If you work in the search marketing sector it's been hard to miss the penalty that has been dumped on Interflora this week. Is was first noticed on Tuesday but it wasn't until SearchMetrics was updated today that the true picture of the penalty starts to take shape when you see such a dramatic fall from grace.
This is plain to see that it's a manual penalty, often sometimes the hardest to recover from, but we will have to see what happens over the next few days and weeks. Some of you may remember when BMW got penalised back in 2006 but it didn't take long for Google to realise that actually their "customers" needed and expected to see BMW in the results, especially when they searched for "bmw". Within the search marketing industry we have to constantly remind ourselves that the general population doesn't understand what makes sites appear at the top, nor do they care as long as they can find what they are looking for. Some people won't even realise that Interflora isn't ranking for their brand organically with the huge spread of PPC ads. (its getting harder to differentiate paid from organic these days)
Interflora not ranking for their brand name is an issue for us, but for Google's customers they are likely to just click on the PPC ads. What hurts brands more is when you lose rankings for major search terms.
Interflora are still ranking number one for a whole host of keywords
But what they are missing are the prime keywords that we know would be driving the most organic traffic…this is some of the rankings from last week
and this are some from today
This is when you can identify that manual intervention at Google is in play as specific keywords have been targeted and these are likely to have been overcooked in the link profile, with links that Google aren't happy with. I'm not going to start getting into a big link analysis here as every SEO out there will have been digging around and have their own opinion of what is right or wrong, what Google is classing as "unnatural" but there could be a whole host of issues that we are not aware of going on, so until more information is available we can but speculate. There are also pages on the site that Google would not be happy with too that can’t be overlooked.
But What To Do Now?
What do you do when you get penalised like this? You're a big brand, and have invested in your web presence for years, enjoyed the masses of traffic that ranking for major terms have brought, grown with the rankings in terms of staffing … and then one morning you wake up and the traffic has gone. (well the relatively cheap organic traffic has gone, compared to the cost of PPC traffic on major keywords)
As all companies should have, that rely on Google for their revenue, you should always have a domain name tucked away in reserve that you can pull out of the bag and relaunch on. So will we be seeing a new domain popping up somewhere, maybe an uk.interflora.co.uk or interfloraflowers.co.uk, as it's been seen in quite a few sectors where a site will rebrand to a new domain.. But, on the flipside, if it's on page issues a full site analysis would certainly pick out areas that Google would not see as desirable in this era where they are clamping down on weak or spammy pages that are there purely to boost rankings.
If this isn't an option and you have burnt the domain, you have a few choices. Depending how close you are to Google, or how big your brand is, this is a starting point to get in touch with a Google rep to try to gauge how bad it's looking for the domain. The other option would be the clean up and reinclusion request but this could take a very long time especially with link penalties, as depending on what links have been built and how, it can be a very hard task and then you are left with not enough links passing equity to rank anyway so you're back at square one even if the penalty is removed. They could maybe also launch a partnership with a strong domain in a separate sector on a sub domain of their site, such as interflora.hallmark.co.uk to regain some of the lost traffic and regain brand rankings
It will be interesting to see what develops from this as the dust settles and the storm passes to the next big thing that Google throw at the SEO industry, and will Google now be looking at the flower industry as a whole or looking to see who is left ranking for the Interflora keyword to see how they themselves have achieved their rankings?