After doing large link removal projects it’s always interesting when you read about link removal requests that go off the rails and result in both a PR disaster but the link is not removed in the first place. This time it was Gordon Sands from Bankruptcyaction.com that managed to piss off blogger The Tim when he sent him the somewhat aggressive link removal email below.
I find it’s actually interesting that Boing Boing readers have taken an interest in this and well pool old Gordon is being torn apart on social media by just average users. This is not the usual SEO types throwing a webmaster or link builder under a bus this time around, instead it seems to be large number of smaller Twitter accounts rallying against Bankruptcyaction.com and obviously Gordon. There are somewhat angry Twitter threads attacking Gordon like @Furiouslan but it will be interesting if they continue and grow or burn out? Will this continue to go viral as per the Streisand Effect?
So where did it all go wrong?
The biggest point I would make is if you are trying to get someone to do something for you don’t use all caps, bold a threatening line item or mark the block of text in red. These are just like waving a red flag in front of an angry bull and screaming “Screw you hippie I want you to submit to me and do what ever I demand you do and I want it done yesterday!”.
So yes as you can guess the obviously the outcome was not the response that Gordon Sands wanted it liked to hear, even if it was apparently the third email Gordon sent Tim, it’s important to always remember that any link removal request is always at the discretion of the blog owner. So if you are trying to get a link removed ALWAYS best be as polite and accommodating as possible and most importantly be patient as most webmasters are happy to remove links if the request is reasonable but again it’s their choice.
I have copied a large chunk of the email thread Timothy Ellis posted on his blog along with some of his comments between each email, but if you click the image you can visit his blog and read the whole post in detail. But you can see that the first reply from Tim wasn’t actually that bad and his response was reasonable enough it was a comment he felt was not in fact left by a spammer but a real user that he knew. From Tim’s first response things just kinda go downhill from here as you can see…
So made this interesting was this initially seemed a typical penguin “link algorithm” clean up based on over optimisation, link drops and sidebar links. But as I started to look somewhat more into their links to this part in particular most of the ones I found mostly seemed natural and organic and it did not appear to me that the request may not be as much focused on cleaning up link spam but instead something else.
You can see the offending comment that Gordon Sands is trying to get removed below, what makes it interesting is that it’s not the typically type of comment spam that you would be doing a link removal request on. The comment again is a relevant to the article and the link is appropriate to the comment so it’s not the type of link I would push for removal unless Google specifically listed it as a link they want removed due to a manual penalty.
Looking at some of their other backlinks yes the website below with the sidebar link seems to have some more commercial anchor text but seems to be relevant to the other sitelinks. So far nothing concerning stands out for me at this point that it is penguin algorithm penalty at work, but does feel like there might have been some paid links that have been built at some point over the past several years so again it might be a manual penalty Gordon is trying to resolve.
Looking around more I found this article in the screenshot below with a link to the same URL that Gordon was trying to get removed from Tim’s site. But again it doesn’t look like something penguin would typically go after because it was as natural as possible with the full URL and no money terms in the anchor text. Again the link is contextually relevant to the article so not something I would flag as a link I would push for removal.
Using more MajesticSEO backlink data I picked another link this type it was a forum and it was actually posted by a “super moderator” and again with no anchor text just the URL. So unless it’s being manually flagged by Google search quality teams as paid link it seems to be natural enough and not something that should be causing them problems.
According to MajesticSEO it seems that they have started to remove some sitewide links within the last month or so which could imply they got something of a manual penalty or did they think they got hit by penguin and panicking? I’m not sure how many of these links Gordon might be trying to get removed but it seems to be something of a slash and burn which could be an over-reaction if it’s not penguin or a manual penalty they are trying to fix.
I took a look at SearchMetrics data for their domain and the date (12th Feb 2012) where they appear to get a large loss of visibility in Google seems to happen just before Panda 3.3 hit and basically the site has pretty much been panda bait since then. So it seems most of their traffic left almost 2 years ago but many they are trying to bring the site back from the dead?
Too highlight the point that it seems to be Panda bait and their issues don’t seem to be link based I’ve included a screenshot of the page Gordon is concern with below. You can see there is almost no content to this particular page and this lack of content is common to several key pages within their site.
I would say that Gordon Sands should stop picking on Tim and fighting with everyone on Twitter that has a view about what he did wrong and focus on improving his website content. Also I would consider upgrading his website from static HTML to a more user friendly CMS like WordPress which will fix some of the technical issues that may have increased the impact of Panda on their site.