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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Yahoo! Relic of the 90s?

Yahoo is a strange animal.

For a long time stevepronger.com was in the sin-bin at Yahoo. Why? I'm not really sure. But something I'd done in the distant past had caused them to place a penalty on my site. Clearly, it wasn't ranking at all for queries that held first page positions on Google and MSN. Indexing was way behind. There were pages in the index which were deleted years ago. I tried emailing support many times but never once got a reply. I'd all but given up hope.

Then a client contacted me to ask for help with his Site Build It site, which he'd built himself. He too had top rankings in Google and MSN but nothing in Yahoo, and only 2 pages from over 100 had been indexed. This was crazy. I know I've pushed the envelope in the past for my own site but there was no reason at all for his site to not be fully indexed and rank well. So, I submitted an XML sitemap (which SBI creates automatically) and started doing some link building. Things have started to improve. There are now over 20 pages indexed although it's still not ranking. Perhaps when all the pages get indexed. I'm still working on that one.

But in working on his site I re-investigated Yahoo's Search Submit. In the past, I'd dismissed Search Submit because not only did you have to pay for a review, you had to pay a fixed charge for EVERY click. This made it very unpopular, and rightfully so. Bad idea. But, it seems things have changed. You no longer have to pay a per-click charge, only for a review, although you do have to pay for EACH URL you submit. Still, I figured it was worth it to submit 4 URLs and get a real human to look at my site. Surely they would see that there is no reason to continue to penalise my site, if ever there was one.

But I was wrong.

When I logged into my Search Submit account my URLs were marked as "URL did not meet guidelines" and my credit card payment was cancelled.

What! Why not? I wasn't sent an email to inform me of this or give any reasons for their decision. The only possible reason I could think of was in their guidelines they referred to affiliate programs. Yes, I promote affiliate programs, but so what? I add value to the sales process with reviews, articles etc. In other words, good "content".

But here's the thing, MANY sites in Yahoo's SERPs for "Site Build It review", INCLUDING the #1 listing, are affiliate sites. And, I might add, have less value-added content than my site, or so I thought anyway. One page, which currently ranks #16 (and is #1 on Google) was originally MY review. Word for word, copied from my site. A straight pinch. It wasn't until I complained to the webmaster that he changed it, although a lot of my words still remain, and in the meantime I've changed my review. Plagiarism does pay apparently.

Anyway, as you can imagine, this left me quite miffed. I was ready to start ranting and raving in blogs, forums etc when I just happened to check "site build it review" in Yahoo one more time. And there I was, on page 1. All my targeted search expressions were ranking well. I didn't understand it, but a for few days at least, I was happy.

So I started writing this post. But, I kid you not, as I wrote this I checked again....

Gone. All my top rankings, gone. Again. Unbelievable.

Why?

Maybe one of my earlier requests to Yahoo's general support resulted in the penalty being lifted, and then a few days later the Search Submit reviewer imposing the penalty again because I'd sent a support request asking why my URLs did not meet their guidelines, and that BTW their FAQ page actually had no FAQs. Pure speculation because I really have no idea. How can I when communication with paying customers is totally absent? And yes, I'm a paying customer. When you hand over your credit card details you expect to be treated with some degree of respect, even if it's a simple email to say "Sorry, we can't accept your submission because...."

Umm..., Yahoooo... I'm over here.... PAYING CUSTOMER. You have my credit card details. I actually want to give you money. And in return all I ask is you include my site in your SERPs for relevant queries. It can stand on its own merits for ranking. It's got good content. Truly it has. It's in your directory after all. Can't be all that bad.

I don't want preferential treatment, but I don't want to be excluded for reasons that haven't been applied to my competitors. That's simply not fair, and degrades your user's experience. They are looking for relevant sites, whether they are affiliate sites or not. When your users search for "site build it review", believe it or not, they are actually looking for pages which contain a review of Site Build It, and not the actual SBI pages which fill half of your SERPs right now.

And would it kill your staff to actually reply to support requests? Especially from people you are holding credit card details for? Your business practices leave me baffled. You win. I give up
.

Addendum:

I probably shouldn't mention this, but I feel compelled to. The crazy thing is I have a parked domain (simply the Australian version of my .com) which isn't penalised. It currently ranks 50 something for "site build it review". It ranks poorly because just about all the inbound links point to the .com domain, but it's in there, not dammed to oblivion. So I could probably improve its ranking by link building on the Australian domain. But I'm not sure I want to do that. What effect will it have on my rankings for stevepronger.com in the other engines?

Update:

I decided to go ahead a do some link building on the Australian domain. Within a few days it improved from 50 something to 38 (page 4). As more links are picked up it should continue to improve. Will it get blasted to oblivion like the .com domain? It IS the same site, only with .au added to the domain. Time will tell.

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