Q and A: Why is my client’s site no longer ranking in Google?

QuestionHi Kalena

I’ve been reading your articles and find your answers to many people very helpful. So, here is my issue.

I am helping a friend with his website that I built. I felt like we did a pretty decent job with SEO and we had some fairly high ranking in some key terms like “lasik in chicago” 6th and “lasik in Oakbrook” 2nd.

All of a sudden I was changing the index page to put up a larger flash video. I also added some additional text that looks similiar to some of the higher ranking sites that are competitors of my friend Dr. Sloane. Since then I have noticed he has been moved down to page three for the same ranking. When I went into Google Webmaster Tools, I noticed that it shows that Googlebot hasn’t accessed the homepage since 2007. Also, I see all my pages rank very low on PageRank.

I’m just a little bit confused and was hoping that you could give me a little advice on getting his site on the right track. He has been around on the net since mid 90′s, so the domain has some age.


Hi Shannon

First of all, thank you for the caffeine donation, that helps a lot when I’m answering these questions in the wee hours. As for your issue, I’ve taken a look and wow, where do I start? How about here:

1) The first major content on your client’s home page HTML is a huge Flash file. Quite apart from the fact that it’s visually distracting and goes against every web site usability rule possible, you’ve stuck it right after the header tags, meaning it’s the first thing search engines are going to try and index. The file isn’t optimized so it doesn’t tell Googlebot and others anything about your page, it simply pushes the meatier content further down the code.

2) You seem to have some weird link to the iFrance site embedded in an iframe. What’s that about? It looks dodgy and search engines don’t like iframes so it’s probably triggered a red flag or two.

3) Your current home page looks and smells like a doorway page. There’s no obvious formatting, no navigation menu, the design is not consistent with the rest of the site and it doesn’t load properly in Firefox. I was half expecting to see user-agent sniffer code in the HTML, but perhaps it’s just really poor design.

4) We’re up to number 4 already, and this is probably your main problem: there seems to be some type of delayed meta refresh that kicks in after 5 seconds and redirects people to a different URL on the same domain. This is retro spam at it’s finest and is like waving a huge red flag at Google saying “HEY, I’M DOING SOMETHING DODGY OVER HERE! PENALIZE ME QUICK”

Spammers like to use meta refreshes in order to bait and switch i.e. show Googlebot a family safe DVD page like Driving Miss Daisy and then redirect human searchers to a porn site of the… ahem… same name. Ditch the redirect pronto. Decide which home page you want to show both users and search engines and stick with it.

Surprisingly, your Title and META tags check out ok, although there’s a bit of excessive keyword repetition in your META Keywords tag. Googlebot last cached your home page on 13 April so check your Webmaster Tools account again.

That’s it for now, I hate to say it but my coffee’s run out.

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