I would really appreciate any comments on this dilemma!
Just the past four days about 70% of my keywords have come down in serps (at least two to three places down) and when I analyzed the sites above me
They have lower page rank and less backlinks I also checked the keyword density and could not find any significant difference.
The only difference I could see is that I have my titles listed as "Red Widgets, Red Widget" to take into account both the plural and singular. i am wondering if I am being penalized for it now. I have had these same titles for quite a while.
I realize the "penalty box" ranks up there with purgatory and hell as the most feared place to end up but I personally haven't experienced any "penalty" factors in the algo (as opposed to manual bans). So I would suggest it is most likely other factors - have you checked the backlinks on alltheweb? There might be a lot of smaller PR backlinks that are contributing to your competitors higher ranking that are not appearing in your google link: check. If your pages have been relegated to second page serps you may want to pick one or the other (plural/s) to optimize for: Are your titles longer than your competitors'?
Thanks for your suggestion. I will check alltheweb for the backlinks. My titles are longer than my competitors, because as I mentioned I have both the plural and singular keywords. If google is taking longer keywords into account, then it is something new! I may just try using one of them (plural or singular) and see if there is any change. Thanks
My experience is that G will not penalize this, however realize that the more terms you "optimize" a page for, the less weight each term will have.
Better to optimize one page for "widget for sale" and another for "widgets for sale". Pagerank notwithstanding, this is usually a more effective approach that trying to have one page do both. Good luck.
A good way to investigate things like this, is to conduct searches for obscure words, or random numbers perhaps. Choose words that wouldn't be valuable for keyword optimization, and words that wouldn't normally be used in link anchor text. When you evaluate the resulting SERPS, keep in mind that its very difficult to isolate the results to just one factor, like <title> word repetition, but if you run the experiment enough times, with enough obscure words, you'll surely learn something. It's been over a year since I did anything like this, but back then, it seemed to me that, for a 2 word keyword phrase, repeating 1 of the 2 words seemed to be beneficial.