What are the top 10 thumbtack requests

Has Google just penalized its own $ 100 million investment? The Thumbtack case study + 6 day recovery update

Update: June 15, 2015 :Recovery of the sentence in 6 days - The Thumbtack rankings appear to have recovered after just 6 days' penalty.

You can skip the penalty analysis if you are only interested in recovery analysis.

This is the very interesting punishment and surprising quick recovery history from Thumbtack, an online platform that enables service providers and consumers to find each other and negotiate jobs online. We don't know if it has something to do with the rapid recovery in rankings or not, but otherwise, Thumbtack is benefiting from a massive $ 100 million investment led by Google Capital in 2014.

Thumbtack is a consumer service for finding and hiring local professionals, a marketplace that connects consumers with local service professionals such as photographers, yoga teachers and bartenders. With Thumbtack, service providers and consumers can find each other and negotiate jobs online. What started as a garage at the beginning of 2009 led to more than 50,000 service providers registering on the website in 2010, and by January 2012 it had grown to over 240,000 service providers.

We always keep an eye on the big search engine to keep you and us up to date with the latest developments in digital marketing. We keep a close eye on what is happening to the major search engines and we are among the first to spot interesting and dramatic penalties, from famous banks to major travel brands. As for Thumbtack, besides being a very successful business, what's interesting is that Google Capital made a massive $ 100 million investment in 2014. This is not unusual in itself. What it does is that the Google Capital-led project begs the question: will Google penalize a website for having their hands in their pockets? It definitely looks like it.

Currently, Thumbtack does not rank for its own brand name or the 25,000 keywords they used for ranking. Thumbtack is a website that connects lawyers with clients, massage therapists with people with back problems, and wedding photographers with newlyweds. Thumbtack works for all types of keywords, from bolts and drills to marketing and yoga. Given the profile of the site, there is (or should be) nothing shady about it. The problem is that they weren't just ranked by "different" keywords, but mostly by commercial ones, such as "Ohio's best photographer," "cheap dentist," and so on.

Official announcement from Google Traffic Drop

Thumbtack recently apologized to its users on their blog for the low number of customer visits. They referred to Google traffic as a potential problem and promised to fix the problem. There is no surefire way to check if it is a criminal case, but the numbers in our analysis certainly seem to indicate it.

Another sign that this is a complicated matter is that none of their blog posts have comments or approvals - a bit strange for a website with 35,000 referring domains.

Besides, how many websites willingly brag about a penalty?

$ 1mil Rankings Value - criminal record

One of the reasons this case is so interesting is that this is not just any scenario. On the one hand, this is tied to Google Capital. On the other hand, the rank (criminal record) was estimated at around $ 1 million. With so many commercial keywords and so little organic activity, how do you get that value?

Most of the thumbtack's value stays in traffic. Most of this appears to be from Google, and as they were punished, their overall value dropped.

Thumbtack Shady Link Tactics

One way to get to this peak is to ask your users to post a link to your website on their own websites. In return, users receive points, which in turn help them to rank higher in Google. A classic strategy. But is it legal? One of the users asked that on Twitter. Thumbtack said yes because there is no financial exchange. However, Google asked to be differentiated, perhaps because even though no actual money was exchanged, the transaction was still commercial in nature. As you can see in the screenshot below, taken from a blog post dealing with the same engaging topic, Thumbtack's website wasn't very shy about the link building tactic.

The bottom line is that if you receive or give a good or service in exchange for a link, that link is considered unnatural.

Let's say a company that sells frying pans sends one of their products to 100 cooking bloggers and encourages them to write about the frying pan they received as a gift. Will Google consider the links that bloggers generate as unnatural? It will certainly be enough. But if the frying pan company is to stay on Google's good side, it will have to prove it had no intention of tampering with its rankings. You should ask the bloggers to mark the links as not following so that they cannot pass the PageRank.

Elimination validation of kognSSEO

It's pretty clear that what they did had a high chance of being classified as a foul by Google. Did the search engine actually respond by imposing a penalty? There is no way to positively confirm this as we did not see the criminal news ourselves, but we can definitely conclude based on facts with a high level of certainty. Instead of using the word “punishment”, let's first refer to “the incident”.

We looked at the ranking of Thumbtack's 917 top words before and after the suspected sentence. Before the incident, the website was in the top 20 and even the top 10 search results for most of the keywords. And the keywords aren't really niche. "Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney," "Houston Mover," or "Carpet Cleaning Denver" all seem to be pretty sought after keywords that could create some competition. Good on thumbtack, right?

However, after the incident, the shift in rank is visible to the naked eye. 113 of the analyzed keywords no longer have any rank (that's 12% of the sample). Incidentally, no keyword is above the 40th position. The likelihood that this will happen because of "natural" causes or even because of algorithm changes that aren't specifically aimed at them is pretty close to zero. If you look at the numbers, it's safe to say that "the incident" was indeed a penalty.

Thumbtack Brand Search Volume

Usually penalties are bad for business. But the online world is difficult. Just because Thumbtack may have been unorthodox in some of its practices doesn't automatically mean it just had dissatisfied customers. In fact, a lot of them had to be pretty happy with the website. This is the only way to explain why the number of searches for their website only increased after the penalty. People looked specifically for the Thumbtack website and kept searching when it didn't show up for any of the keywords (there are no results after the third page of google results, remember?).

This implies that at least some people (including their users) were very happy with Thumbtack's services, and possibly searched for a keyword, but were hoping to find that particular website where they once found a solution to their questions.

Perhaps an example of the Streisand Effect: the more you try to remove something from the top of the web, the more removing it will bring it back there.

In Thumbtacks' case, this might not be that helpful: your website is still in the depths of Google Hell (i.e., beyond the first page of results), which means at least some loyal fans will have to give up hope and look elsewhere.

Why were they hit by a manual link penalty?

What has caused Google to react now? At the time of punishment, Thumbtack's ratio of unnatural to natural compounds was quite out of whack. 58% of the links could be considered unnatural, another 14% suspicious. This left only 28% of their links showing as OK. Since less than a third of your total number of links is correct, the penalty was likely inevitable at some point.

This was not a coincidental situation, but rather pointed to a flawed business model. Additionally, many of the unnatural links have been attributed to cases of low authority and thin content posts, not to mention heavy presence in web directories and blogs. Granted, their business is such that a multitude of domains and ubiquitous presence were inevitable, but that hardly explains the disproportionate proliferation of commercial anchor text that can be clearly seen in the visualization below.

The Thumbtack Link Building Story

Thumbtack's link profile largely tells the story of how they got here. A combination of blogs, personal websites, and web directories does not indicate a strong and healthy presence. In addition, most of these entries were short paragraphs or texts or just pictures and it becomes clear why this model was not sustainable in today's Google world.

To make the breach worse, we even found cases of SEO Marketing - really seedy cases of blog comments with thin content and large amounts of anchor text. In any case, this is a case where the punishment appears justified.

Thumbtack is based on a bazaar model where users can find anything and anyone and the website is just the middle person.

Maybe they could have taken this in their defense to justify their hectic web presence? Maybe, but then someone more cautious (and well-meaning) would have had a more reasonable distribution of do-follow to no-follow. But with a 9: 1 do-follow to no-follow distribution, there's even more evidence that her heart wasn't necessarily in the right place.

Not only do most of their links follow, but most of their image widgets also follow. This leads us straight into the area "knew about it and planned it". Sure, much of the evidence to support this claim is circumstantial. But when enough of it accumulates, it is quite difficult to still have good intentions.

The closer you look, the more obvious it becomes that what we see in the analysis was part of a strategy and not the result of negligence. Just to add one more example, check out the anchor link in the two cases below.

Same keyword, obvious commercial intent and no actual content. There really isn't a good alternative explanation to the obvious one: the strategy here was based on an outdated vision of what SEO is and how it works. And after a while, all of these cases pile up and emerge as unnatural connections.

The dubious and ultra-fast recovery story

How much does a site normally take to recover? Depends on it. Based on our research and our customers' experience, it may take a few weeks, a month, or more. Google doesn't have a set time frame or maximum limit and recoveries are very quick usually myths. From what we knew so far, there is no way to externally influence the Google Penalty Recovery process. Or at least we thought so. Thumbtack could prove us wrong. Most of the site (by now we would have said that "all sites") would wait impatiently for one of three different answers after the whole process was complete:

  • Yes, we think you are in good shape
  • No, you still have something to do
  • We have processed your consideration request. This means that multiple problems may have been found. It may have fixed an issue, but there are other issues that remain to be investigated.

Even the powerful can't escape Google's indiscriminate penal system, does that mean everyone is equal? ​​Not necessarily.

Although everyone falls the same, not everyone rises the same.

Just a week after Thumbtack succumbed to the search engine's just punishment, it miraculously reappeared as cheerfully as ever. Of course, it's not uncommon for a website to recover from a Google penalty Recovery needed but might raise some eyebrows as other sites have to work much longer to clear their name, sometimes up to three months.

Was this a case of "parental" charity (Thumbtack is Google's "baby", after all)?

Thumbtack spreads the recovery news

Users were quickly informed of the quick recovery via email, and while brief, the message ticked all of the correct PR checkboxes for post-crisis communication:

  • The crisis is over (“our requirement volume is back”);
  • At first it wasn't a real crisis ("We have solved the problem related to Google traffic").
  • As a customer, you are part of what makes us successful (“Thank you for your patience during this time”, “Thank you for being a loyal thumbtack professional”).
  • We will repay your help and together we will become even stronger ("We will continue to invest in marketing to bring you even more customers in the future").

Classic outsider who will soon be a top dog, wrapped in as few words as possible, sprinkled with a touch of personalization (all messages are addressed directly to just one recipient and only signed with the founder's first name).

This is an excellent recipe for making the most of an already pretty good offering.

kognSEO testifies to recovery

Remember how after the penalty you couldn't find a thumbtack link near the top 40 positions? Things have turned a lot, you now have at least 60 words that you rank in the top 3 positions for, and over 200, for which they are on the first page, it's like playing in the Belgian fourth league one season and playing directly in the Champions League the next season.

The Thumbtack Top 10 SERPS fame

Something must have happened on the night of June 12th to 13th. Although technically we can speak of a riot in Thumbtacks' case as well:

369 keywords improved their performance significantly.

And by that we mean they moved from the fourth page of Google results (the start of Neverland) to the first page. The strange thing about this sudden spike in the ranking on the first page is that nothing else has changed other than the spike. The keywords are as commercial as possible (e.g., "Minneapolis Web Hosting," "Georgia Auto Accident Attorney," "Denver Plumbing Company"). So it looks like we're not dealing with a mysterious cause-and-effect relationship, but not a cause-and-effect relationship at all.

Thumbtack rankings are simply revived.

Thumbtack's Secret Ingredient - Keywords for commercial ranking

Surely, we can't just generalize a few commercial keywords and assume that they all were. But it seems that most of them are like that. Take a look at some of Keywords # 1 and # 2: "Phoenix Landscaping," "Door Repair," "San Antonio Computer Repair," "Commercial Photographers," "Personal Trainer", "Chicago Bankruptcy Attorney," etc. We don't choose these examples off, we'll just cross them off the list. These are all highly commercial keywords that caught the ire of black and white animals on search engines a week ago. Are you suddenly all right?

Remove the shaded links

There is definitely something wrong with the kingdom of keyword ranks, but things may get better. You can see a pretty high increase in lost links, especially since restore day.

Since restores are usually awarded based on visible improvements rather than wishful thinking, it probably didn't play a huge role in the restore decision.

However, it is the case that Thumbtack may want to respond to Google's goodwill and clean up its act, at least in some areas.


Thumbtack Co-Founder and President Jonathan Swanson confirmed to Search Engine Land that they received the manual action. It also appears that the company has seen a huge drop in Google recommendations, which ultimately affects the leads professionals receive on their network. We can't tell if this post had anything to do with punishment, even if the author mentioned reporting thumbtacks link acquisition tactic. Even so, the Thumbtack representatives called the post imprecise and mentioned that they never paid for links and always tried to work within Google's guidelines.

Looking for the best but expecting the worst is usually the tagline of any webmaster waiting to recover from punishment. Yet with the miraculous rebound on the reel, probably powered by the Disavow tool, we wondered what Thumbtack's slogan was in those 6 days of severe punishment: We guess, “A horse never runs as fast as when it has other horses catching up and surpass. "We can't say for sure what exactly happened to Thumbtacks website. What we can say for sure is an interesting case study that Google should better explain for the drop and the quick recovery. Who knows? Maybe the mysterious recovery may be on too repeated on other websites, or not?