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Beware of Blog Carnivals

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10:59 am
January 27, 2014


MoneyIsTheRoot

Member

posts 1456

I will say that in the 3 years Ive been blogging, and a member of this forum, I have seen a dozen different "facts" laid out to what affects pagerank, SE traffic, domain authority, Moz, etc etc etc…some may have been right, some may have been wrong, but nothing has ever been proven. 

 

That being said, the article does look to provide some credible evidence that certain carnival links may have been affecting SE traffic. But please consider some other things…

 

1.) Is it ALL the carnival posts that were affecting you? Or perhaps just certain carnivals or sites?

2.) Can we really guarantee that google is penalizing for carnival submissions?

3.) If you go through and request to be de-linked from a bunch of carnivals at once you could lower your link profile…how will this negatively affect your PR and DA? Some people still care about those. If google was taking such a hard stance on carnivals then it would seem logical that they would apply a manual PR penalty, right? But that doesn't seem to be the case…in fact I have never heard of someone losing PR for carnivals.

4.) I would think twice before submitting anyones site via the disavow tool…you are essentially calling that site spam, and could negatively affect someone else's site due to carnival submissions that you willingly submitted in the first place. If multiple people start doing this to the same sites then you could create issues for a site owner that previously did you a solid by including you in a carnival.

 

All of this is my very humble opinion…I dont know anything more than the next person… just some of experiences over the past few years.

 

Thanks,

 

Justin

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11:34 am
January 27, 2014


FrugalRules

Member

posts 161

Very well put Justin.

I think #4 is a point that is worth thinking over. While there may be some negative impacts of some of the Carnivals, I think there should be serious thought give to whether or not you disavow sites because they hosted a carnival you were included in. While the intention could be "good" I think it should give pause before taking action on something that isn't proven.

11:37 am
January 27, 2014


Financial Samurai

Admin

posts 1803

I thought the "Disavow Button" was equivalent to the red nuclear meltdown switch? 

Regards,

 

Sam

Financial Samurai - Helping you achieve financial freedom sooner, rather than later.

Yakezie Network Founder 

12:01 pm
January 27, 2014


michael @ financial ramblings

Member

posts 196

I don't think they're penalizing carnivals per se, but rather the types of links that are included in carnivals. That's sort of a semantic issue, but it's quite possible that they're categorizing those links as being crappy b/c they come from pages with tons of outbound links, they have highly targeted anchor text (most carnivals use post titles for that), and so forth.

While I agree that it's difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, I saw a clear improvement when taking a scorched earth approach and ditching them all. I could have sat tight for fear of throwing out good links with bad but, if I had, I'd likely still be suffering.

I will also say that I've seen many, many SEO facts laid out, as well. But very few are backed by data.

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1:10 pm
January 27, 2014


Financial Samurai

Admin

posts 1803

michael @ financial ramblings said:

I don't think they're penalizing carnivals per se, but rather the types of links that are included in carnivals. That's sort of a semantic issue, but it's quite possible that they're categorizing those links as being crappy b/c they come from pages with tons of outbound links, they have highly targeted anchor text (most carnivals use post titles for that), and so forth.

While I agree that it's difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, I saw a clear improvement when taking a scorched earth approach and ditching them all. I could have sat tight for fear of throwing out good links with bad but, if I had, I'd likely still be suffering.

I will also say that I've seen many, many SEO facts laid out, as well. But very few are backed by data.

Michael – Can you share your exact pageviews or visitors a day and month before and after so we can get an idea of the magnitude?

For example, if you went from 500 a day to 300 a day and back to 500, it's hard to say it is search related or other activity related. But if you went from 5,000 to 3,000 a day and back to 5,000 and the majority of your traffic is from search, this could really mean something with your strategy.

Regards,

 

Sam

Financial Samurai - Helping you achieve financial freedom sooner, rather than later.

Yakezie Network Founder 

4:19 pm
January 27, 2014


michael @ financial ramblings

Member

posts 196

It was on the order of hundreds, not thousands. But the decline was over 90% and sustained. And the recovery was every bit as clear. This wasn't a random fluctuation. But if people want to ignore this, that's fine. I won't lose any sleep (or revenue) if others choose to maintain the status quo.

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4:27 pm
January 27, 2014


Financial Samurai

Admin

posts 1803

Post edited 6:09 pm – January 27, 2014 by Financial Samurai


michael @ financial ramblings said:

It was on the order of hundreds, not thousands. But the decline was over 90% and sustained. And the recovery was every bit as clear. This wasn't a random fluctuation. But if people want to ignore this, that's fine. I won't lose any sleep (or revenue) if others choose to maintain the status quo.

Sounds good. A 90% decline is huge! Glad things worked out for you. It will be interesting to see if others rebound as well after being hit so much with your strategy. 

Regards,

 

Sam

Financial Samurai - Helping you achieve financial freedom sooner, rather than later.

Yakezie Network Founder 

6:53 pm
January 27, 2014


MoneyIsTheRoot

Member

posts 1456

Id definitely be interested to see if anyone else can duplicate your success.

 

If anyone reading this experiences the same thing, please let us all know!

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7:00 am
February 8, 2014


michael @ financial ramblings

Member

posts 196

Post edited 1:39 pm – February 8, 2014 by michael @ financial ramblings


For what it's worth, Jim has updated the original post to indicate that five different bloggers have contacted him to say that, after reading my guest post, they cleaned up their carnival links and saw a subsequent boost in search traffic within 3-10 days.

Of course, there could be a reporting bias here as those who make the change and see no benefit may be less likely to mention it. But still, it looks like I'm not the only one to have benefited from this.

Here's the link again for those who haven't seen it: blog carnivals and search traffic

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5:41 pm
February 10, 2014


Larry @ The Skilled Investor

Member

posts 53

Having managed the Carnival of Financial Planning for many years and having had one of my personal finance sites dinged by the GBorg temporarily, here are my two cents.

I hand edited the CofFP weekly for five years and rotated its publication among personal finance bloggers, before working with Don (the tech wiz behind the Yakezie carnivals) to get the process more automated. I have seen the good and bad of carnivals over the years. And, oh yes, they have gotten more spammy.

My long term rules for submitting to carnivals:
* Avoid repetitive submissions. Change up the permalinks and the snippets of text.
* Avoid carnivals that do not rotate hosting across personal finance blogs
* Don't make carnival submissions your primary linking strategy

My long term rules for hosting carnivals:
* Slash and burn the spam & kill anything that is not germane
* Keep the total link count down to under several dozen
* Include any personal finance blogger who demonstrated reasonable effort

I agree with the comments above which have said that it is very difficult to assign cause and effect. The last two+ years have seen a series of changes to the Borg's algoritms, but there were many different waves of Panda, Penguin and other algorithm changes.

Cause and effect has to be muddied. Carnivals submitting should be a gradual multi-year strategy for a minority of your linking. Over the same period, the algorithm has kept evolving. If you get dinged and seem to be able to relate it to carnivals, is it because the link building strategy was too narrow and/or the carnival links were getting repeated (same sites, same anchors, same permalinks, same post comment snippets)?

About 18 months ago, I had one of my personal finance websites badly dinged by the GBorg, but my other five PF sites were untouched. All sites had used reasonably careful carnival submissions over the years as part of the linking strategy, but carnivals were only one-third the links. So why was one site singled out of six?

Answer: it was not clear. The GBorg is like Alan Greenspan-speak. Make public pronouncements, but be obscure about the rules and keep them changing to minimize the gaming of the fundamental linking algorithms.

Solution:
* Go to webmaster tools. If the Borg really is trashing your site for a violation of the code of conduct, very often you will see it spelled out. I had not checked the webmaster tools of months, but when I got there I found an old email saying that my site had been a bad boy. How the site had been naughty was not clear. I do not know why I had never received the email — spam box perhaps?
* List inbound links. Go over the webmaster tools list of inbound links and identify the sites that are likely to be lower quality. (Use a spreadsheet.)
* Decide which links to kill, without unwittingly killing the 20 links out of a thousand perhaps that really are probably giving you the most juice.
* Avoid extra work — go directly to the nuclear option and submit a banned site list.
* Don't bother with begging other webmasters to take down links. (Yes, I have removed any link removal request from other webmasters, but I did not want to waste all the time with the proactive emailing and the begging.)
* Then, politely ask the Borg for reconsideration. It is almost a religious process in that they actually ask you to write a confession when you ask for reconsideration.
* Get rejected. The Borg email sez the site is still a bad boy and still in violation.
* Rinse and repeat two more times, while waiting about a month in between each request
* Give up effectively after the third prostration to the Borg, but check back in a couple months later anyway.
* Magically find that my site was no longer in violation, but no email to that effect had been received.
* Search based traffic begins to rise back upward.

So, what is the answer? Carnivals per se? Probably not. Low quality in-bound links that could be the side-effects of some carnivals and other links that may have ended up on poor quality sites. Perhaps more likely.

What a way to make a (side) living. At least experimental lab monkeys and pigeons have rules to learn so that they can get treats to eat. Human webmasters get to play by rules that keep changing just when the old rules had started to provide a bit more than some paltry snacks.

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8:55 pm
February 10, 2014


Financial Samurai

Admin

posts 1803

Fascinating stuff Larry. Thanks for your thoughts. Alan Greenspan made us rich and then crushed us with the housing market! :)

Maybe this will finally be the time one of my articles will get accepted by a Carnival.

Regards,

 

Sam

Financial Samurai - Helping you achieve financial freedom sooner, rather than later.

Yakezie Network Founder 

8:31 am
February 11, 2014


michael @ financial ramblings

Member

posts 196

Larry: There are many ways to offend Google. This is just one. But I think it's safe to say, with my experiences plus those of five or so others, that where there's smoke there's fire. This isn't to say that everyone who has ever submitted to a carnival is in jeopardy. But if carnivals have ever been a meaningful part of your link-building strategy, you might want to try disavowing to see if there's a benefit. You can always delete the disavow file it doesn't help (or it hurts).

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4:16 pm
February 12, 2014


Barbara Friedberg

Member

posts 1302

Larry,

Thanks for a good retort.
Could you elaborate on how to do these 2 steps?

go directly to the nuclear option and submit a banned site list.
find inbound links from webmaster tools.

Thank you,
Barbara

11:27 pm
February 12, 2014


Larry @ The Skilled Investor

Member

posts 53

Hi Barbara,

I do not remember the details, but I did search the Google webmaster tools forum and there was a lot of information. Hordes of bloggers have gotten swept up in these algorighm purges, and people try to help each other. If you poke round the forums you will find useful guidance.

Regarding the nuclear option and the submission of a banned site list, I think that this is called the "disavowal" tool. The guidance provided was that this should be a last resort, but I did not have the time for begging and pleading for link removals. I went straight to that tool.

Regarding finding inbound links, if your site is registered with webmaster tools, log into webmaster tools. Select the site, select search traffic, select links to your site. Then, choose show 500 rows, and look at the sites linking in. You can use the button provided to download the table and manipulate it in a spreadsheet. You can click on the inbound sites for more details. Then the process is to cull out all the good sites, because you want to end up with a list of "bad" sites to disavow. Be careful to not disavow "good sites". Tear out your hair because there are no rules. The Borg tells you that you have been bad, but not why. The magic 8 ball is as much help as the Borg is.

When in doubt go to the inbound linking site to check it. Since I think this whole process is relatively ridiculous, I have a cynical view. Should I be very harsh and kill a huge number of inbound linking sites and kill off the link value of some that really are not problemmatic? Either the Borg algorithms will screw me if problems remain, but I might screw myself if I am too aggressive.

Remember, there is no real knowledge about the rules when dealing with the wizard. Do you try to kill off all flying monkeys, or just give it a shot and kill some flying monkeys, submit a disavowal list to see if that is good enough. Many in the forum had to do the dance multiple times. For me it was three times, and the Borg told me when I was bad each time, but it never bothered to tell me when I was good.

Once you have a list of sites to disavow, copy and paste into Notepad to get a list to submit to the disavow tool. Also, before you start the process read about the disavow tool so you understand how to submit a list with proper syntax.

Larry

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12:17 am
February 13, 2014


Larry @ The Skilled Investor

Member

posts 53

Larry: There are many ways to offend Google. This is just one. But I think it's safe to say, with my experiences plus those of five or so others, that where there's smoke there's fire. This isn't to say that everyone who has ever submitted to a carnival is in jeopardy. But if carnivals have ever been a meaningful part of your link-building strategy, you might want to try disavowing to see if there's a benefit. You can always delete the disavow file it doesn't help (or it hurts).

Hi Michael,

Sorry, if I was not very clear before. I just do not know if there is smoke or fire, cause or effect, or just spurious coincidence. I do not know what the rules are, because they are intentionally hidden and the rules keep changing. For years, I have guessed that there are more benign and more dicey ways to build links. However, if any blogger follows the Borg's long-term guidance to just keep writing good stuff and high quality inbound links will magically follow, they are on an endless hamster wheel for slave wages.

All reasonably serious bloggers try a variety of ways to build links and you can identify the serious ones or at least the foolish ones, simply if they have been around for awhile. Links are cumulative and build through a variety of intentional and unintentional means. When all of a sudden there is a blip in search traffic that affects an established blog's search traffic, then clearly the Borg has some new form of indigestion, but teasing out a definitive cause may be impossible.

If some bloggers think that carnivals have caused there downfall in the rankings and after pursuing carnival link removals their rankings move up, then maybe that was the cause. Or maybe not. In my initial comment on this topic, I listed my thoughts about safer ways to deal with carnivals, because years ago I realized that the Borg might have an inherent dislike for the various link fests that groups of bloggers engage in.

Anyway, I am a big fan of diversification in the variety of linking strategies. Since the Borg is replacing Redmond as the new dominant technical leader and monopolist, I am also a fan of diversifying beyond search driven traffic, because of the things we are talking about. From the ant's perspective, it does not matter if the elephant steps on the ant intentionally or accidentally. If the ant figures out beforehand that being stepped on might not be desirable, the ant might think of additional or different ways to make a buck. Relying on search driven traffic that can go poof when the elephant sneezes is not such a reliable business strategy.

Larry

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12:30 am
February 13, 2014


Financial Samurai

Admin

posts 1803

Post edited 6:46 am – February 13, 2014 by Financial Samurai


Larry, thoughts about a no link building strategy?

For example, should I be including many links in my forum signature like yours? How many is too many? Or do you see it as a free for all to try and include as many links as possible? Candid questions and sincerely looking for your thoughts as you have some excellent viewpoints in this thread.

I'm wondering if I've been too lax as I haven't done any link building except comment around on some insightful posts. Things seem to have steadily progressed over the years but I am very curious as to whether to do more, so my sites can grow further. Perhaps I should start with my own forum signature on my own forum.

Thx

Regards,

 

Sam

Financial Samurai - Helping you achieve financial freedom sooner, rather than later.

Yakezie Network Founder 

6:36 am
February 13, 2014


MoneyBeagle

Member

posts 1466

Larry, I really have to take issue with your approach to skip over the steps of actually trying to contact other bloggers and skipping right to the nuclear option that many others across the universe recommend as a last resort approach.

One of the fears of the disavow tool is that Google will start marking the sites reported as disavowed as spammy.

Would your one report cause a site to get flagged by Google? Probably not.

But what if everybody reading this went full steam ahead with this method? Suddenly, a site that hosted a few carnivals over the years is going to get disavowed over and over again.

Under your strategy, that site owner, who was trying to do a good thing when they hosted those carnivals, is now at risk of getting penalized. Nobody knows, but it seems pretty logical that things like keyword rankings, page rank, and other metrics with directly drive traffic could take a hit.

And why? You said it was because you "did not have the time for begging and pleading". Reading between the lines, I don't think it was so much about the time involved in the process, it was that you wanted your traffic back ASAP. Which is all fine and good, and I completely understand, but where I'm not cool with it is when it's done on the backs of other bloggers, many of whom I'm guessing probably don't read this thread or have any idea that this is even a thing.

I don't mean to come out in attack mode. I think you run a great blog and I've enjoyed interacting with you. I just strongly disagree with your approach on this one given the potential risks. If you get your traffic back but someone else gets theirs taken away, are you good with that? Is that 'selflessly helping others'? Especially if it could have been avoided by spending a few hours tracing down links and asking for them to be removed first?

I guess my takeaway is that, if we're simply skipping right to the disavow tool, anybody who has hosted a carnival should probably take that post down, though who knows if that would even be enough? You might not be able to unring that bell once you're on the list, regardless of the post status. Or maybe, being on the disavow list means nothing and my concerns are for naught.

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6:43 am
February 13, 2014


michael @ financial ramblings

Member

posts 196

Barbara Friedberg said:

Could you elaborate on how to do these 2 steps?

go directly to the nuclear option and submit a banned site list.
find inbound links from webmaster tools.

Thank you,
Barbara

Barbara, if I'm not mistaken, I already sent you (via e-mail) explicit instructions on how to do this.

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7:05 am
February 13, 2014


michael @ financial ramblings

Member

posts 196

Larry @ The Skilled Investor said:

Sorry, if I was not very clear before. I just do not know if there is smoke or fire, cause or effect, or just spurious coincidence. [...]

If some bloggers think that carnivals have caused there downfall in the rankings and after pursuing carnival link removals their rankings move up, then maybe that was the cause. Or maybe not. [...]

I am also a fan of diversifying beyond search driven traffic, because of the things we are talking about. [...]

Relying on search driven traffic that can go poof when the elephant sneezes is not such a reliable business strategy.

Hi Larry.

If this had only worked for me, then I would be more willing to consider the coincidence explanation. But it has also worked for (at least) five others who attempted it at different times since I first reported my experiences. This makes the coincidence explanation a little harder to swallow. To me, there is ample evidence that this approach is at least worthy of further investigation and experimentation.

If people choose to ignore this and carry on with what they "know" (think) to be true vs. being open to new ideas about, and experimentation with, an ever-changing landscape, that's okay. My feelings won't be hurt.

Also: I could not agree more that people need to be diversifying beyond search traffic. Probably the best thing to do on this front is to do whatever you can to convert passersby into e-mail subscribers.

Regards, Michael

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1:29 pm
February 13, 2014


Larry @ The Skilled Investor

Member

posts 53

Larry, I really have to take issue with your approach to skip over the steps of actually trying to contact other bloggers and skipping right to the nuclear option that many others across the universe recommend as a last resort approach.

Hi Money Beagle,

Sorry, I don't mean to be flippant about this. So let me be more clear. (Now again, I was guessing about the Borgs rules and why they singled out one of my sites, because all of this is boxing in a dark room without any rules.)

When I disavowed, I was knocking out thin spammy sites, RSS copying sites, keyword factories, and non-subject matter germane sites. I have no idea why some of these sites were linking in. Some RSS content copy sites linked in because I used an RSS plug in that pointed back to my sites. Scrapers were doing this to several of my sites, but only one got dinged by the Borg. Go figure.

I did not disavow any personal finance carnival hosting sites, because I doubted that they were the cause of undefined problems that had the Borgs undergarments in a bunch. Plus, any site that is proactive enough to host a personal finance carnival is unlikely to be a spammy site, because carnival managers tend to be somewhat selective about who can host. Also, this whole process took three tries over about six to eight months. I did not even know if I had really fixed the undefined problem. However, I do recall the JCPenny was one of the violators who prompted all the this algorithm upheaval, and there were a lot of complaints about them getting off easy in about six months. Maybe just being willing to dance for the Borg can solve the problem. (Am I a cynical old blogger?)

Again, I was not worried, because I had been a relatively careful submitter to blog carnivals over the years in that I changed up a lot of things to avoid replication that my be easily machine detectable if the Borg decided that link fests were sinful. And, to be clear again I hope about my other comments on this tread, just because I personally do not think that carnivals were the cause of my problem, that does not mean that the Borg has not secretly decided to target link fests. My opinion is that of a confirmed agnostic. I have my doubts, but do not feel I have definitive evidence to prove or deny existence. To me this is a statistical problem without an adequate data set in an evolving environment. The parallels to investing are striking.

Since I hand edited the CofFP weekly for about five years and then distributed the HTML file to a rotating list of bloggers, I had a pretty good idea about how to identify the thin keyword stuffer sites that were submitting posts, but were not serious about personal finance blogging. However, even if a blogger was new and had not had time to build up a thicker site, but they showed that they were trying, I would include them. It was a bit nuts to do this for so many years, but it was my one hour of the week where I could take the pulse of the PF blogger community. I ran into a lot of excellent articles by doing it.

So, no you do not need to worry about me disavowing carnivals and/or legitimate PF sites. Because the economics are unattractive for most, I have a lot of respect for the staying power of so many PF bloggers. Therefore, if anyone else does not have the time for the emailing and begging for an unknown link removal link juice benefit and decides to use the disavowal tools, my strong suggestion is that you be kind to your fellow PF bloggers. They are probably not the problem, and if they are the problem then that means that the Borg might be have stepped over the do no evil line and become the problem itself.

Larry

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Make your post submissions here

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The Skilled Investor


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