The Link Shrink Is In: Is Starting Over The Best Option?

We just came upon the two year anniversary of what came to be known as the Google Panda Update.

Between then and now, a seismic shift has seemingly taken place in the link building and SEO industry. Many of you reading this know the gory details, but if you don’t, I recommend reading Vanessa Fox’s excellent post, Your Site’s Traffic Has Plummeted Since Google’s Panda Update. Now What?

worthit

The answer is usually no

I’ve read many Panda recovery stories, read about sites that claim to have fully recovered, partially recovered, or not recovered at all. I’ve never really liked the word “recover,” because it makes it sound like the websites were victims, blindsided and injured by something they didn’t deserve.

Perhaps there are a few sites that fit that description. A few. But let’s be clear. It is and always was a strategic mistake to base your business model on receiving organic traffic from Google. And, I’ve been agonizingly consistent in my written and spoken conviction about this for a long, long, long time.

So, let’s move on to the question many sites are still asking.

Starting Over

After two years of trying (and not succeeding) to get back to where you once were, does it make sense to shut down your site and start over?

I know people are still asking this question because I’m being asked this question by many people who for years made fun of the content driven approach. Why go to the trouble and expense of being awesome when it’s easier to just fake awesome, especially since so many of the sites that rank high are awful?

It would be nice if there was a standard test you could take where you answered a series of questions about your site, and at the end of the test you were given a simple Start Over/Don’t Start Over answer.

But, the answer to that question begs another question: Are you going to do things differently with the new site than you did with the old site?

If not, then it really doesn’t matter anyway.

Short. Sweet. True

Every website has its own unique historical link/social growth and attraction footprint. And, because of this, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all answer to the starting over question. I’ve advised many sites to shut down completely. I’ve also advised sites to alter their current course and continue. But honesty compels me to state that it’s all still a guess. An educated guess, maybe, but a guess nonetheless.

This much I can tell you with confidence: by studying linking data, it’s much easier to spot a site that needs to shut down than it is to spot a site that has a chance of succeeding. And based on the variety of linking scenarios I have studied thus far, there are a lot of sites out there that need to shut down.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column

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About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via EricWard.com.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://twitter.com/HubbardStone Hubbard Stone

    It is never too late to start a new brand. Even one with the same deliverable. A new domain and website should be on every business owners list. It’s like having 2 bill boards on the highway. You should be able to come up with multiple unique ways to describe your services, then you will know you are really a journeyman – the person from which most people want to purchase.

  • TechLife5280

    I’m actually kind of disappointed with this article. Eric Ward’s reputation precedes him as a top notch content craftsman, but this article is really little more than a guy being asked a question (Should I start over) and thinking to himself “I should answer that in a blog”. No meat here at all.

  • http://twitter.com/ChaseSEO Chase Anderson

    Eric – was this great content?
    I immediately noticed the confusing title that sounds like the post is link related even though the
    content is entirely panda focused. I also felt disappointed upon conclusion of the post that there wasn’t much actionable in it. The topic of the article “So, let’s move on to the question many sites are still asking.” never seems to be addressed beyond vagueness and roughly formed opinions.

    No one’s perfect and great content is always elusive, but I thought some constructive criticism was needed here for some reason.

    There are also 2 typos involving the use of the word “the” twice:
    “Why go the the trouble and ”
    &
    “I’ve never really liked the the word “recover,”

  • mysticmedia.com

    IMHO, an article not worth of SEL. I read over here nearly everyday and it has been rare, if it has every happened, that an article leaves me thinking, “well, that was vague”. What about the link data makes it easy to determine a site should shut down? What are some of common points among the respective sites you advise to shut down and those which you advise to carry on?

  • http://www.coolmodifiedcars.com/ Thomas

    E-Dog what a snore this was? You really do not lay out any advice as to whether a site should start over or not! Yes most of us can see the signs through link data maybe. But whats the tipping point? Where is the advice from the great and powerful OZ….Sure every website is unique but there must be common factors that sway your opinion one way or the other as to a site shutting down or not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=704681206 Waqid Janjua

    Very vague. I think we could of given out a list of points to review when making this decision.

  • http://twitter.com/ChaseSEO Chase Anderson

    Completely agree Thomas – not to spread the hate but this is a good example for the SEO community.

    I’d like to add one other comment on the article that I think really needs correction.

    The post title sounds link related because of the bizarre addition of ‘The link shrink’ that Eric’s added recently. It just doesn’t seem to make sense to add this type of tagline to a title since I’ll always read it thinking the article is about links. Furthermore the content of the article takes a strange derailing indicating it’s a link profile that is used to detect a panda hit site.

    Panda = on-page & Penguin = links. This is something that gets blurred in SEO articles sometimes and I think raises confusion. In fact, I’m confused, was this a panda or a penguin post?

  • TechLife5280

    Exactly. I’m glad i’m not the only one that saw through this diluted post. You may be able to get away with stuff like this on client blogs for fast links, but you can’t post an advice column aimed at industry peers on a place like SEL, and crank out a big poo all over the page and expect it to fly, even if you are Backlink Moses

  • ScottyMack

    Alas, this is never really a good option for websites that have spent years building up a repeat customer base. Sure, you can Email customers with your new address, but you’ll lose people, for sure. 301ing pages just drags the same baggage over, so that is no solution. Really in those cases, it’s best to leave the old site up for the old customers and start up a whole new one – doing things the right way – to gain new customers (makes it a major PITA when it is an eCommerce business with a website that automatically tracks inventory, though!).

  • http://www.salesblend.com/ David Chevalier

    @1cardude:disqus it sounds like the site (1) needs to shut down or (2) should not bother starting over because the site owner hasn’t changed their mentality or (3) it’s a guess…@ericward can you provide more details about how to evaluate a situation when it’s (3)?

  • http://twitter.com/leejohnson Lee Johnson

    Hubbard in with you on this. There are many people out the who can’t see the wood for the trees.

  • http://twitter.com/sagerock Sage Lewis

    I feel the need to jump in here.

    As you know, Eric has been doing this probably before you even heard the word seo.

    When you get to your 10,000+ hours that he has you see things differently than most.

    If I had to guess, the reason for vagueness is because he’s working on more of an instinct and intuition than some precise number that you are all looking for.

    You don’t need everything spelled out for you. This article was written by a long standing professional and was meant for a similar type of person.

    If you think there is a secret number that is out there to decide when you should burn a site you are deluding yourself.

    An article like this requires you to think for yourself.

  • Michael Cottam

    This is crazy. Panda is NOT something to “start over” from, at least not from a domain perspective. Your content is easy to control, whether we’re talking what pages get exposed to the crawlers, or the content on the pages that ARE exposed.

    Panda is NOT Penguin. It is NOT a manual penalty. It does NOT have to do with linking. That’s Penguin.

  • http://twitter.com/ChaseSEO Chase Anderson

    True – Eric is definitely more experienced with SEO than I. That’s why it was so surprising to see such an empty article with typos and confusion between Panda and Penguin. Don’t get me wrong, Eric has produced plenty of great articles in the past but this one seemed bad beyond a perspective written from experience where he writes about his instinct and intuition.

  • TechLife5280

    I’ll put aside the fact that you’re saying a person’s fame and reputation is enough to warrant and support the publication of an article in his trade, even if it’s complete fluff, confusing and says nothing. But, what you say might have some truth, as I believe any no-name SEO who had written this same article would have had a hard time getting it published on some obscure marketing blog, much less SEL.

    Blogs like this that act as resources for very important topics such as Panda, Penguin and recovery of a business website from Google’s wrath, I’m not looking for instinct and intuition spilled out in confusing, conceptualized verbosity. But that’s just me.

  • http://twitter.com/jwdlatif Jawad Latif

    What was the purpose of this post?????

  • Eric Ward

    I have read and taken to heart the feedback here. I agree I should have provided more detail. Certainly not one of my better columns. That said, I totally realize that Panda was not about links, except that…it kind of was/is. Ultimately, what allows a site to attract links is that site’s content. There are many sites that have what might appear to be thin content, but those sites still rank well because they are in a specialized vertical and have attracted links from quality sources within that vertical. There are also many sites about everyday subjects with poorly written content that simply have no interest in making the effort to become what they have to become in order to appeal to Google. I’ll accept the heat for this column, but you know what? After 19 years as a link builder, I’ve just about gotten to the point where I’m tired of sugar coating every column I write. If you knew what I really wanted to write, you be surprised. Know what? Nearly every site I’ve looked at that complained about rankings sucks. SUCKS. But they still want short cuts. Still want out-sourced content writers who can’t speak English. 400 guest blogs posts. Super secret paid links Google doesn’t know about. They don’t want to create something truly remarkable, they want the fastest fix to get them back where they were, and it just aint gonna happen. I’m more sad than angry. The web is a cesspool, and I’m glad I stayed a one man shop so I can pick and choose the clients I work with based on quality. That doesn’t mean I succeed every time, but at least I’m trying to make the web a better place, not just pollute it with more of the same. Thank you for your comments. I’ll do better. -Eric Ward

  • http://www.coolmodifiedcars.com/ Thomas

    Ohh I’d love a non-censored post!!!!! Personally I would rather get the hard truth then something sugarcoated.

    But still many of us took a hit deservedly so or not. (me included) so really I can’t decide if I should try to save my site or start over? Of course I would save the site if I did not depend so heavily on Google Traffic.

 

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