yp-unnatural

It was just a normal day at work. The day was going extremely well, ticked off a few things off the the to-do list, had a few giggles and a few wins. Clock ticked 5pm, about to pack up and leave and *ding* a notice about a recent reconsideration request for a client arrived in my inbox. The content of that notification SHOCKED me.

Background

Since Penguin 2.0 dropped, it seemed to have hit the Australian SERPs hard. Just looking at the algoroo.com, flux is basically happening on a daily basis and there hasn’t been any consistency in a very long time. There has also been an increase in Google sending out notification via GWT and the new “Manual Actions” section about unnatural links pointing to the website. I have been working on a link removal/cleanup project for a client since May the 11th, a week before Penguin 2.0 hit. We knew that we their link profile was a risk and proactively tried to remove risky links in advance.

To cut the story short (sorry, had to remove some specifics to protect the privacy of the client):

  • Worked on link cleanup project for 2 months
  • Prepped all the necessary documentation and records of our link removal efforts
  • Site received an unnatural link warning early August
  • Immediately submitted a disavow file and a reconsideration request with supporting documentation
  • 5 days later received feedback saying that are still some dodgy links, with examples
  • Spent another 2 weeks removing more links
  • Resubmitted a reconsideration request and updated the disavow file
  • 6 days later received another feedback saying that there are still links that unsatisfactory

Here’s a screenshot of the notification:

link-warning

A link from freaking Yellowpages.com.au was flagged as unnatural!!!! It was at this point I was like:
Head Desk

 

Yellowpages Listing Unnatural…Really?!?!

Let’s look at some SEO metrics for yellowpages.com.au:

Yellowpages Moz Metrics

Pretty good wouldn’t you say?

Yellowpages as a directory has been around forever, even before Google penetrated the Australian market. Despite the negative views on Yellowpages, the general public still uses it. I used to be a web analyst at Sensis who owns Yellowpages and from months of staring Omniture data, the site gets insane amounts of traffic and usage.

There are a lot of businesses in Australia that still advertise and see the value of directories. That is why websites like Yellowpages, Whitepages, Truelocal and Hotfrog exists. A lot of brick-and-mortar as well as trades businesses still heavily rely on directories for leads and business.

Let’s Look at the YP Listing

yp-listing-2

As you can see, it looks like any other YP listing. There are a couple of anchor text links within the “About Us” section of the listing. One is an exact match and another is a brand link. These could very well be the cause.

Yellowpages being such a large organisation would surely have editorial guidelines. Those links wouldn’t be in there if it did not adhere to their editorial/product/advertising guidelines. I’d imagine that they would have strict internal processes/systems to keep things consistent.

In my opinion, those links aren’t manipulative at all and is definitely not part any a link scheme. Unless Yellowpages themselves have deliberately “SOLD” them those links as part of a package.

The majority of businesses would not know any better and their main focus would be to promote the business and generate more leads. My client certainly didn’t know those links existed and didn’t even care. All they cared about was having their phone numbers, address and information displayed correctly.

If it is indeed in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, who’s responsible? Yellowpages or the advertiser? Should all Australian businesses remove all links to their websites from Yellow Pages? What kind of a user experience does this give consumers?

What does this mean?

  • Are all types of links risky?
  • What else can a small business owner do to promote their business if the oldest form of advertising is deemed unnatural?
  • Is this an error by the webspam team? Barry Schwartz reported this a few days ago.
  • Should Google deal with Yellowpages directly and penalise them for “selling” links? I personally don’t see that happening.

As always, please feel free to leave your comments and thoughts below. It would be great if someone from Yellowpages.com.au and Google could comment on this.