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Brian Pasch

Brian Pasch CEO

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Time To Change Group Portal Websites To Avoid Google SEO Penalties

I received a call yesterday from a Dealer that was negatively impacted by the Google Penguin update.  Their organic search traffic is down about 25% and they asked me to take a look at their Analytics and Webmaster Tools.

The frustrating part is that their marketing and "SEO Company" deleted the message inside of Webmaster Tools alerting the dealer that Google had some concerns about the linking strategy used by the dealership.  

So without a specific message to go on, I looked at the links that were built. What I noticed was that this "SEO Company" had submitted their site to a number of sketchy directory (link building) websites that would be classified as link farms.

If you need an example of what these sites look like, check out: 

From the screen shot on the right you can see that this is a very attractive and professional site.  NOT.

Well in any case, their website URL on this site alone had 1,197 links pointing back to their home page.

As I went through their linking list, it was clear that someone used an automated tool to submit their URL to these bullshit sites, whose only goal was to product high volume, low relevancy links.   I advised this dealer to get their website removed from these poor quality and suspect sites.

What About Group Portal Sites

As I was going about the review, I noticed something that I never really thought about but in the "Post Penguin"  era, everything has to be looked at with a different eye.  

What I noticed was that their group portal site had created 76,846 links to the home page of their Nissan website. A group portal site is one where a number of stores are combined into one site that shares inventory and information for all stores in the group.

How did these 76,846 links get created?  The group site had links on Vehicle Detail Pages that pointed to the store's website that had the car in stock.  There were also a number of forms on the group site that linked to the dealer's site on words like "Driving Directions & Map".  

Neither of these links are adding any SEO value to the individual store's website. So, I started to think would Google find these high volume links as suspicious?

So here is my recommendation.  If you have a group site that utilizes sidebar links on VDP pages, credit forms, or information pages back to a store website, contact your website provider and ask them to make them "No follow" links.    

This is not an overnight change, but it is one that all website providers who have created group sites should consider.

Portal Sites Are Not Bad

Are thousands of links from the group portal website the cause of the problem?  No.  

I think the shady SEO link farms were the issue here otherwise many more dealer groups would be screaming.

However, with Google seriously looking at link quality, there is no reason to make (Non SEO) user navigation links from portal site pages "follow" links.

This is a very easy change if the website development community agrees with me and updates their master templates on Group Sites to use the "no follow" tag on templated pages.

To make a link "no follow" this line of code is added to the link on the HTML coding of the page:  rel="nofollow"

Do you have any specific questions, start the dialogue here or feel free to drop me a line:  

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Brian Pasch CEO of PCG

Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Digital Marketing

Russ Chandler
Thank you for sharing your findings! I currently manage a 5 location Portal site for our dealership and am definitely going to keep a close eye on things now. We are currently working on a new location and now I'm torn on whether or not to start looking into separate sites now or wait and see how it goes. As you know its very cost efficient to take advantage of a group portal site but don't want to continue structuring our site this way with new locations if its going to be damaging in the long run. Any input? Thank you
Bryan Armstrong
Hadn't even thought of this Brian. In the past, having those in-site links back to our Portal was great. There are some birds that are a little hard to like and a Penguin is one. ;) As far as the other point of your post, some "SEO" Companies are lazy and Dealers need to be AWARE AND EDUCATED so they can hold all Vendors accountable. Oddly, the good ones don't have a problem with it, the bad ones try and tell you it's to "technical" for you to understand, but that they'll change it at your request...
Brian Pasch
Russ A group site is an excellent strategy but the repetitive navigation links should just be tagged "no follow" and you will be fine.
Russ Chandler
Thanks Brian, I've already submitted the service request ticket.
Eric Miltsch
Well done Brian. I've never been a fan of how portal pages have been setup from a UI perspective and now there are even bigger issues like that impacting dealers. This is a huge opportunity for vendors to prepare for a new wave of support issues that are bound to impact their clients. A simple way for dealers to check whether their portal pages are using no follow attributes is to simply right click on their website, click on view page source, and search (ctrl+f or command+f) for "rel="nofollow" - then you'll have peace of mind knowing you're good to go. Good info Brian - thanks for sharing with everyone!

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