Yesterday we had a little scare with one of our client’s Google rankings. Literally overnight, our client’s rankings had dropped from the top position for many local search terms, to 9th, 10th, even 15th place. This literally happened overnight, and as we awoke Monday morning to check on the usually client rankings, we were astonished to see such a huge drop in such a short amount of time. In order to help each of you avoid this kind of fiasco in the future, I wanted to provide you with the problem and the solution step by step.

The Scare

On Tuesday, May 31, my client’s website was crawled by Google and received a warm welcome, as we always do thanks to our White Hat SEO techniques. On Friday we provided the client with an SEO Progress report, as we do at the end of every month for every client. Things were moving right along over the weekend, until Monday morning when I awoke to a dramatic drop in position for many highly contested local search terms. The drop was nothing short of ridiculous, something that instantly triggered my instinct to assume someone had intentionally targeted our website.

The client dropped from first position for terms such as “pain management doctor” at the local level, to the bottom of the second page. We dropped for “Arizona pain doctor” from the top three to position 15, again on the second page. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Everything dropped, something that would happen to those practicing Black Hat SEO techniques (quick and painful drop in rankings), not something that happens to a website that has been working strong and steadily up Google for the past year-and-a-half.

Needless to say we were completely dumbfounded as to what the problem could be. I contacted the client to let them know about the issue and asked if anyone had access to the website or was conducting any offsite SEO that I didn’t know about.

The Problem

As an SEO, we don’t take these kinds of things lightly, especially after spending over a year working to get the rankings where they are. I dove into the problem, running reports, looking at data, working to determine the root of the issue and why my client’s website was dropping so quickly. The problem had to be clarified and resolved immediately. No client wants to lose rankings or traffic, and no SEO wants to see the competition forge ahead.

I realized that as I ran the SEO Report a few days earlier, I took note of the ridiculous amount of links that the client obtained from Inspire.com. Over the course of a few days, Google had calculated nearly 30,000 links pointing from Inspire.com to my client’s website. I thought that odd, but it didn’t occur to me until the website rankings dropped that was the problem.

This website, who was kind enough to ReTweet a story from my client’s website, inadvertently shot us in the foot why they placed that ReTweet on their website. To be exact, they placed that ReTweet manually onto every single Forum page on their website…all 30,000 of them…all at once. No one manually maintains Twitter Feeds anymore. Most websites use widgets, which are not crawled by Google, to provide web visitors with Real-Time Twitter Feeds. However, this website manually adds each and every Twitter Update to each and every Forum page of their website, inadvertently making it appear to Google that you are Forum Spamming, a Black Hat SEO Technique.

When Google crawled my clients website on the morning of Monday, June 6, and crawled Inspire.com, they saw these thousands of links as Forum Spam and knocked my client down dramatically for practicing unethical SEO techniques.

The Solution

After a few hours of research, looking at the programming of this other website and comparing it to what Google Webmaster Tools was showing me, I concluded that this ReTweet from Inspire.com looked like Forum Spam, and Google flagged us for it. So, I promptly emailed the client directly to explain the situation. I emailed Inspire.com directly to let them know that they were inadvertently damaging other website’s credibility when they manually updated their Twitter Feed. And then I went to the Google Webmaster Tools Forum.

It was here that I explained my client’s issue, provided both a link to my client’s website, as well as a link to the Forum Pages that were affecting my client’s website, and waited. Within the same day all of my client’s rankings were restored.  I honestly did not think that Google would repair the issue to quickly, but on the morning of June 6 my client was on the second page for many competitive search terms. By 3pm that same day, they were back at the top.