A number of Web sites hit with falling search rankings in April had several things in common. These sites publish original articles, frequently in the 500+ word range, which is supposed to be a quality benchmark in the way Google values content. They are authored by writers generally considered to be among the leading experts in their field. And all of these Web sites publish email newsletters. I’m part of this group and while it sounds arrogant for me to consider myself an expert, there are a handful of topics I know more about than most other people.
When my traffic at JakeLudington.com suddenly dropped in early April, I thought I’d made some kind of change that was resulting in a technology failure. I was wrong. Everything appeared to load as it should. So why the sudden drop? I called around to a handful of friends and discovered I was not alone. Early April was the second round of Panda algorithm changes. With some additional digging, I got a tip from someone at Google who indicated Google was penalizing JakeLudington.com with some new measurements that penalize email behaviors for domains. In talking with a number of other online publishers who were also hit with a stiff penalty, including LockerGnome, it appears that one common theme is that we all have email newsletters.
At first I simply didn’t want to believe email publishing was my problem. I require confirmed subscriptions. You can’t receive a single issue of my newsletter without clicking a link in the confirmation email saying you really want a subscription. This has been true since the newsletter launched as part of LockerGnome back in January 2001. I’ve always been adamant that people who don’t want to be on my list shouldn’t be and make it just as easy to unsubscribe. I currently use Aweber to send emails, which makes it easy to identify the number of people who mark your email as spam for any given mailing and automatically eliminate them. How could I get penalized for seemingly doing what was right?