How to monitor MU network for SEO penalties


(Rob) #1

Trying to figure out how to make sure sub-sites generated by users on my MU network SEO complaints to avoid penalties from Google (or other search engines.) From what I understand if one or several sub-sites misbehave on the network, Google can penalize that site, OR even the entire network of sites.

Q1) Does anyone know if the entire network can be penalized by a few bad apples?

Q2) Either way, one site penalized or the entire network, I would like to know if there’s a way to monitor all the sites on my network and possible receive notifications or warnings so I can take proactive steps before a penalization. Users might get their sites penalized by doing something unknowingly or performing black hat seo for example.

I’m thinking a tool like SEMRush or maybe MOZ Seo might be the kind of apps for this but I still have to do my research. Anyways just wanted to reach out to the community and see if there’s any suggestions.


(Leland Fiegel) #2

Google can penalize you for pretty much anything at the drop of a hat, even for off-site actions. Here’s a past thread on the topic of negative SEO, about a WordPress-related business that was attacked.

If somebody decides to point a bunch of spammy links in your direction, Google may assume it’s at your direction, even if it isn’t. It can be a lot of work to identify and disavow the bad links and get back in their good graces. Google will only share a sampling of what they consider to be spammy links.

It’s not unheard of for webmasters to go overboard and disavow links that are actually good, which then hurts them even more.

I know it sounds pretty crazy, but when thinking about why Google applies mysterious penalties and doesn’t disclose all the information they have about you, keep in mind Matt Cutts’s quote about spammers: “We want to break their spirits.”

If a spammer knew exactly what triggered a penalty, they could use that information to sneak around future penalties on sites they care more about.

Anyway, my suggestions would be:

  • Register your main site in Google Webmaster Console. This will (maybe) notify you after a penalty has been applied.

  • Have a TOS (conspicuously placed, linked to from every page) that has strict rules against spam that every user has to agree to before creating a site. Check out Automattic’s open-sourced legal documents and adapt for your needs.

  • Back up that TOS by swiftly banning any spammer on your network.

  • Use a solution like WangGuard to prevent known spammers from signing up in the first place.

I don’t think Webmaster Tools was designed with “multisite” in mind, and I’m not sure if it will automatically track sub-sites if they’re on subdomains. It would be a pain to add each separate network site if that were the case.

It also won’t give you a forewarning if you’re about to be penalized. This is where a third-party tool might come in handy, but I don’t know of any that are multisite-friendly.

Maybe somebody with experience in Moz, SEMRush, or others can chime in. :slight_smile:


(Rhys Wynne) #3

Each site on the MU network would have to be registered. We’ve had to do it recently. It is the best way for it.

Though it does depend on the setup. If you are a subdirectory MU network then only the top site needs to be registered. A subdomain or a custom domain MU network will be the best option.

I know majestic.com allows searching for links based on subdomain, so that could work. I’ve not really played with Moz or SEMRush.


(Rob) #4

Thanks for the feedback.

Yes @leland you’re right, there’s really no way to for sure know how Google will penalize sites.

@leland and @rhyswynne yes it makes sense to setup the MU network with subdirectories to make it easy to track all the sub-sites.


One more question. If I have multiple sub-sites using sub-directories, and a couple of the sites have domain mapping for custom domains…

IN GENERAL if sub-sites that are setup on a custom domain misbehave and are penalized that penalty should not affect the entire network, just that site. Correct?


(Leland Fiegel) #5

Hopefully not, but I’d guess this assertion is not entirely correct. It would depend on the percentage of subsites that are “good” versus “bad.”

If less than 1% of subsites misbehave, probably not. Google understands that it’s tough to police every single site on a large network to make sure it’s not spamming, and would grant some leeway.

If a substantial percentage of subsites misbehave (let’s say 65%) it would be much more likely Google would throw the baby out with the bathwater and penalize the entire network.

In any case, you’d really need to minimize the amount of spammy sites on the network in one way or another. Might be a good topic for another thread (i.e. “how to prevent spam on a multiste network”) since this is one more about monitoring for penalties.