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Broken site stays #1 - Once an Authority, always an Authority?
trillianjedi




msg:3702875
 10:30 am on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

This was not a deliberate test, but I thought I would share the results of one of my sites where something bad has failed to budge it's main keyword ranking from the SERPS.

Authority site, 6 years old. Toolbar PR, for what it's worth, has been steady at 5 for the last 4 years. Lots of inbound links with keyword anchor text pointing at the homepage. 10,000 pages.

Completely broken. For the last 4 months every single of the 10,000 pages (previously all indexed) has displayed a "failed to connect to database" type error. No page titles. As I mentioned, this was not deliberate - I've simply been too busy to fix it and it's low priority (generates little revenue).

Homepage still ranking #1 for it's main keyword (which does not feature in it's domain name - it's a branded site). Google returns about 1m results all in for that keyword. Lot's of paid Adwords ads, but it's not a big-money keyword.

The Wikipedia page, which is actually very good content-wise and a perfect landing page for anyone searching this keyword, is at #2.

Anyone landing on my site in the last 4 months would be greatly dissappointed. In google as much as me.

Observations:-

4 months and nothing has changed as far as google is concerned. Crawler always used to come along once a day although I haven't checked to see if that's changed.

The majority of pages are still in the index as far as an allinurl search tells me. I haven't yet examined the ones that are not in there, or been able to determine which ones are removed.

The site has lost it's sitelinks listing.

Interesting isn't it. Any questions? Anything you'd like me to take a look at specifically and report back on?

 

Lord Majestic




msg:3702885
 11:01 am on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Not trying to knock your site, but is it reasonable to consider a site being authority of PR is just 5? There millions pages with such PR, they surely can't be authorities?

trillianjedi




msg:3702887
 11:09 am on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Toolebar PR is not a sign of authority. I actually thought twice about even mentioning toolbar PR in the post, but thought I would for completeness (and a few years ago it was a better guage of link popularity than it is now).

Authority comes from ranking and in particular for multiple phrases around a keyword. A site that ranks top 5 for multiple common searches around a keyword is, in my book (and in Googles in my experience), an authority around that keyword.

buckworks




msg:3702899
 12:12 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

is it reasonable to consider a site being authority of PR is just 5

In some sectors, yes.

HoHum




msg:3702900
 12:21 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

thats not the point though..

point is site was number one despite being broken for 4 months.

we were number one for a fairly competitive (not a lot of visitors but each worth a lot of money - potentially) two word phrase that was broken for a nearly a year (blank page).

i find it really odd that it wouldn't just get thrown out of the serps? in that time the snippet and title did not change that I am aware. we found out how long it was broken by going back through our archives

youfoundjake




msg:3702980
 4:17 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

I do find this interesting, in that there was literally no content on the page, but still managed to rank at #1 because of maybe the IBL's and domain age? If I read correctly, there is no title, and i would imagine the meta-description is also not there...
How does it look in the serps? And what is the cache date? 4 months old?
Does WMT say anything for diahnostics, like short titles or meta descriptions? Sucks to loose the sitelinks though...

trillianjedi




msg:3702992
 4:49 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

there is no title, and i would imagine the meta-description is also not there...

Not even a single HTML tag.

How does it look in the serps?

Lost the sitelinks, and the text snippet is the text error from PHP saying it's failed to connect to the DB.

And what is the cache date? 4 months old?

No, July 12.

Does WMT say anything for diahnostics, like short titles or meta descriptions?

Ah, good question - but I've never used WMT on this site.

Sucks to loose the sitelinks though...

I'll get them back when I fix the problem.

One other point on "authority" which I realise is a better way of expressing this - every other informational (eg, not ecommerce stores) site in this niche links to this one, almost without exception.

londrum




msg:3703029
 7:01 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

i had a fan site for a music band which eventually settled in the top 5. it had about 4,000 backlinks on it - pretty good quality too.
but it didn't make me any money so i dumped it... completely wiped it off the web.

i still kept the domain name though, and a year or so later i decided to put it back up again just to see if i could make some money off adsense, and within a month it was back to its old position again - back in the top 5.

...looks like google has got a long memory

(unfortunately it still didn't make any money, so i dumped it again!)

SuzyUK




msg:3703052
 7:57 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

but is it reasonable to consider a site being authority of PR is just 5?

yes because authority site does not = TBPR. (having surfed "naked" for about 5 years now, i/e no pr clues, I would like for you to correct me if I'm missing something)

IMO, it happened because it was natural, which means (to me anyway) that the big G know their basics - and this SEO thing is very very insular?

wheel




msg:3703085
 9:13 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

That's very interesting - thanks a bunch for posting it. It's very relevant info to my question in this thread:
[webmasterworld.com...]
about reviving an old site.

If I get the site back online and get some rankings, I'll be sure to post results back.

In retrospect, given the ability of dropped domains to rank, perhaps this isn't that surprising.

Ajaxunion




msg:3703675
 6:10 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

No one knows how long it will take google to say ok.. you had your chance to fix it now we are removing you. But if its for a low end keyword and google doesnt generate alot of income and doesnt generate alot of traffic google will not rush to dump you. Keep in mind that google does its reindexing thing about every 3 month so check again in two month and see how your rank. also check site:yourdomain to see how many pages are indexed.

I had a similar experiance with a site that had database issues for a few months and google still ranked the site but showing the errors in the serps.

I wonder if wikipedia had db issues if google would say ok lets remove them till it gets resolved, if the site effects many users and people complain google will act.

Interesting observation

annej




msg:3703758
 7:32 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

It looks to me like the site is surviving based on good inbound links. Tells us something about the importance of inbounds.

youfoundjake




msg:3703946
 9:55 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

It looks to me like the site is surviving based on good inbound links. Tells us something about the importance of inbounds.

agreed..
but for how long does it last? hey jedi, wanna leave the site broken and let us know how it goes? heeh...
I sure would be interested in seeing how this plays out, and hope you keep us up to date...

santapaws




msg:3703960
 10:11 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

but what is the point of a ton of patents and team of boffins working flat out for years, refining duplicate filters, demoting sites all over the board for ott seo if the result is you can rank 10,000 pages all identically saying error? Clearly no matter how well linked the site is after 4 months you would expect the algo to start demoting it. Its one of those scratch of the head times.

buckworks




msg:3703978
 10:34 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

This would be an ideal time for a competitor to start contacting those who are linking to you and point out that they're linking to dead pages.

A savvy competitor could get a lot of your links taken down or even get those folks to link to him instead.

brotherhood of LAN




msg:3704081
 1:48 am on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

wee question if you don't mind

do your inbounds refer traffic?

it'd also be nice to see your log files and whether you're getting the same volume of referrals from Google.

idolw




msg:3704185
 6:37 am on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'd say results freshness is the sphere where google algo does worst IMO.
As the web is getting more and more used we type all our thoughts into it. I find myself searching for more and more "typically-offline" stuff each day. And guess what. Google algo does not do a good job here. Whenever I type one of my typically-offline queries it shows me 2006, 07 results, usually, hot forum topics. Great, news from other users but what's the point if the data there is not up to date?
So far, I've seen it on my typically-offline questions. Now, it looks like it goes further.

The good news is, if we get the site to proper level, we can just leave it and start to work on a new one while counting that we'd keep 70-80% of the oldie's traffic without work.

santapaws




msg:3704214
 8:11 am on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

sorry but whats an offline question?

trillianjedi




msg:3704277
 9:47 am on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

This would be an ideal time for a competitor to start contacting those who are linking to you and point out that they're linking to dead pages.

Yup.... surprises me that isn't happening.

Do your inbounds refer traffic?

They always did, I haven't looked at it for ages and the server is currently broken so I'm not even sure what's being logged. When I get back into it I'll see what I can dig up.

renesisx




msg:3704315
 10:50 am on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've seen exactly the same behavior. A competitor went out of business and replaced their entire site with just a very terse one-page text notice and 301'd every page to the front page.

It stayed in the top 10 for a very competitive phrase for about 5 months, with just that blank page. Google had reindexed it almost immediately, but didn't de-rank it. It had a great inbound link profile because they'd had a great site and had been running for years.

Just annoyed me that it was so hard to shift them, considering their site was making Google look very stupid.

Wlauzon




msg:3704413
 12:26 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

It looks to me like the site is surviving based on good inbound links. Tells us something about the importance of inbounds.

I think that is true. And some links seem to last forever. We have a similar site, which though not totally down like yours, has not been active for months - it basically just has a couple of links pointing to our now current sites.

Yet it still comes up #3 for one of the most common search terms for our industry.

I guess I may have to actually do something with it, an infomercial site or something for our main products...

idolw




msg:3704541
 3:25 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

sorry but whats an offline question?

one of these questions for answers to which you do not look for online. In my country (central europe) that would be questions about local businesses for example.

santapaws




msg:3704695
 5:55 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

ok having thought about this i think it may be to do with a change in the way google handles the keyword tags for a page. Once a strong tag exists for page nothing seems to shift it. If you change the topic for the page it will still rank for the old tag for a long long time, so long that i have yet to see the end of one. So these pages i think are ranking not because of strong inbounds now but because the tags were already established and google perhaps doesnt even bother with on page factors if a certain type of strong tag exists. This could also hinder that page for ranking for newer keywords for that page if the naure of the article changes somewhat.

trillianjedi




msg:3704766
 7:15 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Once a strong tag exists for page nothing seems to shift it.

I think that's an interesting viewpoint. It is certainly my experience that once google has you "tagged" within a particular group of keywords, it's very very difficult to shift it.

I have another site that became an authority for something quite off-topic (natural inbound links as a result of a "discovery" of something on the site which related to a very wide audience problem). It's proven extremely difficult for me to get that site back on topic, as far as search traffic is concerned.

londrum




msg:3704813
 8:22 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

that's similar to the old google bombing problem. if a competitor points thousands of dodgy links to your site then google tags it as being bad.

Brett_Tabke




msg:3712945
 1:16 pm on Aug 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

> point is site was number one despite being broken for 4 months.

I have two sites that were pr7 (circa 2002-2003 when toolbar was first released). I have not touched the sites since around 2002 (looks to be the last file update time). I just noticed that the redirect counter file on the sites overloaded about 2005. They continue to hold a pr6 even though every link but the direct affiliate links on the site has not worked since 2005. (oh, and they continue to earn about $15-20 a day via aff programs). Seems like authority to me...

idolw




msg:3713095
 3:23 pm on Aug 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

that's similar to the old google bombing problem. if a competitor points thousands of dodgy links to your site then google tags it as being bad.

thie really doesn't work if the site is trusted.

Atharva




msg:3714232
 12:42 pm on Aug 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

It might be so that google considers that a site can be taken down due to various factors like

Hosting issues
Patent issues
Owner choice etc

So mayb it waits for some months hoping the site would be back.
The more older and authoritative site it is mayb it takes more time to vanish from the G Index

Marshall




msg:3714247
 1:24 pm on Aug 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

...looks like google has got a long memory

I have a popular niche site that was started in 1999. I took it down for two years and brought it back in June of '07. Within a month, its PR and SERP's where back where they left off. Google does indeed have a long memory.

I should mention, though, that virtually all the inbound links remained intact despite the fact the site was down all that time.

Marshall

trillianjedi




msg:3783346
 11:11 am on Nov 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Quick update - site got nuked from Google, so it seems they do notice the lack of content eventually.

I'm not sure when it happened, only got around to checking today.

It now becomes an interesting experiment to see how hard it is to get it back. I'll fix it some point over the next month or so and monitor it.

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