Learn from a SEO and Backlink Audit.
I am very proud to present our 12th deep-dive case study into a sharp drop in traffic and rankings after the Google Penguin 2.0 update comparethemarket.com
This analysis is a very interesting one, and despite having 60 pages again, our Certified LRT Xpert Harry Tschuggnall who runs the first Certified LRT Agency found things that left questions open for you, our community.
This case is particularly interesting; as it could be a new Google filter pattern and maybe we need to devote similar patterns an even longer analysis… did someone say 100+ pages?
But decide for yourself. We look very much forward to your feedback.
I greatly appreciate you sharing this research work by Harry Tschuggnall
- Enjoy & Learn!
Christoph C. Cemper
How we will structure our SEO & Backlink Audit
- SEO Visibility before and after Penguin 2.0
- Loser Keywords
- Loser Directories
- Anchor Text Ratios
- Links not Found
- Link Networks
- Toxic Links
- Link profile
- Link Velocity Trends
In this case study we are going to look at one of the biggest UK online insurance comparison websites that lost a lot of its SEO visibility after the second Penguin update.
SEO Visibility before and after Penguin 2.0
Having a look at the Searchmetrics visibility chart for comparethemarket.com, we see that the website suffered a big drop after Penguin 2.0:
The obvious question is: Why got comparethemarket.com hit that hard? What have been its mistakes?
In order to find out the reasons for the drop, we first need to take a look at comparethemarket.com's loser keywords of the week after Penguin 2.0.
Checking this issue, I noticed that the website lost lots of rankings for keywords that are more or less off-topic ones e.g. "isuzu trooper" or "audi a3". As comparethemarket.com is specialized in comparing insurances, of course the website doesn't deserve top rankings for those keywords. We have seen many times that websites lost their rankings for off-topic keywords after Penguin 2.0, so Google is able to judge pages better now.
But of course, these off-topic keywords are not the ones that we are going to look at in detail, we are going to check the top money keywords that lost positions.
Here we see the visibility of the Top10 directories before the update:
After the update:
What we can see here is that comparethemarket.com had a big visibility drop of its three strongest directories. Looking at other directories, we notice that comparethemarket.com did not only lose visibility after Penguin, but also won some: some directories and keywords gained rankings! To me it seems that not a single directory caused the massive drop in comparethemarket.com's visibility. Hence, we need to look at the whole website. Let's check comparethemarket.com's anchor text ratios first.
Anchor Text Ratios
First I start the QBL (Quick Backlinks Tool) to get a first overview:
- Simply enter the domain you want to look at
- Select if you want to look at the whole domain or only at a special page
- I also recommend to set the sitewide links filter to 5 in order to ensure to get accurate data
After starting the report, the "Report Information" section shows us all the details about the report we've made:
As we see, the QBL found 12.862 links and removed 748 duplicate links. As the tool is using 22 different backlink sources, it is able to filter out all duplicate links automatically.
Next you see a quick overview that tells you how much Power and Trust the domain has got and also how many referring root-domains are linking to the website:
AH! I just noticed that we've made a mistake. Can you tell which one? Alright, alright, I am going to betray it to you 😉
If we go back to our QBL report and look at the "Report Information" section, we see that the tool removed dropped links:
2.5 months after the update it is very likely that comparethemarket.com has removed some links already. Hence, the data of our report are not significant. Let's re-run this report to get accurate information. We can simply do this by clicking the "Re-Run" button on top of the "Report Information" section:
So the settings are exactly the same. The only thing we have to do is to uncheck the "Remove Dropped Links" box:
Now we can start the report again. These are our new results:
As the first report removed the dropped links, only 12.862 links have been found. The second report found 14.255 links. This can just mean one thing: comparethemarket.com has removed 1.393 links already! We are going to check this presumption later on.
Now we go to the "anchor text" tab and sort all the anchor texts "by count":
Here we see an anchor text cloud where you can easily see what kind of anchor texts have been used the most. Further, we get a nice chart showing us the breakdown in detail. We can also download the links as "CSV" or "XLSX".
Almost 10% of comparethemarket.com's links have the anchor text "compare life insurance".
As far as I remember, this keyword hasn't been listed in the "Loser" table we have looked at before. At this point, I don't have an explanation for this issue, but we are going to look at this mystery later on.
Instead, the keyword "best saving rates" was one of the loser keywords. Looking at the anchor text ratio table we notice that "best saving rates" wasn't used that many times. But don't forget: the QBL report is made to give you a "quick" overview as it only shows you the 16.000 strongest links. To get a full report with 100% correct data, we need to start a BLP (Backlink Profiler) report:
- Simply enter the URL of the website you want to look at
- Decide if you want to analyze a "Domain" a "Page" a "Subfolder" or an own list of links. For our purpose, we need to tick "Domain"
- As we are no members of comparethemarket.com's SEO team, we don't have access to the website's webmaster tools and also don't have any own link lists to upload - this would be the recommended way for inhouse analysis, as there's always some more links added then
- To get as many links as possible we set the Link Boost 5x
Now we need to tick the metrics we want to look at:
a) Link Check
What can these metrics tell us about? Well, we can use it
- to get additional information about comparethemarket.com's anchor text ratios
- to see if comparethemarket.com has a lot of redirects
- to find out if comparethemarket.com has plenty of footer links
b) Basic SEO stats:
These metrics are useful to find out
- from what kind of websites comparethemarket.com's links are coming from
- how many backlinks comparethemarekt.com has got in total
c) Trust & Power Details
The Trust & Power details help us to
- see if comparethemarket.com‘s links are mainly from weak, unnatural websites or from strong authentic ones
- see if the power and trust metrics are balanced
d) Domain Registration Details
For what can we use these metrics for?
- To see if a lot of domains are having the same IP (to identify possible link networks)
- To find same registration details and therefore to uncover possible link networks
e) Link Source Country & City
Here we get information about the country and city of origin of comparethemarket.com's links
f) Authority Backlinks
With the help of these data we can check if comparethemarket.com is using sneaky link building tactics in order to get lots of high authority backlinks
g) Authority Metrics
Here we can check comparethemarket.com's backlinks according to the MOZ authority metrics. Those tend to be washier than CEMPER Trust, but it's still good to look at any picture from many different angles. After all that's why we love LRT for their 100 or so metrics, don't we?
h) Advanced Link Counts
We are going to use these metrics in order to see if comparethemarket.com has websites from same IP's and/or ClassC's.
After ticking the metrics we want to look at, we set the sitewide links filter up to 5 and "Run the Report":
Remember: the keyword "best saving rates" is one of the biggest loser after Penguin 2.0, it lost 80 positions:
Let's check again if comparethemarket.com has got lots of anchor texts with the keyword "best saving rates":
I can't find a single anchor text containing the keyword "best saving rates". That's strange! What I've noticed so far is that there are 1.901 links that can't be found anymore. I can't tell you for sure but to me it seems that comparethemarket.com also changed some other links.
So now let's look at other keywords that lost their rankings.
The second loser keyword is "cashback credit cards":
Mhm….here we see the same pattern as we've seen before: the keyword disappeared for 2 weeks, shortly after it came back. But in this case, the "cashback credit cards" retrieved its position back. To me it doesn't look like a Penguin issue.
Let's look at this in detail:
What? Comparethemarket.com has only 2 links with the exact match anchor text "cashback credit cards"? Mhm…
Let's try another loser keyword: "travellers insurance"
Alright, no results for this keyword.
We don't give up: keyword number 4 "cheap insurance quotes":
At least we found some matching links for this keyword: 36 pages are linking to comparethemarket.com and containing the keyword "cheap insurance quotes". Alright, 36 pages out of 9.363 can't influence the website's ranking that heavily I suppose.
Let's carry on! Keyword number 5: "halifax credit cards"
Also this keyword lost its rankings for about 2 weeks after Penguin. Now it slowly starts to recover. Again, I don't see any sign that the website got hit by Penguin. But let's check that issue in detail.
We open the BLP report we've made before and reset all filters:
Now we simply write the new keyword "halifax credit cards" into the "Anchor Text" search box:
No results. Again, I think comparethemarket.com has removed some links already. I suggest, Google didn't value the keyword as relevant because having a look at comparethemarket.com's landing page for "halifax credit cards" (http://www.comparethemarket.com/credit-cards/providers/halifax/) I noticed that the page doesn't provide any additional benefit:
Let's carry on to the next keyword "pet insurance lifetime cover":
Alright, again the same pattern. Very strange, right? Let's look at one more keyword that dropped. If we won't find anything suspicious, we need to continue our detective work by using different tools.
Last Keyword: "price comparison websites"
Even here we see the same pattern again.
What we've seen before is that the visibility of the most important keywords changed after Penguin 2.0.. To me the reasons for that are either because of some technical issues or maybe because of a website relaunch. Well, of course I can't find out if this happened because of technical issues, but I can compare the website before and after May 22 to see if a website relaunch happened by checking the Wayback Machine Archive:
The page looks the same before May 22 and after May 22 so no relaunch had caused the drops.
Let's find it out if we can find some other strange pattern.
Links not Found
Looking again at the links status section in our BLP report, I noticed this:
Wow! More than 20% of comparethemarket.com's links can't be found anymore! Let's look at this in detail:
By clicking on the "LinkNotFound" tab we see all the links that can't be found anymore. I further sorted them by Power*Trust to see which of them are the strongest:
Let's check out some of these links. Maybe we are able to find out why comparethemarket.com removed them.
LinkNotFound Nr. 1
Here we have a Russian SEO article directory. Well, maybe not the best site to get a link from these days, so it wasn't the worst idea to remove that link in my opinion 😉
LinkNotFound Nr. 2
Maybe comparethemarket.com advertised on many websites using follow links (as we know that's against Google's guidelines) and now removed them in order to get back its rankings. As the box is empty - the link is not found - I can't tell you for sure, but I suspect that's the case here.
LinkNotFound Nr. 3
Here we have a Polish article directory. I found 50 more links from the same IP. All of them are article directories that look the same. All of these links are not found anymore.
Further, I found 35 pages from a different IP but from the same Polish network:
Al in all I've found more than 100 pages that can't be found anymore. All of them look very spammy and have a .pl country level ending:
I also found some blogspot spam:
This German website is saying that the links have been removed.
Look! Now I am showing you a very cool feature that I've just started to use by myself and I love it!
I am talking about "Filter Slices". With it you are able to analyze a certain aspect of your reports or to analyze all your "bad links" in a separate report. With the filter slices you can save certain sections or pre-selected data areas of your reports in a separate (partial) report and analyze them individually. Each new report delivers 2 slices, which automatically selects your predefined "bad" and "good" links and saves them in a separate slice.
Don't forget to apply the right filter, name the slice - I named it "cheap insurance quotes" - and hit the "save slice" button. It is good to save the filter, it can be useful at some later point.
Now I must admit this feature has been in LinkResearchTools for almost a year now, but is a great example how you don't use all features and options of a software you use daily. Stepping back and looking at new features really can save your time big time.
I am going to show you in detail:
In the section "Stored slices" we find our saved slice. By clicking on it, all the metrics are going to show us only the relevant data for this slice.
For example: Here the report tells us that 33 keywords have the anchor text "compare insurance | cheap insurance quotes | compare the market" and 3 links have the anchor text "cheap insurance quotes":
Further, 66,7% are coming from only one IP.
Let's look at some of these pages in detail:
Here we see a link from an ordinary web directory, having the anchor text "insurance". This link looks quite normal to me. But wait! Have a look at this:
Comparethemarket.com's entry in this directory looks exactly the same. Also the banner looks quite familiar, do you agree? 😉
Although the text has some differences to the previous ones, the website has the same structure as the ones before as well as the same adds.
Let's see if comparethemarket.com sets up an own link network or if the website used some other existing network to get links!
Let's start a DETOX report, maybe comparethemarket.com has lots of toxic links that caused the massive drop:
- Enter the domain you want to analyze
- Select the theme of the domain. If you are not sure you can select "automatically detect"
- As we are not the owner of the site and we don't have access to its Webmaster Tools, we don't know if comparethemarket.com got an unnatural link warning. Hence, we select the option "Don't know". If you ARE the owner or have access you should really fill that out in most possible detail, as it helps the team of LRT tune their algorithms. Especially example links Google now gives for manual penalties are very helpful for Christoph and his team.
- We select classic mode in order to check comparethemarket.com's existing backlinks
- As we don't have any other backlinks, we don't upload additional backlinks (If you do a detox for your own website I strongly recommend to upload the links from your Google Webmaster Tool or your own backlinks you might have).
- In this step you also have the possibility to upload your disavow file or some other backlinks that you want to be ignored.
Finally run the report.
Here we see the progress of our report. The more backlinks a website has, the more time it takes to finish the report.
- 15% of the report are actually done (You can reload the page any time to get the current progressing status)
- Within the "Report Information" section we find useful data like the start date of the report, mode, domain, backlink sources, and so on. Further, we see a very interesting number of links that have been found! Look at this! Detox found 91.283 links! By clicking the number we get all details about the links that have been found:
- Here we see a short overview of the CEMPER Power & Trust Metrics as well as of the website's referring root-domains
Let's grab a coffee and wait until the report is finished.
About 15 minutes later the report is processed already. Wow, that's very fast for this high amount of links, don't you think?
Here are our results: comparethemarket.com has a high Link Detox Risk!
The tabs on top of the chart give us additional information:
a. Link Health Breakdown
b. Link Detox Risk Breakdown
c. Detox Rules Breakdown
Below these charts we also find a clear summary:
6% of all links are toxic, 62% links are rated as suspicious and 32% are valuated as healthy. Below the summary we find a table with lots of columns and opportunities to filter our links:
Let's look at some links in detail.
There are 2 types of toxic links: "TOX1", which means that the Link is NOT indexed.
The reason for that can be because the link is coming from a very deep page that Google did not crawl till now or because the link is coming from a brand new website that isn't indexed yet. But in most of the cases a link not being indexed means that the website got de-indexed in consequence of a penalty.
The second type of toxic links is "TOX2". Links are classified as "TOX2" if they contain malware or virus.
Alright, let's apply the "TOX 1" filter and take a deeper look at some of comparethemarket.com's toxic links:
The first domain is an article directory. The link to comparethemarket.com is not indexed anymore:
Let's double check if the site is really not indexed anymore:
Yes, the tool was right, nothing has been found!
I also noticed something else: If we change to "subdomains" in our Link Detox report, we get hundreds of pages displaying the same content but having different URLs:
This can be a track leading us to the causes of comparethemarket.com's drop. But maybe this findings are just a result of a wildcard domain. A wildcard subdomain is a DNS setting that leads each request to the same subdomain. Let's check that:
Alright, it always shows the same content so yes, it is just a wildcard domain.
Hint: Do not use wildcard domains!! Why? Simply because wildcard domains are an open door for negative SEO attacks! How does this work? O.k. I will show you but only to help you to protect yourself from negative SEO attacks and not to help you to attack someone's website!!!
Actually it's very easy to attack a website that is using hundreds of different URLs for the same content: Someone could build links for this websites by using hundreds of different URLS like I showed in the sample on top. You can basically write anything in front of the URL. This practice would generate massive duplicate content. Duplicate content will for sure drop your rankings sooner or later (Latest when the next Panda update will be rolled out).
What can you do to protect yourself? First, do not use wildcard domains! Second, implement a canonical tag that protects you! OK enough from the dark site of the planet…
It's hard to find out if the website used wildcard domains as part of a SEO tactic or if the page was just expediently linked to
Let's go back to our Link Detox report and apply the "From URL Filter":
I also pressed the "Grouped by Domain" button just right on top. The results: 74 links are coming from these domains. To find out if the links from all these subdomains have been generated by accident or if it is a matter of a sneaky SEO tactic, we need to check if some of the wildcard subdomains have got own backlinks. Well, you probably think that this can't be the case because all of these domains are "TOX1" which means they are not indexed. But keep in mind that they might have been indexed already.
To find out if these subdomains have any backlinks, simply hover your mouse above a certain domain and the sign "a +" is going to appear:
Simply press "Start QBL Domain" in order to check if this subdomain has got own links:
a.) 33.londovor.com: 0 links
b.) aa.londovor.com: 0 links
c.) w.londovor.com: 0 links
As the subdomains don't have any own links, using a wildcard domain seems like a sneaky link building tactic to me! But there are other ways to get a page indexed, even without links - like pasting the URL in your Google+ status will have it indexed within minutes ...
O.k. let's go back to our Link Detox report and have a look at comparethemarket.com's "TOX2" links.
The first entry directs us to the following page:
To me, this website doesn't look toxic as it even has the "MacAfee SECURE" seal and it runs under https.
So let's check why this website is classified as "Tox2". Therefore we visit the website http://www.urlvoid.com/ and enter the URL we want to get additional information for. That's what the website is telling us:
By scrolling down we can see where the website is listed as detected:
By clicking the "Info" button we can see exactly why the page got listed:
Here we see that some people rated this website as "Phishing or other Spam". That's why it is listed.
Let's click another link from the Link Detox link table:
It's all German but I think you know what it means 😉
Alright, so we covered the part about toxic infected and virus sites.
Now let's use the new "Link Detox Screener" to quickly screen comparethemarket.com's suspicious looking links. The easiest way to start is to go back to the summary chart and to click the "Show me the links" button next to the suspicious links.
Now we get comparethemarket.com's suspicious looking links:
Next we hit the "Link Detox Screener" button and get to a nice dashboard:
- The "Link Screener" dashboard gives us all details of a website: "From URL", "Anchor Text", "Detox" the rating, the link risk based on all the rules, "To URL", "Link Status" and number of the site's backlinks.
- The "next" button takes us to the next suspicious looking website, the "previous" button obviously takes you to the previous one.
- This chart shows us the link risk for the actual link.
- You can also add one or multiple tags to each link. You could add a tag like "check later" so you are able to filter all the links by using this tag.
- Here you have the possibility to disavow a link. The tool automatically puts the link into a disavow file that will be generated at the end. You can also disavow the whole domain by selecting the "Domain" tab.
- The rating button gives you the opportunity to give feedback to the tool developer. If you think the tool rated the link right, simply give your thumb up, if not, just give a thumb down. Hint: Voting can bring you some free extra credits!
Let's click the "next" button and have a look at the next suspicious looking link:
For our analysis, we don't need the Link Detox Screener as we don't want to generate a disavow file for comparethemarket.com. Hence, we close the screener and go back to the Link Detox report table. Now we reset all filters and look if we can find some unnatural link patterns because also the Link Detox tool is great for this task.
First we add some more columns to the table. This makes it much easier for us to find unnatural patterns. I have already shown you how to find patterns by using the BLP and by applying the IP filter. Now I want to apply the "Registration Detail" filter. Maybe we can identify some more bad links ;-). I select "WhoisGuard, Inc.". Although there is nothing wrong with "WhoisGuard, Inc." as it protects domain owners from spam, it can still be a pattern.
Let's look at some of the "WhoisGuard, Inc." websites:
And so on ...
Most of the websites are blog posts, having hard exact match anchor texts!
Maybe comparethemarket.com wants to hide its link profile from its competitors? Well, let's think about it: How can a website hide its real link profile?
- Build lots of spammy links and disavow them straight away. I don't suggest to do so because always remember that the disavow file is just a recommendation, it doesn't necessary mean that Google follows it.
- A more clever way is to build links for a different domain and then redirect the domain via 301 to your main domain. I have to say that this practice isn't as easy anymore as it was before because Google changed its position regarding redirects but it still works.
We can't answer this question as we don't have access to comparethemarket.com's disavow file. But to be honest, I don't think that anyone is using these tactics.
What we can do is to make a CDTOX (the new Competitive Link Detox tool) in order to find out if comparethemarket.com's link risk is higher than the link risk of its competitors.
Alright, let's get started:
- We enter the URL we want to analyze
- Select the right theme
- We tick "Find Competing Pages". Now we enter the keyword "cheap insurance quotes", pick the right search engine, language and hit "Find Pages".
- Now the tool automatically shows us comparethemarket.com's competitors for the keyword "cheap insurance quotes":
Finally, we hit the "Run Report" button.
By using the CDTOX we can find out if a high link risk is common in this industry.
As you can see comparethemarket.com has a little higher risk then their competitors but they all have a moderate link risk scores. This is the typical use case of "know your battlefield". If you think your moderate link risk is bad, then first look at your competitors, too - theirs might be worse and Google has to take what they get in every industry, every language and every country as Christoph always says.
So we have to check this off and try to find the secret of the keyword drops somewhere else 😉
Now we'd like to find out more about comparethemarket.com's redirects. If there are many other domains forwarded using a 301 redirect to comparethemarket.com, maybe the website redirected expired domains that have lots of backlinks. This could be comparethemarket.com's link building tactic: to hide some parts of its link profile by using 301 redirects and to get link power from the redirected.
To find out, we go back to our BLP report and select the "Link Status" Tab:
60 links (0,6%) are redirects. O.k. that sounds a lot but let's stay calm 😉
What we are going to now is to try to find out what kind of redirects comparethemarket.com has - either 301 ones that are transmitting link juice or 302 ones that do not pass any link juice. Further we want to check how many and what kind of backlinks these redirected domains have. By clicking the "REDIRECT" button, the tool filters all the 60 redirects automatically:
Alright, as we just want to see the redirects that pass link juice to comparethemarket.com, we simply apply the link juice filter:
As you can see there are 15 redirects that pass link juice. Let's have a deeper look on them! We are just going to look at the root domains:
We want to see if this domain has got lots of backlinks. Hence, we open the "URL Actions" and start a "Start QBL Domain" report:
I am getting a bit excited now! I wonder how many links will come up!
Mhm... only 2 links from 2 root domains. To make sure this page does not have redirects as well we check their links status too:
This domain has 11 links and also no redirects. That's not enough to influence the link profile of the main domain comparethemarket.com.
14 links. We are looking for a redirected domain with 100s or 1000s of backlinks! 14 links can't influence comparethemarket.com's link profile that much.
64! We are getting better 😉 64 links could have impact on the main domains link profile but only if almost all of the 64 links have hard exact match anchor texts. Let's look at the breakdown:
As we can see, there are money keywords but the majority of the keywords are brand ones. This cant' have a great impact in my opinion.
Ready for one more? (It's the last one, I promise you :-))
63 more links. Let's look at the anchor text breakdown:
Again, there are some exact match anchor texts but most of the anchor texts are brand or compound ones I would say. Classifying keywords for exact match domains can be tough, as it is hard to say if the keyword is a brand one or a money one.
All in all we found 153 links that are redirected to comparethemarket.com. In the case of comparethemarket.com this amount of links is very small compared to the total amount of backlinks of more than 90.000. But for websites with far less backlinks this amount of redirected links could have a big impact on the main domains link profile.
So if you want to check your competitors link profiles watch out for 301 redirects! Further, also keep an eye on your own 301 redirects! Check all redirects to your website with which you are not familiar. This redirects can be a consequence of a negative SEO attack and could have a high amount of links with anchor texts you don't want to be associate with!
Alright, until now we couldn't find a lot bad signals. Let's compare comparethemarket.com's link profile with the ones of its competitors. Maybe an unnatural link profile is the key answer to our question why some keywords dropped rankings and why the page lost visibility. Let's start the CLA (Competitive Landscape Analyzer) Tool:
1. Keyword "cheap insurance quote"
a) This time we use the "Quick Analysis" mode
b) We use the "Find Competing Pages" function again
c) The tool shows us comparethemarket.com's competitors
d) As we want to analyze the domain backlinks we pick the first options
e) To get as many links as possible we set the Link Boost 5x.
We also set the sitewide links filter up to 5 and hit the "Run Report" button:
a.) Power, Trust & Power*Trust
Here we see that most of comparethemarket.com's competitors have more power, trust and links. Let's look at the Power*Trust distribution:
78 % of comparethemarket.com's links have Power*Trust 0 while the total average is 53%. That's far too much and means that the website has lots of very low quality links! After classifying all keywords we get the results for the keyword distribution:
b.) Keyword Ratio
Here we see that comparethemarket.com has more money keywords than the total average. This is of course a very bad signal.
c.) Link Status
Also comparethemarket.com's link status distribution seems quite unnatural. Having lots of nofollow links can be a signal for having lots of spammy blog comment links as they are usually marked as nofollow. I also checked the other metrics. Comparethemarket.com's link profile fits quite well into the link profile of its competitors. So I couldn't find anything else suspicious.
This was just the competitive situation for one keyword. To check the link profiles of other competitors for other keywords that lost rankings we need to run a CLA for every keyword.
2. Keyword: "price comparison websites"
Also for this keyword comparethemarket.com has many more weak links than its competitors.
b.) Keyword Ratio
Wow! This time comparethemarket.com's anchor text ratio is far higher than the ratio of its competitors! Almost 3 times higher! All other metrics are o.k.
I also checked 4 more loser keywords. Also in these cases it turned out that comparethemarket.com always has many more weak links and a much higher money keyword ratio.
Link Velocity Trends
Another important part of a natural link profile is the websites link growth. If it is natural or not can only be answered by comparing it with the website's competitors.
Let's start a CLV (Competitive Link Velocity) to check this issue. To get a full report, we simply need to enter the domain we'd like to analyze as well as its competitor websites. The tool shows us a clear heat map:
a) Link Velocity for the last 30 days / keyword "cheap insurance quotes"
To get accurate numbers without sitewide links, we need to select the "Domain Popularity" tab. The like velocity looks quite balanced I would say.
Now let's check if the website maybe deleted a massive number of links in order to get its rankings back. If that's the case, we would see a high number of deleted links in the end of May / in the beginning of June. Let's check the 24 months chart:
Comparethemarket.com removed lots of links in November/December 2011, but not in May / June or July. On the contrary. In the chart below we can see that the website has been building lots of new links:
The case of comparethemarket.com's visibility drop and visibility return remains a bit of a mystery for me until now. It is really hard to put the spot on why comparethemarket.com lost part of its visibility after the roll out of Penguin 2.0.
Further, there are very strange pattern for the loser keywords. All of them dropped out of the Top100 rankings. Some of them got back on track after 2 weeks, some didn't recover yet.
So this is not a normal pattern for a website that just got hit by Penguin! We have to keep in mind: Just because the drop happened around the time when Penguin 2.0 has been rolled out doesn't necessary mean that the drop can't have any other reasons.
In my opinion one reason for the fact that the website lost its rankings and gained them back so quickly, could have been some technical issues. Maybe the webmaster had to set the pages to "noindex" or "nofollow" or maybe he implemented the canonical tag wrong. I have never seen a pattern like this.
Maybe anybody has further suggestion on how to analyze this case? I would be happy to read your proposals in the comments box below and potentially update or follow up with the findings.
Another possible reason could be simply an anchor text filter. As we all know, building too many links with exact match anchor texts can have negative effects on a website's or their pages ranking. That has been the case since 2008 or earlier.
As we have seen, comparethemarket.com removed many links. Maybe lots of them have been links with exact match anchor texts. This would be worth diving deeper in historical archives, but that would have added another 60 pages to the 60 for this case-study I think.
Maybe removing those exact anchor links was the key to success and the reason why comparethemarket.com got its rankings back so quick. As we could see in the link velocity trend chart as well as in den BLP table, comparethemarket.com did remove lots of links - maybe also all links with the anchor text "best saving rates" - but not after Penguin 2.0. So maybe comparethemarket.com gained it rankings back because it removed lots of unnatural exact match anchor text links.
We also found 153 links that are redirected. That's a very small number compared to comparethemarket.com's total amount of backlinks. 153 links couldn't affect its link profile that much.
You also see that comparethemarket.com was using link networks like web directory networks or business directories (e.g. xxx.lodover.com) in combination with other unnatural pattern like lots of weak links. Also, the website's link growth was much faster than the link growth of its competitors before the rollout of Penguin 2.0, so an unnatural link profile could have caused the drop.
Also comparethemarket.com's link risk is very high, only 32% of its links are healthy, but then, according to the CDTOX analysis, they blend in!
But my best bet after this research is to blame technical issues or keyword over optimization filters, because these issues can be fixed very fast so that can be an explanation why the website got back its rankings quickly.
What do you think?
If you have any ideas do not hesitate to leave a comment or to contact me!
This case study was written by Harry Tschuggnall, CEO at Mediabase, and long-time user of LinkResearchTools and Link Detox.
A word from Christoph C. Cemper
This analysis was conducted and post written by Harry Tschuggnall, now Certified LRT Xpert.
Harry showed proficiency in doing a backlink profile and SEO audit using the LinkResearchTools and pointed out quite some critical issues to fix. He even further brought up more issues that make this one of the most complex audit cases, and I definitely look forward to community expert feedback and follow-ups.
As usual with Harry, I am thrilled by the detail he went into in this case study. Therefore, I’m very happy to certify Harry as the first Certfied LRT Xpert by approving and publishing his research on our site.
Harry now also achieved the first Certified LRT Agency certification for his company Mediabase GmbH. This now allow Mediabase to market their brand and service with this highly sought after certification and receives consulting leads from us free of charge.
Goal of our certification program is to provide our user community and clients a high quality service, and our certified experts are key to that.
I look forward to future work and personally recommend Harry Tschuggnall and Mediabase GmbH to work with you whenever you get a chance!