The image above is what happens when Google gets mad at you. This graph represents referrals to Gadgetopia from Google.
The big valley in the middle there is the result of some sloppiness on my part. I was testing something on Gadgetopia, and accidentally left it in place. It was a Thickbox-powered IFRAME that loaded a different Web site. So, I had a hidden IFRAME to a different domain, which apparently Google does not like.
I was aware that Google traffic had dropped off considerably, but I couldn’t figure out why and didn’t really have time to look into it. Then one day, I was running a search engine spider on Gadgetopia (another test for something else — I test all sorts of stuff on Gadgetopia), and I noticed it kept coming back with weird keywords and descriptions. That’s when I remembered the IFRAME….
I searched back through old emails about the project that used the IFRAME, compared the dates with Google Analytics, and realized that Google search traffic started to drop off about two days after I installed the Thickbox code.
I removed it, and, sure enough, Google referrals started to climb again within 48 hours. They’re now back where they were pre-stupidity.
For the record, I don’t think it had anything to do with Thickbox directly. I think it was a combination of a (1) hidden, (2) IFRAME, to (3) a different domain, that did it. I don’t know the exact black-hat SEO mechanism at work here, but I’m sure people have abused something similar to that scenario.