A friend who has a few hobby travel sites asked me to have a look at his sites, all of them were hit by Google Penguin. It is no surprise that someone should all their sites hit – if you are using the same SEO methods on all sites then it is to be expected.
The site I am going to review is http://www.sicilyholidays.me.uk/ – the site was doing quite well, it is relatively new, (less than 2 yrs old), it was making a little money and almost at the point where it was going to do well in the first page of the Google results for some keywords.
A lot of the information I will cover here is not only relevant to Google Penguin but other SEO issues I have with the site.
First Penguin is Google latest large change to their algorithm, a bit like a bolt on to the main, and has been called the over optimisation penalty.
My strategy for dealing with any Google update like this is to read all the sources I respect, look at Google news, check out the SEO Book forum where I am a member. Then I compare sites that have not been affected with sites that have. And then before doing anything I want to think like a member of the Google Spam Team – in other words what do they want to achieve by this. What Google want, they say, are better search results – though it does not always look like that – so I wonder if what they want is better search results for Google, that is – does this update make more money for Google? One of the results of Panda and Penguin is that many small businesses have had to increase their spend on Adwords, maybe not a deliberate move by Google but certainly a handy by product of these updates.
On Site SEO Problems
Searching for this website using the main keyword brings an inside page first in the results at 110, the home page is nowhere to be found. This is something that was typical of Panda and of duplicate content. Copying the first sentence and using it to search in Google does not return the home page of the site.
The site also lost most of its traffic on 24/4 when Penguin first hit, this hit was also confused by a Panda update at almost the same time.
These are a list of changes onsite that are required:
- Take off the footer links from the site – if you need to link to all these sites then add them in a page in a sentence.
- Don’t link the logo and Home menu item to root – take the link from one of them, logo likely. This is for sites that are not very strong. Add title to link: Sicily Holidays Home.
- Take “Sicily Holidays” out of all the title tags. Each title tag needs to be written for that page only. Also a title tag should be a sentence not a bunch of separate keyword phrases.
- Delete all internal links in the text that link to the home page – there are many in the body. There is no point in linking twice from a page to another page as Google only counts the first link – and internal links should not be using the same keywords all the time. Beware of over optimising internal anchor text.
- Delete the breadcrumb, again two links on the page and not looking like a menu item just a stand alone link – stand alone links are something we want to avoid.
- A lot of the pages have too little text on them; it would be good to have more useful information and at least one photo on every page. Google does like longer text, again compare within own niche.
- There are very few if any links from the site to other sites. This makes the site look like a PR hoard and not part of the web – link to non-competing high quality sites for further information or reference.
External SEO Issues
The only external issue is links: the sites the links come from, the anchor text, and how you compare within your niche.
Currently the site has 57 external links – Google Webmaster Tools – and 37 using Majestic SEO. This is linking domains. Majestic has 37 domain and 897 links from these, which is an average of 24 links from each domain. This looks like the links are bought or certainly don’t have much editorial discretion.
- Thinksicily.com has 280 referring domains and 1,069 links = 3.8 links per domain
- opensicily.com has 97 referring domains and 318 back links = 3.3 links per domain
- sicily4u.co.uk/ has 30 referring domains and 179 links = 5.9 links per domain
Looking at the above it is fairly obvious that the links per domain is outside the averages within the niche.
Looking at the above three domain we can see they have 27 linking domains in common. I would grovel to get links from at least half of these to put your site in the same link graph within the niche.
What to do First?
There are 8 domains with side bar or footer links to your site, I would ask the owners of these sites to remove the links and ask them if they will publish an article instead. When they publish this article, promote it using your own social media accounts and build at least one link to it from another site – if possible.
Take out the “sicily holidays” from all the title tags. 2 minute job.
Use Majestic to find common links with niche and get them also.
Build deep links. Almost all of the current links are pointing to the home page, you need links to deeper pages.
Build more links to home also using lots of different anchor text, include: click here, website, Sicily site, his website, domain name with and without www – vary it up a great deal and try to get links from sites that link also to competitors.
The other items are not a big issues and can be dealt with over time.
It will take from now till the end of July to see an improvement, assuming Google has another Penguin update in mid / end of July.