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    Halifax Bank Penalised by Google


    For those of you that are not familiar with Halifax, they are a multi-billion pound financial bank in the United Kingdom and are part of Lloyds Banking Group. They are one of the largest banks in the United Kingdom.

    They've been slapped with a partial penalty that has affected their Current Accounts, Savings, Credit Cards,and Loans sections, which have all taken a tumble in the SERPs. They however still do rank for "mortgages" of which they are at 1st position.

    I think along with Expedia, this is a stern message that SEO even for the largest of companies will not keep you safe from the wrath that Google will bestow upon you if you disobey Google's guidelines to the extent Halifax have done with their widgets.

    Could Business Insider be next?

    A deep analysis here from Link Research Tools:
    Halifax Bank: Big Brands not Immune to Google SEO Penalty - a Deep Dive - LRT Link Research Tools
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    Interesting analysis in the link. Also good to know that Google penalizes no matter how large a company you are on the net.
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    Not the first time Google slaps a huge brand... I think that's part of their fear propaganda "Oh no, they can do that to huge guys! I'd better behave!!!"

    All that buzz around penalties only proves that exact-match links work like a charm Instead of spreading negativity, they'd better fix their 10-year old algorithm ;)
    Everything will be ok in the end

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    Originally Posted by Ann Smarty
    Not the first time Google slaps a huge brand... I think that's part of their fear propaganda "Oh no, they can do that to huge guys! I'd better behave!!!"

    All that buzz around penalties only proves that exact-match links work like a charm Instead of spreading negativity, they'd better fix their 10-year old algorithm ;)
    Too true.

    I'm actually quite involved in the finance sector, and have been tracking finance related keywords along with the competitors.

    It's not like this happened today or yesterday, but actually happened on the 30th:

    Comments on this post

    • Ann Smarty agrees : wow
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    Can't edit my post, but here's a graph that shows the extent of the damage:


    Look at those first page keyword positions. This has actually given me a small heart attack.
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    Wondering how much they depended on search results anyway... For a huge brand like that it would be a mistake to focus on rankings so much...
    I haven't seen Apple doing too well for any keyword search in Google and I don't think they care...
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    Whilst they aren't dependent on search results, I can bet you that they are getting in excess of £1 mil (probably way more) every month from non-brand related keywords.
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    Originally Posted by Jonathan J
    Whilst they aren't dependent on search results, I can bet you that they are getting in excess of £1 mil (probably way more) every month from non-brand related keywords.
    Yeah, that makes me wonder: Is it better NOT to ever rank rather than start depending on rankings Because not many business will be able to recover from such a loss... But if you live without rankings, you are probably more stable...
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    Originally Posted by Ann Smarty
    Yeah, that makes me wonder: Is it better NOT to ever rank rather than start depending on rankings Because not many business will be able to recover from such a loss... But if you live without rankings, you are probably more stable...
    Or, perhaps not participate in the creation of widgets! I doubt they would have had this penalty slapped on them if it weren't for those pesky widgets. That's what's done them in.

    They are likely spending tonnes of money on PPC at the moment.
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    Originally Posted by Jonathan J
    Or, perhaps not participate in the creation of widgets! I doubt they would have had this penalty slapped on them if it weren't for those pesky widgets. That's what's done them in.

    They are likely spending tonnes of money on PPC at the moment.
    That's a tricky beast, Jonathan... You won't do well enough in search unless you find an efficient way to. Even if that "efficient" way is not yet penalized by Google, it will be when it becomes a fairly known way to...

    So a poor webmaster has pretty much this choice today: (1) Do nothing and be safe (while competitors enjoy the rankings), OR (2) Try to do anything and get penalized (when that "anything" starts to be efficient)...

    So.. do I blame them for using widgets? Nope
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    Originally Posted by Ann Smarty
    That's a tricky beast, Jonathan... You won't do well enough in search unless you find an efficient way to. Even if that "efficient" way is not yet penalized by Google, it will be when it becomes a fairly known way to...

    So a poor webmaster has pretty much this choice today: (1) Do nothing and be safe (while competitors enjoy the rankings), OR (2) Try to do anything and get penalized (when that "anything" starts to be efficient)...

    So.. do I blame them for using widgets? Nope
    I feel that you have to assess what is safe and what isn't.

    Purchasing ad space on other websites and embedding rich keyword targeted anchor text is DEFINITELY not safe - especially on the scale that they did it. It's the fact that these widgets were just blatant advertising with links that passed PageRank that I have a problem with.

    If Halifax had created a widget that was useful or even a tool, then sure, I would not have an issue with another website linking back to them. But this was handing over money to advertise on other websites/blogs using effectively a useless widget that did only one thing: advertise Halifax's products. And, they did actually create a useful widget in 2012 that was a tool that could be embedded on other websites that calculated monthly Savings. But that didn't get them too much traction, so they created an advertising widget which simply advertised their product pages, as can be seen here:



    As for poor webmasters, that's another issue I feel. But for big websites like banks, there are other methods (that actually cost a lot of money, but are useful) that aren't as blatant to increase search visibility. They actually have the budget to create all of this amazing content that people like to go on about, and so they should be creating high quality content that is useful.

    Comments on this post

    • VanKouldenberg agrees
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    And, they did actually create a useful widget in 2012 that was a tool that could be embedded on other websites that calculated monthly Savings. But that didn't get them too much traction
    Sounds like the useful piece didn't get them anywhere, right?
    So "do something useful and enjoy the rankings" doesn't actually work (what big news!)

    On a serious note, I am not defending them. I haven't looked at their case study and I am overall against public case studies like this (for ethical reasons)...

    What I am trying to say (and the above post actually proves that), you can be useful / careful / solid, but that doesn't mean it works and you'll manage to be on top of your competitors... unless you try something efficient and risk (because Google kills everything that's efficient).

    I am not taking any side here but that's the reality we live in

    Comments on this post

    • Jonathan J agrees : I agree that Google are making things a lot more difficult, however.
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    Originally Posted by Ann Smarty
    Sounds like the useful piece didn't get them anywhere, right?
    So "do something useful and enjoy the rankings" doesn't actually work (what big news!)

    On a serious note, I am not defending them. I haven't looked at their case study and I am overall against public case studies like this (for ethical reasons)...

    What I am trying to say (and the above post actually proves that), you can be useful / careful / solid, but that doesn't mean it works and you'll manage to be on top of your competitors... unless you try something efficient and risk (because Google kills everything that's efficient).

    I am not taking any side here but that's the reality we live in
    I would like to give you an example... but I can't because of NDAs.

    You won't create something that gets shared on the first go, but if you keep trying then something will eventually pop up that people will actually share. These big brands have the money to do this, and should be doing this.

    But yes, I agree with you. For smaller brands that don't have such large budgets, then yes, sometimes you have to take the much riskier route. I just don't think a bank should take risks like this. (kind of ironic; heh)

    Comments on this post

    • Ann Smarty agrees : Agreed
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    interesting thread!

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