Recovering Failing SEO Sites with the Kitchen Sink Method

Ryuzaki

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Thoughts on this moving the needle? RE: Health YMYL site
My concern with health specifically, because it's the specific reason the whole YMYL / EAT thing came into existence, is that you can do every single thing right and even leagues beyond what everyone else is doing, except links... and fail to gain any traction.

Am I convinced Google can do author profiles? Probably. We fed them plenty of info with Google+ to teach the machine learning algo's what to identify, etc. But do they have some access to university databases to check credentials and all that? Hell... maybe. I don't put a lot of stock into who the author is or that having multiple authors helps. But I do put stock into having at least one author with an author box on the content. It's a quality signal, or really an expectation that should be there and you're docked points if it isn't.

I think the bulk majority, if not all, of EAT (expertise, authority, and trust) is about links:
  • Quality of links (page rank)
  • Trust of links (seed site distance / trust rank if it exists)
  • Quantity of links (pervasiveness and public trust)
My point is that you can do everything WebMD and everyone else started doing. You're not going to beat them out on anything but all of you can reach the 100 out of 100 score on everything but links. And then you have to compete on links and they have a HUGE headstart.

WebMD, to continue the example, is DR92 with 110,000,000 backlinks from 493,000 referring domains and have a SERP exposure of 18,800,000 keywords. This all is an estimate and is likely undershooting the reality.

And the reality is it's a zero sum game and there was a boatload of losers and very few winners. And those winners won BIG. Look what happened to WebMD's organic keyword coverage around January 2017 to March when the YMYL / EAT stuff started firing up:

HVEkCKT.png


If there's even 9 more sites that managed to not flop with the million ones that did, then the health niche is pretty much an open and closed case. It's sewn up from the flo' up.

That's how I feel about Health. Fitness isn't as grim but it'll get worse over time. Financial advice too, probably.

These aren't verticals where having a diversity of opinions is helpful, especially not to Google who likely fears repercussions and liability. What is helpful here is expertise, trust, and authority, because your money and your life is on the line as a searcher.

These big players have a monstrous head start and continue to publish and cover more ground. They will enter your sub-sub-niche eventually. Tread carefully, I say. Know when to hold'em and know when to fold'em.

The "Who Moved My Cheese?" book, as dumb as it is, comes to mind for me whenever the health vertical comes up in SEO discussion. I'm not saying the answer for anyone is to no longer engage in it, but be ready for a long-term uphill battle.
 

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These big players have a monstrous head start and continue to publish and cover more ground. They will enter your sub-sub-niche eventually. Tread carefully, I say. Know when to hold'em and know when to fold'em.

Thanks for your wisdom. I think you're absolutely correct. My site is an ecommerce brand that started in a niche that was grassroots and was essentially re-categorized into the health industry as it grew into the mainstream.

The last google update crippled my organic traffic, but it didn't cripple the business. Revenues have grown through it all. It's made me pivot and put resources into other marketing avenues like our affiliate program. Now instead of ranking, I just work on getting listed on the big boy health sites, getting a piece of the organic traffic that way. It's a breath of fresh air not to be solely relying on SEO and to instead have diversity and options.

Your posts here have been very helpful in confirming my approach, improving some remaining technical items, and setting realistic expectations. I'll continue building authority through links and since the business thrives without SEO traffic, if its a slow grind over years to build traffic in less competitive areas of the industry, its all good and just a cherry on top.

Not sure if this is helpful to anyone, but I wish the younger me could have heard this post. I think your reply to me is also invaluable for anyone deciding where to build. You want to be realistic that your resources and experience can match the size and difficulty of industry you're trying to enter - you can't fake it till you make it like you once could.
 

Ryuzaki

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I know we had a lot of YMYL conversation in this thread and a lot of sites failed due to it. It's not quite what this thread was meant to be about (more about other quality and tech SEO issues).

But this came up recently in the Webmaster Hangout videos. Someone asked:

If a website covers both YMYL, so your money or your life, topics as well as non-YMYL non-sensitive topics and for some reason we're unable to establish E-A-T, so kind of expertise, authority, trustworthiness in the eyes of Google algorithms, does the rank of all articles on the website get hit including the non-YMYL topics as well as where the required E-A-T score is relatively low to rank well or just those that belong to the YMYL category?​
They're basically asking "is YMYL a sitewide thing even if half the content isn't YMYL?"

And John Mueller responds:

It's always going to be challenging for Google's algorithms to figure out how to deal with that website. So regardless of anything around YMYL or EAT or anything, if you have this mix of very polar opposites almost with regards to content, then I would assume that Google's algorithms are always going to struggle with figuring out how how to rank your website.​
My own personal view would be that Google wouldn't have a problem separating your site into "two factions" if you had sub-folders where YMYL existed in one and not in the other, almost like .com/ymyl/ and .com/non-ymyl/. But it's likely all scattered together and mixed together.

I know Google wants to be a page-level algorithm, but it's increasingly expensive to do that and some things are much better dealt with at the site-level as a whole.

I'm also thinking along the lines of like... if I had a cooking site where I often mentioned the health benefits of ingredients, I'd be going in and deleting all those mentions and keeping it strictly about cooking. Not health, not dieting, not anything but "mmm food tasty heres how to cook it".
 

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lQdjmgU.png


Looks like my penalized site from the Dec 6 update made a full recovery.

This is just one keyword, but they all look like this. All jumped 20+ positions, some jumped in top 20 that hadn't been top 50 before now.

I have done nothing to recover this site except some contextually relevant links.

When I took over the site, it had been parked and had a ton of crap discount pages indexed, thin content.

I'm guessing that was the cause of it and that this goes to show what @Ryuzaki has been talking about and how they do stuff like this by crunching numbers offline, then integrate into the main algo a couple of times a year.
 
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Now you're left with pages getting little traffic and little links. Visit them all and mark them as one of three options:

What about building some links here instead of improving them? When do you go and build links vs improving?
 

Ryuzaki

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What about building some links here instead of improving them? When do you go and build links vs improving?

As mentioned, I think you're better served at improving them (in terms of on-page like re-optimizing them for different keywords) than spending the time or money acquiring links to them. I'd want the initial signals, feedback from Google, that Google thinks they're worth ranking for keywords with some volume, first.

Once they show promise there, you know they're not only not worth pruning, but validated in terms of the time or money expense of acquiring links. It's kind of like a Minimum Viable Product. I want some validation before I expend extra effort on them. The existing links I'm talking about in terms of deciding if you should prune them or not are natural links, which would act as a form of validation.
 
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For content quality prunes I take say posts that have got less than 10 Google organic referrals in the last 30 days and then x-ref those against pages that got less than say 30 views from any source in the last 30 days. If a post is on both lists it gets deleted.
if you decide not to 301 it, do you anything other just deleting it? run it though search console so google sees it gone or just wait for them to pick it up?
 
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In the case where a post has been made purely for social media and will never achieve search traffic would it be best practice to simply mark the post as no index, follow.

I don't want to delete these types of posts as they get a lot of direct social traffic. However, I don't want a 100 word post with 20 images that adds little to the SERPs, eating up my crawl budget.

Especially when there are 100s of these types of posts.

Thoughts?
 

bernard

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In the case where a post has been made purely for social media and will never achieve search traffic would it be best practice to simply mark the post as no index, follow.

I don't want to delete these types of posts as they get a lot of direct social traffic. However, I don't want a 100 word post with 20 images that adds little to the SERPs, eating up my crawl budget.

Especially when there are 100s of these types of posts.

Thoughts?

I don't know the specifics obviously, but I see these types of posts a lot in various niches in Google, pets being one.

Google "toe beans" for examples.

This one is the featured listing: https://www.womansworld.com/gallery/animals/toe-beans-171929

So I don't think Google hates viral content as such and I would probably index them myself, but I would make sure to get the on page SEO in place, particularly with the images. I would make sure the images were called "pink_toe_beans.jpg" and "kitten_toe_beans.jpg" and I would make sure the Alt text was "Image showing pink toe beans on a white cat" and so on.

I'm fairly sure that Google has a "curated image blogpost" type going on, because it's such a common feature of the internet.
 
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I don't know the specifics obviously, but I see these types of posts a lot in various niches in Google, pets being one.

Google "toe beans" for examples.

This one is the featured listing: https://www.womansworld.com/gallery/animals/toe-beans-171929

So I don't think Google hates viral content as such and I would probably index them myself, but I would make sure to get the on page SEO in place, particularly with the images. I would make sure the images were called "pink_toe_beans.jpg" and "kitten_toe_beans.jpg" and I would make sure the Alt text was "Image showing pink toe beans on a white cat" and so on.

I'm fairly sure that Google has a "curated image blogpost" type going on, because it's such a common feature of the internet.

Thanks but my issue is that these are pages of content that get literally zero search volume p/month. This means there is little to optimize for other than padding out a made for social post with fluff content which does not seem like an effect use of budget - crawl budget or my financial budget.
 

bernard

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Thanks but my issue is that these are pages of content that get literally zero search volume p/month. This means there is little to optimize for other than padding out a made for social post with fluff content which does not seem like an effect use of budget - crawl budget or my financial budget.

Ok, in that case, I guess there's no reason to index them, but I would still consider if the images would serve some purpose for Google.
 

Ryuzaki

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@MrMedia and @bernard, I agree that I've seen tons of posts that are largely comprised of images with maybe 25 words in between them, and more often than not, no content in between. Just an intro and maybe an outro. If the images are unique and fresh, that's unique and fresh content for Google, at least Google Images. They value that still. Visual content is still content, just take advantage of the title and alt texts.

Examples would be "____ ideas" in home and garden, "101 ___ tattoos", and so forth. There's a lot of visual niches where that stuff ranks like gangbusters. Mix in in-image ads like GumGum and you can push the RPMs even higher, if that's how you're monetizing it.

But of course, the visual content style might not be the intent for the keywords you're optimized for and you're not going to get SERP exposure. But that doesn't mean Google deems it low quality content either. By 404-ing or 301-ing or no-indexing it you could be wasting good content that creates topical relevancy and interlinking opportunities.

if you decide not to 301 it, do you anything other just deleting it? run it though search console so google sees it gone or just wait for them to pick it up?

Your choices are:
  • Set it to no-index (I never choose this option)
  • 301 it to a relevant post and merge in content when possible
  • 404 it and let it die a quick death
  • Improve it so it's no longer low quality
If you delete a post, you can just wait for Google to realize it. They'll find it. They re-crawl all indexed content regularly, even if that means once every 6 months. The more page rank a post has, the more they recrawl it. Otherwise, if you delete enough content you can create a temporary sitemap of just those pages to urge them to crawl and see they're gone, rather than submitting for re-crawl one at a time and hitting the daily / monthly limit.
 
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@MrMedia and @bernard, I agree that I've seen tons of posts that are largely comprised of images with maybe 25 words in between them, and more often than not, no content in between. Just an intro and maybe an outro. If the images are unique and fresh, that's unique and fresh content for Google, at least Google Images. They value that still. Visual content is still content, just take advantage of the title and alt texts.

Examples would be "____ ideas" in home and garden, "101 ___ tattoos", and so forth. There's a lot of visual niches where that stuff ranks like gangbusters. Mix in in-image ads like GumGum and you can push the RPMs even higher, if that's how you're monetizing it.

But of course, the visual content style might not be the intent for the keywords you're optimized for and you're not going to get SERP exposure. But that doesn't mean Google deems it low quality content either. By 404-ing or 301-ing or no-indexing it you could be wasting good content that creates topical relevancy and interlinking opportunities.
Surely hundreds of these pages is crying out for a thin content penalty?
 

Ryuzaki

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Surely hundreds of these pages is crying out for a thin content penalty?
It's my opinion that this is the intent of some search queries, to see image galleries with minor commentary. Image content is still content that Google consumes and ranks and values. I'd venture to say they make decent money from Google Images traffic.

I did make that assertion without providing any evidence. I have a decade+ long buddy online (who's a member of BuSo on the low down) that realized around 2018 that this was a viable type of content, and that some keywords are associated with that type of content, and that Google liked his site for it. He went completely bonkers and got some bots written to help and pumped out a couple thousand posts like this. Here was the organic traffic result:

GgVRtkF.png

He ended up selling the site for multiple millions, walked away with well over 7 figures, basically bought a mountain in some distant state and had a new road cut in, had it deforested and flattened, had a Hollywood Hills type of home built on it, and so forth.

I think where we need to be careful is connecting word count with thin content. The word thin refers to "value added", and images can add value, especially if they're unique spider food for Google Images to eat up.

Think about these dictionary sites. They have maybe 50 unique words per page and the rest is boilerplate crap. They still rank, because they provide perfect value in relation to the search queries, so much so that Google has basically screwed them over like they did with lyrics sites. Thin in terms of word count? Yes. Not remotely thin in terms of perfectly dealing with the intent of the search query.
 
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It's my opinion that this is the intent of some search queries, to see image galleries with minor commentary. Image content is still content that Google consumes and ranks and values. I'd venture to say they make decent money from Google Images traffic.

I did make that assertion without providing any evidence. I have a decade+ long buddy online (who's a member of BuSo on the low down) that realized around 2018 that this was a viable type of content, and that some keywords are associated with that type of content, and that Google liked his site for it. He went completely bonkers and got some bots written to help and pumped out a couple thousand posts like this. Here was the organic traffic result:

GgVRtkF.png

He ended up selling the site for multiple millions, walked away with well over 7 figures, basically bought a mountain in some distant state and had a new road cut in, had it deforested and flattened, had a Hollywood Hills type of home built on it, and so forth.

I think where we need to be careful is connecting word count with thin content. The word thin refers to "value added", and images can add value, especially if they're unique spider food for Google Images to eat up.

Think about these dictionary sites. They have maybe 50 unique words per page and the rest is boilerplate crap. They still rank, because they provide perfect value in relation to the search queries, so much so that Google has basically screwed them over like they did with lyrics sites. Thin in terms of word count? Yes. Not remotely thin in terms of perfectly dealing with the intent of the search query.
Agree on all of the above. I get a ton of image search traffic and always have done. Not quite at that level but still sizeable. I guess I will just leave as is on this one for now.

I might also leave it as something for the future purchasers of the site to add to their to do list. My only priority should be maxing this to death in terms of revenues for the next 18 months.

Key takeaway - sometimes doing nothing is the right move too.
 

Ryuzaki

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Agree on all of the above. I get a ton of image search traffic and always have done. Not quite at that level but still sizeable. I guess I will just leave as is on this one for now.
To be clear, he was ranking for images, but the traffic was coming from your typical web search keyword traffic. He ranked top 3 for tons of huge volume terms on the organic web side we all target. Google liked the content. Sometimes it was so "shitty" that he had about 50 words of an intro and that was it, followed by 50+ images. And he'd take down all the keywords.

This was one of those instances that reaffirmed for me that it's important for us to follow the data rather than assume we know what Google "should" be doing. Our assumptions about how it should work are usually right, but it doesn't mean that's how it actually works, you know. Follow the data and find the money!
 
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4) Over-Optimized Anchor Text Profiles
You want to get Penguin'd? Have your exact match keyword's ratio usage exceed 10%. I don't even feel safe at 5% because these numbers are going to get tweaked in the future. The way I do it is only ever use one exact match anchor per page. One and no more. If that's your only link and you're at 100% usage, that's fine because you don't have statistical significance to be seen as a spammer. But stop this greedy anchor text usage. It will kill your project.

We are way over optimised on a few pages, would you recommend;
  • asking for the link to be removed
  • asking for the anchor text to be changed
  • try to add more links to dilate the exact match ratios (this would be a huge job, as we definatly have more than 8 exact matches)
 

Ryuzaki

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We are way over optimised on a few pages, would you recommend;
  • asking for the link to be removed
  • asking for the anchor text to be changed
  • try to add more links to dilate the exact match ratios (this would be a huge job, as we definatly have more than 8 exact matches)

Typically, I would recommend adding more links to dilute the anchor text ratio. However, if you're not currently experiencing issues and are ranking successfully it may be worth the money to kick the can down the road and fix it when it becomes a problem. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The other thing to consider is you may be over-optimized but you have enough trust to handle it. Or some of the links have been ignored (since that's Google's M.O. now, to ignore where they can instead of penalize). It could be some combination of both, and if you're ranking well you may be teetering on the perfect optimization edge, where one more exact match anchor or one non-exact anchor tips you over the cliff or pulls you back off the cliff, respectively. Something to consider.

If the page is not ranking well for the target keyword right now, I always recommend adding more links when possible to dilute. Asking for some to be changed might work, even if you only get one changed, that's better than zero and makes diluting easier.

Be aware that I think this is a Penguin-ish issue now so once you fix it, it may take time for the changes to be evaluated and reflected in the SERPs, on the order of months.
 
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Typically, I would recommend adding more links to dilute the anchor text ratio. However, if you're not currently experiencing issues and are ranking successfully it may be worth the money to kick the can down the road and fix it when it becomes a problem. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The other thing to consider is you may be over-optimized but you have enough trust to handle it. Or some of the links have been ignored (since that's Google's M.O. now, to ignore where they can instead of penalize). It could be some combination of both, and if you're ranking well you may be teetering on the perfect optimization edge, where one more exact match anchor or one non-exact anchor tips you over the cliff or pulls you back off the cliff, respectively. Something to consider.

If the page is not ranking well for the target keyword right now, I always recommend adding more links when possible to dilute. Asking for some to be changed might work, even if you only get one changed, that's better than zero and makes diluting easier.

Be aware that I think this is a Penguin-ish issue now so once you fix it, it may take time for the changes to be evaluated and reflected in the SERPs, on the order of months.
This page orginally ranked top 5, it has been kicked to the curb (page 2) since September 2019, finally getting back around to it. Do you think the update in Sept 2019 was a Penguinish update?
 

Ryuzaki

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This page orginally ranked top 5, it has been kicked to the curb (page 2) since September 2019, finally getting back around to it. Do you think the update in Sept 2019 was a Penguinish update?
Could have been. They did a broad core update, which is a great chance to roll in offline data like Penguin and Panda ("everflux" my ass). But I'd ask if this site is in the health or alternative health niches?
 
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Could have been. They did a broad core update, which is a great chance to roll in offline data like Penguin and Panda ("everflux" my ass). But I'd ask if this site is in the health or alternative health niches?
not in the health niche whatsoever however it was chockers of BOF content
 
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I want to start off by first apologizing to Ryuzaki for not posting my results sooner. It's only right for me to share some more insight into what happened after taking action purely based on the recommendations suggested. Ryuzaki mentions here that the recovery process takes 6 months and he wasn't kidding. I kickstarted this process literally the same day that he published this amazing plan for us. That was back in mid-February. Fast forward to today (August 28th) we're nearly 6 months post changes and I'm seeing some of the best recoveries I've ever personally had. I've done nothing out of the ordinary and have not built a single external link (inner linking only as part of the method) since doing this.

On top of doing nearly everything in the recommended order, I also started adding new content when I began seeing some sun rays peek through the clouds. The content was purely informational and nothing affiliate-related since I lacked a lot of this type of content. I believe this also helped as it gave Google a reason to crawl more frequently maybe, I don't know. Nevertheless, I kept building and I mean maybe a post every couple of weeks. Nothing crazy.

I went from 3800 KWs to 14400 KWs in less than 6 months. What's most important here too is that I was able to recover money keyword terms for pages that really helped bring in money. My traffic in ahrefs hit the 400K mark again when I took over spot #1 for a term again. Even if dancing a little, still amazing stuff. My earnings haven't quite hit that number that it was but I think that's related to the niche which has become extremely competitive and more difficult over the years. That said, I'm still seeing gains in revenue due to taking action here.

If you've got no other options and you're willing to take a shot in the dark, this might be the way back. Give it a shot, as I know I'll do it again for any site that I have at any point in time just because there is a chance.

Thanks @Ryuzaki for all your help here.

RjLzUE7.jpg
 
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I am gonna be looking at the kitchen sink thing.
Around 550 results on google. 354 valid and 900 excluded on search console. <- does this mean quality is low or no?
around 700 articles posts total and like 5-10 pages I believe.

I haven't read the full post but Ima do it like later tomorrow.

Also on this site I have meta descriptions set but, I saw a lot of competitors and sites who are winning don't seem to have a meta description set, I checked via view page source I believe.

I also have like this for mobile. It says 92 so that should be fine right?

First Contentful Paint
2.6 s

Time to Interactive
3.6 s

Speed Index
2.9 s

Total Blocking Time
0 ms

Largest Contentful Paint
2.6 s

Cumulative Layout Shift
0.009


Also you mentioned this "all the branding and meta descriptions and meta titles and published dates and updated dates"
I have my article written date area removed so they don't know how old my article is. So, my articles can last longer.

Also, pretty much every page I have is a "money page" aka review. Also, for future sites, is it bad if I have affiliate links in info articles/supporting articles? I mean you can sell hard in info articles, but does that affect rankings?? Cus now it would be considered a money page right?

Also, I didn't know about topical authority so, this site is on internet marketing basically. Extremely general stuff. From Affiliate Marketing, Dropshipping, Amazon FBA, Courses, WordPress Plugins, Webhosting, Funnel Creation Softwares, Make Money In X ways type of articles. Is this site like a complete waste or is it salvageable?

Also how do you check for Keyword Cannibalization?? Also, what do you recommend for say this site I have like over 120 affiliate links.
But, some are broken because I haven't gotten approved or someshit happened.
So should I bother sending them to the landing page even though the affiliates haven't approved me?

I also disvowed few links like months ago for this site and that only seemed to bring the traffic down for the site.

Here is traffic image from sept 2020 to now.
07b79b3b573f43f58bddb1cf2ba94f9f.png
 
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