We’ve talked before about link devaluation and from what we can see the pattern is still going strong five months later. Pretty much every week since the end of November, Google has devalued large numbers of links of one type or another resulting in brands losing positions gradually week after week for months.
One of the biggest devaluations Google has done was last week, shortly after Matt Cutts tweeted about taking action on a major link seller network.
In fact, we took action on several thousand linksellers in a paid-link-that-passes-PageRank network earlier today.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) May 15, 2013
Searchmetrics has not updated this week yet but when it does you will see lots of sites taking a big decline, we tend to monitor dozens of sites every week that we have noticed to have a spammy link profile but that were not hit by any penalties in the past year or so. Loads of these were wiped out at the end of last week by link devaluation.
Some people seem to think that link devaluation is somehow better than a manual link penalty – let me be very clear about this, it’s certainly not. We can recover anybody from a manual link penalty within 2-3 months and have done so for over 40 brands in the past six months. Rankings usually improve dramatically after the penalty is lifted and everybody is happy. If you are losing rankings week after week due to link devaluation the only solution is to place good quality natural links to counteract the losses. The problem is that it’s impossible to place enough natural links every month to rival the speed that Google is working to devalue the rest of your links.
Link devaluation is perhaps better than being hit by Penguin but it’s pretty likely that the people suffering most from link devaluation are at risk from Penguin too. We have a policy of doing a full manual link audit for all clients every few months (some are done once a week) to minimise the risk of any bad links causing problems and this should apply to every site in the world that wants to succeed in SEO. There are various tools that do an automated audit which is great for a health check but nothing beats a full manual audit to make sure you find every single bad link.
Standing still or growing?
A lot of sites have a goal of aggressively increasing SEO visits year on year but in reality if their link profile is poor then they really would do very well to just stand still this year. Look at the searchmetrics.com charts of people who were trying to grow aggressively a couple of years ago and think about whether they would have been happy to stand still.
Voucher sites are a prime example (although there is no suggestion their troubles are due to bad links or any other bad practices, or that their traffic has dropped in line with the visibility on searchmetrics) of how standing still would have been a great result. Two of the market leaders have lost a lot of visibility (according to searchmetrics) recently with myvouchercodes down from 266,000 to 13,700 since 2011 and vouchercodes.co.uk down 50% since mid-March this year.
These drops are probably due to lots of factors including how Google ranks voucher sites for brand queries (or not as the case may be) but I bet they would love to have the rankings they had two years ago.