Things to check when your Google rankings start going the wrong way! – Part 6

The blinds in the office sway gently in the summer breeze as rays of sun light cascade across your computer screen, you flick the switch on your desktop and it springs into life with such enthusiasm that a thought enters your head, maybe just maybe this is a sign that things have changed, its going to be a good day today and the fruits of your labour are finally going to pay off.

As your monitor flickers into life and with a new found hope in your heart and a glint in your eye you proceed to check the rankings for your site, you stare at the computer screen just as David Walliams character from little Britain flashes into your mind “The computer says NO!!!”.

And as the results come through your eyes widen and a smile starts to spread slowly across your face, but not just any smile, this is a smile that you would expect to find on the face of Batman’s arch enemy the Joker. As you throw your head back and burst into uncontrollable laughter making your work colleagues jump out of their seats, you look over at them and you cannot help but laugh, and laugh and laugh and then cry!

Don’t lose the plot just yet, pull yourself together as there are a few more things we can check before the nice men in white coats come along and take you away to wonder land.

SEO rankings quick check list Part 6

Manipulative internal links

You see this a lot on side bars and inside content where people have taken a instances of a particular keyword and repeated it throughout the side bar or footer and are all pointing with the exact anchor text to the same page over and over again. As SEOs we know that the first anchor text link counts and only one on the page is going to pass that value. Linking repeatedly to the same page with the same anchor is not helpful and it makes our sites look really spammy and manipulative.

When you’re linking to pages a couple of times in some spaces, maybe use a modified version of the anchor text, a little longer, a little shorter, a little more natural sounding, and you’re going to get these same results, but you’re going to do it in a much more effective way.

Pages targeting modified versions of the same keyword

Large amounts of pages that are targeting very similar, kind of modified versions of keywords with only slight variations, slight variation being the key here. Lets say for example: Used autos Cheshire, used cars Cheshire, pre-owned cars Cheshire. Why are those three different pages? It sort of feels like SEO-y, spam, and they are pointing exact match anchor text at all of these when this is the same page. You can target all three of these keywords very nicely on one page that’s called Used and Pre-owned Cars/Autos in Cheshire.

This kind of thing is something we think is a very clear pattern match that the engines can detect. This is manipulative and just the kind of thing that will get you in trouble.

Link filled footers

You see this all the time still. Having a bunch of exact anchor links down there in lists that no one would actually really click. You often see them in light gray on light gray so that it’s not particularly easy to read. Use your footer to link to the things that people expect to find in the footer. If you really need to get anchor text on pages, find natural ways to put it in the menu at the top or in the content itself.

Hidden text

One of the many challenges faced by webmasters today is hidden text. As Spammers use hidden text to stuff their pages full of keywords to artificially boost their rankings and search engines are looking out for this and will take the appropriate action which is usually in the form of a penalty. For the average webmaster there are many ways to create hidden text accidentally so be careful that you do not fall into this category or you will suffer the consequences.

Ways to create hidden text
1. Using the Noscript tag is “pseudo hidden text” and keyword stuffing the noscript tag comes with a certain amount of risk.
2. Use CSS to position the text off the screen. This has a legitimate use and can be used for label tags within a table which is accessible to screen readers and in turn does not clutter the screen for visitors with normal vision. However there is a risk search engines will look at this technique in a negative way.
3. Using CSS to set the display attribute to none for an element on the screen, the text will not display and it will have no effect on any other elements on the page. This technique is used legitimately for menu creation such as DHTML menus.
4. Image replacement, again done using CSS to place the image over the text, a legitimate use for this is to make the text available in HTML for the visually impaired and for search engines while rendering an image with an improved looking version of the text.

Negative SEO

Malware, hacks, and injections

Hackers may find security vulnerabilities in your site, in your FTP logins, or may be a WordPress install, they could inject viruses or malware that will install itself on computers that visit you’re site. They could also make changes to your site, one example of this is someone going and editing your robots.txt file to block Google bot or to restrict all IPs from a certain range, obviously that’s going to take your site out of the search engines.

Spam reporting

You find some spam through some forums that potentially works. You’re doing the sorts of things that are on the grey hat/black hat borderline, in terms of link acquisition, and sometimes you will see that your competitors might spam report you. When this happens, Google might take a closer look at your back links, and obviously this might bring you down.

Nasty links pointing to your website

A competitor could point 1000s of exact match anchor text links to your site from unscrupulous sources. So make sure you’re registered with Google Webmaster Tools so you can get any of these warnings ahead of time. If you happen to see an influx of really nasty looking links, you might want to send a pre-emptive reconsideration request to Google asking them to disregard these links but there is a very good chance that Google will just ignore these links anyway, remove the value that these links pass and just count the good quality links.

For more information on negative SEO.

But after all is said and done and probably the main reason behind the rankings drop is…

Your competitors are doing better

Okay, sounds obvious but I bet it wasn’t the first thing that sprung to mind when the rankings dropped. But if you cant find a reasonable explanation for your rankings heading south from the points mention throughout this series then you have to consider that your competitors are doing really well and doing more quality work thus outranking you and others.

So what are you waiting for!?…get out there and start building on getting better, high-quality links and the search engines will love you for it. 🙂

This is the sixth and final 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.

I would like to give a big thank you to all the SEO bloggers who share their thoughts and experiences regarding ranking issues, as this series would not be possible without the information that you share with the online community.

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, its been emotional. 😉

Seo Consultants London