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Article Marketing, Guest Blogging and Panda – WTH?

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by PotPieGirl on March 29, 2012 · 52 comments

Recently over in the Warrior Forum there was a thread started that questioned if guest posting could cause Google to penalize a site and trigger the oh-so-popular-now “we found unnatural links” message from Google.  The thread caught my attention because I was very curious as to how legitimate guest posting could cause an unnatural back links warning.

I mean, c’mon – We can’t do real, legitimate, editorial-based guest posts anymore….WTH?  Seems all that’s left is hoping against hope that folks Google +1 you to death, right?

Anyway – here’s the story -

Many times with these types of forum threads, the original poster claims they did nothing wrong – then, a few minutes of digging in and one can see a very different story.  Now, this doesn’t ALWAYS happen, but it’s really, really common.

In complete honesty, I expected the forum thread I am referring to in this post to turn out that way.  Someone would complain that Google beat them up and all they were doing was genuine guest posts, I’d dig in, see a whole different story…and I’d go on my merry way without saying a word.

What I actually found out though, is something that really surprised me – and yes, it annoyed me too.

Some Background

This is a bit of a long story – my apologies.  However, I happen to think it’s all very interesting.

Here is a screen shot of the original post that started this thread in Warrior Forum:



In short -  His site went from 1k visitors a day down to 200.  Site owner thought there was an issue so sent in a reconsideration request to Google.

Google responded by saying: “We’ve reviewed your site and we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines. Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site…”

The site owner claimed he never paid for a single back link and only did guest posts on high-quality blogs in his market (somewhere around 50 of these guest posts or so).

I thought this was all pretty strange, and, like I mentioned earlier, I thought I was going to uncover a different story that what the original poster stated.

Turns out he was telling the truth.

What I Found

While the original poster didn’t name or link to his site that was having issues at first, it didn’t take me long use my detective skills and figure out which site he was talking about.

What I found kinda freaked me out.

I found the various guest blog posts he had done over the years (the site with issues is a couple years old).  Not tons of them… about 50 or so like he said.

I also found that he had some 2.0 sites linking to him (they were all fine) and some Ezine Articles (good articles).

All normal stuff you do when you’re trying to play by the rules and get yourself found online, right?

I got to poking around some more and found his articles from one time-period all had the EXACT same bio box and the EXACT same anchor text.

That made me say, “Hmmmm”

So, I popped a long string of text (including the anchor text phrase) into Google with quotes around it and wow at what I found:

Those are all web pages that are IN Google’s index that have an exact copy of his Ezine Articles on them.  Each copy on the other sites all have the exact same bio box and the exact same anchor text.  There were many more than this when I first checked (at least some of them are naturally falling out of Google).

For a site that has a very weak back link profile, it appears as if this was a big problem – and something that can be done TO a web site.

This did not make me happy.

We’re told to put articles on sites like Ezine Articles in HOPE that other site owners pick them up and put them on THEIR site.  Hey, even if the scraper sites put it on their site with our links included, that shouldn’t be a bad thing, right?  If anything, the low-quality sites won’t hurt our rankings… or will they?

So, say that this site owner has a weak back link profile…. some guest posts, a couple Ezine Articles, a few web 2.0 pages, and a few social signals.  Then, over time, his Ezine Articles with the exact same bio box/anchor text are blasted all over the web -  think that could hurt a site?  Think that could trigger the ‘love note’ about his unnatural links from Google?

I do.  And the more I looked through his stuff, the more annoyed I became.

I replied in the Warrior thread and then off I went to Twitter:

Yep, perhaps that was a little impulsive of me…and yep, probably coulda been a bit nicer about it….but – that’s how it came out.

Things like that upset me mainly because I *know* how hard it is to get all this going.  I *know* how hard it is get found online to even begin to have a chance to start the whole “just write compelling stuff and the links fly in” process.

I will never forget what it’s like to be new or what it’s like to learn by screwing up.  I am the Poster Child for turning failures into lessons learned the hard way, an expert at breaking things in hope of figuring them out, the Queen of Perpetual Dumb Stuff ,and Princess of Pathetic Attempts.

So there I am, looking at this situation and see a kid (not a KID, but younger than me) that is trying to do things the right way, not trying to take short-cuts, and writing what he feels offers value to his readers.

So yes, when it comes to speaking out for the ‘under-dog’, I jumped impulsively.

Also, I have to mention, I really, really hate getting involved in public threads like these.  It annoys me when I feel someone is genuinely reaching out for help and others just pop in, leave some “you should know better” comments and cast judgement (or give insight) without even LOOKING, or heck, without even reading the opening post and things revealed as the thread moves along.

But that’s a rant for another day  :)

So, I Tweeted that to Matt Cutts…I didn’t get a response for some time (it was a weekend), but the response I got surprised me a little.

No, it surprised me a LOT.

It was 4 tweets to me in a row:

(note:  you’ll need to read the bottom to top to get the actual sequence they were sent to me)

Hmmm…. so the topics of ALL his sites are the issue?

What do any of his other sites have to do with his back link profile issues on ONE site due to heavy syndication of Ezine Articles?

However, the way I approached Matt Cutts with this situation might have warranted the way he responded to me. So I decided to try again (this time in a nicer way).

I asked (again, read it bottom to top):

But, I didn’t get a response.


Fair enough….he doesn’t owe me a response.  It is what it is.

But then the NEXT day, I see that the site owner (James) has told Matt Cutts which site of his was being referred to…..and Matt sent this Tweet to James:

Verrrrrryyyyy interesting.

Granted, I didn’t get my question answered so all I can do is speculate and make educated guesses about the Ezine Articles and ‘love note’ from Google issue….

The question *I* had was ignored…..but James is told that “Panda is going to be the bigger issue to tackle“?


So Panda is the bigger issue? Or is it the diversion from the real issue?

Something to ponder, but regardless, I decided to look at things from the Panda perspective.


What Would Panda Do?

So off I go and try really hard to look at James’ site as if I am Panda.

That’s not easy, by the way.  We think there are obvious things, but then when we check the SERPs we see competing pages that ARE ranking well and they seem to have to SAME qualities.

In other words, it’s easy to judge one web page, but when you compare one “penalized” url to those that ARE still ranking well in that query space, well it gets a little hairy to really see what the issue is – it’s not consistent.

As I’m looking I see things that might be an algorithm signal for Panda.  Things like more ad spaces that text type ratio, or the amount of content vs other stuff above the fold.  I see that the site does have social accounts, but yep, the buttons are really big and “distracting”.  The AdSense box in each post is awfully big in relation to the site layout.  The content seems good (not a topic I’m all that interested in), but I really like the pictures he adds to his posts.

But nothing SCREAMS Panda to me.  I’ve seen worse…and plenty of “worse” is still ranking really well.

Then, as I’m sitting there staring at the pages on his site, something hit me.

What Would *I* Do?

Such a simple question to ask myself, but it shed a lot of light on the situation.

Would I Tweet a page from this site?

Would I send a Tweet from MY Twitter account and send my followers to a page on that site?

My answer was quick and simple – No, I would not.

Why not?

There are two reasons why I wouldn’t tweet a page from that site.

1.  It is SO off-topic for my Twitter stream that it makes no sense for me to Tweet it (unless I am totally interested in that topic and can’t help but share).

Twitter, to me, is business social – not personal social.  No one that follows me cares what I had for lunch (a ham sandwich, btw) or about the the off-topic pages I read.

However, they just might want to know what I am reading,watching, and/or posting about my online business stuff.

2.  If I was active in that market and my Twitter followers were following me for info around that topic – I still don’t think I would tweet it.

Why not?

This reason is hard to explain, but I’ll give it a whirl.  Please keep in mind this is my opinion and the site’s topic is not something that I am “in to”.

Also, if any of this sounds harsh, I apologize. 

I am just thinking out loud in hopes of a) sharing my own thoughts, and b) getting thoughts from those reading.

It’s not the AdSense ads… it’s not the opt-in box in the side bar for the free report either.  It’s just something about the feel of it all.

I absolutely have Tweeted web pages that have ads and opt-ins all over them, but something about the content itself made the ads “disappear” to me.

On those pages I don’t care so much about the ads on the page, or the pop up that annoys me each time I visit a page on that site -  or any of that stuff – I simply really liked the content and I was willing to put my reputation on the line to share it with my followers.

The pages on James’ site don’t make the ‘other stuff’ go away for me.

Now, I would pin his pictures on Pinterest because there are some cool pictures that, to me, are eye-catching.  But would I send others there for the content?  No, I’m afraid I would not.

There’s too much other stuff going on that makes me feel that those that follow me would not feel good to be there.

The value of the content does not out-weigh the ‘self-serving’ stuff, perhaps?

The images that you first see when an internal page on that site loads are nice, but the social share buttons are big and it your face…the social account buttons are big and in your face, the opt in box is big and in your face…and the AdSense block is big and in your face.

On the internal pages, the only thing NOT in your face when the page loads is the content itself.

The pages feel like more of an interruption than that of quality info.

Now, how one turns a feeling into an algorithm, I have no clue.  That’s Google’s job – I just fuss about it  ;)

But we DO know that feeling we get when we see it, don’t we?

So, What To DO About It?

If James’ site was MY site, I think this is the route I would take.

1. Own It

I see a Google plus account, but I do not see the Google plus account profile picture coming up in the SERPs – ie, the rel=author/rel=”me” thingy like I have set for this site.  Looks like this in the SERPs:

Hey, if you really believe in your content – OWN it.  Put your face on it.  Stand by your results in Google, right?

I would totally do that.

2.  A make-over

Anything that is not totally for the USER would be either removed, or pushed way down so it is not the first thing seen when a page loads.

If you really want the social buttons ‘right there’ for readers to have access to at any time – use the little floating doo-dad like I have on this page (it’s the GetSocial plug in).

Make those other icons that lead to the various social accounts smaller.  Yes, it’s great for your site readers to easily find you on various social platforms, but it doesn’t have to be in their face.

I’d also remove all AdSense at this point.  As I said, the rankings are down, and so is traffic, so it can’t really hurt anything to remove those ads now.  If traffic comes back, slowly add much less obtrusive ads and see how it goes.

3.  Timely Content

Each day or so, check Google News for things that are going on in that market and blog about it.  No need to be spammy or “keywordy”, just talk about it and link to the source.  No need to sell anything either.

In just a matter of seconds I was able to find this that could very well be an interesting prospect for doing this:

That could work well for good info for the site and with a good picture of the young lady talked about, could make good “pin it” material too.

(note:  I did not click thru and read that article – just providing it as an example)

When you’re truly invested in a specific market, you keep up with the current events and news IN that market – people will follow you and share your stuff when you put your own unique spin on it and add to the conversation about that news instead of just repeating the news.  Make sense?

That’s the three things *I* would TO that site if I owned it.

As for the “unnatural links” and Ezine Articles thing – well, I guess no one will ever know for sure what’s going on there, but in time, many, many of those links will go away on their own as more and more sites like those are getting de-indexed.

I’m just really glad to see that true guest posting was not the apparent issue.

As for a future reconsideration request -

I wouldn’t do it NOW.  There’s very little that can be done about all those links from the ‘syndicated’ articles.  And, as I said, they are slowly falling out of Google’s index anyway.  In time, that part of the problem should correct itself.

I would make those changes above to the site and try really hard to make all my future content reader-focused and timely.

I would do all that and wait a few weeks to see how things go on their own.  If rankings and traffic come back, you’ll know you fixed what ailed you – if they don’t and a large majority of those article links have gone away or been diluted, then I’d think about filing a reconsideration request.

Again, all just *my* opinion.  I’d love to hear other thoughts on this as well.

More Info On This Story

Here is the thread in Warrior Forum that started all this.  There’s some good info shared in that thread.  Also, Dan Thies answers if a Google “love note” always means a penalty to your site here in that thread.

Here is a good discussion about this site and the “bigger issue” of Panda in Google groups.

James DID give me permission to tell the name of his site, but I’m still not going to open him up like that.  I will invite him to this post tho and if he’d like to link to his site here in the comments, he is most welcome to.

I also want to say this – James was NOT spamming his back links. 

He was not using any of the blog networks that are getting de-indexed or anything of that nature.

That is the main reason this whole situation upset me – James WASN’T doing anything wrong.

All those back links from his articles all over the web do not appear to have been done maliciously with the purpose to harm James’ site – it just happened.

Kind of like a Perfect Storm of Non-Malicious Negative SEO.  These other sites just scraped his articles for content and, oddly, the majority of them were “good” scrapers and left his bio box and links in tact (yeah, I know – SHOCKER!).


Ok, comments are open…. let’s hear what you have to say.




Mike March 29, 2012 at 12:28 am

I had looked at his site a couple of days ago. One thing I noticed, that could be part of his problem was that several of the articles on his site appear in a lot of other places. I only spot checked a few, so I do not know how prevalent this is throughout the site.

Although it may not seem fair, this could be giving Google the impression that HIS site is a scraper site pulling content from other places and not realizing that his site is the original source of the article. That could be what Matt Cutts was referring to when he said it has Panda issues.

PotPieGirl March 29, 2012 at 3:16 am

Hiya Mike =)

Yep, that could be possible too. Sadly, I doubt we’ll ever know THE answer to this puzzle tho.

Thanks for stopping by!

Financial Samurai March 29, 2012 at 6:45 am

It does seem like those “lose belly fat quick” article titles are a warning, along with all the other sites with interesting titles. Who writes about that stuff anyway?

Everything is subjective at the end of the day. I just hope Google doesn’t start telling bloggers who to say and write on their websites.

PotPieGirl March 29, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I hear ya, but at the end of the day, Google can’t tell us what to write about – BUT they can decide what they allow in their index or rank well.

It all comes down to what matters to each of us.

Len Harvey March 29, 2012 at 7:29 am

Hi PotPieGirl

It is a shame that people like James who from all accounts and purposes has done everything legitimately and to the best of his ability. You suggested changes to his websites content but the email he received from Google said it was his back links that were causing the SERP’s drop. When someone has taken the time to do things properly unlike others using more artificial methods then being penalised by Google isn’t going to help make the web a better place. All they are going to do is drive people into using artificial/paid methods to gain rank – if you can’t beat em, join em!

If Google’s real goal was to make the web better, why penalise the people that do things right?


PotPieGirl March 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Yep, Len – it all started out as a warning ‘love note’ from Google regarding his back links. After investigation I could totally see the problem with his back links (all the copies of his ezine articles out there).

When I asked Matt Cutts about the link issue (ok, I didn’t exactly ask) he came back with the 4 tweets about the topics of his other sites. When I asked again with more detail about the situation, I didn’t get an answer.

The “Panda” comment was sent to James directly from Matt Cutts. I saw it and decided to investigate from that angle. Apparently, a quick look at James’ site by Matt caused him to see something Panda related (or lots of things) – or it was a way to distract from the initial problem.

Now is it the links? That question was avoided and instead the “Panda” reason was given.

So – who knows?

Tech84 March 29, 2012 at 8:09 am

I do think its more of a Panda issue rather than a bad backlink profile.

The thing with Panda is, you never know when you will get hit, I got hit last November and rankings and visitors went down about 85%, although I did not do really anything new to my site (posting the same way) my site has been on a roller coaster ride. Rankings going up and down for a few days then stabilizing then going up and down again. I’m a already a little tired of this SEO, but I really don’t since I’m not just doing this for the money( well… not all) but just for the love of posting stuff I like.

Well that’s my 2 cents.

PotPieGirl March 29, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Hiya -

Ya know, at the end of the day, the less we worry and focus on Google, the better off we will be.

I KNOW it’s hard. Thing is, Google is a traffic opportunity (and a big one at that), but it shouldn’t be our sole focus OR sole resource for traffic. Agree?

Good luck with your site and your roller coaster ride… I know it’s an adventure!

Kuba March 29, 2012 at 8:21 am

To Mike:

well I think we can’t influence the number of places wehere are published our unique articles. Try to submit unique article to Ezine, after few days google [exact] sentence from your article and you will see a lot of websites with your duplicate article. It can’t be James’ issue, if so, it would be very easy to misuse…

James Penn March 29, 2012 at 10:07 am

Thanks Jennifer for writing up on this issue and for offering some advice to improve my site.

SIDENOTE: If you aren’t aware of what site Jennifer is referring to then you can take a look at it at the link below…


Since getting hit by Panda I’ve done so much research, and I’m struggling to see any actionable advice that will definitely work. It’s frustrating knowing I could spend hundreds of hours improving my site and that wouldn’t even fix the issue.

Anyway, I’ve heeded your advice:

- I have reduced the size of the social buttons on the sidebar from 64px to 32 px. It now takes up only one line and a lot less space.

- I have removed the large opt-in form from the sidebar. I didn’t really like this opt-in form, it would of looked more at home on an internet marketing type site. It was a bit “in your face”. I will add a new much more subtle form soon.

- I have removed the most prominent Adsense block from the top of the article. It looks much better now. I was initially hesitant to do this because the site is still getting 1,000+ visitors per day (mainly due to Pinterest, but also the passive traffic my guest posts generate) and so was making a nice passive Adsense income.

- I just tried the GetSocial plug-in but wasn’t too keen on how it looked on my sidebar. The buttons above the image perform really quite well (especially Pinterest) and so I’d probably be prepared to slightly sacrifice the user experience (although I’m not sure it hinders it too much) due to the extra traffic it sends.

- Regarding timely content… yes, this is definitely something I should do. I need to mix the type and style of content about a bit. I’ll look into that Miley Cyrus article now :)

- I completely agree when you say I should “Own It” and put my face to it. The only problem? I’m in a niche populated by mainly women, usually older than me. How would they feel knowing that the aloe vera face mask recipe they are trying has been written by a 22 year old guy?

For my guest posts I use a female pen name and stock photo, but I don’t feel comfortable doing this. The other day I was just about to secure a regular guest posting slot on a very popular website that was also very well paid, but they needed a copy of my drivers license for payment.

How would you get around this issue? Can I use a pen name and stock photo for a G+ account? I’m not sure if Google is too keen on that.

Or, do you think I should just link it up to my real Google Plus account (https://plus.google.com/102125349625114695059/posts?hl=en) with my real photo and perhaps put off a portion of my readers because of my age and sex?

I’ve been swaying back and forth with this issue for years.

Again, thanks for writing up on this issue and I’ll keep working, keep improving, and hopefully some day Google will love me again :)


PotPieGirl March 29, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Hi James! Thanks for stopping by AND for sharing your site with everyone else. While I know you gave me permission to share it, I still didn’t feel comfortable doing it. I know what happens with situations like this.

That said… let’s talk.

Wow, amazing to me how those few changes changed the ‘feel’ of the site and internal pages to me.

As for your opt-in – Why not put it on your Newsletter Page for now?

As for AdSense – I didn’t realize you were still getting that kind of traffic WITHOUT Google (Good For You!) and were still making money off the site. Now that I know that, it’s a matter of weighing the pros and cons of removing those ads.

As for the social bookmarking icons – hey, they work for you as is…and your readers can easily find them AND use them. Fair enough. (I do like the smaller account icons in the sidebar better now tho – regardless of all this, it just looks ‘cleaner’)

As for Google Plus – ya know, I have no clue about Google + business type pages and all that. I don’t believe a personal Plus page can be a pen name/stock photo tho – but I am FAR from an expert on that topic.

Interesting point you brought up about being a young man in a female-dominated market. Food for thought. Not sure how others handle that either. Anyone?

Also, look into the wp-policies plugin (via your plugin dashboard). Due to the nature of your topic, you might need some sort of medical disclaimer (as well as some other disclaimers) for your site. That plugin can help you generate them.

I also want to share something else… and perhaps I should just edit the post to add it, but I’ll say it here for now.

Last night, long after this post was published and “out of my brain”, I was reading various posts that others on my Twitter Stream sent through.

I clicked a couple in a row on sites that are very popular in the topics I follow…and for the first time I realized how THOSE sites were truly set up.

There were ads above the fold, tons of “Stuff” in the side bar… perhaps a pop up to subscribe to something…all of it. We’re talking monetized, advertised on, and “stuff” – and I was still fine a) reading there and trusting WHAT I was reading, and b) sharing it with others.

So I asked myself, “Self, why in the world do you feel comfortable sharing THIS content yet not the content on James’ site?”

The answer was clear – brands.

I already know and trust the BRAND of the other sites and I know those that follow me do as well (or at least most). The trust of the BRAND made the ads and “stuff” disappear for me (tho sometimes it is a bit annoying. But when you trust a brand, you’re willing to be a bit more annoyed.)

I’m starting to wonder that when it comes to Panda – or Google organic in general – the more branding signals you have, the more you can get away with.

When you visit a site you know and love, sure, the “Stuff” might annoy you, but we plow through it because we WANT THE CONTENT.

On the other hand, we come to a site we do NOT know, the “stuff” makes you want to leave. It’s that feeling of “I don’t even know you – why are you trying to take from me before I can even READ anything?”

Anyway, all those thoughts I just shared about brands are very unstructured – I’ll be pondering it for a while. However, any thoughts on that are welcome.

Above all James…

First off, your site is getting good traffic and results WITHOUT Google organic traffic. That puts you WAY ahead of many, many folks. I personally want to give you a big ‘high five’ for thinking and working outside the box so you don’t have to rely on Google for traffic.

I happen to be someone who believes that the more your site relies on Google for traffic, the more susceptible you are to the Panda ‘algo’. It’s kinda like Google knows, “Hey, this site doesn’t NEED us – they thrive without us due to other methods of sharing”. I’m hoping that with your on-page changes and your traffic and sharing that happens without Google, that your site will come back.

Secondly, I am very impressed with how you have handled this whole situation. In that forum thread (and in the Google Groups thread) people have been rude and judgmental towards you – and you have handled it so well. I don’t think *I* would’ve been that graceful when *I* was 22 :)

Again, thank you for sharing all this with everyone. It’s how we learn!


Affiliate Marketing Mom April 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm

This is been a verry interesting read for me today. I am putting on my ‘research hardhat’ and do some studying of my own sites now. =)

LeadProLocal April 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Hi James,

What also might help in the long run is to make your site ‘look like’ an authority site in the eyes of Google. I have found the Wordpress Plugins “WP Navbar Pro” and “Sticky Frontpage Categories and Tags” help immensely in this regard, especially with internal linking structure. Sometimes I feel we all get too caught up with inbound linking and neglect making things easy for the bots to crawl our entire site effectively.

Good luck with big G!

Best regards,


Good luck

James Penn April 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Hi David

Thanks for the recommendation. Someone in the Google Webmaster forums told me my site had no “hierarchical navigational structure”. I’m not really sure what that means but it’s something I’m looking at trying to fix.

I had a look at the plug-in from Terry Kyle but I can’t imagine having a link to every post (I have about 250 posts) in my sidebar. It would go on waaay too long.

Going to look at the other one you recommended now.


Max March 29, 2012 at 11:10 am

Google recently announced in their February update that they have changed they way they evaluate certain links. If James has the same bio box with the same anchor text then in my eyes this can be seemed as trying to game the system. Google expect a natural backlink profile to have many many variations in the anchor text as it is just not feasible for people to link back with the same key-phrase. Also it will not cut it by just getting articles from blogs and article directories you need much much more diversity in 2012 to get good results. (this is in my experience anyway)

Yasir March 29, 2012 at 11:13 am

My answer is simple: Nothing is perfect! It’s a part of life and you can’t expect the same from machines (algos).

Coming from a programming background (did that for 4 years), I can claim that you really can’t cover all the ‘scenarios’ even if you have best QA team in the world unless you test the code on real data. That is the reason why you see V1, V2 or PANDA 2, 3.1, 3.3 or 3.4 as things are evolving (and they will continue to do so until the last man on earth).

I will give benefit of the doubt to Google in this particular case but yes it is a matter of concern and should be addressed by Google.

From SEO point of view, it is indeed worrying as you have explained it in quite a detail about scraping and stuff. This is not just with Articles, it is also the case with Press Releases or even with your blog content which can be fetched via RSS and published to an ‘auto blog’ without your consent.

And coming to your arguments about NOT sharing the content of that site with your twitter followers, I think we really can’t say anything about it as we are dealing with lots of assumptions here.

You won’t share it because you don’t have interest in this field (and your followers) so it makes perfect sense to not to share it but why are you on this site in first place? Probably you typed that particular keyword that Google is ranking this site for so it is not the fault of this site but your keyword that brought you to this site.

Secondly, the content could be very basic for you but it won’t be the case with everyone so you won’t share it because it sounds too basic.

There could be millions of other reasons for not sharing it and if we expect an algo to detect that, we are not living in real world then.


PotPieGirl March 31, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Hi Yasir – if you’ll look about 2 comments up above you, the site owner shared the site and more info about the situation.

Jeff the Entrepreneur March 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Hi Jen,

Thank you very much for taking time to “investigate”, help the guy and share this to us.

It must be hard to be in the situation of James knowing how much effort it is to build quality contents and natural back links.

Although, It is not yet clear the real cause of the incident, thanks for giving us your inputs and analysis of what happened.

Robert Mitchell March 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the reason why this site owner got slammed was due to the products promoted by his sites. Google does not seem to like sites that promote products or services that it considers tacky or seedy and will do everything it can to prevent those pages from getting top rankings.

James Penn March 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Hi Robert

Which products are you referring to? The only products I promote are items on Amazon, such as natural health and beauty products and essential oils. I have one other affiliate program that I promote from one review on my site, but that’s it.


Robert Mitchell March 30, 2012 at 2:18 am

Hi James. I’m not referring to anyone product in particular; it’s just that it seems that site that promote natural health and beauty products, weight loss, relationships and other products I can’t think of now (too tired, just got off of work) tend to get the the Google slap. (I personally don’t think these products are all that tacky or seedy, but I get the sense that there are some snobs at Google who’d love to push the sellers as far down the results pages as they can.)

Andre Garde March 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hi PotPieGirl,

You have a slight focus on content in this article. What I’m starting to see, after watching for the past week or two the SERPs in several niches, that content doesn’t really matter much anymore.

I commented on another blog (affhelper I believe), but I’m starting to see low content or no-content starting to outrank sites in the SERPs as a result of the recent changes. And by low content, I mean a mere 200 words on the homepage, and blank posts everywhere else. Not your “typical” thin affiliate/MFA site, which would at least have a few pages of 500-1000 word content.

So really, what does it matter what’s on his site? From that WF thread it just seems like his backlink profile got evaluated and subsequently devalued. So what if the things on his site are just products to sell and for you to buy. Can you not just go to Amazon’s site and find things to buy on the first page? LOL, give me a break.

@Robert Mitchell: Using my Amazon example, I’m sure they’ve got tacky/seedy products as reviewed by regular people. They don’t seem to have a problem with ranking nor making money, now do they?

Kris March 29, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I’m stuck – on the one hand Google owns Google and they can make any rules they want. On the other hand, Google acts as more than just a private company, since it “owns” search these days, so it has some responsibility to the common good.

Given all this, me – the small affiliate marketer – who doesn’t have a budget to just buy massive links or create my own blog network empire – and who hasn’t made much progress lately “doing the right thing” is left thinking of “gray” or even “black” ways to make my site visible.

Darn, I miss the good old days when a few keywords and links got you to the top!

DiTesco March 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Great read and if I am not mistaken, this will probably be my “first” time to comment on your blog, which I am still trying to figure out why :) I won’t bother you with how I got here, all I can say is that it came from a source that I read often (WPN, ring a bell)

Anyway, so much for that. After reading this long but very interesting posts, this one… “Kind of like a Perfect Storm of Non-Malicious Negative SEO. These other sites just scraped his articles for content and, oddly, the majority of them were “good” scrapers and left his bio box and links in tact (yeah, I know – SHOCKER!).” really stood out. I have seen some videos of Matt saying that “these” links (coming from “scrapers”) don’t matter and one should not worry about it. And if you are really concerned, file a SPAM report…

What am I missing here.. If scrappers don’t have anything else better to do, should I understand that those “attribution” links may eventually be a cause of alarm for sites with scraped content? Or did I miss something out… Lastly, and I love to have these kind of discussions, what do you think of Tynt and sites using it? I have to be honest and say that I use it, but now considering to take it down completely. Don’t want bad scrappers linking back to me (include autoblogs) at all :)

PotPieGirl March 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Thank you for your first comment, DiTesco!

As for “these” kinds of links. I only think they cause a problem when those links make your back link profile “top heavy” (if that makes sense). If you have a healthy and diverse back link profile, someone doing that TO you won’t mean a thing.

I’ve had others try and hurt my site via links. I remember the day clearly (was about 2 years ago) – I was poking around and found this MASS of p0rn profile links for ME and this site.

I think my first response was – Holy sh**!!!! lol!

However, even way back then, those links didn’t hurt me. If they caused any damage, it was too minimal for me to notice.

As for Tynt – yep, I still like it. If anything, it helps me find those that are linking to me and maybe scraping me.

Thanks for stopping by!

PotPieGirl March 29, 2012 at 8:02 pm


Please read this post at InLineSEO – it is AWESOME and very actionable.

Probably the most rational and straight forward advice about what to DO about it.


Charlie Brandon March 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I found the information you linked to at InLineSEO interesting, but the writer indicates that you should not ignore a Google “love note” unnatural links warning. This advice seems opposite of what I believe you advocate in your prior “Sky Is Falling” blog post where you indicate that it seems almost silly to remove links to please Google.

Yes, I did receive a “love note” after joining Build My Rank. I now realize how STUPID this was, but at the time I honestly didn’t know that joining a blog network wasn’t a good idea and was in violation of Google policies. I’m not making excuses for the 12 or so BMR posts I wrote, and have chalked up the whole mess as a learning experience…

I have removed all the BMR posts/links, but my question is this: do I file for reconsideration with Google, or don’t I?

PotPieGirl March 31, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hi Charlie =)

I just shared my opinion and then tried to give lots of other opinions/action steps so everyone could make what they feel to be the best decision and course of action for their particular situation.

Pawel Reszka March 30, 2012 at 1:45 am

Jennifer I sent you a message on WarriorForum. Great post by the way.

David Sandy March 30, 2012 at 3:26 am

I looked at the link profile for the subject site in ahrefs. It’s got the classic dropoff in the last 30 or so days that’s characteristic of Google Flu. Not good because it indicates some of the subjects he was getting links from were getting deindexed. However much white hat nonsense annoys me I think Dan Thies nailed it that wmt messages and Google flu aren’t necessarily related.

I had a bunch of blog network links on three sites and didn’t get the message but got the google flu. (wearing off now affected rankings went up from 80′s to 20-30′s or higher) I think there’s a timing element and anchor text concentration. Also it seems to effect newer sites with high quality link profiles. (ie alot of PR high pr links. ) The message itself says manipulate pagerank. Google tends to say stuff with meaning if you think about it. Kinda like a prophecy. Also I’d be interested to see the pagerank of sites that got the message.

Michael Martinez March 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Jennifer, you have committed one of the classic blunders. The first and most well-known is, “Never get involved in a Spam War in Google” but only less slightly well-known is this: “Never go up against Matt Cutts when Article Marketing is on the line.”

You may have overlooked Matt’s very anti-Article Marketing warning in this YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5xP-pTmlpY) in which he gives a traditional Google hint about what is or will soon be considered spam.

PotPieGirl March 31, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Hi Michael =)

Not my first blunder…and I’m sure it won’t be my last. I seem to have a knack for it.

I am going to embed the video you referenced from Matt Cutts here in the comments so everyone watch it.

Thanks for stopping by!

Will @ OmarandWill.com April 23, 2012 at 1:24 am

Wow I never knew they felt so strongly against article marketing. What would be crazy is if they go and banned ezine articles’ google adsense account. That would be something indeed.

Guest posting is way different from article marketing though because it does not become duplicate content. That is why it is such a powerful strategy. Right now though I have a different mindset and do not want to rely on SEO.

Guest blogging brings way more benefit by being able to interact and build a solid following of people. Who knows what kind of evolved panda or other type of animal comes next to derank sites.

I am happy to say that it would not affect me one bit because I will not be depending on Google anymore. =-)

Ashish April 1, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Doesn’t this open up the can of worms of negative seo. If a couple of thousand of duplicate content pages from low level sites can trigger a google penalty then what about 10k links from ffa, spam, porn, guest book sites can do, which is really easy using automatic tools.

The earlier stated position of google was that backlinks cannot penalize a site (except newly launched sites which I confirmed from my experience). But now which seems to have changed to you can be penalized for backlinks (which anybody can create). If this policy is continued then the days of negative seo have begun.

Kurt April 2, 2012 at 6:19 am

Great set of articles between this one and the last.

It’s been a crazy time the last couple of weeks, but the way I think of this is that this helps the entire IM SEO community hit the proverbial “reset” button on alot of “too easy” practices that have sprung up in the last year or so.

Its a back to basics and making our sites better for our visitors and easy for them to share.

Mark Hall April 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm


Just thought I pd say this is one of the most informative blog posts (and comments) I have read on this unnatural links saga. Thanks

I guess it’s all getting a bit scary while Google steam roll ahead with forcing people over to Google+ and move towards a author rank algo and away from the back link / page rank – that they have created.

Anyways we are all Googles bitch.

Ps what comment plugin are you using?
Pps do you add the rel me tag to every page on your site?

Wendy Owen April 3, 2012 at 4:14 am

Hi Jennifer

Thank you for the informative article. Could you please tell me how to add the rel me tag? And do you have to add it to every page?

Thanks very much

LeadProLocal April 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Hi Wendy,

This should help… http://yoast.com/wordpress-rel-author-rel-me/

Best regards,


Wendy Owen April 7, 2012 at 8:58 am

Thanks David!

Robert Taylor April 3, 2012 at 6:53 am

Well as usual with these Google deals the results are that a lot of small marketers get hurt or completely put out of business. The search results “don’t get any better” BUT at the end of the day miraculously …. BRANDS find themselves on page 1, Google makes more ad money this year.

I find the whole Cutts /anti spam team just to be stalking horse for the advertising side of the house and totally uncreditable. What is really funny is all the people who actually believe the whole make great websites and google will find you and reward you. Yep, you will be on page 10 with some totally unrelated content.

So while the whole world grieves and beats their chest about all those bad guys (SEO) at the end of the day the only way to get you site within the first 3 pages of Google in under 5 years is by not doing what Matt Cutts says. Sad but true..

Meanwhile remember Google is not a public service it is an advertising agency ( a multi billion dollar advertising agency) that has gone from “Do no harm” to being a 500 lb internet gorilla with emotions to match.

—end of Rant. Great Posts and enjoy reading your stuff :)

james April 3, 2012 at 9:45 am


This article is the exact replica of what has happened to our site, rankings fell, filed a recon and got the unnatural link message from G. We have discovered the +50 articles we submitted to ezines on what we thought was sound advice have been posted all over the internet. We have started contacting these blogs to take down but most of the time there is no point of contact.

Should we remove all our articles from ezines, go articles etc?

Also if a blog is not indexed,but the backlink shows up in webmaster tools does is that link still hurting the site.

John April 3, 2012 at 10:37 am

Maybe James should not write so much about how much traffic he gets for free on his blog. Keep that information for your emails only. Be careful with Google, they want you to pay for traffic.

For the same reason ask yourself if you really have to use Adsense, Analytics, Webmaster, Gmail or Google+, at all!

Mike April 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

It is scary that Google penalizes websites for backinks now — that means anyone can blast a hundred thousand links to a site and bring it down. A new use for Xrummer or Scrapebox or any other automatics link building software, perhaps?

Cindy April 4, 2012 at 1:29 am

Well, all I have to say is how in the heck did James get his bio box all over the web like you say in the following quote because every time one of my articles gets picked up they DESTROY my bio box!

Kind of like a Perfect Storm of Non-Malicious Negative SEO. These other sites just scraped his articles for content and, oddly, the majority of them were “good” scrapers and left his bio box and links in tact (yeah, I know – SHOCKER!).

Omar @ OmarAndWill.com April 6, 2012 at 4:52 pm

All of this Google Changing stuff really opened my eyes that most of the big players in the game so have websites that rank in the SERPS BUT they also build their brand and have a loyal following that they also communicate with.

This is IMO the BEST route to take.


Mary Green April 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm

This is a great post, I know you probably hear that a lot. Thanks for taking the time to go through his site, and tell us what you would do. I am going to use some of these ideas to help with my own site. Glad someone referred me to you blog :)

Robert Nelson April 8, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Once again Google exposes there dark side, having gone from a ” Do No Evil” to a “We and only We know what is best”, as they edge ever closer to a legal battle as to the possibility of being a monopoly. Just one more reason not to put all your eggs in the Google basket.

Eric Demmers April 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Very cool article. I especially like the get social plug-in. I think I’ll stick that on my site… something really weird that happened to me, I wrote an article from my own thoughts and post it on to e-zine articles only to be told by them that this article is a duplicate of another article. Strange… Maybe everything that needs to be written has been written already.

Daniel April 19, 2012 at 2:13 am


I just started in SEO and related stuff (turned out that I came at the wrong moment :))

I have a question: is it possible that Google spotted the identical articles and remove all the backlinks except one, and that determined the decreased in traffic? And maybe they did not look for the resource box, but for the entire article, so that say the author published five articles, then they were copied in another 100 websites, so from 105 backlinks Google downgraded to 5?


Monja April 20, 2012 at 6:43 am

Hi Jennifer,

thanks for the article, really good :-) maybe we should be “everywhere” if our traffic comes from multiple streams such as social media, article marketing and so on we do not rely that much on google.

Jelena April 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Hi Jennifer

I’ve just discovered this place an hour ago – yep, content is king sometimes, I’ve read several posts now and will keep reading as soon as I leave this comment :)

It hasn’t been more than 4 or 5 months since I first heard about SEO. I learned hard since and have two informative niche websites, the first one ranks fairly well, and heck, now I even know what h tags are and how to set them up ;). But now, get this: I got in in a very, very bad time. Learning a completely new skill is hard enough even without the major change in rules.

For my first site, I did OK with Ezine Articles, some Web 2.0 profiles, a few guest posts, some blog commenting and forum profiles – well, you go after the advice from more experienced people. I’m on page one, haven’t got the Google love letter, it is fine.

But now I have no clue what to do with the new site. Except from the guest posts, all of the other backlinking methods I’ve been using are now considered spammy; I realize I have to diversify my anchor text (meaning a lot more backlinks to rank), but – I don’t know WHERE to put them now. I can’t do just guest posting, and with a small niche site (having an inexperienced owner) it’s difficult to make link baits…

So what I’m really trying to ask here: is there any way that you could recommend a niche website, a new one, how to build its backlinking strategy? Heck, I’m not asking for a blueprint, but now there’s just too much no-nos… and I’m still struggling with the “old ways”.

Lol, I tried to google “survive 2012 seo”, I even have no idea on how to search for the info I need…

Anyway, I would really appreciate if you had some advice on this.

Jacquelyn Vasser April 22, 2012 at 1:19 am

I’ve been in the SEO game for a while, and I’m honestly still a little confused about this issue with repetitive anchor text links. Why should that matter as much as the rest of the content? Doesn’t it make sense / still look natural to have a lot of article resource box links that say something like “click here to go to —- for more on —-”? Creative? No. Obviously spammy? Also no. Of course I’ll diversify things in the future, but I’m afraid I’ll now be getting penalized for all of my older, very high-quality articles which use very similar / the same anchor text – despite totally varied body content.

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