Halifax Bank Google Penalty Lifted (?)

At the end of January Halifax Bank had a partial penalty imposed on its website, which saw a massive visibility drop across many of its product categories for many highly searched generic terms. The only untouched category, from what I could see using the finance keywords that I’m tracking, were mortgages where they saw no visibility drop.

Graphs of Halifax.co.uk’s SEO/organic visibility

You can see from the following graph the keywords/groups with which they dropped in rank after Google had obviously identified their link schemes/widgets that were being used to enhance their search visibility:

Halifax Rankings Keyword Group Halifax Bank Google Penalty Lifted (?)

These graphs are intended only to paint a picture of a signal change within Google’s algorithm. A more recent graph paints a different picture:

Halifax Ranking Changes Signals Halifax Bank Google Penalty Lifted (?)

As you can see, a change occurred on the 8th of May – way before Google’s recent announcement that it had launched Panda 4.0, which is suspected to have been launched on the 18th of May.

A SearchMetrics visibility graph also confirms they’ve seen a visibility increase (before any mention of Panda 4.0 actually – confirming the validity of my graphs above):

HalifaxSEOvisibility Halifax Bank Google Penalty Lifted (?)

So, Halifax has essentially been able to get out of their bind in a matter of 4 months. And from what I’ve monitored since they took the hit, they took down the site that hosted their widgets, which essentially made the widgets look like this: (i.e. a CSS-less and image-less widget)

CSSless Halifax Widget Halifax Bank Google Penalty Lifted (?)

This is what the widget looked like before:

loans Halifax Bank Google Penalty Lifted (?)

A smart move on them being able to control the way the widget looks

Essentially, a very smart move on their part, was to host elements of the widget on their own servers. So when push came to shove, they could simply remove the CSS/styling that would no doubt induce website owners to remove the widget in its entirety from their own websites.

Just to take one example of a keyword they’ve seen a rise in ranking would be “loans calculator”. When they was penalised they saw that keyword drop from the face of the earth. Halifax.co.uk now ranks 3rd for that term, which has a search volume total of 70,000+ searches per month. So, have they been de-penalised? One would assume so with the these results. However, they are still not back to where they originally were before they was penalised. It’s something no doubt they are working on very carefully now.

Author: Jonathan Jones

I first first started creating websites back in 2005. This led me to creating a free web hosting business in 2007, which still exists today. I ventured into creating types of websites such as blogs and forums using Wordpress, vBulletin, Invision Power Board, Drupal and Joomla. I've since worked on some of the leading brands in the UK finance sector, in the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) field, and now work for MoneySuperMarket, the #1 price comparison website in the UK. Social: Google+ and Twitter.

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