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    Exclamation Webmaster Tools Being Weird?


    I'm working on a site impacted by poor links. In one day, about 10,000 links were removed by 404'ing the pages with tons of bad links. There was about 33,000 links total in BL profile.

    After 404 day, search queries went super flat. If you look at the history, fluctuations in queries are much greater and more frequent (with a general down direction). See the image below.



    Any ideas? Thanks.
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    Well, how many pages did you 404 and what kinds of keywords did those pages rank for?

    My initial thought is that while 404'ing the pages with crummy backlinks might have been necessary (I say "might" because I don't know the specifics here), once those pages went away and Google saw that, then poof, you stopped showing up in the SERPs for those keywords and you lost whatever clicks they might have been getting.

    Also, you're losing links in bulk. Most of them were probably total garbage but even if just one or two quality links were pointing to those page(s), then we have the baby being thrown out with the bath water here.

    I would be a little wary regarding the accuracy of WMT data, however. It's not as precise as many assume it is; to verify the case above is what's happened, I would recommend checking the Analytics account for the site. Measure the amount of traffic the pages you 404'd used to receive and then see how much traffic has dropped since 404'ing them.

    Depending on what you see, you might want to monitor GA a little more closely for a week or two and see if trends continue or not.

    Hope that helps.
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    I 404'd 26 different pages. Those pages didn't rank for anything, the links going were VERY spammy. If there was any value in the pages, it was minuscule.

    Our chart had been going down, 404'ing the pages was to stop the decline. The line you are seeing averages around the top of the bottom average. The WT looked like steps. This was the bottom step. Does that make sense?

    I'll check out GA. That could be more accurate, but even so, the trend in WMT was undeniable. Then this weird plateau.
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    Ok, if the pages you 404d didn't rank for anything or see any traffic, then I wouldn't worry too much in that regard.

    I think your description of it as steps and plateau is accurate; hopefully you're seeing the bottom of this plateau now. When you're dealing with that many pages with that many bad links, I think it's just going to take a while, both for Google to see those spammy links aren't there anymore and then for some genuine link equity to come in and help boost's the sites rankings back up. In my experience, sometimes it's not enough anymore to "just" remove bad links these days for some verticals - if you don't send quality signals back to the search engines either through content or social or local or whatever, the site isn't going to see the same rankings and traffic it once did, removed links or not.

    It's stock advice, but I'd just monitor, observe and report for a little while and in the interim, shift the focus with the client to what they want to do to get the rankings back up in a less risky manner. Hope that helps.
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    Thanks daniel.o, I appreciate the insight.
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