Google was imposing a penalty here for what it detected as spam links. This meant that no matter what we did from an SEO best practices standpoint, rankings would not budge. We faced a quandary, though, as the links did provide traffic generation for the client’s website.
After assessing the situation, it was decided that not much could be done in the short-term to reverse the effects of the poor links built by a previous agency, other than continue to build quality links, which would take time to negate the effects. More importantly, and most urgently, it was also decided to do all we could to get the client out from under Google’s penalty. To do this, we tested placing a rel=”nofollow” tag into as many of the footer links on the non-related sites as possible. When Google comes across this tag in a link, it knows not to follow the link, and it also will not give the link any credit (see Google’s official post on rel=”nofollow” here). Almost immediately after the tags was inserted, the client’s targeted key phrases jumped in Google search results. They continue to climb, and are currently ranked 7th overall, up from 33 before we began work with them. We see this improving as we continue to our process in the coming months.
So if you’re working with a link building firm, make sure they are building quality, in context links. Avoid the cheap directories and other link spam outlets, and always stay abreast of Google’s updates to their algorithm, as sweeping changes can be made, causing something that worked before to have drastic negative consequences to your search engine rankings.
We intend to have more updates on the experience with this client in the near future. Stay tuned…