Q and A: Why have my Google rankings dropped for my key phrases?

QuestionHi Kalena

I’ve contacted you because I feel frustrated. Until last night my site was listed within the second page results in google with the key words “learn Spanish free”. Thanks to the SEO course at SEC and my work , I was proud to see results like this. However for some strange reason this morning (UK time) I am nowhere to be seen with this key words. I have checked other search engines (yahoo, bing) and I am listed there (3rd and 2nd pages). Would you be able to tell if I have done anything to upset google? And if I have what?

Furthermore, I have checked all key phrases that have brought me visits before and I am nowhere to be seen within google index. (I used to appear on the first page with these key phrases). The only time I am in google listing is when I search the words “Spanish aid” ( the name of my domain) or the full URL of my web pages. I am also appear in google listing with the  word “Spanish colours” under Images. I find this extremely weird as it seem that google has penalised me for something I don’t know of. As I said on my previous email I was progressing and I was happy that I was learning an seeing positive result, now it seems that I have taken a big step back. I hope you can give my an explanation as at the moment I am banging my head against the wall.
Thanks a lot for your help

Thank you
Luis

Hi Luis

Fluctuations in your Google rankings are completely normal. Sometimes, they’ll make a slight tweak to their ranking algorithm which can result in other sites ranking above yours and/or lowering your previous ranking for certain keywords. But this doesn’t mean you’re suffering a penalty.

See some previous blog posts about this, particularly:

Why is my CMS based website only ranking for the home page

Why does my website not rank high on search engines?

Your site is still in the Google index and you rank #1 for your brand name so you haven’t been penalized. I could see nothing wrong with your content that would trigger any alarm bells with Google.

However, the big problem with your site is the low Google Toolbar PageRank score (1/10) reflecting the very low number of incoming links pointing to your site. Has your PR score always been 1/10? If it has recently dropped from a 2 or something, that might partially explain the ranking drop. While a higher PageRank score is not a pre-requisite to high rankings, it can be a key indicator of your site’s link popularity, which in turn has a strong influence on your ultimate keyword positions in Google.

The more links you have pointing to your site from related sites and using relevant keywords in the anchor text of the link the better you should rank for those keywords. The best thing you can do for your site right now is to build links pointing to it and to add new content. That will gradually improve your PageRank score and your link popularity – then the rankings will follow.

If you’re still worried, you can take the steps outlined in these posts:

How do I fix ranking penalties?

Why doesn’t Google index my entire site?

Kalena

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SMX Melbourne : Designing a Bullet Proof Link Building Campaign

This is a summary of the presentation given by Ian McAnerin, CEO of McAnerin International Inc. at SMX Melbourne last month, about how to design a bullet proof link building campaign.

Link History

Twelve years ago, pre-Gooogle, search engines just analyzed content in order to rank sites, says Ian. Linking wasn’t part of the ranking algorithm. Google put paid to that by making links part of the equation. Suddenly, SEO became a lot more difficult.

Ian explained Term Vector Analysis (TVA) and Citation Analysis and how they influenced the concept of links. TVA is how keywords appear on a page (relevance). Citation Analysis is the influence of keywords on a page (authority). Google was built by students who were using citation analysis on a daily basis. Keyword density isn’t used by search engines. However, it is kinda similar to term vector analysis, which IS used by search engines.

Every web page stored in Google has a term profile containing number of times a keyword is used, density, proximity, position etc. Google then looks for clusters of terms that appear in proximity to the search phrase and finds the Representative Average to display in the SERPs. The process of TVA is excellent at figuring out informational pages such as Wikipedia pages.

The problem is that TVA can’t give search engines the entire picture – it’s difficult for them to tell the difference between spam and awesomeness. This is how search engines worked up until Google. Then Google came along and threw links into the equation. The more links you had to the page, the higher rank you would have in the SERPs.

Typically, the better writing, the worse the SEO, because good writers use flowery, descriptive language.

Types of Links

Now, to rank, you need three kinds of links:

1) Authority (aged)

2) Relevance (current)

3) Buzz (social)

So you need a combination of old and new links. Therefore you need to be constantly building links!

Stinking Linking – reference to articles by Mike Grehan about the prob with aged domains and links.

Link Quality

Link page quality is measured by:

  • PageRank of the page
  • cached
  • nofollow
  • number of other links on page
  • topic

Remember that it’s the PR of the PAGE that’s important, not the PR of the domain or main site. So if someone is offering you a link and bragging about having a PR4 on their home page, but your link is going to go on a inner page that has PR0, there’s no value there.

Page sculpting is not as influential now. No point no-following all your links on a page as they all leak PR anyway.

Sources of Links:

  • Seeds – Yahoo, DMOZ
  • Directories and connections
  • competitors (meet then beat)
  • articles and blog posts
  • widgets
  • reviews
  • case studies
  • contests and publicity
  • profiles
  • social media
  • internal linking campaign
  • link reclamation
  • pick up the phone!

Ian suggests starting any link campaign with your own site. Make sure you are cross linking internal pages. Then go and do link reclamation – check your 404s in Webmaster Tools to see if anyone is linking in to pages that no longer exist and ask them to update.

As an idea to attract links, Ian suggests holding a contest e.g. school laptop giveaway – put the rules of the contest on your web site and then the school / parents etc link to your web page for the rules.

Anchor text is virtual content. Rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t spam your web site with the same keyword phrase, don’t do the same with your link building. Mix and match the anchor text linking to your pages and ask people linking to you to do the same.

Deep links are the best links. Don’t ask everyone to link to your home page! You’ll get better crawls and better rankings and your audience gets a higher quality experience if you inner pages are well-linked. Plus the crawler starts at inner pages that it might have missed before.

Tools for Link Building:

Link Don’ts:

  • Use Free For All (FFA) links
  • Off topic links
  • Non-editorial
  • Obviously purchased links
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Q and A: Why Do I Need Regional Search Engines for Link Building?

QuestionDear Kalena

You’ve mentioned on your blog about the importance of using resources to locate regional search engines for link building purposes. Could you explain a little further how one would use a regional search engine, and could you give a concrete example of finding one?

Thanks a lot.

Terry

Hello Terry

The reasons you might want to locate regional search engines include:

1) Your / your client’s web site contains information limited to a particular region / country.
2) Your / your client’s business owns multiple web sites with different TLD e.g. widgets.com, widgets.com.au, widgets.co.nz.
3) Your / your client has multiple country target markets they wish to reach via search engines.

The situations above mean that you need to have the web sites listed in the relevant regional search engines so they can be found by the specific target markets. This is all part of the vital link building process – having your site listed in as many relevant locations on the web as possible. This is especially important now with Google placing more emphasis on local search.

Some regional search engines may find your site automatically using their crawler (e.g. Google.com.au, etc.) but others, such as niche search engines and hand-edited directories, may require you to submit the site/s manually. This is why you need to have a list of regional sites handy so you can check them all for the existence of your site/s and submit them if needed.

A couple of sources you can use to find regional search engines worldwide include:

These sites list different sub categories of search engines for various countries and regions. So, for example, if you were looking for a list of search engines and directories specific to Australia, you would click on the relevant country category and be taken to the Australian list. You could also simply type a search into Google for *list of Australian search engines* and find other lists.

You should do this for every country market that your / your client web site targets.

Kalena

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Q and A: Is this a legitimate form of link building?

QuestionDear Kalena

So, I’m a freelance writer, cruising through Elance.com, looking for projects to bid on. I see a project for a site called buildmyrank.com. They say they are looking for 150-word blog posts that will be website summaries. I can do this work, but…are these sites legitimate SEO tools or just ways to get around link building that is considered acceptable?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Denise

Hi Denise

I think your spidey-senses are accurate! This site looks and smells fishy. They’re also hiding their domain registration details, which, while not necessarily suspicious, is a common practice amongst sites employing less than legitimate SEO methods.

There is a very easy way to determine if they are *white hat*, have a look at their Google Toolbar PageRank. Oh look! A zero PageRank score. If Google doesn’t think they’re trustworthy, that’s a big red flag right there.

I would avoid them like the plague.

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Q and A: How do I check my Backlinks?

Question

Dear Kalena…

Hi there, I hope you can help. When I have a look in google webmaster for my site, I see 216 links back to my site but when I do a link:domain.com in google, it comes back with zero backlinks. Can you explain why that would be? Is this affecting my SERP? How can I rectify the issue?

Thanks! John

Hi John,

Monitoring the third party sites that link to your site (backlinks), is an important activity, as the quality and quantity of backlinks you receive is considered one of the more important factors that will influence how your site is ranked in the search results.  There are plenty of third party tools available to help with this (try a Google search for “Backlink Checker“), but, it can be quite difficult to get an accurate list of your backlinks.

You can also use search engines to help determine backlinks, however, they are notorious for only providing a subset of the total number of backlinks.  One advantage this method has though, is that you are also able to check competitor backlinks (which can be very handy for linkbuilding).

Traditionally Yahoo backlink data was much more accurate than that provided by Google – however since the Yahoo/Bing merger, the functionality of Link: and Linkdomain: commands under Yahoo has been restricted. You can still get an indication of backlinks via a command of the following form (under Yahoo or Google).

linkdomain:yourdomain.com -site:yourdomain.com

Which is intended to show which pages link to yourdomain.com, but exclude any inernal links.  For your site [URL Provided] Yahoo shows 363 links and Google 214)

Rand Fishkin (SEOMoz) wrote an excellent post in August outlining some alternate methods for determining backlinks  (see: 6 Ways to Replace Yahoo’s Link & Linkdomain Search Commands )

Googles Webmaster Tools is probably one of the better ways to determine backlinks on your own site (although you are not able to use it for competitor sites) .  It is widely accepted that webmaster tools will again not show all backlinks – however, it is believed to show most of the pages linking to your site that are likely to have an impact on your rankings.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting SEO – Brisbane

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