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Mystery Of Why Site Is Gone From Google's Rankings


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#1 RisaBB

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 04:21 PM

Hello,

I removed my blog once again on Tuesday 1/6/09 because I think somehow, Google doesn't like it.

My site was hacked (I think from the Wordpress blog) and dropped from Google's rankings on Dec. 2, 2008. I removed the blog and all database files. On Dec. 9, 2008, my rankings bounced back to where they used to be. I put the blog back on Dec. 16, 2008 (I only had about 10 entries and re-entered them one by one) and immediately, my rankings dropped and have not returned. Here are some of my theories. Do any of them hold water?

Theory #1: It's my blog and I have no idea why.

Theory #2: If you search in Google for my business name, my site is in the #1 and #2 spot, however the #2 spot, which is the blog, is NOT indented. Does Google think it's not the same domain and is this the problem?

Theory #3: I set up 301 redirects in my .htaccess file because of search results that look like this www. mywebsite.com/page.php?p=2672026. Some hacker created these page.php files and the evil code is gone, but is this still a strike against me?

Theory #4: My domain name appears in 11,700 sites as a result of being hacked. They link to those page.php pages on my website. I've been told that links from lousy neighborhoods won't hurt me, but do they?

Theory #5: In Google Webmaster Central, it showed that my site had 26 Not Found URL's, 208 duplicate title tags, and 412 duplicate meta tags. I'm working on fixing this, but is this such a bad problem that I'd be penalized for it?

Theory #6: I did not have a robots.txt file nor a sitemaps.xml file, but I put them on the server yesterday.

Theory #7: This is not my theory, but other people's theory. They just think this is a result of rankings fluctuations, I need better SEO, more content, and more links. I need all of it, but I don't believe this is why my site disappeared in the rankings. I don't think it's Google trying to figure out where my site belongs because I targeted very long-tail keyword phrases and held rankings for these phrases for 16 months.

Thanks for any advice.

Risa

#2 EGOL

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 05:23 PM

If this was my site I would do one of the following...

* Cool it on the blog for a while... leave it off of the site for a couple of months... then rebuild totally from scratch in a different folder or subdomain. I would not recycle one line of old code.

* Hire a top SEO to comb through the blog to see if there are any problems.

Which would I do? Depends upon the value of the blog... If it has lots of links and is really valuable and downtime can not be tolerated I would hire the SEO. If it has no links and little traffic or small links/traffic that I can walk away from I might do #1.

#3 RisaBB

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 05:36 PM

Thanks for responding so quickly, EGOL - I was hoping you would.

I deleted the blog and the database tables two days ago. So your hunch is it's the blog, too? The blog had only about 10 posts and no external links and minimal internal links - so it wasn't really that important.

I submitted a reinclusion request to Google on Dec. 29, so I guess I should just sit and wait, right?

Risa

#4 JohnMu

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 05:51 PM

I can't imagine that there's still something wrong with your blog, I assume you made sure that it's clean, right? That said, being hacked like that combined with site restructuring (removing / adding / removing the blog) can take a bit of time to settle down afterwards, so I would certainly give it more time before changing too much.

So personally, I don't think that it would make a difference for the long run whether or not you have a blog on your site (apart from the usual advantages that come from having a blog :lol:), but given the fluctuations that you've seen it's possible that it might have a small short-term effect. Personally, I would bite the bullet and plan for the long term though. You can't change your site weekly based on what you see in the search engines, it'll drive you crazy - and it'll mess the search engines up as well. What do you want to have in 6-12 months?

Personally, I think having a blog is great and you should keep at it. If you are worried, why not just keep it up at something like [yoursite]-blog.com? That way you can handle everything yourself and it's still a part of your "branding" (as opposed to say [yoursite].wordpress.com). That way you can continue to work towards your 6-12 month goals (if a good blog is a part of that goal).

John

#5 RisaBB

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 10:06 PM

Thanks for checking in, too, John. I'mreally glad to hear from you. OK - I'm going to chill out and work on generating traffic from other sources like incoming links to good content and .....


:) :cower: ....... social media. :wacko:

#6 Black_Knight

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 12:22 PM

One thing that does occur to me regarding the suspected correlation between the blog and negative rankings, is whether there are embedded outbound links in either the blog itself, or the theme used, etc. It is not impossible to find yoursel adding a link to a pretty bad neighbourhood through add-ons and themes that were built purely as a way to grab lots of inbound links.

Aside from that one concern, I agree entirely with what John said about planning for the long-term. A blog can be a great positive on a site if it is used well - meaning used as an avenue to provide fresh, informal content in a way that would be difficult in the more formal contaxt of the regular styles of websites. Blogs give you that acceptable avenue to have an area where you can be informal, chatty, and far less formal than one would usually be in regards to a commercial website.

Anyway, just to clear up the general questions and worries:

Theory #1: It's my blog and I have no idea why.

Possibly, but if so you need to work out why. It will not be the blog without a reason, such as bad outbound links, or issues where it is creating masses of duplicate content (this can sometimes happen to the extent of being a problem if you use whole posts in category and default pages. Have only snippets of posts, or better yet, short summaries, be shown in the category and index pages, and save the full, unique content of each post for its own post page (the permalink one).

Theory #2: If you search in Google for my business name, my site is in the #1 and #2 spot, however the #2 spot, which is the blog, is NOT indented. Does Google think it's not the same domain and is this the problem?

If you are using the subdomain format, i.e. http://blog.example.com/ then this is a different site to www.example.com and google will quite rightly not indent this listing under the other subdomain. That happens with any subdomain. Is that the format you've used, or did you go with a subdirectory?

Theory #3: I set up 301 redirects in my .htaccess file because of search results that look like this www. mywebsite.com/page.php?p=2672026. Some hacker created these page.php files and the evil code is gone, but is this still a strike against me?

It takes time for redirects and changes to URLs to all get sorted out. Unless you have a tiny site, with an incredibly high PageRank (and crawl priority) then expect this to take months to fully correct, not weeks or days. Some things simply take time, and chopping and changing meantime just makes the process have to start again and still take the same time to complete.

Theory #4: My domain name appears in 11,700 sites as a result of being hacked. They link to those page.php pages on my website. I've been told that links from lousy neighborhoods won't hurt me, but do they?

The jury is out on this one a little bit. Technically, all those 'iffy' inbound links from bad neighborhoods should effectively be discounted as if they were not there. However, it has been authoritatively said that there are circumstances in which the old rule - that a link to your site can help it, but never hurt it - is no longer completely true.

It is unlikely that those links are actively hurting you in the simple sense that you mean, but it could still be having some co-citation effect associating you with a lot of hacked and dangerous sites. You can link-build your way out of that, and having the blog will help you to do so, if you use it well and post some great linkable content.

Theory #5: In Google Webmaster Central, it showed that my site had 26 Not Found URL's, 208 duplicate title tags, and 412 duplicate meta tags. I'm working on fixing this, but is this such a bad problem that I'd be penalized for it?

When you said this part, I immediately thought "Wow, why is she looking anywhere else for a cause of problems?". Yes, having 208 warnings reported in Google's Webmaster Tools is obviously a warning, or rather 208 of them. It won't cause you a penalty per se, but having so much duplicate meta data is obviously a huge factor in making all of your meta data be known to be untrustworthy, probably default, and effectively useless. Fix that as priority number one. No duplicate content - even in meta data - if it can possibly be avoided, and where it can't be avoided, prepare for it to cost you anyway.

Theory #6: I did not have a robots.txt file nor a sitemaps.xml file, but I put them on the server yesterday.

These things are useful, but non-essential. You don't get penalised for not having them. You just don't get the advantages that their correct use can bring.

Theory #7: This is not my theory, but other people's theory. They just think this is a result of rankings fluctuations, I need better SEO, more content, and more links. I need all of it, but I don't believe this is why my site disappeared in the rankings. I don't think it's Google trying to figure out where my site belongs because I targeted very long-tail keyword phrases and held rankings for these phrases for 16 months.

Sadly, my father was not immortal just because he'd successfully held a position among the living for seventy years. Track records are merely documenting history, and never ever a guarantee of present and future performance.

Ranking fluctuations are a part of rankings, and as each change to an algorithm is made, results will fluctuate and change. That's what all those engineers are making the changes for. They hope to create fluctuations that improve the SERPs. Google employs rather a lot of those guys, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they aren't paid to just sit on their hands praising how good the old code and algo is. :)

Consider this: with 208 warnings already applied to the site that Google has notified you of (webmaster tools), your site might have been just over the borderline of how many issues make a serious difference to trust and confidence in the site. Adding in just one more issue can be the straw that breaks the camel's back, and push you past the line of tolerance. The blog may have had that one last inch of issue that tipped the whole thing over - such as full-posts in categories so that some category pages with only one post are a full duplicate of the post page.

There is no one thing in many cases. Sometimes it is like falling from a 2,000 foot high building. Falling the first 1,999 feet didn't seem to hurt you, so it must be that last foot that is deadly. But the truth is that falling any number of feet past X amount of tolerance does the damage, but only on impact.

#7 DrPete

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 12:32 PM

Sadly, my father was not immortal just because he'd successfully held a position among the living for seventy years. Track records are merely documenting history, and never ever a guarantee of present and future performance

Pardon a useless and borderline off-topic comment, but I like this quote very much.

#8 RisaBB

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 12:53 PM

Hi Ammon,

Boy, you sure do have a way with great analogies! THANKS SO MUCH for helping me out! You have a very special place in my heart since helping me out at least 4 or more years ago turning a whole bunch of code appearing on every page of my site into organized include files. I was first learning HTML then and we went back and forth for a while until I got it (well, actually you did it for me, but I've done it on my own ever since).

I will get right on top of those Google warnings.

Re: the URL of my blog, it was mysite.com/blog, so why would it NOT be indented as the #2 entry in Google for my business name?

Thanks everybody! Have a great weekend.

Risa

#9 nuts

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 05:24 AM

Hey Risa

Sorry to hear of your difficulties, I have struggled with the great unknown PR disappearance for years. Here is another theory that, perhaps, is more than just paranoia:

A human at G looked at your site and put down a black mark. This black mark does not get erased, unless perhaps you get on a plane and go to a conference and personally meet a G high-level human who can erase it.

#10 Black_Knight

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 11:53 AM

I'm pretty certain that when Theory 5 is addressed and fixed, Risa will find the problem solved.

However, it will still be important to attempt to reduce duplicate content with the new blog, ensuring that the main blog index, and any category index, are not made up of the same posts. People use a variety of methods to achieve this, some ensuring they never put more than 2 posts from the same category in a row, others preventing indexing of the categories, or even removing categories and relying on tagging instead. Some even use regular snippets for the main blog index, and a separate custom 'summary' field for the category index display of posts.



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