A Google penalty followed by SEO surgery
Here’s how we trebled our client’s traffic in a matter of months. There’s a really interesting twist to this story.
The Vasectomy Reversal Clinic performs microsurgical vasectomy reversal operations. They contacted us a few years ago and switched SEO providers after watching their rankings tumble to about page 10 of Google’s search results.
The first thing we did was a website audit and, especially, a link audit which confirmed our suspicions that an automatic i.e. algorithmic penalty had been applied by Google. Their previous SEO provider had engaged in spammy link building which is strictly in contravention of Google’s conditions. It was obvious from our client’s reaction when I explained this that their previous SEO provider had withheld some important facts about his methods.
We embarked on a link removal exercise and contacted as many websites as possible to get the links to our client’s website deleted. We used Google’s link disavow tool to address the remainder. After several months, the penalty had not been lifted so we considered moving the website from www.vasectomyreversalclinic.co.uk to www.vasectomyreversal-clinic.co.uk (with a dash). In the end, it was decided that the cost of transferring the website to a new domain was likely to be less than continuing to invest in the penalty removal exercise because of the risk it might not be successful. The link equity of the old domain was quite low so not that much would be lost by moving. There were not that many genuine, strong links to the site and we knew we could get those edited to point at the new domain. We worked in close co-operation with their web designer.
We knew that some people would still have a record of the old domain and try to visit it so, in order not to lose those visits, we needed to set up a redirect from the old domain to the new domain. However, we also knew that the normal method of using a 301 automatic permanent redirect would almost certainly result in transferring the penalty to the new domain. We set up a holding page on the old domain informing visitors where the website had been moved to and giving them a button to click on to transfer them to it. This would not result in passing the penalty through to the new domain.
Within weeks of transferring the site to the new domain, rankings steadily climbed and traffic steadily grew. Within a few weeks, 24 of the 29 keywords we were targeting, were ranking on page 1 of Google. Not only that, no visits to the old domain were lost, thanks to the redirect.
Here comes the twist …
After years of nearly all rankings for targeted keywords being on page 1, very recently they have fallen, right across the board. Weird. We couldn’t think of anything that could have led to this. There had been no major algorithmic updates from Google and we had not done anything that might have had a detrimental impact. Except … that around the same time we replaced our own client page. The previous page had a short paragraph about each client and contained a keyword anchor text link to their website. Our new page has no text links. We didn’t believe this could have had such a significant impact on rankings given that the link is on the page of a website about SEO and not, say, a health or medical site let alone about vasectomy reversal. But to test that assumption, I decided to write this case study and include the keyword targeted text link (in the previous sentence) to replace the one lost from our old client page. Well, it’s about time I put up some case studies anyway!
It might make the difference, it might not but it should certainly help move things in the right direction, especially since the link is on a page dedicated to The Vasectomy Reversal Clinic and with substantial content on it.
Only in the course of actually typing this page have I stumbled on what is almost certainly (with a 99% confidence level) the true underlying cause of the tumble in rankings.
I just went to display the holding page that had been put up by the web designer on the old domain. Instead of seeing the holding page, the old website appeared. The holding page has been taken down. Or, perhaps more likely, the 301 redirects from the old URLs to the holding page have been removed. Either way, it’s bound to be an inadvertent oversight. A few quick checks in Google showed the old website has been indexed by Google as well as the new website. Two almost identical sites competing and clashing with each other.
I’m expecting rankings to improve drastically over the next two weeks thanks to the double fillip of this case study and the removal of the old website from the old domain.
Off to talk to the web designer …
We are always on the lookout for new opportunities to add value for our clients. One such example is that we noticed that the professionally recorded video of Mr Swinn performing a vasectomy reversal operation had been viewed over 50,000 times. Yet there was no link from the video to enable those viewers to click through to our client’s website so countless referral visits were being lost. The video was hosted both on YouTube and also another 3rd party niche medical site and it was the latter that was receiving the vast majority of the visits. We contacted the 3rd party site and asked them to add a link to our client’s website which they did. It has now been viewed about 100,000 times but is now generating valuable referral visits, thanks to the simple addition of a link to the website.
As a thanks for their business, we provided our clients with a free review and optimisation of the AdWords account that they had set up themselves.
Quote from the business owner:
“Adjuice have been very helpful in sorting out our SEO problems and our google rankings have gone from somewhere around page 15 to page 1. The ongoing monthly support and input from Adjuice is money well spent.” – Mr M J Swinn,
That’s why I love SEO. It’s complex, challenging, fascinating and critical because it can make the difference, for some businesses, between failing or flourishing.