Baby-Markt Suffers SEO Visibility Drop due to Google Penguin 2.0 penalty
This is the story of failed “Old school SEO” strategies used by Baby-markt.de, a German local store and online shop. A link building strategy based on building plenty of hard anchor sitewide links resulted in the domain being penalized by Penguin 2.0 in May 2013.
Lorant Görgey covers the old SEO tactics used, such as: comment spam, duplicate content, sitewide links, and over-optimized keyword ratios. Furthermore, Lorant shows how doing competitive research with LinkResearchTools can give you a better understanding of your niche.
Learn how doing proper link risk management can help you avoid being penalized by the Google Penguin algorithm.
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- Enjoy & Learn!
Christoph C. Cemper
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Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction – baby-markt.de
- 2. baby-markt.de - SEO Visibility
- 3. Examples of negative ranking changes
- 4. Traffic Sources
- 5. Penalty Checklist
- 6. Checking the Past
- 7. Backlink Profile
- 8. The Competitors
- 9. The Competitors Quick Check
- 10. Competitor Analysis
- 11. Link velocity comparison
- 12. Link Detox (DTOX) Genesis – Identifying the weak and risky links.
- 13. CDTOX
- 14. Conclusion and Recommendations
- 15. Learning from baby-markt.de
1. Introduction – baby-markt.de
In this case study, we dedicate ourselves to baby-markt.de, a German local store and online shop. Baby-markt.de has a large assortment of baby items, such as clothing, diapers, pacifiers and more. The domain was hit hard by Penguin 2.0 in May 2013, which resulted in a huge loss of search visibility.
2. baby-markt.de - SEO Visibility
To check the visibility of a page, it makes sense to use one of the well-known databases. In this case, I chose Searchmetrics because this has served us well in the past.
As seen by the subsequent visibility course of Searchmetrics on May 22, 2013, baby-markt.de suffered a huge visibility loss of 37.5% and has not recovered since. This loss occurred simultaneously with the rollout of a Penguin update.
To confirm and ensure that it was actually a Penguin update, we can use the “domain compare” feature of Searchmetrics, which will show us if the drops happened at the same time.
In this case, home24.de and tarifcheck24.com were selected because they had been identified as Penguin losers in other case studies.
The result is quite clear. All the analyzed websites have lost visibility within the exact same time frame of May 2013. The loss also correlates temporally with the Penguin 2.0 rollout.
Therefore, we can assume with reasonable certainty that these are Penguin 2.0 losers, and – among other things – link-related factors are part of their loss.
3. Examples of negative ranking changes
In order to find out which keywords or keyword sets, sub-pages and directories have lost visibility, we’re going to look at a few examples within Searchmetrics.
As seen, there’s a drop for a lot of keywords, resulting in a high loss of traffic.
Look at the comparison of the respective directories (Verzeichnisse) and at the change of visibility before and after its hit by the algorithmic update:
Apparently, multiple directories suffered from a high loss in visibility. Each of the ones shown above lost almost half of their respective visibility.
We discover that baby-markt.de doesn’t appear on Google’s index with keywords like “Wickelauflage“, “Babyspielzeug“ and “Babystrampler“ anymore. In addition, we can see a distinct decrease of visibility for the directories, “/Kinderzimmer“, “/Spielen“, “/Unterwegs“ and “/Mode“.
This prompts the question whether suffering a big loss in visibility affects the sales of an Online Shop. I’ll start with gathering information about how visitors approach the website.
4. Traffic Sources
Similarweb.com provides a website’s traffic data without having access to Web Analytics.
As seen, the website gets over 35% of its traffic via search, so once the visibility and rankings are dropping significantly, it´s most likely that this results in a big loss of sales.
5. Penalty Checklist
Previous case studies have shown reasons why websites mostly suffered from an update, including:
- Sitewide links
- Too many Money anchors
- Paid links
- No Power - Trust balance
- Redirects from toxic sites
- Unnatural link profiles
- Spammy link building activities
- Links from toxic sites
For now, let’s focus on reviewing the problems, starting with baby-markt.de’s history.
6. Checking the Past
When checking the page in the Wayback Machine, we see this domain has existed since November 1999 and has its headquarters in Dortmund, Germany.
The original content of this page referred to the distribution of a discount card for local shops.
The location of the office has changed by only a few kilometers and is still located in Dortmund. We can assume that the same company has continuously maintained the site. Therefore, this company was responsible for establishing the link profile.
We realize that even such old pages are not protected from updates. Let´s jump into the link profile and try to get some answers.
7. Backlink Profile
To get a better view of the website’s link profile, we use the BLP (Backlink Profiler) tool. How to get started:
- Choose the domain you’d like to analyze.
- Determine what should be analyzed - domain, subpage, subfolder or your own link list.
- Choose the boosts. More boosts, more links!
- Determine which SEO metrics should be included in this report.
- The bar shows you the processing speed of your report.
- Note: Don’t forget the additional options.
- Enter title of report.
- Determine how to deal with deleted links.
- Determine the SwF (Sitewide links-filter).
- Choose whether this report is to repeat. Finally, start the report.
Let’s start with classifying the keywords – either as Money, Brand, Compound or others. (For more detailed Information, see: http://www.linkresearchtools.com/tools/cla/keyword-classification/)
After that, we will move on to evaluating all found backlinks.
7.1 Sidewide Links
First of all, it’s noticeable that a high amount of sitewide links were filtered. This raises the question if baby-markt.de has been punished for having too many of them. Let’s look at baby-markt.de’s sitewide links in more detail. Hence, we look for “Footer-“, “Header“- and “Sidebar“-links:
While reviewing the results, some suspicious links attract my attention: sitewide links with Money anchors from websites with no or very little existing power and trust.
As a first example, I will point out a site which I believe belongs to an SEO because it’s just about selling and showing coupons. Further, its footer contains an exact match anchor, including baby-markt.de’s Money keyword, “Babyspielzeug” (Baby Toy), linking to them.
The next example shows another unnatural, sitewide link containing a hard anchor within the site’s navigation bar, ”Umstandsmode online kaufen” (buy maternity wear online). I’ve highlighted the area to emphasize the unnatural effect of a link directing to a subpage using exact anchors.
While we’ve already analyzed sitewide links containing Money anchors, we should also check baby-markt.de’s keyword ratio.
7.2 Keyword Ratio
It’s pretty obvious that the link building strategy revolves around the excessive use of Money keywords. We‘ve already learned about the heavy influence of over-optimized Money keywords on Google’s penalty victims.
In this excerpt of the CLA, it’s obvious to see that the optimization for Money keywords was performed more intensively compared to other competitors. The complete result of the CLA will be discussed in depth later.
7.3 Link Types
While reviewing, it appears that there are a bunch of redirects with the ability to cause significant trouble and damage. Amongst these you will find some hidden images, which are definitely considered as unnatural links by Google.
Here’s an example for a “hidden image“:
Hidden images are part of the “hidden link“ section and therefore also treated as a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Google webmaster guidelines comment on hidden content:
“Hiding text or links in your content to manipulate Google’s search rankings can be seen as deceptive and is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Text (such as excessive keywords) can be hidden in several ways, including:
- Using white text on a white background
- Locating text behind an image
- Using CSS to position text off-screen
- Setting the font size to 0
- Hiding a link by only linking one small character — for example, a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph“
7.4 Cemper Power*Trust
First, you will be attracted by the high amount of backlinks from inferior (Power*Trust 0) sites. That said, you always have to evaluate your link’s Power*Trust ratios based on the competitors of the market and niche you’re in.
Noticeable is the high amount of Power*Trust links with the worth of 0. The comparison to the competitors will be discussed later.
Explicitly looking at the domain’s power in relation to its trust, you’ll notice an imbalance spike between power and trust. Considering this, the website’s balance could be in danger – as we’ve already learned in other case studies.
In the following images, we notice there are more links with high Power than with high Trust. To provide an accurate statement, we will compare this to the competitors later on.
7.5 Link Velocity Trend
The Link Velocity Trend indicates the growth of domains within the last 24 months. In our example, it shows peaks at 0% and -1% to -50% blocks, often being interpreted by Google as bad signals and the reason for a ranking drop.
This chart states that the domains providing me with backlinks show a continuous decrease in growth.
We’ve already gathered some very interesting facts. Now it’s time to analyze the competitors’ behavior on the market.
8. The Competitors
Competitors can be identified via keywords. For this task, Searchmetrics provides a feature called “competitors“, which shows a list of domains that rank for the same or similar keywords.
There are countless methods to find competitors. The following has often proven itself in practice, and will therefore be my choice. After clicking on the ”competitors" field, we get an overview of domains using the same or similar keyword sets. It has yet to be clearly defined which of the proposed competitors are really relevant to me.
The following competitors were found:
Concerning their structure, these are all online stores with similar architecture as baby-markt.de.
Up to this point of May 2013, none of the competitors received a penalty or got hit by an update, and therefore should serve as good references. Baby-walz.de – as you can see – is the “big player” in this market.
9. The Competitors’ Quick Check
A quick check of the competition gives a good overview and can give first hints. In return, the QDC (Quick Domain Compare) provides as an optimal tool for that job.
We recognize that baby-markt.de does fit quite well in this comparison chart. So we have to dig deeper.
10. Competitor Analysis
The Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA) is most suitable for an analysis and comparison of a website’s link profile with all its relevant competitors.
- Choose between Quick Analysis and Detail Analysis.
- “Quick Analysis“: A very quick evaluation of some important SEO metrics.
- “Detail Analysis“: Manual setting of the analyzed metrics, LRT provides a range of metrics that can be used for an analysis.
- Enter the domain, page or directory that has to be analyzed.
- Enter the domain, page or directory that should be compared with.
- Specify if a domain, page or subfolder has to be analyzed.
- Choose the amount of links that should be used for this report. More boost, more links!
- Do not forget the additional options!
- “Report Title“: Give your report a title to find it faster in future cases.
- “Sidewide Links Filter“: Define how often a sidewide link should be taken in consideration in this report.
Start your report.
The process time depends on the settings you’ve made. The evaluation can take longer. After completion of the evaluation, there is a following task that has to be completed: the "keyword classification". This is important to determine an over-optimization of individual sector keywords.
10.1 Keyword Ratio
Did baby-markt.de get hit by an update caused by its high, one-sided keyword ratio?
Actually, baby-markt.de really has a higher amount of Money keywords than the average competitors, and I absolutely wouldn’t recommend any further optimization for it. Presumably, the over-optimization was really a key reason for the hit by Penguin 2.0.
10.2 Power*Trust Ratio
Does baby-markt.de have too many weak links?
A peak within blocks 0 and 1 can be an evidence for ore over-optimization, this time for backlinks from weak sites – again, compared to other competitors.
10.3 Follow and Nofollow Ratio
An increased number of nofollow links can be an indication of blog comment spam.
Considering the link location, we can see a slightly higher amount of comment links, which strengthens this hypothesis.
Let’s go back to the BLP report and filter the links by its link status, “nofollow”, and its link location, “Comment“, in order to check the presumption. This way it’s easy to find comments, partially with Money anchors.
Here are a some examples of comment spam which were integrated on different blogs:
10.4 Deep Link Ratio
Did baby-markt.de do a lot of link building to subpages?
A stronger linking to subpages may be an indication for the specific optimization of individual product pages or directories. Since Penguin 2.0 always takes a closer look at these, caution is advised. A clever site architecture and internal linking is usually the better strategy to push these subpages up in their rankings.
10.5 Link Type Ratio
Looking at the result, baby-markt.de built more forum links and list links. Generally, these are good and free link sources, yet you should always bear in mind to not overuse them.
This stands in contrast to article directories, which have been abused in the past and are no longer as viable as they used to be. Matt Cutts stated this clearly.
Therefore, we really shouldn’t use any low quality directories any more to get links. I want to point out one particular example: In the screenshot below, you see a common article directory, which contains two inbound articles for baby-markt.de containing Money anchors.
These articles contain cheap content, but there’s a much bigger problem: both articles were duplicated countless times, so they have been rated as spam ever since.
Duplicate content is very easily identified by Google’s algorithm and is therefore a huge threat.
10.6 PageRank Ratio
Looking at the backlinks’ PageRank, and remembering what we already found out by using what LRT has already shown us, baby-markt.de’s ratio of poor links is much higher compared to its competitors – who did much better at acquiring pages with high Power and Trust.
The analysis of baby-markt.de’s market behavior showed us the major differences between baby-markt.de and other competitors. Next, we’ll look at the link velocity.
11. Link velocity comparison
The link growth for different domains can be compared with the Competitive Link Velocity (CLV) tool. This is how it works:
- Enter your domain.
- Enter the domains that have to be compared with.
- Choose the analysis period.
- Do not forget the additional options. Select the report title and set a repeat cycle if necessary.
Could an unnatural link growth have resulted in an update hit?
Just before the launch of Penguin 2.0, apparently there has been a huge change in the website’s link growth. On the following chart we can see all link changes, including all possible reported movements on links.
The rise of the domain popularity (the amount of additional domains per month) has generally been the same for all pages.
The nofollow link growth has increased for baby-markt.de. They may have built a lot of comment spam.
Shortly before the Penguin 2.0 update, some links have been lost. This could have also affected the website’s visibility. It cannot be entirely excluded that unnatural link building has been the reason for the loss of rankings.
We’ve found differences in growth and shall now devote ourselves to the Link Detox analysis.
12. Link Detox (DTOX) Genesis – Identifying the weak and risky links
What is DTOX Genesis?
Link Detox Genesis is able to find bad, and even suspicious links, depending on an aggregate calculation of multiple patterns and risk signals. Some of the sites that are classified as toxic by Link Detox might look ok to you. Well, we have come to know SEOs who said, "This is a link I would like to have”, regarding links that Google has specifically identified as spam samples.
The Link Detox Tool combines millions of data points from the web, from users and from LRT’s own data sources. All these data together are the power of Link Detox.
This method and this new approach is a quantum leap from what Link Detox was and light years away from any other product that claims to recognize unnatural links.
What’s new in the Genesis version of Link Detox?
- Improved backlink check
- New rules to evaluate better and more accurate links
- Detection of hidden image links
- Detection of link voting - directories
- Detection of banned domains
- And much more...
Let’s start a Link Detox report for the website baby-markt.de:
- Enter the Domain
- Choose the theme of the domain
- Choose the mode you need
- Don’t forget the advanced options
- Start the report
After the report is finished, some steps are necessary which turns this report into, in my opinion, the most current, meaningful link risk management evaluation of all.
- Keyword Classification - most keywords will be classified already because we classified a lot in the previous reports (e.g. CLA). If still necessary, we will categorize the few remaining. This is necessary to do to get the best results.
- Link Detox Screener - my absolute favorite feature but not a must-do! The screener allows you to evaluate a site, and - if necessary - to incorporate it in your disavow within a few moments.
And so we go...
- Navigate between each link
- Evaluate the link between good or bad
- Disavow the page or even the entire domain
Link Detox Screener hotkeys allows an increase in performance. These are the following:
- Recalculation! The Genesis version allows a recalculation of reports after your own rating that can change the picture significantly…and it’s free!
You will find further information here.
After finishing each of these steps, we’ve come to the conclusion that the Detox risk is 74 points above the “okay” value, as everything over 500 is rated as “risky”.
The summary indicates a link profile with over 20% toxic links. These links should be checked and eventually should get disavowed to get back on the market.
The percentage of deadly risk links is 19.6% of all toxic links, which is huge!
A higher proportion of TOX3 links should not be taken lightly.
Competitive Link Detox allows analysis for up to 10 competitors, thus you will have a better understanding of your niche.
The Average Link Detox Risk appears to be balanced. Let’s take a detailed look.
Looking at the Link Detox Risk, an increased amount of toxic links is noticeable.
Link Detox Risk shows an amount of toxic links, which are indicated as deadly risk links. These should be removed.
The following situation emerges by considering the Link Detox Rules:
We see an increased amount of:
SUSP1: Page has no CEMPER Power*Trust and CEMPER Power*Trust Domain < 5. A page without external links on a weak domain.
SUSP2: Domain has no CEMPER Power*Trust Domain. Probably a new or very weak domain, or a penalty.
TOX3: The Link Detox Genesis algorithm classified this link as highly unnatural.
14. Conclusion and Recommendations
We were able to identify the following problems within this analysis:
14.1 Keyword, Directory and Subpage Drops:
The domain suffered a high loss of visibility in many areas of the page.
14.2 Sitewide Links:
The large amount of sitewide links is significant. They are often used in combination with Money keywords and exact anchor texts, which could cause a imbalance of the anchor text ratio.
14.3 Questionable Link Quality
A very high number of baby-markt.de’s links are of poor quality (implementation as well as content), and originate from sites with very questionable thematic relevance in this context. Furthermore, there have been extreme cases of duplicate content and linguistic mix (e.g. Anglophone sites with German articles).
14.4 Anchor Text Over-Optimization
A high number of exact anchor texts have been found. This points to directories and subpages, which have suffered a high loss of visibility.
We have found many cases of duplicate content within article lists. In addition, even a lot of blog comment links have been used to gain backlinks.
14.6 Toxic Links
Recognizable is the elevated amount of toxic links compared to the website’s competitors.
15. Findings from baby-markt.de
A link building strategy based on building plenty of hard anchor sitewide links can’t be a sustainable strategy for a good organic ranking. Focusing on anchor text ratios is of the upmost importance for any link building.
“Old school SEO” is no longer recommended. Comment spam and duplicate content are not sustainable strategies.
The thematic relevance of the referring sites is equally important. If the goal is to keep high rankings in a certain niche, the referring websites should also be thematically relevant in order to consolidate the authority of one’s domain.
The balance of CEMPER Power and CEMPER Trust is important; links must have both in an acceptable balance.
A clever page architecture and internal linking should strengthen product pages. An over-optimization of subpages must be avoided at all times.
LRT offers an easy possibility to identify toxic links. It’s necessary to trace your own link profile and algorithm based on instabilities.
Links are not always useful links. Other markets and industries have individual rules for link building strategies. It is up to us to identify and optimize for these strategies. Whoever flies too high above the radar must expect to be caught.
What do you think?
This case study was written by Lorant Görgey, Content Marketing Manager at Catbird Seat, and proud user of LinkResearchTools and Link Detox.
A word from Christoph C. Cemper
Lorant demonstrated his expertise in doing an SEO link audit on the Baby-Markt.de web site. I am thrilled by the detail and structure he accomplished. Therefore, I’m happy to publish Lorant Görgey’s research on our site.
We warmly welcome him into the exclusive circle of Certified LRT Professionals. This means Lorant is also invited to our exclusive “LRT Certified” event in Vienna in May.
Our goal is to provide our user community and clients with quality service and knowledge. Our Certified LRT Professionals and Xperts are key to achieving this goal.
I look forward to Lorant Görgey’s future work, and I personally recommend working with hime whenever you get the opportunity.