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My Rankings Just Died Over Night - Feb 3rd

 4:28 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't know what just happened, and I'm trying to remain calm and not making any rash decisions that would involve completely revamping my site.

Our company site is in a niche market, and has been around since 2003. It has always ranked well with specific industry keywords, and even long-tail keywords related to this industry.

We've done extremely well within organic search results, and up until yesterday we were still doing well. My traffic has always been like clockwork, we usually get around 200 to 240 visitors Monday through Friday. By 10am we almost always have had around 80 visitors on our site.

This morning we got hit, and we got hit hard. Virtually no traffic. I thought, well maybe it's because of the weather and so many businesses shut down. Then I typed in a few keywords just to make sure we were still showing up. My heart sank when I realized that we either were not showing up at all for some of them, or on other keywords we were 1st or 2nd in the results, we were now barely on the 3rd or 4th page.

I have been contemplating changing my entire site over to a Wordpress based site, because I feel I can make it much stronger as far as SEO is concerned, and this may be the catalyst for me. I don't touch my current site very often, because it has always done well, and I don't want to fix what isn't broken. However, I've always known there was room for improvement. I'm also very weak on my inbound links, and that is something else I've been trying to do, but have had an extraordinarily difficult time. I don't know, maybe I'm just going about it wrong.

Anyway, this will put my business at a virtual standstill, because all of my business comes through our website. I'm praying that this is just a temporary glitch, but I have a bad feeling about it. I'm determined to get through this, and hopefully rank even better than I did before.



 9:38 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ouch! You may want to read or even be part of the thread Google Updates and SERP Changes - February 2011 [webmasterworld.com]. We have a running discussion every month of the many changes in Google.

It may help you to see if there was an algorithm change that caught your site along with others, or if something has gone wrong specifically with your site. Right now it's too early to say if there was a significant algo change on Feb 3, but many eyes are watching.


 12:57 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thank you very much Tedster. I don't post or follow this site nearly as much as I should, but it's always the first place I go to when I sense a little glitch with search rankings. I've always prided myself on our placement in organic search results. This has been a huge wake up call for me. I told my wife that instead of being mortified (which seems to be the most reasonable response), I actually found strangely excited about it. I have been through so much in life and things like this seem to test me in a way that usually works out for the best in the long run. If we can just weather the storm while it's here, we'll be ok. If nothing else, it has lit a fire for me to become much more proficient and proactive with my site's SEO. Which is something I have taken for granted over the past few years.


 8:03 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi gduffield

Over the years (since 2005) I can't begin to count the number of times our rankings drop but after a few days (sometimes weeks) they gradually start to crawl back! We are also in a niche business and rely on customers from the web.

I find it frustrating that I do as much SEO work as I can on our little site, but yet sites that seem to be "stagnant" gain postions above us when this is an algo change!

I would say don't make any rash decissions just yet and see what happens in the next few days/week....but hey - what do I know! :)


 8:42 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

After you do the basics, such as check to see if someone has hacked the site and added doorway pages etc, take a look at your incoming links. I'd be interested to know if most of them came from things like blog comments, forum profiles, sidebars, footers etc. How many and what % of your incoming links came from smack in the middle of articles related to the linked page?

I apologize for trying to selfishly glean some insight from your misfortune but it's how we keep a pulse on Google. There are rumors of an incoming "dramatic" change in how Google evaluates links.


 11:24 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sgt_Kickaxe 'There are rumors of an incoming "dramatic" change in how Google evaluates links'. Anything in print on this or just hearsay or gut feel?


 2:34 pm on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

@pudders - Thanks for the encouragement. I too have seen dips in traffic over time, but this was the worst so far for me in nearly 10 years of doing this. I appreciate the encouragement.

@sgt_kickaxe - I didn't see any difference in my inbound links. They are still just as weak as they ever were. LOL

UPDATE: Well, I'm VERY cautiously optimistic this morning. Yesterday I only had 78 people on my site all day. It's 8:20am and I've already had 46 so far today. This is much closer to my normal traffic, especially for a Friday. I checked my SERP for keywords, and most of them appear to be back to normal. So I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw that.

However, this has been a huge eye opener for me, and it's probably exactly what I needed. I worked until 2am writing articles, putting together press releases, building a division of my site that is going to be strictly based on Wordpress (which allows me to keep the core of my site the way it is), and I even started writing Squidoo lenses.LOL I plan on gradually releasing content throughout the next few weeks and beyond to help boost my inbounds.

I even got a little creative and set up a reseller program that gives our partners a 45% discount on any jobs they send us as long as they maintain an inbound link to us on their website. Most of my partners are in a related industry, so it should help. I send them the link code and anchor text so I can have some variety with different keyword links spread out.

I'm hoping this was just a fluke, but if it wasn't I'm trying to prepare as best I can. I'm also doing whatever I can to safely boost my rankings naturally. I'll continue to update if anything changes.


 4:50 am on Feb 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

@gduffield - welcome to the jungle! many small niche sites are getting clobbered and I will definitely concur with you assessment with this being the WORST or should I say the most DAMAGING algo update since I started in 1997. Bad timing for us since Jan1 through May 30 is the time of year when we "make hay".
So far this weeks losses for my site exceed $1200 in lost sales. It's like paying a big fine for NFR.
Read my topic starter post at: [webmasterworld.com...] for some real laughs. Rest assured, you're not alone.


 5:18 am on Feb 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

In terms of widespread problems for many webmasters, nothing seems to compare with the Florida Update [webmasterworld.com] in November of 2003. Of course back then it was one update a month and not the rolling updates we see today. Still, there were many upstanding websites who saw the traffic really die away. And it was a true algo change, not a new penalty.

The way today's patterns go, I'd say if your rankings don't come back within a couple weeks, then you should have a game plan to understand why you lost out.

From the discussion so far in our February SERP Changes thread [webmasterworld.com] it doesn't seem like a widespread algo change rolled out on Feb 3 - if anything, it was a small tweak of the Jan 26 change that was supposed to lower rankings for copies of the original and boost the original.

So two questions. Do your pages reprint any materials from other sources? And do you have strong backlinks, freely "editorially" given from other site just because they think their visitors would appreciate the content you offer?


 5:49 am on Feb 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Let me give the answers for one of the sites that I handle...

Do your pages reprint any materials from other sources?
- No
Do you have strong backlinks, freely "editorially" given from other site just because they think their visitors would appreciate the content you offer?

- No

The first one is more on the lines of what this small algo update of Jan 26.

How about the second one? What changes do you see on this and how is it related to the duplicate/content farm algos, if any?


 6:06 am on Feb 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sgt_Kickaxe 'There are rumors of an incoming "dramatic" change in how Google evaluates links'. Anything in print on this or just hearsay or gut feel?

Foolsgold, his online name is Moultano and he's a Google employee. He posted in this thread - [news.ycombinator.com...] -
Some really dramatic changes to how we use links are on the way. (Sorry I can't say anything more specific. This is a really sensitive area.)

P.S. that's a couple of pages back by now.


 6:18 am on Feb 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

@indyank, editorial links are like ranking insurance - that's why I bring up the question. The more of them you have, the more secure your rankings are. Google is continuing to chip away at the value of links that you can "build" on your own steam.

I feel that many of the link building "games" of the past are eroding. This effect also cascades - you have links from wobbly sites, they lose a lot of their potency so your backlinks also slide.

The erosion has been going on for a while. I'm not saying that this is gduffield's situation - I'm just asking. I also don't have a reason to think that Feb 3 was a continuation of Jan 26, but I don't have any reason to rule it out either. I don't have much information at all about it right now, and no sites I work with seem to have been affected.


 8:57 am on Feb 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

We are seeing large gains in visitors, some for Stumbles, Facebook etc, but also a 25% increase from Google. The odd thing is that we are seeing drops in position on our biggest key phrases. I think, as Tedster has said, that there is an drop away in some link strength. The days when we were targeting these particular keyphrases with specific anchor text were about 2 years ago, so I'm wondering if there is now a certain shelf life being applied to links.


 9:38 am on Feb 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I also noticed the popular Moultano mentioning this.

The central issue is that it's very difficult to make changes that sacrifice "on-topic-ness" for "good-ness" that don't make the results in general worse. You can expect some big changes here very shortly though.

what are your thoughts on this? How are they going to achieve this? All these statements suggest that there is a volcano ready to erupt anytime.It could even be a tsunami or something like the worst floods that Australia is experiencing now.


 4:24 pm on Feb 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

We've got a new thread discussing moultano's comments. So we can stay focused on Feb 3 changes here, let's take the moultano discussion there: Big changes promised shortly at Google [webmasterworld.com]

With regard to Feb 3, note this new post in the thread Google Updates and SERP Changes - February 2011 [webmasterworld.com]

badjocks: Whatever changed from 2/3 to 2/4 has wiped me out as well. Terms I have been ranking Top Ten for for years are gone. The main part of my site still shows up as do blog posts, but archives and specific topic pages all wiped out of the results.


 8:48 pm on Feb 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well just to give another update, everything is still strong today. Actually a heavier traffic day than normal, and I don't have a problem with that. All of my rankings appear to be back again. However, just to be sure that I'm not caught with my pants down again, I'm working hard to have a steady build up of inbound links. Press releases, articles, and links from resale partners are what I'm focusing on now. I'm also working on the back section of my site that will be completely based on Wordpress, so hopefully there will be a little better SEO within that section. I've been really blessed with having such strong organic search results, and for a time there I thought that was over with for good. I'm hoping things are back to normal now.

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