Travel and package holiday giants Expedia are rumoured to have suffered a massive blow from a Google penalty for unnatural link profiles.
Search Metrics reported a 25% drop in traffic from Google to Expedia overnight around 22/12/2013 and although Google nor Expedia have confirmed anything, it definitely correlates with the kind of drop we would expect from a penalty.
To highlight the effect things like Google penalties can have on companies, Expedia’s shares were down 3% when the news about this broke on 21/1/2014. This underlines how must influence Google has on all companies, not just small to medium sized ones. It’s comforting to know that even massive companies like Expedia aren’t immune from Google’s ranking wrath.
So why the penalty? An article appeared in a forum on Hacker News accusing Expedia of buying their way to the top of Google with paid link schemes and unnatural anchor text. Search Metrics also showed details of which keywords had suffered the most: the big ones being flights, airline tickets, cheap hotels and vacation. Vacation has slipped from 1st to 20th, a freefall of 19 places in a matter of days.
It remains unclear whether these profiles were put into place by Expedia themselves or if they were done by a third party SEO company, either way you would have expected a company of their repute to follow more ethical best practice SEO.
It’s quite revealing that companies that large even have a link building campaign in action at all, especially a site such as Expedia which should be able to rely on genuine quality links from consumers and businesses alike due to their nature as a holiday planning service.
If this is a manual Google penalty, this could seriously damage Expedia’s reputation. Even though the penalty won’t last more than a couple of weeks, it could be months before they have restored search volumes to their position pre-penalty.
Google have explained that they do not comment on private company penalties, and nobody has been able to provoke a response from Expedia themselves so it could be a while before we know anything concrete. Either way, something has definitely happened and this should be taken as a warning by any company – big or small – who undertake paid link scheme and unnatural SEO practices.