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Mysterious risings and rumblings in my Google jungle

Posted by Pat | Posted in 'Work' | Posted on 04-11-2010

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Here’s a quote from an email I sent to a friend on 20th March, 2004:

“Give us a ring when you’re up. Have been having a horrible night – seems Google removed <mywebsite> from its index early in the morning… Fear I’m heading straight for shit street. Can’t exactly say I didn’t see it coming. Am giving it till tomorrow night to see if it is just a glitch but right now it’s all nail biting and worry. I think this might end up being the motivation I need. I have about 3 weeks of cash left I think if things stay as bad…!”

Looking at that now, that’s quite possibly when my life as an amateur SEO started.

I wasn’t doing anything black hat nor underhand, but merely playing on the fact a site I had bought had existing and good quality backlinks. I turned the site into something, let’s say, ‘thinner’. Again, white hat all the way, I’ve never dabbled knowingly in the dark side.

For a bit of background, it was an act I had placed my livelihood on, as the only other sites I had were starting to flail a bit because of the changing nature of the industry they were in. I already had watched a good friend go bankrupt doing exactly the same thing as me and was convinced it was my turn. So I invested the last £1,500 I had in this site, some time in 2002 and crossed my fingers. Whilst it was maintaining its positions in Google over the next two years, let’s say I saw the sort of percentage returns which allowed a good standard of living and it was my first massive bit of calculated luck.

So, when on 19th March 2004, Google changed their mind/caught up with the change, I thought that was it – the first time one of those genuine “Oh well, it’s been great” and “But, bloody hell it was so easy while it lasted” paradoxes went on. I couldn’t accept overnight your whole life could be turned upside down, but at the same time, I had to. Reconsideration requests weren’t around as far as I remember and my knowledge of actual proper SEO was zero. It had gone from #2 or #1 in very competitive keyword terms to page 90+. I think that might be what they call the doghouse, to put it mildly.

Immediately I messed about with the site as much as I could – but it basically couldn’t go back to its original incarnation (it wouldn’t convert, plus I hadn’t officially bought the content, just the domain) – and I was stuck having some residual traffic from elsewhere which was converting (obviously not enough), and resented the fact it had lasted 2 years in the new incarnation and refused to believe it was anything I’d actually done (or not done), so it stayed mostly the same. Mostly because I was too scared to lose what I had. And there it lay, and over time, all but fizzled out. R.I.P site.

Fast forward six and a half years to September 30th this year and suddenly a little rumble. Google has freed the thing from its grasp, inexplicably. Obviously, in that time things have changed – it has achieved zero new natural backlinks in those six years and it seems the sway of Google’s affection is currently European, but I can’t help wonder, HOW! I never once submitted a reconsideration request for this site and yet it’s been forgiven. And I did NOTHING to it, in those six years!

I did move where it was hosted about three years ago, partly because it was on a dedicated server which I was shutting off anyway, so I stuck it on shared hosting in the states where it continued to be forgotten about.

Here’s a little snapshot in Webmaster Tools from the last month (click it for full size):

As you can see, the last few days in September were a flat line, as it had been since the day I put webmaster tools on it (many years previous), followed by a weird spike and a nice looking curve starting towards the end of October. 

Clearly we’re not talking massive amounts of traffic here. But from 0 – 100 hits a day, I guess it’s a multiple of infinity! It was noticed anyway, as I suddenly started making the odd sale on the old site it sent people to. One thing the graph does tell me is that even with the recent growing number of impressions, the clickthroughs are looking scant to say the least, so it needs to be a little more catchy looking in the SERPs!

So tonight I spent a few hours tweaking it, after 6.5 years of learning a little more SEO. I can’t wait to see what happens now, and the best thing – it would make no difference to me if it suddenly disappeared again. How freeing to be able to play with a site again during what appears to be its parole from Google!

Will update if it all goes wrong, and likewise the opposite. Here’s hoping for good times!

Oh! And if you’re wondering what happened after 20th March 2004 – I put my 3 week’s worth of cash into acquiring a different site, and thank God, it worked out for a while… a story for another time perhaps.

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