One of our clients ran into a bad problem a week or so back that they didn’t even know about. So we wanted to share this information with the rest of our clients and others because it is something that might affect them and they would have no idea they were hurting themselves by doing it.
Website traffic down
What had occurred is that on a routine check of their website traffic, we noticed that their traffic had abruptly dropped. There was no apparent reason for this so we looked around and found that they had a large number of new links, over 60, pointing to their website from a university athletic program.
When we contacted the client, we found that they had entered into a sponsorship arrangement to support the athletic program and the university in appreciation had placed a large number of sponsorship notices acknowledging the support on their website. Each notice had a link back to the client’s website. Now that should be a good thing, shouldn’t it?
How can ads and links back to my website hurt me?
Well, the problem is those links violate Google’s Terms of Service in several ways. Without getting complex (if you want technical details, email me), basically Google views this type of link as spam and an attempt to improve a website’s search engine rankings by paying for the links, no matter how noble the contribution. Google’s search engine automatically looks for such link schemes and without any warning or notice when found, traffic drops to the website that is the beneficiary of the links.
What to do
Now, it is totally possible to keep the links without incurring the Google penalty.
We contacted the university athletic program’s webmaster on behalf of our client and asked them to add a bit of code to each link so Google’s search engine would ignore them for search ranking purposes. The coding tells the search engine to “no follow” the links. We suggested they do this for all their sponsors because the negative value of these links would also be hurting their websites.
While these links are now useless for SEO purposes, the links are still there so people can use them to go to the client’s website which was the intention to begin with. This makes Google happy, our client happy, the athletic program happy and us happy.
Shortly after implementing this, we noted that the traffic to the website went back up to its higher range.
The lessons learned
The major lesson here for others:
- DO NOT fall prey to anyone emailing you that they can increase your website’s search rankings by having you purchase links. This can actually destroy your website’s traffic from Google and make it practically impossible to recover from. We’ve seen it happen.
What may have been a workable practice a few years ago is now deadly. SEO changes constantly. Don’t take matters into your own hands unless you are up-to-date and knowledgable.
- This same trouble can occur with online ads you purchase for your business. Although I hate writing it, even one bad link like this can be a problem from some of the expert articles we read daily on this subject.
If you are doing an online sponsorship or buying online ads, all links to your website must be “no follow” and you should ensure this with the people you are doing the deal with.
- If you are a client, you can consult with us before you do such a thing so we can make sure it will be beneficial for you and your website traffic.
The moral of the story is don’t let your website traffic get tackled by Google!