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Thumbtack meme

Source: Memeswithtypos.com

It’s kind of big news in the Local SEO biz that Thumbtack.com* has received a manual action penalty from Google for unnatural linkbuilding. If you study Thumbtack’s backlink profile or read some of the articles on the subject, you can see that perhaps parts of their backlink strategy may have gotten them into trouble, which is really too bad because the start-up had been quite effective at using PR to drive both national and local links and generate buzz.

SPonge Bob Thumbtack

I am not going to delve into the particulars of their penalty or the typical controversy surrounding SEO and sites that have received investments from Google. Instead I thought it would be interesting to look at two of the oddities around Thumbtack’s branded SERPs to get a better idea of how Google’s different algorithms are connected, or in this case, not connected.

“Thumbtack” Desktop SERP

Thumbtack Knowledge Panel

Click to enlarge

The site no longer appears for brand queries for “thumbtack” but Thumbtack’s Knowledge Panel shows up. This suggests that the backlink algo is independent of the algo that drives Knowledge Panel results. This makes me think that Knowledge Panels are driven mostly if not entirely by brand queries and have nothing to do with backlinks/domain authority. I wonder how many clicks this Knowledge Panel gets from people searching for the service?  Enough to counter the lost traffic from the organic section? And while I realize this is a minor use case, isn’t this kind of domain suppression counter to Google’s intent to do what’s best for users? I mean I searched for “thumbtack” and I want me some god-damned local professional services not a Google News result with some weird site called “Search Engine Land” at the top.

sits-on-a-thumbtack-explodes

Also of note in this SERP is that the Manual Action algo may not alter the Adwords Quality Score as Thumbtack is able to buy their way on via AdWords. Hooray for commerce.

“Thumbtack” Mobile SERP

Thumbtack.com Mobile SERP

Click to enlarge

Just as intriguing, a mobile query for “thumbtack” still displays the Thumbtack app in the SERPs. So again, we can see the potential disconnect between backlinks and app results. Given that their website is not appearing, I wonder if this has the effect of driving more app downloads? And more app downloads most likely means increased visibility in both the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store. And more app downloads also means less of a reliance on SEO for users – I know, I know, you always need more organic visits – but still, is this maybe a win for Thumbtack?

I am sure the team at Thumbtack is having no fun this week, but isn’t it always the right time for a teachable SEO moment?

 

*Full Disclosure: On occasion Local SEO Guide may or may not have done SEO consulting for Thumbtack.


 
 

6 Comments

  • Mike Blumenthal  June 9, 2015 at 8:05 am

    I too had noticed that the KG still showed.

    You note that This suggests that the backlink algo is independent of the algo that drives Knowledge Panel results. This makes me think that Knowledge Panels are driven mostly if not entirely by brand queries and have nothing to do with backlinks/domain authority.

    I would suggest that given the current data that is but one of the possible reasons. It could several others and we don’t yet have enough data to really know. For example there could be a delay between the KG going missing and the site being taken down.. Or it could be that manual penalties ONLY affect one index and not another.

    That being said, it does give us some insights.

    Reply
  • Alan Bleiweiss  June 9, 2015 at 8:37 am

    Since the knowledge box pulls content from other sites, I can understand how the box is based on entity understanding separate from a main web site. At least to a certain degree…

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  June 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

      Alan, it makes sense that the Knowledge Panel algo is separate from the site-ranking algo but it’s interesting to me that it’s possible that it’s 100% divorced from backlinks. Of course there are many ways that could disprove this, but interesting nonetheless.

      Reply
  • Andrew Shotland
    Andrew Shotland  June 9, 2015 at 8:55 am

    And of course now that we have outed the Knowledge Panel, they’ll manually take it down destroying minutes of research!

    Reply
  • David Mihm  June 9, 2015 at 10:02 am

    As we both speculated during the N* House embarrassment a couple of weeks ago, the KP seems to be driven much more by *semantic* relationships more than “links” per se. So all of those semantic relationships for Thumbtack are still out there (and presumably much more difficult to implement a manual penalty on) regardless of any link penalty.

    Reply
  • Jack Kelly  June 9, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    I think it’s awesome Thumbtack got dinged. Nor, do I feel sorry for any so-called “local professional” that is being hurt by this. If you have to rely on such a bottom-feeder service like Thumbtack, you should spend more time working on your own site’s SEO.

    Reply

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