The major travel website, Expedia, seems to have lost 25% of their search visibility in Google according to Search Metrics. It appears that drop was due to an unnatural link penalty, where Nenad called out Expedia over a month ago for possible paid links on article sites.
Patrick Altoft noticed a drop in Expedia’s traffic today and posted about it on Twitter. If you look at their decline today, it looks like Google has penalized Expedia in their search results. We reached out to Marcus Tober from Search Metrics who sent us additional details showing that Expedia has indeed seen a major drop in rankings for most of their generic keywords. Here is a picture of their search visibility drop:
If you look at the specific keywords, they saw large declines for keywords like hotels, airline tickets, car rentals, vacation, and many other keywords. Here are some of the top keywords Expedia saw a drop for in the past day:
If you compare their traffic to one of their main competitors, you will see that this was not a seasonal drop:
If you review the blog post at nenadseo.com where they call out the link building tactics of Expedia, you will see a large number of unusual keyword-rich links pointing to Expedia from blogs and sites across the internet. This post turned itself into a discussion topic at Hacker News named How Expedia Buys Its Way To The Top Of Google.
From the looks of it, it does appear Expedia was participating in paid linking schemes that eventually caught up with them.
It is unclear if this was done internally by Expedia itself or if it was done through an outside SEO firm. It is also unclear if they used some sort of link network or did all of this manually.
But drops like this do appear to be link related.
We have emailed Google for a comment on this story and will update you with anything we hear from Google.
If this was indeed a link scheme, Expedia will join the club of large sites being penalized by Google for unnatural links. This just happened to Rap Genius after they were outed and Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts said they would look into it. The penalty was soon confirmed by Google and resulted in a major traffic loss for Rap Genius. That penalty only last 10-days, but Rap Genius’s traffic is still not 100% back to normal; they did however recover most of their traffic loss.
Postscript: A Google spokesperson sent us a statement saying “we typically don’t comment on specific companies regarding search rankings.”