Google Algorithm Update: January 2014

Major Traffic Drop

There has been a significant drop in traffic since January 10 for my Amazon Affiliate site (See earnings here for 2013). A picture is worth a thousand words so I think this explains the situation.

The Traffic Drop on the Money Site Starting on January 10/11, 2014

The Traffic Drop on the Money Site Starting on January 10/11, 2014

Primary Keyword Impact

My primary keyword went from #1 to #3 (or #4) so I was not too worried last weekend (Jan 11-12, 2014). However, I should have been!  I normally get a LOT of traffic from long tail keyword searches  but those were impacted too.

My traffic has dropped off a cliff.

The sales numbers on Amazon paint a grim picture as well.  The earnings for the next couple weeks will be much lower than the previous months.

I am very glad that I made it through the November and December retail blitz.

Next Steps – Corrective Action Plan

First, I am remaining calm.  My content is still solid and I can look back to see that working on this Amazon Site is well worth the effort.

Second, I will analyze the on page and off page SEO.  I know that my anchor text is over optimized for a few terms when you consider the current guidelines. (See my conversation with Diggy.)

Third, I will wait.  I know that sometimes there are algorithm updates, then roll backs to the updates.

Fourth, I will built links that I was planning on working on anyway.  These are high quality links from either outreach or via a PBN.

Fifth, after I have waited for a few weeks, I will reassess the situation.  If it looks like I need to fix up my anchor text to dilute the over optimization, then I’ll probably get a package from the HOTH <affiliate> to help on that front.

More Statistics

These are the initial statistics on the traffic drop due to the alleged Google update that was seemingly rolled out on January 9, 2014. The graphs and table below show similar information. Basically, you can see a significant drop in traffic over the last several days when you compare to the previous period.

You can see the drop clearly when compared to the previous week.

You can see the drop clearly when compared to the previous week.


Google Webmaster Tools Confirms Update

If you check your search queries view in Webmaster tools, then you will see the confirmation of an update.  The following is stated:

Update: an improvement to our top search queries data was applied retroactively on 12/31/13. Learn More.

You can see in the graph below the vertical line noting when the retroactive change was made.  I’m pleased to see the number of search queries that bring people to my site.  Of course, the drop in impressions is troubling…that is quite a drop.

The Search Queries view in Google Webmaster Tools

The Search Queries view in Google Webmaster Tools



Anchor Text Analysis


This is the anchor text profile as reported by Majestic SEO. A couple of my top keyword terms are potentially over optimized at 12% and 13%.

Here is an area for improvement – reduce the exact match anchor text. I headed over to Majestic SEO to pull some data on my backlink profile.  I wanted to see the profile of the anchor text that links to the website.  I like the format that Majestic SEO provides with a free account.

I see that a couple of my top terms are over optimized a little bit.  The blue and purple pieces are at 13% and 12%, respectively, and that is a bit high.  Years ago, over optimizing was a great strategy but it is not anymore and naked URLs are a better choice.

It is not that simple though…My site still ranks #3 and #5 for the terms referenced as over optimized.  I also reviewed the backlink profile for all the other sites ranking in the top ten.  Guess what – they have just about the same exact backlink profile.

Regardless, I will be making an effort to reduce the percentages of exact match anchor text to less than 7%.  This might not be the total solution but I think taking care of this anchor text issue will be a smart way to improve the backlink profile. It will take a little time since I will need to change some of the existing backlinks.  I will also need to add more backlinks with various anchor text to dilute the over optimized backlinks.

18 comments… add one
  • Sheyi Jan 14, 2014, 5:18 pm

    I guess it has to do with your anchor text. Now that it is broke, you gotta fix it and get back on the no1 spot.

    Check your competitor as well and see if they are doing something you’re not doing.

    Well, I have to type this comment thrice. Why not go for normal blog commenting stuff?

    • Doug cunnington Jan 15, 2014, 6:44 am

      Hey Sheyi –
      Yes, I’ll be making some changes coming up soon.

      Sorry you had to type your comment a few times. This format cuts down on spam and a lot of the overhead of commenting…

  • Matthew Allen Jan 15, 2014, 5:39 am

    This sucks Doug! I just read your conversation with Diggy too… It definitely sounds to me like it could be an anchor text issue. I haven’t heard of any Google algorithm update and none of my sites have been affected in any way. The good news is – if most of your links were built manually, you can change or undo the over-optimized anchor text. Perhaps it just took Google this long to figure out your link building tactics? It could be that maybe somebody did a manual review of your site… It could be a lot of things.

    I tried that web 2.0 stuff for just one of my sites. It started to rank around page 3 or 4 for awhile, but then the rankings dropped off. I also had a few really good expired domain links pointing to it. My suspicion is that the web 2.0 links get some sort of red flag. They’re too easy to create so perhaps Google detects them and scrutinizes them more.

    On another site I have that is doing quite well, I’ve only built a few expired domain links and use undetectable social bookmarking links with SocialADR. That strategy seems to be working pretty well. Oh, and some blog commenting, but not much.

    I hope you pinpoint the problem and are able to get it fixed soon.

    • Doug cunnington Jan 15, 2014, 6:56 am

      Hey Matt, Thanks…The links came with a risk. 🙂

      I should be able to correct a bunch of the links so that is good. However, very early on when I launched the site I did get a couple fiverr gigs for PBN links with high PA/DA. Dumb move but it was recommended by a guy who was experienced. So I don’t control those links, of course, but the real reason that I’m mentioning it is that at least one of those sites was deindexed. 🙁

      A smart guy in my alpha group pointed that out (Thanks Stu!). So the rankings drop could also be due to some sites being deindexed that I was getting links from.

      We’ll get it figured out. I know the site can create some nice income so it is well worth the effort.

      Great job on your sites…and keep fighting the good with clean links. 😉

      • Matthew Allen Jan 15, 2014, 6:59 am

        That makes sense Doug. Perhaps the site that got de-indexed also had some sort of penalty attached to it that also affected sites it was linking to. Like maybe Google figured out they were selling links.

        I think if you build out some good quality and undetectable links with diverse anchor text – you should be able to dilute some of the bad links and life will be good.

      • Stuart Jan 17, 2014, 9:54 pm

        A number of high pa blogspot sites got taken out, the site was pure old school blog network spam to be honest. I reckon replicate the pa from any lost link, make sure its from a decent network or your own expired domains.

        Hey just had an idea for a tool, be cool if you could grab your links from ose, majestic, ahrefs, webmaster tools and have each checked everyday if they are indexed still and let you know.. then you can correlate to rank etc.

        • Stuart Jan 18, 2014, 12:27 am

          sent you an email, couple of images that paint a very easy to read picture of what happened around those dates from majestic and ahrefs.

        • Doug cunnington Jan 19, 2014, 9:57 am

          I think you are on to something here. It could be a blogspot site that was linking to a Web 2.0 or something and now the Tier 1 link is devalued. Smart thinking, Stu!

  • Curt Jan 17, 2014, 6:39 pm

    One of my sites was also hit and my traffic looks a lot like yours. Definitely glad it didn’t happen in Nov or Dec!

    Interested to see how your recovery goes. I’ve added more quality links with non-exact/partial anchor text to dilute my ratios. The fact that they’re good links should help, too, of course.

    Doing some KW research today, I found that a lot of ‘typical’ niche sites had dropped from the top 10. I compared from my research a few months ago and noticed a lot more of the big name websites occupying top spots.

    I’m thinking, like you, that it’s mostly anchor text (maybe a Penguin refresh or something?), but also wondering ever so slightly now how adding new content will affect the site and after today’s KW research, wondering if any aspect of the Spencer Haws amazon site layout is being punished to some degree.

    • Doug cunnington Jan 19, 2014, 9:55 am

      Sorry about the site, Curt. I feel your pain, buddy!

      That’s very interesting about the general hit to niche sites. I think we both have the same kind of situation and plan to get back on track.

      I was looking at another site of mine and the #1 result has a bunch of pretty spammy links. Very spammy. Not only that, it has anchor text way over optimized for 2 major keyword phrases for a total of about 45%.

      Maybe it is something else aside from anchor text…like tiers 2, 3, and 4 being devalued.

  • Stuart Jan 17, 2014, 9:44 pm

    Have you taken a look at any main competitors? See how they fair in anchor text distribution?

    • Doug cunnington Jan 19, 2014, 9:56 am

      Hey Stu –
      Good point. Yes, I looked at the on page and off page for my site and the rest of the top 10 results. My site is inline with the general stats…

  • Kent Chow Jan 19, 2014, 9:43 am

    Learning the lesson from my Penguin 1.1 hit in May 2012, I rather spend time on creating quality content and care less on backlinkings these days.

    It’s not too bad to still have 300-400 daily traffic. Hope you could go back to 1K daily traffic mark soon.

    • Doug cunnington Jan 19, 2014, 10:03 am

      Thanks, Kent. Yep, there is something to be said to NOT rely on backlinking so heavily.

      I do know of another site that took a hit where the webmaster did not do any link building. They had links from outreach, networking, and social media yet still had some impact.

      There is no question that it’s riskier to build links. 🙂

      I’ll get the traffic back…it will take some time. But I think I can build the site back even stronger. 🙂

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