Things to check when your Google rankings start going the wrong way! – Part 5

Its another beautiful day outside and the same old story in the office. You have worked through your check list and your website rankings remain flat lined, dead as the dodo you mumble to yourself staring at the computer screen as beads of sweat appear on your forehead and trickle slowly down your face. The conversation that you are having with yourself and the face twitch are starting to attract the attention of your work colleagues as you continue to search the web looking for the book, the book that will solve all your problems, the book that is worth 1000 times its weight in gold, the book that everyone involved in SEO across the globe is searching for… “How to get to the top of SERPs and stay there for as long as you like, by U. R. Avingalaugh”.

It must be here somewhere, surely someone would have found an answer to this problem and publicised it by now!

All together now “Don’t stop believing, Hold on to the feeling!”

Oh dear!…Just before you sign yourself into the nearest mental institution (if only for your taste in music) lets take a look at what Matt Cutts and the gang at Google have been doing and what practices that you may be getting penalised for.

SEO rankings quick check list Part 5

Google Penguin update

This update targeted webspam and is designed to weed out all the spammy pages with keyword stuffing, unnatural linking or cloaking in clear violation of Google’s quality guidelines.

Keyword stuffing

Check your titles, they need to be authentic and sound real. They should read naturally like a human being wrote them and was not intending to simply rank for a keyword or phrase, for example. Bad web design, web design company with a brand name, whatever your brand name is web design. How does that sound? It sounds like your trying to rank for the keywords and does not read naturally. Instead try something like brand name web design Chester’s coolest design services, you’ve got the word “design services,” the city and brand name web design as if branding yourself as the product with the keyword, this will be just as effective if not more so.

Next take a look at your content, blocks of text that were built primarily for search engines, content written something like this. “If you’re looking for hiking boots then you have come to the right place, we have the largest selection of hiking boots on the net. Our hiking boots come in a variety of colours and sizes and you won’t find hiking boots cheaper anywhere else. So why not check out our selection of hiking boots and walk away with a pair today!”

This example shows the website is clearly trying to rank for the word hiking boots, but by doing so they may actually be doing more harm than good. Google and other search engines assign a penalty to sites that over-optimize using such methods. Make sure each of your Web pages has content that has been written naturally, with just a few variations of your main keyword dotted throughout.

Unnatural linking

Using services with names such as blog networks and article networks that spin content to such an extent that the quality is what can only be described as horrific and unrelated to the blog/article theme just for the sole purpose of link building across networks is going to get you into trouble with Penguin.

If you have received this message in Webmaster tools:

Dear site owner or webmaster of http://www.examplewebsite.com/, We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results. If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request. If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support. Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team

Then you’ve been caught, the game is up, go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass go and do not collect £200. Some sites received this warning without penalties, and some sites were penalized immediately. In either case, the links need to be taken down to retain or regain rankings. So what now?

You can use tools like Open Site Explorer, majesticseo and Google/Bing Webmaster tools to find bad links.

The identifying marks of a blog network post are as follows:

  • Terrible content and a boring template; you find yourself asking, “Why would anyone ever subscribe to this blog?”
  • Topics are jumped, unrelated to the site’s theme, and categorization is poor.
  • There is rarely an about section, author name, or means of contact.
  • Lots and lots of exact-match anchor text seemingly pointing to sites at random.
  • Posts tend to be 400-500 words with 2-3 links per post – generally all to the same site.

Once you’re caught, you must sacrifice all paid or spammy links, submit a reconsideration request, and develop a legitimate back link portfolio.

Cloaking

So what exactly is cloaking? Put simply, Cloaking refers to the practice of presenting different content to users and search engines. Now if the technique is intended to enhance users experience (e.g. geo-cloaking) then it is legit. If it is intended to manipulate search engine rankings then you will be punished and rightly so. So be careful when serving up different results based on user agent as this may cause your site to be perceived as deceptive and removed from the Google index.

For more information on Cloaking.

This is the fifth part of the check list to follow when trying to correct a rankings slide, you will find links to the all the previous posts below. In the next and final post on this topic we will look more into how to avoid over optimizing websites, the pit falls of hidden text and legitimate reasons for having it and finish with what is probably the main reason behind your rankings drop.

Please feel free to add any additional comments or posts regarding this problem and together we can create a bullet proof check list to correct any rankings slide that the search engines can throw at us. Thanks for reading 🙂

Seo Consultants London