2014 is indeed looking like the year of the spam clampdown, and here is a fresh example of a major company getting wiped off the face of the (google) index, the Halifax Bank (a well known high street bank in the UK).
Lets take a look at the losing keywords: (all data via the awesome SearchMetrics platform)
As we can see, the reduction in rankings has all been biased towards high value, generic keywords. The site still ranks perfectly well for all its (hundreds of) brand terms, and it still ranks for the occasional generic as well, but the hit this week has been considerable, and doubtless will cause a decent financial impact on search related revenues.
A cursory look at Majestic shows us a pretty decent upswing in link acquisition around mid december, with new links seen by the MJbot increasing from 4k per day by 10x, to 40-50k per day:
If we take a closer look at the links “earned” on those dates we see some pretty obvious site patterns:
If we look at any of those pages listed, (ie. here) we find that there ISNT a link to the Halifax, but a quick check of the Google Cache shows us a different picture:
Thats an HTML banner ad with multiple anchor text links (followed) pointing at different Halifax pages. So 2008!
Another sign of the naivety of linkbuilding employed, has been the seeming reliance on buying links from places like the Yakezie network of financial blogs, which were outed as far back as 3 years ago for selling links.
The Cleanup has Already Started!
Whoever is tasked with cleaning up their back-link profile has already made a go of things, quite a few of the sites I checked had already removed the offending links.
This in my mind rules out the potential for negative SEO being the root cause, as they have been so quick to react that there must have been a contingency plan in place.
What Can YOU Find?
Piecing together the root cause of a penalty is akin to being an SEO CSI, what reasons can YOU find as to why they may have been penalised? Leave your comments below!