Okay it seems like a trend hitting us lately, not just Seochat but most of the seo or webmaster related forums I frequent I see this same trend. "My rankings have disappeared", "Google hates me", "my competitor who only has 2 links is beating my 23 billion links"
So I am going to attempt to explain some of reasons for a loss in rankings in the hopes that it might help clear out the excessive posting on this issue. Please let me know if I am unclear about something.
First I should explain what causes rankings to drop and/or fluctuate. There are actually a number of reasons. Here are a few:
1. Some of the back links pointing to your site have been devalued or are no longer active(your link was removed)
2. A competitor has gotten the edge on you and taken your positions. Generally only a loss of a couple of positions is effected in this scenario.
3. New algorithmic changes that put more value on a certain factor or dis value another factor.
4. Earthquake... site structure disrupted causing pages to be down/missing etc
5. Penalization or banning
Okay I will now attempt to dig deeper into each of these scenarios...
1 - Some of the back links to your site have been devalued
Where are the majority of your backlinks coming from? Reciprocal, links pages or directories? If so it is likely they have been devalued/discredited by Google. This happens overtime. These are the easiest forms of link building and as such are not seen as very high quality by Google.
The relevancy of the directory/links page has a great deal to do with how much value is originally passed and whether it will be devalued. Directories or links pages that allow irrelevant, low quality trash to be listed/added will lower the value of your link. As more and more of these links are added to the page your link appears on the value of your link drops lower and lower. This can cause rankings to drop and even appear to flux. Directories and links pages which only have a few links and which are related to your site and which are also preferably authority and high quality will have the most value and are not likely to be as easily devalued. That is why it is a good idea to watch where you get your links and to make sure it is quality and selective.
There are sites created for the sole purpose of building links. They put up some make-shift content and then allow webmasters to add links. Such pages generally lose value quite quickly as more and more sites are added to their "resource". Sites that are hard to get a link on are the best links to go after. I don't care what it takes, spend 5 hours getting that one link... it will prove far more valuable then those 50 FFA links you could have gotten in that same time period.
When reciprocating links look for quality sites which are particular about who they exchange links with. Sites that have only a few link exchanges instead of practically accepting anybody.
Sites who are careful who they exchange with will hold their value much better and you will get more out of the exchange. Sites which exchange links directly on content pages have a much higher value and tend to not lose value, instead the value is likely to rise if the content is good and draws links from other sites.
You must be very careful that you know who your linking to and what if anything your paying for that link. DON'T waste time exchanging links with sites if all you get is a link on a links page. It will start out as a greatly devalued link and will lose more and more value as more low quality links are added.
And NEVER EVER exchange links with any site that is not related and that you can not vouch for as a quality resource. Be safe, stay relevant and stick to quality links only.
2 - A competitor has gotten the edge on you
This generally only effects a few positional changes. Such as a drop of 1-2-3 positions. However if you are slacking and haven't been working as hard as you should to keep your rankings then a good many of your competitors could rise above you just because they are still working and you aren't. If this is the case then you will likely see a slow but steady loss of rankings.
A good many sites in business fields pay for continued seo/link building so if you stop working it is highly unlikely that you will stay where you are very long... unless you have high quality link baits which act as high-power link magnets. In which case you will always be maintaining a quality site but will have a far more secure position. BUT don't let this convince you that you can sit still, even high quality link baits can be beat... by higher quality link baits
Also some of these factors I am mentioning combined may do alot of damage. Say you are slacking on your links but not only that the links you were acquiring were low quality which are being devalued by Google. Your competitor on the other hand developed a tool which is in very high demand, this tool acts as a very powerful link bait for their site. Some of these links are of very high value and authority. In such a situation you could lose alot of ground. Cause not only are you using very poor means of link building but at least one or more of your competitors is using VERY GOOD link building techniques. Are you following my logic? That is why I always suggest building up the quality of your site. The back links will follow but without a good quality site you are going NOWHERE!
3 - New algo changes that put more value on a certain factor or devalue another factor.
This factor is similiar to the first, actually it is the same in a way. Algo changes can put more or less value on a certain factor resulting in loss of rankings literally overnight.
Google seems to be updating as they please lately which means you will see changes all the time. Massive updates such as the bigdaddy can cause alot of unhappy webmasters though. But again you must understand this is generally because of devalution of low quality links and link building methods or because Google is finding new ways of deciding whether or not your site is as good as they once thought. Google is getting smarter are you?
If you are using low quality link building methods and then Google devalues them even more you can lose a ton of ground. Ground that you could have held if you had been working on building less but more quality links.
4 - Site structure disruption
If a page on your site that used to rank well suddenly disappears and is not immediately fixed the ranking is likely to also disappear.
When moving to new pages use 301 redirects from the old to the new but if at all possible keep the old pages.
I have seen whole sites disappear from Google because of site problems whether it was server downtime issues or the page disappearing... I once purchased a site off a guy for a wicked price, I mean I got a wicked deal. The site was hosted with a reseller who had terrible support and not the best uptime so I decided to move the site. Well in the process the host decided to suspend my account. To make a long story short by the time I got the issue resolved(or close to it) I had lost all my rankings and traffic. The site had a increase in traffic of 40-60% each month, it had great potential but I lost it all due to a stupid host.
Learn from my mistakes, don't ever let one of your sites be down due to server issues or whatever. And don't ever let pages get deleted... you never know what rankings you might lose due to a simple page disappearing from your site.
5 - Penalization or banning
You need to understand the difference here. When your site is banned a site:mydomain.com query will show no site. However this is not fool-proof as a new site will also appear this way until indexed unless you know for a fact your site was once indexed. Also as long as there is at least ONE PAGE indexed you are not banned.
Your site can be penalized without you even knowing however and without loss of any pages from Google's index.
Don't use methods such as hidden text, cloaking, or other black hat seo techniques. Some sites do rank well WHILE using these methods but NOT because of them. When in fact removing the black hat methods could improve their rankings. -30, -49, -950 and other such penalties are myths IMO. I have yet to see proof of them. Ohh no today my site dropped 7 positions. I got the -7 penalty. This IMHO is nonesense.
Design and build your site as though search engines were nonexistent. Design and build your site for the visitor not the spider. If you do this you will find your sites are more quality and will actually rank much better, because links are more easily obtained.
So to end this article, if you have recently lost rankings it is probably a result of one of the above factors. I suggest you work on building up the quality of your site as a whole and individually creating link bait resources, create new content regularly, write on unique subjects(within your niche) which other bloggers miss or have not fully covered. Provide answers to questions not easily found, provide an easy navigation both for your visitors and your robot friends. Create a HTML sitemap - the xml version is not needed.
Google is working to improve their search engine and make it even more relevant than it is now. Content is a very high priority. Don't under-estimate that, its indirect seo benefits are worth as much as the links they attract.
And I mean content as in Wiki quality content. That is content which is unique, quality and very informative. As such it attracts links very well. I am not saying create your own wiki. I am saying create wiki-quality articles.
If you follow the above suggestions you will improve your chances of creating a virtual link bait out of your site. This will cause webmasters to link to you without even being requested to do so. This type of link building is the most effective of the highest value and believe it or not the easiest to get.
Build sites based on your knowledge. Don't start a mesothelioma site JUST BECAUSE it has high adsense earnings. Build sites based on subjects you are very knowledgeable in, are passionate about and which you can provide useful information on. These types of sites perform very well in Google.
I find most of the ranking losses are for sites that are not following this method. The webmasters of a good many of these sites are not very knowledgeable about the subject they are writing about but they thought there was some good money in it
As Google devalues these low quality sites they will continue to drop... Instead of blaming Google however, use the tips I have given you to create sites that will perform well.
I probably missed something in this post but I wanted to give a general answer to all the "I lost my rankings" threads. If you have a suggestion for this thread please PM me. Let me know if I was unclear on something or if my grammar is messing up your reading ability
And lastly thanks for sitting ehre and reading this article. It shows you have the initiative to find the PROBLEMS and not just look at the symptoms. If everyone was like you then we would have a cure for cancer(we do but nobody knows about it... but that is off-topic). By reading the previous posts here at SeoChat forums you can learn a good deal. And then when you do have questions they will be unique questions we can debate in fun and not these repetitious questions that get asked all the time.
If you have questions regarding the article generally please PM me. If you have questions REGARDING YOUR SITE PLEASE DON"T POST THEM HERE if this thread should be unlocked.
I am reopening this thread for questions about this thread ONLY.
Please no questions about your sites or your own scenarios. Create a new thread for that... just ask questions directly related the thread. Any other questions will be removed. Thank You
UPDATED BY VISIO OCTOBER 3RD 2008